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From international business class to domestic hops: 6 of the best Chase Ultimate Rewards sweet spots

Oct. 26, 2022
16 min read
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Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be one of the most valuable transferable currencies, but only if you know the best ways to use them.

While Chase doesn’t have as many transfer partners as programs like American Express Membership Rewards, many people start with an Ultimate Rewards-earning card when they first get into points and miles. That’s mainly due to Chase’s 5/24 rule and its restrictions on credit card applications.

With valuable beginner-friendly cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, many readers are more likely to have Ultimate Rewards points at their disposal.

If you don’t already have a card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, now might be the time to apply. Currently, the Sapphire Reserve is offering a higher welcome bonus of 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening your account.

Related: Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value

Chase also has one of the best lineups of small-business credit cards, including the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, which offers a welcome bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Several Chase cards offer bonuses when you redeem your points directly through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. However, the highest value (and most aspirational redemptions) come from leveraging one of the program’s various airline and hotel transfer partners. In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the best Chase sweet spots to help you maximize your next redemption.

Top-tier Hyatt hotels

Ventana Big Sur Social House. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Chase’s close relationship with World of Hyatt is great news for anyone collecting Ultimate Rewards points.

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The World of Hyatt award chart is incredibly cheap relative to some of its competitors. With Ultimate Rewards points transferring at a 1:1 ratio, it’s easy to book Hyatt’s top-tier properties at reasonable rates.

While Hyatt has introduced peak and off-peak pricing, you can still find great value at many properties — especially if you can travel outside holiday periods and spring break.

Even better, you can book some of the fanciest Park Hyatt properties in the entire portfolio, including the Park Hyatt New York and Park Hyatt Sydney, which can be booked for 35,000 points per night during off-peak dates. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, so 35,000 points are worth $700. That’s a great deal for hotels that routinely sell for close to $1,000, even when demand is low.

HYATT.COM

There’s also great value at the lower end of the Hyatt award chart. Category 1 hotels range from 3,500 to 6,5000 points per night, depending on peak/standard/off-peak pricing during your visit. Still, you’ll generally get the most outsize returns from Category 6, 7 and 8 properties.

HYATT.COM

Related: Best ways to earn points with the World of Hyatt program

Iberia flights to Madrid

Just 34,000 Chase points can get you across the Atlantic in business class. CHRISTIAN KRAMER/THE POINTS GUY

Most people associate the Avios currency with British Airways. However, its sister airline — Iberia — also uses Avios and can represent a much better value for some flights to Europe. Since Iberia’s award chart is also distance-based, you may be punished for taking longer routes or connecting flights. Still, you can score a great deal on nonstop flights operated by Iberia.

The following chart shows Iberia’s award rates for one-way, nonstop flights from the U.S. to Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD):

OriginBlue class/economy off-peakBlue class/economy peakPremium economy off-peakPremium economy peakBusiness off-peakBusiness peak
New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)17,000/22,000.20,000/28,000.25,500.35,000.34,000.50,000.
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD)17,000/22,000.20,000/28,000.25,500.35,000.34,000.50,000.
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)17,000/22,000.20,000/28,000.25,500.35,000.34,000.50,000.
Miami International Airport (MIA)21,250/27,750.25,000/35,000.31,750.43,750.42,500.62,500.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)21,250/27,750.25,000/35,000.N/A.N/A.42,500.62,500.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)25,500/33,250.30,000/42,000.N/A.N/A.51,000.75,000.

Round-trip flights from Boston, Chicago and New York only set you back 34,000 Avios in economy, 51,000 in premium economy or 68,000 in business. Considering that most airlines charge about 60,000 miles for a one-way business-class award to Europe, you’re essentially getting a 50% discount. This deal is so good that it might be worth paying for a positioning flight to one of these cities.

Even if you’re flying from Miami International Airport (MIA), you can still get a terrific deal, with round-trip awards costing the following amounts:

  • Economy: 42,500 Avios.
  • Premium economy: 63,500 Avios.
  • Business: 85,000 Avios.

Of course, you’ll need to fly during off-peak dates to get the lowest prices for each route. Take a look at the calendar and see if any of the dates work for you and have award space. Dates in red are peak and all others are off-peak.

In addition to saving you tens of thousands of miles, booking through Iberia can also help you save hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees on your award ticket.

Iberia will charge you a manageable $200 in taxes for a round-trip business-class award from New York to Madrid. If you booked the same award using British Airways Avios instead, you’d pay the same 68,000 Avios, but you’d also owe over $1,000 in taxes and fees.

IBERIA.COM

Related: How to avoid fuel surcharges on award travel

Flights to Hawaii with Alaska and American

Use your Chase points to book a trip to Hawaii with American Airlines. PIERRE LECLERC/SHUTTERSTOCK

It takes a minute to wrap your head around the fact that flights to Europe (especially London) rank among the worst uses of British Airways Avios. Still, if you set your sights westward on the Aloha State, you can find an incredible deal for flights to Hawaii.

You can choose to book awards with Oneworld partners American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. As long as your nonstop flight distance is under 3,000 miles each way, you can leverage British Airways’ distance-based award chart to fly from any of the following West Coast gateways to Hawaii for only 26,000 Avios round trip:

From these airports, you can fly to all of Hawaii’s most popular destinations, including Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. You can now book both American and Alaska award tickets on British Airways’ website.

BRITISHAIRWAYS.COM

Between these two airlines, you have well over 30 daily nonstop flights from the West Coast to Hawaii to choose from.

Related: How to book partner award flights with British Airways Avios

ANA flights with Virgin Atlantic

Fly ANA first class for one of the most luxurious experiences in the sky. CHRIS DONG/THE POINTS GUY

If you’re looking to fly on one specific Star Alliance airline (ANA), you’re better off ignoring both United and Singapore and focusing on Virgin Atlantic for your booking.

It’s not a member of one of the major alliances yet, but it has formed individual partnerships with many airlines. The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club award chart for ANA is one of the best sweet spots out there:

VIRGINATLANTIC.COM

For just 110,000 miles, you can fly round trip in first class between the West Coast and Tokyo. Flights from other U.S. gateways only cost an extra 10,000 miles (120,000 miles round trip). As a point of comparison, United requires 110,000 miles for a one-way ticket. You’re essentially saving 50% by booking through Virgin Atlantic, while simultaneously scoring a seat in one of the most luxurious first-class products.

Even flights in business class are a steal, costing 90,000-95,000 miles round trip, depending on your U.S. departure airport. If possible, you’ll want to route through New York (JFK) and fly ANA’s new industry-leading “The Room” business class, which is only available on select routes. ANA isn’t the most generous with award space, but it’s relatively easy to find space if you’re flexible with your dates.

While you previously had to book these awards round trip, Virgin Atlantic started offering one-way awards on ANA flights in early 2021. For one-way bookings, the mileage requirements are half of what you see in the chart above.

Related: How to find and book Virgin Atlantic partner awards

Or, transfer to Virgin Atlantic to book Delta One to Europe

Use your Chase points to fly to Europe in Delta One. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

You can also transfer your Chase points to Virgin Atlantic and book Delta One business-class seats to Europe for just 100,000 points round trip with minimal taxes and fees. This pricing is valid on all of Delta’s U.S.-to-Europe routes outside of the U.K., but you’ll pay more points for connecting tickets since the program charges per leg for Delta flights.

Related: When and how to book Delta awards with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Thus, you should fly on nonstop routes wherever possible to get the best value.

VIRGINATLANTIC.COM

You can book these flights on Virgin Atlantic’s website. Note that the search tool can be a bit wonky, so you may need to call to book your flight. You can verify award space using ExpertFlyer’s (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) award search function.

Here’s a sample flight from Boston to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG):

VIRGINATLANTIC.COM

This is far less than what Delta SkyMiles charges for many similar routes. Delta requires 180,000 SkyMiles one-way for the same flight on the same date.

DELTA.COM

Try and book tickets on Delta routes with the carrier’s new Delta One Suites business-class product. This gives you a true suite in the sky, complete with a closing door. This is an excellent way to travel from the U.S. to Europe in comfort.

Related: Every Delta Air Lines premium seat ranked from best to worst

Save points by choosing the right Star Alliance program

Take care to transfer to the right partner when you redeem Chase points for Star Alliance award tickets. SUDPOTH SIRIRATTANASAKUL/SHUTTERSTOCK

Have you ever wondered why transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth more than the points of any individual airline or hotel they partner with? They get immense value from the flexibility they offer. This doesn’t just include the flexibility to book flights on different airlines in different alliances; it also allows you to pick which program in a single alliance will get you the best value.

With Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can access three great Star Alliance loyalty programs: Air Canada Aeroplan, Singapore KrisFlyer and United MileagePlus.

You can check out our guide for a walk-through of which Star Alliance program to use to book different types of awards, but here are a few examples of how you can pit these three programs against each other to save points:

Flights to Hawaii

While United’s dynamic award pricing makes it hard to predict just how much an award ticket will cost, we know from the old award chart that a round-trip economy saver award from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii should start at about 45,000 miles, though it can climb much higher. By comparison, Singapore charges 39,000 miles for the same ticket.

Related: The best ways to get to Hawaii using points and miles

Star Alliance premium cabins

United typically charges higher award rates for Star Alliance premium-cabin flights when compared to other alliance partners. However, for United-operated business-class flights to Europe, you’re better off using United miles to book these tickets (for 60,000 miles each way).

The one caveat is that United and Air Canada don’t pass on fuel surcharges on partner awards, while Singapore does for many airlines. So if you’re booking an award ticket operated by Austrian, Lufthansa or another Star Alliance carrier that adds these charges, consider booking with one of those programs to save money.

Short-haul flights to Canada

Aeroplan stuck to an award chart for partner redemptions but added dynamic pricing for Air Canada flights. As a result, you can often find super cheap short-haul tickets from the U.S. to Canada. For example, New York to Toronto can be booked for under 6,000 miles one-way on many dates in early 2023. This is far cheaper than the 13,800 miles United charges for the same flight.

AIRCANADA.COM

Which Star Alliance program is better for you will depend on the specific route you plan to fly, but check both options before transferring your points.

Booking Lufthansa first class forces you to decide whether you'd rather spend more miles or pay higher taxes
Booking Lufthansa’s first class forces you to decide whether you’d rather spend more miles or pay higher taxes. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

Related: Book this, not that: Star Alliance award tickets

Bottom line

The myriad ways you can redeem your Ultimate Rewards points make them one of the most valuable and versatile transferable points currencies. Whether you’re looking to travel domestically or indulge in international luxury, a transfer partner can help you get and (possibly) stay there. If you’re looking for once-in-a-lifetime experiences, Chase has your back with many unique activities available on its travel portal.

While these redemptions are some of the best options available, they’re really just the tip of the iceberg. If you play your cards right (pun intended), there are many other ways to get great value out of your Ultimate Rewards points.

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh, Dia Adams and Carissa Rawson.

Featured image by CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

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Recommended Credit

670-850
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees