From international business class to domestic hops: 6 of the best Chase Ultimate Rewards sweet spots
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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 other 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.
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. But the highest value (and most aspirational redemptions) come from leveraging one of the program’s various airline and hotel transfer partners. So, in this guide we’ll take a look at some of the best Chase sweet spots to help you maximize your next redemption.
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Top-tier Hyatt hotels
Chase’s close relationship with World of Hyatt is great news for anyone collecting Ultimate Rewards points. 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.
This means that the fanciest Park Hyatt properties in the entire portfolio, including the Park Hyatt New York and Park Hyatt Sydney, can be booked for only 30,000 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.
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.
Iberia flights to Madrid
While most people associate the Avios currency with British Airways, 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):
|Origin||Blue class/economy off-peak||Blue class/economy peak||Premium economy off-peak||Premium economy peak||Business off-peak||Business 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 the East Coast 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. Iberia’s peak and off-peak calendars are a little more complicated than other airlines, so let’s take a look at the calendar rather than list all the off-peak dates. Dates in red are peak, while 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.
Flights to Hawaii with Alaska and American
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:
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
- Portland International Airport (PDX).
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
- Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC).
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
- San Diego International Airport (SAN).
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).
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.
Between these two airlines, you have well over 30 daily nonstop flights from the West Coast to Hawaii to choose from.
ANA flights with Virgin Atlantic
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, 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:
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, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer charges 125,000 miles for a one-way ticket, and United requires 110,000 miles. 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.
Or, transfer to Virgin Atlantic to book Delta One to Europe
Speaking of Virgin Atlantic, you can 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, but you’ll pay more points for connecting tickets since the program charges per leg for Delta flights.
Thus, you should fly on nonstop routes wherever possible to get the best value.
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.
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.
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.
Save points by choosing the right Star Alliance program
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.
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 just 35,000 miles for the same ticket.
Star Alliance premium cabins
United typically charges higher award rates for Star Alliance premium-cabin flights, such as first-class tickets to Europe (110,000 miles one-way versus 95,000 with Singapore). However, for United-operated business-class flights to Europe, you’re better off using United miles (60,000 each way compared to 65,000 miles through Singapore). The one caveat is that United and Air Canada don’t pass on fuel surcharges on partner awards, while Singapore does for many airlines.
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 this August. This is far cheaper than the 13,800 miles United charges and 12,500 miles Singapore charges on the same route.
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.
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. And 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 photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.
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