Have points, will travel: How we earned points on award tickets through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Dec 25, 2019

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit card information. It was originally published on Nov. 1, 2019.

In this episode of “Have Points, Will Travel,” Ian Agrimis heads to the beautiful Island of Oahu, Hawaii. To get there, Ian flew a lie-flat seat in Delta first class thanks to Chase Ultimate Rewards. While here at TPG we’re typically fans of transferring our Chase points, we decided to give the Ultimate Rewards portal a shot and we were pleasantly surprised.

Watch the full video here to see why and don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page!

Let’s dive into why we decided to use the Ultimate Rewards portal.

First of all, it’s important to know that Ultimate Rewards have a fixed value against the cash value when booked through the portal. However, the value depends on which card you use — the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a value of 1.25 cents, whereas the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you a slightly higher value at 1.5 cents, according to TPG valuations. The biggest perk of the portal is that there’s no diving into award charts or searching for the best award availability. In fact, you’ll actually see a lot more availability since it’s technically not an award ticket, but we’ll touch more on that later.

Here’s an example of some premium-class rewards you can book through Chase Ultimate Rewards with the CSR:

When we take a closer look at booking these flights directly with United, we see (from the right-hand column) that it costs significantly more miles.

However, the cash price is the same (note that United’s site rounds the prices up to the nearest dollar).

Beyond the significantly fewer points required, there’s another major perk that comes with booking this way. When you book through the Chase portal, it’s technically not an award ticket; it’ll be treated like a normal, paid ticket. This has two important benefits for the program to which you elect to credit the flight. First, it allows you to earn points or miles on the ticket. Second, it will help in your push to qualify (or requalify) for elite status. This is huge, because usually you’d earn a grand total of zero points or miles on an award booking when booked directly with an airline — and award flights do not count toward elite status qualification.

Related: What is Delta elite status worth?

Ultimately, Ian booked a one-way flight on Delta’s 767-300 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) — equipped with lie-flat seats — for 41,800 Ultimate Rewards points, worth about $500 at TPG’s valuations. That netted Ian 3,834 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) thanks to the 150% MQM bonus on paid, premium-class tickets. And since Delta awarded him 634 Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) for the flight, he also took home over 3,000 redeemable SkyMiles, a haul worth an additional $38.04.

Moral of the story: always remember to compare redemption options and take advantage of the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal when it makes sense, as it can be highly rewarding and it’s a pretty seamless booking process.

Enjoy this video? Check out some of our previous episodes here.

Featured photo by Ian Agrimis / The Points Guy
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