From international business class to domestic hops: 6 of the best Chase Ultimate Rewards sweet spots
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The Chase Ultimate Rewards program can be one of the most valuable transferable points 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 the world of points and miles. That’s mainly due to Chase’s 5/24 rule and its restrictions on credit card applications.
With valuable cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, many readers are more likely to have Ultimate Rewards points than any other currency. Plus, now is a great time to get a Sapphire Preferred with its best-ever welcome bonus: 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. TPG values this bonus at $2,000 if you maximize the points with Chase’s hotel and airline partners.
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, today 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 added an eighth award category to accommodate some of the new properties it now partners with through Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Hyatt’s core properties only go up to Category 7.
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. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, so 30,000 points are worth $600 or more. That’s a great deal for hotels that routinely sell for close to $1,000 but can climb even higher during peak season.
There’s also great value at the lower end of the Hyatt award chart, with Category 1 hotels starting at only 5,000 points per night. Still, you’ll generally get the most outsized returns from Category 6 and 7 properties.
Iberia flights to Madrid
While most people associate the Avios currency with British Airways, its sister airline — Iberia — loyalty program 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 (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-JFK||17,000 / 22,000||20,000 / 28,000||25,500||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)||21,250 / 27,750||25,000 / 35,000||31,750||43,750||42,500||62,500|
|Boston (BOS)||17,000 / 22,000||20,000 / 28,000||25,500||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Miami (MIA)||21,250 / 27,750||25,000 / 35,000||31,750||43,750||42,000||62,500|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||25,500 / 30,000||33,250 / 42,000||38,250||52,500||51,000||75,000|
|San Francisco (SFO)||25,500 / 30,000||33,250 / 42,000||38,250||52,500||51,000||75,000|
Round-trip flights from the East Coast only set you back 34,000 Avios in economy, 50,000 in premium economy or 68,000 in business. When you consider 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.
- Economy: 42,500 Avios
- Premium economy: 63,500 Avios
- Business: 84,000 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 rather than trying to list all the off-peak dates, let’s take a look at the calendar. 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-JFK 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 Airlines
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 (SEA)
- Portland (PDX)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- San Jose (SJC)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- San Diego (SAN)
- Phoenix (PHX)
From these airports, you can fly to all of Hawaii’s most popular destinations, including Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG), Kauai (LIH) and more. 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 from which to pick. Just keep in mind that due to the pandemic, operations may be limited.
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. 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 spot out there:
For just 110,000 miles, you can fly round-trip first class from the West Coast to 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 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 in the process.
Even flights in business class are a steal, costing 90,000-95,000 miles round-trip depending on your U.S. departure airport. If at all 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. You have to book these tickets as a round-trip award at least 48 hours before departure, but that’s a small price to pay to get a five-star flight for such a low price.
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 since the program charges per leg for Delta flights, you’ll pay more points for connecting tickets.
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 Detroit (DTW) to Paris (CDG):
This is far less than what Delta SkyMiles charges for many similar routes. Delta requires 320,000 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 when the region reopens this summer.
Save points by choosing the right Star Alliance program
Have you ever wondered why transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth more than 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 gives you the option to pick which program in a single alliance will get you the best value. With Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can access two great Star Alliance loyalty programs: United MileagePlus and Singapore KrisFlyer.
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 two 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 vs. 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 doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges on partner awards, while Singapore does for many airlines.
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 makes them one of the most valuable and versatile transferable points currencies. Whether you’re looking to travel domestically or indulge in international luxury, there’s a transfer partner to help you get and (possibly) stay there. And if you’re looking for once-in-a-lifetime experiences, Chase has your back with a multitude of 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 plenty of 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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