When and how to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for hotel stays
There are many different ways to account for why Chase Ultimate Rewards is the most popular transferable points currency.
There’s the 5/24 rule, which incentivizes people to apply for Chase cards first. There’s the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which was the unequivocal starter card for someone new to the points hobby for years. There’s the fact that Chase defines its bonus categories more broadly compared to Citi and Amex, and there’s also the fact that Chase has an array of valuable transfer partners.
However, today’s article will look at one specific area in which the program has a significant competitive advantage: using points for hotels. There are a handful of different ways to put your Ultimate Rewards points toward your next hotel stay, and any of them could make sense under the right circumstances.
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Earning Ultimate Rewards Points
Of course, to redeem Chase points for hotels, you have to earn them first. The easiest way to earn a meaningful number of Ultimate Rewards points is by using one (or more) of the issuer’s credit cards. There are a few great sign-up bonuses currently available:
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
In addition to generous sign-up bonuses, these three cards offer a compelling earning scheme for everyday spending. The Sapphire Reserve offers 3 points per dollar on travel (excluding purchases covered by your $300 annual travel credit) and dining purchases. The Sapphire Preferred also offers 3 points per dollar on dining, streaming and online grocery orders plus 2 points per dollar on travel.
Furthermore, both cards also offer elevated earning rates on travel booked through Chase's travel portal. Sapphire Reserve cardholders can earn 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals plus 5 points per dollar on flights booked in the portal. Sapphire Preferred cardholders can earn 5 points per dollar on these bookings (except for purchases covered by the annual $50 hotel credit). Sapphire cardholders also have elevated earning rates on Lyft rides through March 2025: 10 points per dollar with the Sapphire Reserve and 5 points per dollar with the Sapphire Preferred.
Meanwhile, the Ink Business Preferred awards you 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 in combined travel, shipping, telecommunications and select advertising purchases each account anniversary year. Chase also has its own online shopping portal, allowing you to boost your earnings even further.
Note that if you have any one of these three cards, you can also combine your Ultimate Rewards points from cards that carry no annual fee (such as the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited). Even though these cards are technically cash-back cards, carrying one of the above cards allows you to effectively “convert” your cash-back earnings into fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points.
Once you’ve earned a healthy amount of Ultimate Rewards points, how do you put them to use for free hotel stays? Here’s a run-down of your options.
Related: The power of the Chase Trifecta: Sapphire Reserve, Ink Preferred and Freedom Unlimited
Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt
Chase’s secret maximization weapon is undeniably the World of Hyatt loyalty program, a 1:1 transfer partner. While most conversations about redeeming flexible points for maximum value center around airline transfer partners, Hyatt’s reasonably-priced award chart is a very compelling exception. You’ll find sweet-spot redemptions at both the upper and lower ends of the chart, with free night awards starting from just 3,500 points per night during off-peak pricing.
|Hotel category||Off-peak points per night||Standard points per night||Peak points per night|
Sometimes, it can be hard to conceptualize what a 50,000-point sign-up bonus will actually get you, especially if you’re new to the points world. Hyatt makes it easy, as that sign-up bonus could be worth 10 nights (during standard pricing dates) at Category 1 Hyatt House hotels in big cities around the world, such as Chicago, Dallas, Beijing, Kolkata and even Bali.
Another easy way to redeem your Hyatt points well above TPG’s 1.7 cent valuation is to look at Category 7 hotels. While the award chart above has a higher tier (Category 8), it isn’t actually as ominous as it might seem. This elevated tier was added to accommodate some of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) properties with which Hyatt started partnering in 2018. Hyatt added some of its own hotels into this category in March 2022, but there are only 10 Hyatt properties in this category.
There are several luxurious Hyatt hotels in Category 7, which cost 25,000 points during off-peak pricing, 30,000 points in standard pricing and 35,000 points during peak pricing. These include Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek and Park Hyatt Tokyo. These properties can charge $400-$600 per night, which can provide great opportunities to meet or exceed TPG's average valuation of 1.7 cents per Hyatt point.
For a weekend in December 2022, you could stay at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek for a family ski trip at $605 per night.
You could also redeem 25,000 points per night for that weekend, offering a redemption value of 2.42 cents per point.
Finally, I’d look closely at the 350+ luxury resorts from SLH that have now been integrated into The World of Hyatt program. In some cases, 40,000 Chase points transferred to Hyatt could snag you a villa that covers thousands of square feet in remote locales such as the Viceroy Bali or the Amani Boutique Hotel in Zanzibar, Tanzania. We expect more of these resorts to be added, giving you even more redemption spots for your Chase points.
Related: How long do Chase Ultimate Rewards take to transfer?
Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy
Unlike Amex and Citi, which routinely offer transfer bonuses to select partners or even permanently increase transfer rates, Chase tends to stick to a 1:1 transfer ratio for all its 11 airline and 3 hotel partners. You might think this is a generous decision, and with Hyatt, it works out in your favor.
However, many hotel chains have award charts with much higher (one could argue inflated) point values. While the most you’d ever pay for a free night at a top-tier Hyatt property is 40,000 points during standard pricing, Marriott’s moving to dynamic pricing means there are no limits to how much a hotel might cost in points each night of your stay.
Related: Marriott reveals start date for dynamic pricing; redemption rates increasing by up to 50%
Generally speaking, this means that transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott represents a significant loss in value. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each and Marriott points at 0.84 cents each, but you could give up even more value. For the same number of Chase points you'd redeem for a $1,000+ room at the Park Hyatt Maldives during standard pricing, you could book a night at the Courtyard Bali Seminyak Resort.
So does it ever make sense to transfer Chase points to Marriott? With the arguments against doing so clearly laid out for you already, here are a few scenarios where it might make sense:
- If your Marriott points are set to expire, transferring 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points is a quick way to keep them alive.
- If you made a Points Advance reservation with Marriott and weren’t able to earn enough points to pay for it in time, redeeming Ultimate Rewards points to make up the difference might be better than losing your award space.
- Marriott points are incredibly versatile beyond hotel bookings. That’s because Marriott is the only transfer partner for some valuable — but hard to earn — airline miles such as Alaska Airlines MileagePlan and Korean Air SkyPass. If you’re trying to make a transfer from Marriott to Alaska to book Cathay Pacific or JAL first class or to Korean for a specific award redemption, it might be worth transferring points from Chase to top up your Marriott account if you’re short. Remember that Marriott points transfer 3:1 to airline partners, so you’ll be losing even more value, but if you’re just shy of the points you need to book one of these sweet spots, it might make sense.
Related: Why I’m no longer chasing Ultimate Rewards
Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG One Rewards
For all the reasons that transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott is bad, transferring to IHG One Rewards can be even worse. Not only do you not have any airline transfer partners, IHG’s award chart is even more inflated than Marriott’s, meaning the same number of points don’t get you as far. In addition, the program doesn’t even publish a full chart. To check the rates, you need to search for your specific dates and see how many points you’d need.
Take the Holiday Inn Express Columbus — Ohio Expo Center. You can reserve the hotel for 24,000 IHG points.
TPG valuations estimate 16,000 Chase points to be worth $320. But the cash rate for this same room is just $116. In other words, the value you’ll get for your Chase points is severely below average.
Related: When to transfer Ultimate Rewards and when to book directly
Compare this to the award chart we discussed above for World of Hyatt. 24,000 Chase points transferred to that program could be used to book a Category 5 property during any period (off-peak, standard or peak) and could get you a night at a Category 6 property during off-peak pricing. You'd be 1,000 points shy of booking a Category 6 Hyatt property during standard pricing.
Like with Marriott, you might find value in transferring Chase points to IHG to keep points from expiring or if you’re just short of a redemption, but it’s almost always a bad idea.
Related: Why do Chase and TPG list different values for Ultimate Rewards points?
However, there's something important to add to this discussion about transferring points from Chase to IHG. In the past, these points have counted toward elite status qualification. Thus, transferring a stash of points to IHG might not yield the best value in nightly hotel redemptions, but the status you attain from these transfers could make it justifiable for some people.
Chase Portal/Pay With Points Bonus
If you’re a free-agent traveler and not loyal to a single hotel chain, you might find the best value options by booking your hotels directly through the Chase travel portal. This is especially true if you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve — which allows you to redeem points for travel at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece — or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which allows redemptions at 1.25 cents apiece.
The one important thing to note is that these bookings are similar to those made through a third-party, online travel agency: you won’t earn hotel points or hotel elite night credits in most cases. If you already have elite status, you might not receive the benefits which you’re used to enjoying.
Related: The best ways to book hotels through online travel agencies and bank portals
That said, the rates speak for themselves. Washington, D.C., is actually a great example. Let's look at three different properties and how many points the hotel's loyalty program requires versus how many points you would pay in the Chase portal if you have the Sapphire Reserve:
|Hotel name||Points required by hotel program (per night)||Points required in Chase portal (per night)||Points saved by booking through portal|
|The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown||59,000 (Marriott Bonvoy).||51,733.||7,267.|
|InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf||58,000 (IHG One Rewards).||30,600.||27,400.|
|Kimpton George Hotel||43,000 (IHG One Rewards).||22,600.||20,400.|
You can also use the Chase portal to stay at boutique and non-chain hotels, such as the infamous Watergate Hotel in DC. Paying in the range of 18,000 to 25,000 points a night to sleep in such a historic building easily could be justified.
Related: I slept in the hotel room tied to the Watergate break-in — here’s what it’s like 50 years later
You can also use this strategy in vacation spots like Bali, the Maldives and Hawaii to find great accommodations that you might have overlooked if restricting your search to hotel chains. There are plenty of markets around the world where using points for hotels is hard. But you can use this portal to find properties in those areas and pay with your points like cash.
Even if you’re redeeming Chase points for top-tier hotels, you’re not going to get the same massive redemption values that typically come with first- or business-class flight awards. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good options.
One of the best uses of Ultimate Rewards points is transferring them to Hyatt and redeeming them at low-category or high-end properties. Outside of that, given the high award rates of Marriott Bonvoy and IHG One Rewards, you might be better off looking at boutique properties (or forgoing your elite benefits) by booking directly through the Chase portal.
If we crunch the numbers, what would it take for it to be worth transferring Chase points to IHG One Rewards or Marriott Bonvoy for a hotel redemption? You would need an average of a 25% transfer bonus to Marriott Bonvoy to achieve the same redemption values you can get in the Chase portal if you have the Sapphire Reserve. With IHG One Rewards, you would need a 100% or better transfer bonus on most days to achieve the same points spending rates.
Related: Why you shouldn’t transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG, even with the 50% transfer bonus
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson and Ryan Smith.