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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
If you’re new to the points and miles game, it can be a bit overwhelming to say the least. My first piece of advice for friends and family members just getting into the hobby is simple: Pick up a travel rewards credit card. This will not only get you started on a spending strategy to maximize your points; it can also give you a big haul of points through a sign-up bonus, unlocking incredibly valuable awards. Today I want to go through my five favorite redemptions made possible by the sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Both cards offer a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, but the Reserve is a much more premium option, with a $450 annual fee and perks like a $300 annual travel credit. Meanwhile, the Sapphire Preferred is a great option as a first card. It offers 2x points per dollar spent on both travel and dining purchases (compared to 3x on the Reserve), and Chase defines these categories quite broadly. You’ll also enjoy primary car rental coverage and pay no foreign transaction fees when using the card outside the US. In addition, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, ensuring that you can give it a test run in year one before determining whether to keep it.
If you’re a new cardholder and haven’t received a new cardmember bonus within the last 24 months, you’ll earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll also enjoy 5,000 additional bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months from account opening. These points can be redeemed directly for travel at the rate of 1.25 cents apiece (or at 1.50 cents apiece with the Reserve) but become decidedly more valuable when you transfer to partners like United or Hyatt. As you’re about to see, the latter of these two opens up a myriad of lucrative awards.
For this analysis, I’m making the following assumptions:
- You’re approved for one of the cards and spend exactly $4,000 on the card to successfully earn the sign-up bonus.
- You add an authorized user and have him/her make a purchase to earn the extra 5,000 points.
- 25% of your $4,000 in spending is on travel and dining purchases.
Since you’re earning 2x points on these final categories, you’re thus taking home an even 60,000 points within just a few months of signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You’d have even more points if you got the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead, but given that not everyone wants to pay a $450 annual fee, we’ll focus on how many points you’d get from the Preferred.
While there are many ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value, here are my top five redemptions:
1. Two Nights in a Category 7 Hyatt Property
One of my favorite transfer partners in the Ultimate Rewards program is World of Hyatt. Even though it has a relatively limited global footprint, there are many luxurious properties from which to choose, and top-tier Category 7 hotels are just 30,000 points per night. I took advantage of this very redemption at the Park Hyatt Zurich back in 2015 when room rates were well over $650 per night, though you can extract even more value at other properties.
For example, I see award availability at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek over a weekend in mid-March:
If you paid for this two-night stay, you’d have to fork over almost $1,900:
I’ve seen similar rates at other Category 7 properties, including the Park Hyatt New York and Park Hyatt Sydney, so whichever hotel you book, you should be getting some terrific value from your 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
For more information on this option, be sure to check out my post on Transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to Hyatt.
2. At Least Four Round-Trip Flights of 1,151 Miles or Less
If you’re looking for flights instead of hotels, consider transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways. The carrier’s distance-based award chart is particularly lucrative for short-haul flights, as these tend to be quite expensive (especially if booked as a collection of one-ways). If your flight covers a distance of 1,151 miles or less, it’ll only set you back 7,500 Avios each way for economy class, giving you enough points from the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve for four round-trip itineraries on British Airways or any of the carrier’s partner airlines.
This can be even more lucrative if you’re looking at short flights that don’t start or end in North America. For flights of 650 miles or less outside North America, you’ll need just 4,500 Avios one-way (or 9,000 Avios round-trip). As a result, you could get up to six round-trip flights with a haul of 60,000 points, a value proposition that could save you literally thousands of dollars.
For more information on this option, be sure to check out my post on Transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to British Airways.
3. One-Way Business-Class Flight to Europe on United
On the other hand, if you’d prefer to travel in style, you could transfer your 60,000 points to United and redeem them for a one-way business-class flight to Europe. Keep in mind that this price is only valid on United metal and excludes flights operated by Star Alliance partners (which are 70,000 miles each way), but it can still be a great way to get across the Atlantic in comfort.
Unfortunately, United typically doesn’t release a ton of premium-class award inventory, but if you have some flexibility in your dates, you should be able to find a flight that works, like this one from Los Angeles (LAX) to London-Heathrow (LHR) in January:
Remember too that United’s award inventory is searchable on ExpertFlyer, allowing you to set alerts for specific flights when availability opens up.
4. One Week in a Category 2 Hyatt Property
While I’ve gotten tremendous value out of the World of Hyatt program across the upper echelon of properties, there are many lucrative redemptions at the opposite end of the spectrum. If you take home 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points through the Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus (and keep in mind you could get even more with the Reserve depending on how much you spend on travel and dining), you’ll have enough to transfer to Hyatt and redeem for a week-long stay in a Category 2 hotel, each of which costs just 8,000 points per night. Even though most of these properties are less-than-exciting Hyatt House and Hyatt Place locations, there are some absolute gems in the mix.
For example, the Park Hyatt Mendoza is one of the only low-tier Park Hyatts in the world, and I see rates of over $300 per night over certain dates in March:
This same room is available for just 56,000 Hyatt points.
5. Two Round-Trip Flights from the US to Hawaii
The final redemption option comes with a few choices, but each one can offer some terrific value if you have your eyes set on a trip to Hawaii. You essentially have three different options for redeeming your 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for economy flights to the Aloha State:
- On Alaska, through British Airways: If you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways, you can again leverage the carrier’s distance-based award chart for these flights. However, this time you’re looking for slightly longer flights (2,0001 – 3,000 miles). This range happens to include all of Alaska Airlines’ flights to Hawaii out of various gateways on the West Coast, and you also have the option of Amerian-operated flights from Los Angeles (LAX) or Phoenix (PHX). Any itinerary like this would only set you back 25,000 Avios .
- On Delta, through Korean: Delta is another carrier with service to Hawaii, and Korean’s SkyPass program also requires just 25,000 miles for a round-trip flight. However, the big different between Korean and British Airways is that Korean doesn’t impose a distance-based restriction. As a result, you can book an economy award from the East Coast to Hawaii for just 25,000 miles. Unfortunately the carrier’s booking process is a bit cumbersome, so you may be better off with the third and final option…
- On Delta, through Flying Blue: The loyalty program of Air France/KLM also partners with Ultimate Rewards and allows you to redeem your miles on Delta-operated flights. The big catch is that Flying Blue charges 30,000 miles for each round-trip flight. However, you may find that outlay worth it if you run into troubles booking with Korean.
Note that United also operates flights from the US to Hawaii but charges 45,000 miles for a round-trip flight. Transferring to Singapore and then redeeming on a United-operated flight would lower the cost a bit (35,000 miles) but is still pricier than any of the options above.
There’s no doubt that getting started in the points and miles hobby can be quite daunting. A frequent refrain I hear from reluctant friends or family members is something along with lines of, “Oh I’ll never earn enough points for anything meaningful.” Hopefully this post has dispelled that notion, as the sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve can be VERY lucrative if used in the right way (namely transferring to travel partners).
Featured image courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.