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Ultimate Rewards points make a great foundation for an award traveler’s portfolio. Like other transferable loyalty currencies, these points can be redeemed for highly valuable awards through airline and hotel transfer partners. I currently hold several different credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3x points on travel and dining, and offers an assortment of travel and purchase protections.

Like any of the transferable points programs, an important aspect of using Ultimate Rewards is knowing how long it takes to transfer them from your Ultimate Rewards account to whichever partner you want to utilize. Long transfer times make it more difficult to plan and book awards, especially when availability is limited.  Amex Membership Rewards offers some instant transfers, while Citi ThankYou Rewards can take up to a week. Meanwhile, transfers from Starwood Preferred Guest tend to be lengthy and less predictable.

To see how Chase Ultimate Rewards stacks up against the competition, TPG Marketing Director Kate O’Brien and I did some research for each of the program’s transfer partners. Last week we transferred points to my corresponding partner accounts, and tracked how long it took for them to show up. Here’s what we found:

Program Transfer Time
Aer Lingus Instantaneous
British Airways Instantaneous
Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) Instantaneous
Hyatt Instantaneous
Iberia Instantaneous
IHG 1 day
Korean Air Instantaneous
Marriott 2 days
Ritz-Carlton 2 days
Singapore Airlines Same Day**
Southwest Instantaneous
United Instantaneous
Virgin Atlantic Instantaneous
** While points transferred from Ultimate Rewards to Singapore Airlines processed on the same day for us, the confirmation email from Chase states that it can take up to 2 business days for Ultimate Rewards transfers to appear in your Singapore KrisFlyer account.

9 out of 13 programs transferred instantly, and we never waited more than 2 days for points to show up in any program. These transfer times represent our own experiences, and shouldn’t be taken as hard and fast rules. However, others have reported a similar timeline when transferring points from Ultimate Rewards. Your own transfers may be faster or slower, but you can use these times as guidelines when planning your trips.

Over the last several years, I’ve counted on UR transfers to United being instantaneous.

While these results set a high bar for any transferable points program, there’s still some risk that award availability can change while you’re waiting for points to show up in your account. Transfers are irreversible, so you could be stuck with thousands of points in a program you have little use for if the flight or hotel room you were banking on disappears. Even though Ultimate Rewards offers mostly excellent transfer times, here are a few tips to help you avoid that situation:

  1. Put your award reservation on hold prior to transferring. Not all programs allow you to do this, but those that do make things much easier. For example, you can place Korean SkyPass awards on hold (for several months!), but you must call the airline, and this only applies to flights on Korean metal, not SkyTeam partners. Marriott also allows you to book awards with an insufficient balance, so long as you earn the additional points by 7 days prior to check-in.
  2. Choose flights that have more than 1 available award seat. This is helpful in case someone else books before your miles show up. You can use tools like ExpertFlyer or KVS to determine how many award seats are available on a flight, or you can just do a single search for three or four passengers, which should give you an idea of how many seats are open.
  3. Select uncommon routes. You can improve your chances by flying along routes that are less popular or originate from non-hubs, since those often have better award availability. For a transpacific flight, check out ANA’s flight from San Jose to Tokyo-Narita using United miles.
  4. Have a back-up plan. If your original itinerary is kaput because availability has dried up, have another option (or multiple options) in mind so you can still book when your points arrive.

If your original flights have disappeared, don’t panic. Keep in mind that award availability changes frequently, and can increase dramatically as your departure date approaches. Check regularly, and be ready to act quickly when seats do open up.

My first Ultimate Rewards transfer was to Hyatt for two nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme.

While transfer times may vary from one person to another, Ultimate Rewards is pretty consistent compared to ThankYou Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and some American Express partners. I’m confident in the award space and hotel nights I find still being available by the time my Ultimate Rewards transfers are complete.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

This is one of the top premium cards out there since you earn 3x on all travel and dining and have access to great perks like a $300 travel credit each cardmember year, 50% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and you get elite travel benefits like Global Entry application fee rebate, Priority Pass Select and special rental car privileges.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.