The 8 Best Things to Do With Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).


Key Link:

These are among the most valuable points because of their flexibility, and because of the value of the programs that Chase partners with.

They’re the reason why I love and recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card so much. And the card earns fast, too — thanks to:

  • A strong signup bonus of 50,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months, and 5000 more points for adding an authorized user to the account and making a purchase within that timeframe
  • Double points on travel and dining, which is most of what I spend money on.

Points transfer one-to-one into points with:

  • Airlines: United, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, Air France, Virgin Atlantic
  • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, IHG Rewards Club, Ritz-Carlton

Here are my 8 favorite things to do with the points.

  1. Korean Air First Class

    There are two things that combine to make Korean Air first class award availability amazing. First, Korean flies to more US destinations than any other Asian airline and they’re generous with award space. They fly to:

    • Atlanta
    • Chicago
    • Dallas
    • Honolulu
    • Houston
    • Las Vegas
    • Los Angeles
    • New York JFK
    • San Francisco
    • Seattle
    • Washington Dulles

    Second, their primary US partner is Delta — and Delta miles can’t be used for Korean Air first class. They also partner with Alaska Airlines, and Alaska miles can’t be used for Korean Air first class.

    As a result when you have Chase points, which transfer to Korean miles, you’re really not competing against that many people for the seats. With great availability, little competition, and so many flights you can usually find Korean Air award space.

    What’s more, Korean is unique in operating many intra-Asian routes with first class cabins. That means in addition to flying US – Seoul, your flights beyond Seoul to your final destination will often have a first class as well.

    When I stopped in the Korean Air first class lounge in Seoul, by the way, they even engraved custom-made metal luggage tags for me complimentary.

  2. Singapore Airlines First Class

    Singapore Airlines makes almost no long haul business and first class award seats available to partners like United and Air Canada. Those award seats are reserved almost exclusively for Singapore’s own Krisflyer members.

    Fortunately you can open a Singapore Airlines frequent flyer account and transfer in points from Chase. What’s more, you can also transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. That means it’s pretty easy to bulk up on Singapore miles — and secure awards like Singapore’s own members can.

    As much as I love the Emirates A380 with onboard shower, it’s really tough to beat the Singapore Airliens Suites aboard their Airbus A380 — and Singapore’s excellent service and pre-order meal service (they have my favorite main meal items of any carrier).

    If you book on the Singapore website you get a 15% discount of the prices on the award chart. So, for instance:

    • San Francisco – Hong Kong first class is 70,125 miles one-way.
    • Houston – Moscow first class is 57,375 miles one-way.
    • New York JFK – Frankfurt suites class is 57,375 miles one-way.

    You can have one free enroute stopover on a roundtrip award. Singapore adds fuel surcharges to awards (whatever the cost of a fuel surcharge would be on an equivalent paid ticket, especially low for Hong Kong).

  3. United transfer for business class to Europe and Asia

    United increased award prices a year and a half ago, but they’re still reasonable for business class (cheaper when you fly United than on partners, but still reasonable) considering that they do not add fuel surcharges to any awards and their routing rules are generous.

    You can have a free stopover on a roundtrip award, and you can have an open jaw at both origin and destination.

    Most importantly, United simply has the most good partners through the Star Alliance.

    For Europe you can fly Turkish, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels, Scandinavian, Air Canada, and Austrian.

    For Asia you can fly Air Canada, Air China, ANA, Asiana, Thai, and EVA Air. And you can fly to Asia via Europe, meaning you have the option of the European airlines as well.

    United charges 70,000 miles each way for business class between the US and Europe (57,500 if you fly United across the pond) and 80,000 miles each way for business class between the US and North or South Asia (75,000 if you fly a partner to Japan; 70,000 if you fly United to North or South Asia; 65,000 if you fly United to Japan).

  4. Korean Air for business class to Europe for 80,000 Miles

    You can fly Skyteam airlines between the US and Europe for just 40,000 miles each way in business class. Compare that to 70,000 United miles one-way to fly a Star Alliance partner airline to Europe.

    You pay fuel surcharges, the amount that would apply to a given paid ticket on the same itinerary. With the mileage savings, you’re basically spending a cash co-pay to make your miles go farther, sometimes essentially buying back miles at a discount.

    And Korean Air has access to Air France award seats on the same level as other partners, without blocking, which in my experience means better availability than you can get using Delta SkyMiles.

  5. Hyatt transfers for suite upgrades and free nights in suites

    Whereas Starwood — the second best hotel program for suites — wants double points to redeem award nights in a suite, Hyatt offers standard suites for about a 60% premium over regular free night awards.

    There’s a 3 night minimum stay on these redemptions, and there are a handful of properties where you cannot spend additional points for suites:

    Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort , Park Hyatt Sydney, Andaz Tokyo, Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort, Hyatt Regency Tulsa, Hyatt Regency Wichita, Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa, Hyatt Manila City of Dreams, Hyatt Santa Barbara, Hyatt Residence Club resorts, Hyatt Place hotels and M life resorts.

    These awards book into the base-level suite, as indicated on each hotel property’s page on the Hyatt website. When a standard room isn’t available for redemption you can spend modest points for better rooms. And you can have the better experience, guaranteed at booking, even without status.


    Bedroom of suite at Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

    Suites at some properties are only incrementally more expensive than regular rooms, I recall staying at the Hyatt in Bellevue Washington where a suite priced only at about $50 more than a regular room. But suites can also be several multiples of a regular room, even ten times as much, so spending ~60% more points can represent a huge value-per-point value there as well (of course you need to actually care about the room itself for this to matter).

    A 60% premium can be a great deal at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong (it guarantees you a harbor view), it’s also a great value at the Park Hyatt in Mendoza, a category 2 property where the suite is really quite nice.

    Hyatt Gold Passport also offers what is by far the most generous points upgrade benefit for paid stays — even though it’s more expensive than a year ago.


    Park Hyatt Chennai

    You have to pay the ‘Hyatt Daily Rate’ rather than a discounted rate to be eligible to upgrade. And at resorts you have to pay for a deluxe (eg partial ocean view) room as well.

    Here are the confirmed upgrade prices.

    You cannot book suite awards online, it has to be done through Hyatt’s customer service center.

    A hotel like the Westin Tokyo will cost an extra 12,000 – 15,000 Starpoints per night for a suite, confirmed only five nights in advance. Hyatt Gold Passport will let you confirm an upgrade at booking the much nicer Park Hyatt Tokyo for just 6000 points per night.

  6. Hyatt transfers for cash and points award night redemptions

    Here’s the cash and points award chart — you pay half the usual number of points and a cash co-pay.

    I’ve included with the chart the price at which you are ‘buying’ the difference in points. For categories 2 through 6 this is an exceptional value, and one I would take advantage of every time compared to spending points for the room (although there will be times when paid rates are low enough that spending any points at all, even cash and points, won’t make sense).

    Even at two cents a point this is a discount relative to what Hyatt usually sells points for, but higher than what i like to acquire them at. At below 1.5 cents this is a no-brainer to me.

    There are some real advantages to these awards, in addition to stretching your points:

    • These awards earn Gold Passport points on the cash component of the cash and points award. So spend $50, earn 250 points plus elite bonus. In effect, the points price of the award is reduced even further.

    • Diamond members can upgrade these awards using confirmed suite upgrades (they get 4 per year each valid for up to 7 nights).

    • They count towards elite status.

    • And they count towards earning bonus points from promotions.

    Regular free room night awards are available whenever a standard room is open at a hotel, with no capacity controls.

    Cash and points award nights are capacity controlled. They are available only for standard rooms.

  7. Korean Air for Hawaii awards

    Korean partners with both Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines and offers exceptional value awards on both (with no fuel surcharges).

    You have to book roundtrip, and fly only one airline, so you can’t fly Alaska one way and Hawaiian the other.

    There’s no change to routing after departure of first flight. Once travel begins you can change only dates/times.

    You cannot use ‘family pooling’ of miles (combining miles from more than one family member’s account) to claim a partner award. All of the miles have to come from one account.

    Korean allows a stopover on domestic US awards on Alaska Airlines.

    Roundtrip US domestic coach is 20,000 miles, and roundtrip first class is 40,000 miles.

    Hawaii and Mexico are 30,000 miles roundtrip in coach and 60,000 in first. This is one of the best first class awards to Hawaii there is.

    For short-haul non-stops, such as Seattle, Portland, or Los Angeles along the West Coast, you’d do better transferring points to British Airways to redeem flights on Alaska. But for connecting flights or cross-country flights you’ll do better with Korean. And indeed Korean’s award prices for travel on Alaska are cheaper than Alaska’s own prices for the same flights.

    For West Coast non-stops to Hawaii In coach you may do better using British Airways Avios at 25,000 miles roundtrip. But from the East Coast, with connections, or in first class Korean is the superior partner to use.

    Award availability on Alaska matches what you’ll see on Alaska’s own website (for redemptions at the low/saver level).

    Awards between the US and Hawaii on Hawaiian are similarly 30,000 miles roundtrip in coach and 60,000 in first.

    However, unlike with Alaska, these awards do not include connecting flights, which are charged at extra mileage. So New York JFK – Honolulu – Maui – Honolulu – New York JFK would be 40,000 miles roundtrip in coach (since Honolulu – Maui is 10,000 miles roundtrip in coach and the pricing is additive).

  8. Singapore Airlines for US domestic flights

    Singapore’s partner award chart is here. The chart lists roundtrip award prices, but one-way awards are half the cost of roundtrip. These awards have to be booked over the phone.

    • US – Hawaii costs 35,000 miles roundtrip in coach, 60,000 miles roundtrip up front (in ‘business class’ — United classifies their domestic first class as business class for award purposes, for experts out there that means United’s domestic first class awards book into “I class”.)

    • North America domestic first class awards cost just 40,000 miles roundtrip (again, because United books their domestic first class into “I” which is Star Alliance business).

    There are no fuel surcharges on US domestic awards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

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. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. Gary,
    If I wanted to use my Chase points to get to Hawaii via Korean Air, how would that work? Do I book a flt on Hawaiian or Alaska via Korean’s WEB site?
    Thanks
    Patrick

  2. How do you search space on Korean to Europe? Their website only shows routes going through Seoul?

  3. Gary, thank you for the post.

    Do you know or have any experience about how SQ handle the US domestic award? We live on the west coast and thinking about redeeming SQ for SEA-YVR-YYZ (or YUL) to MCO. It’s a bit roundabout, but we like the AC transcon wide body business cabin. The YYZ (or YUL) to MCO has to be on AC Rouge unfortunately, but that’s only a 2 1/2 hr hop I think.

    I am curious if there’s specific routing requirements/limitations, or cabotage restrictions of having a ticket originated in the US, transit in Canada, to go back to the US.

    I know it seems like waste of Krisflyer points, but we happen to have a stash of Amex MR and Chase UR and we are fortunate that we could generate points consistently through our day to day expenses.

    I echoed your points about UA. We flew with UA miles to Asia, with a stopover in Europe. I also had an itinerary from SIN to SEA via SEA and FRA, that I booked using United’s website, no need to call, and it was priced just like an Asia to US business award via the Pacific.

    We also flew KE, from SEA to SIN using UR points, and KE’s Prestige Suite are so good, and the privacy level is awesome that made us question if we needed to book KE First.

  4. Do you have a link to an article that details the process of booking awards through Korean or Singapore Air on the partner flights?

  5. Gary
    I have not seen a 57,500 business class flight from SFO to Europe in years. Can you email your email address as I cannot connect to the one listed on your site. Thanks

  6. Hi Gary, Re: Award seats in business and first on Korean Air –

    Thanks for your interesting article about Korean Air award flights. Over the past few years, I had no problem using Korean Air for award flight in business from LAX to GRU. However, during the past few weeks of checking, Korean Air has become stingy in releasing award seats in business or first. I checked Korean Air’s website for award seats beginning from September until March of next year and found only a handful of single award seats in business. Telephoning directly to Korean Air confirms that their award availability in business and first is sparse. Do you know any reason for the sudden change in availability with Korean Air?

  7. When I search Singapore Air, I can’t find any deals close to the mile figures mentioned in your article. What am I missing?

    Also, how much should I expect to spend in miles on Korean Air flights from SFO to various destinations (Seoul and flights beyond)?

    Thanks!

  8. @David: There’s a good reason you’re not find awards Sept-March. Korean Air will discontinue their flight between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo as of September 23, 2016.

  9. “TrAAveller says:
    June 10, 2016 at 5:08 pm
    @David: There’s a good reason you’re not find awards Sept-March. Korean Air will discontinue their flight between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo as of September 23, 2016.”

    Thank you very much for the information. I see that the ending of the flight was recently reported on a different travel blog.

    That leaves only AA with a non stop flight from LAX – GRU.

    Who knows if the AA non stop flight will last much longer.

    The LAX – GRU non stop flights have a sad history. Around 2003, the non stop route was operated by Varig Airlines, that went through a form of bankruptcy and discontinued its U.S. operations. Later, Delta Airlines operated that route for about a year then discontinued it. Now, Korean Air will be ending the non stop route. I will keep my fingers crossed that AA does not bail out on that route, also. I visit Brazil often and find the non stop flights from LAX – GRU to alleviate a lot of stress caused from that long journey.

  10. Gary, what is you understanding on why some of these rewards require phone calls (like the examples you have above, or using SPG points for a suite for example)? Is there a true workflow issue that requires this or is it an artificial step put in to deter redeeming points/miles for rewards?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *