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How Useful Are Chase Ultimate Rewards Points?
Chase Ultimate Rewards are probably the most valuable mileage currency, and certainly one of the top three. Along with American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points they have the flexibility to be transferred to a wide variety of programs. The value proposition here is that you get to decide later which miles you want — you can top off an account, you can decide later which miles you’ll need based on where you want to go (since some currencies are better for some awards than others) or based on which partner has available seats for the flights you want.
Chase partners with airlines in all three alliances — United and Singapore for Star, British Airways for oneworld, and Korean Air for Skyteam. Together that opens up most flights in the world for possible redemption. (They also partner with Virgin Atlantic and Southwest.)
Who Are the Best Points Transfer Partners?
United is my favorite partner of these because of generous award routing rules, and no fuel surcharges.
British Airways miles are best used for short non-stop flights, since they charge separately for each flight segment based on distance. The shortest awards, like my own Washington DC to Chicago or New York, run just 4500 miles each way. Domestic flights on British Airways partners American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines do not incur fuel surcharges.
I actually prefer having Korean Air as a partner for Skyteam awards despite their adding fuel surcharges onto the cost of an award ticket. That’s because Korean offers one-way awards, first class awards, and is more generous with blackout dates than Delta is.
Korean does require you to redeem for family members only out of your own account, and they want proof of the relationship as part of the redemption process. But I’ve used them for 2 first class awards back from Malaysia the Sunday after Thanksgiving. First class award space is totally unmatched with Korean, and the airline flies to more US cities than any other Asian carrier.
What are the Best Possible Uses for Your Signup Bonus Points?
By far the best use of Chase points is premium cabin international awards through their airline transfer partners. But they have hotel partners and Amtrak too. The best leverage with hotels comes from Hyatt. Three nights at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa in the Maldives is 75,000 points.
And Hyatt points are great for suite upgrades, the least expensive confirmable suite upgrades on paid stays and a 60% premium on award stays beats even Starwood.
Here’s my top 11 list of redemptions you can achieve working off of the bonus points and modest spending on these Chase cards.
- Korean Air First Class Between the US and Hong Kong One-way. They charge 80,000 points for first class, and the availability is amazingly good. They serve more US destinations than any other Asian airline. You can fly between the US and Hong Kong (or to the North of Hong Kong) in first class via Seoul, south of Hong Kong is 15,000 points more expensive. Here’s my Korean Air experience from back in November.
- British Airways short-haul US domestic economy Awards start at 4500 points each way with no fuel surcharges on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. (It’s why I’m flying economy more and more, and loving it.)
- South America in Business Class with United miles. One-way business class is 55,000 miles, roundtrip 110,000. The price is the same whether you fly United or a partner.
- Hawaii for 30,000 points roundtrip in coach or 60,000 in first class on either Alaska Airlines or Hawaiian Airlines.
Chase points transfer to Korean Air which partners with both of those airlines and offers reasonable award pricing. There are no fuel surcharges to Hawaii.
Non-stop flights from the West Coast to Hawaii can be had even cheaper by transferring Chase points to British Airways.
- 80,000 points roundtrip to Europe in business class.
That’s the price on Chase transfer partner Korean. They do add fuel surcharges, but it’s a great price considering that Delta charges 125,000 miles for travel on the same Skyteam airlines, and United’s partner award price is 140,000 miles roundtrip.
- 50,000 miles roundtrip in coach or 110,000 in business class between the US and Southern South America
That’s Korean’s price for travel on Skyteam partners, and there are no fuel surcharges on these routes.
- Park Hyatt Maldives. Three nights in a Park Villa for 75,000 points, five nights for 125,000.
- Park Hyatt Vendome Paris or Park Hyatt Sydney or Park Hyatt Tokyo. There’s no standard room award that’s more expensive than 30,000 points no matter the hotel in Hyatt’s system. So even when the Park Hyatt in Paris is $1200 per night, it’s still 30,000 points, and any standard room that’s available for cash can be booked on points.
- British Airways points for business class between the US and South America. Business class from Miami or New York to much of South America runs 50,000 miles each way. Miami-Lima roundtrip runs 50,000 miles roundtrip.
- Europe With No or Low Fuel Surcharges. British Airways is known for its fuel surcharges, but there are flights to Europe where those are really quite limited. Oneworld partner Air Berlin doesn’t add fuel surcharges to awards. Aer Lingus fuel surcharges are de minimus — and Boston-Dublin/Shannon is 25,000 miles roundtrip in coach and 50,000 miles roundtrip in business. You can transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios your Iberia account has been open 90 days and has any activity at all in it — and Iberia Avios doesn’t add meaningful fuel surcharges to award tickets on Iberia (and their new business class looks fantastic).
Of course your points will take you farther if you fly coach, a one-way easily becomes a roundtrip. But to me, the reason I value my points so much, is that they allow me to travel in a manner and comfort that I could never otherwise afford. Mere money, in the quantities that I earn it, would not allow me to experience to sort of travel I do throughout the year. But my points can, so my top list heavily favors the sort of experiences that are ‘opened up for me’ by points.
Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.
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