This is post #6 of a series regarding the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

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Throughout this Chase Ultimate Rewards series, I have made it pretty clear that transferring your points to a partner hotel or airline, if used strategically, will give you the the best value per point. A few weeks ago I highlighted that Hyatt is by far the best hotel option when transferring Chase Ultimate Reward points, and this post will take you through the participating airline options. These airline loyalty partner programs include:

  • United
  • British Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

All programs transfer at a 1:1 ratio, but each airline values their points differently. Remember, only points in your Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, and Chase Ink Plus account can transfer to participating loyalty programs. Since you can earn well over 100,000 points by applying for both the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, and Chase Ink Plus credit cards, I’ll assume this number of points when evaluating the point value for each account.

Airfare:

  • United – Here are some examples on how the sign on bonus Ultimate Reward points can be put to use:
    • Southeast Asia: 1 round-trip economy class ticket will cost 65,000 points (this will save you about $1,5000 + give you 35,000 points left over). This is giving you a redemption value of 2.3 cents/point. Or, if you prefer business class, just a little more spend on your card can get you the 120,000 points needed. A paid ticket will cost about $4,500. This is giving you a redemption value of 3.75 cents/point (and this is being pretty conservative).
    • Europe: 1 round-trip economy class ticket will cost you 60,000 points. Depending on where you are going and the time frame, this can save you anywhere between $700 and $1,300. I’ll average it out and put a redemption value of 1.6 cents per value – not a great redemption value, but still free. A business class ticket will give you a better redemption value, but requires 100,000 points for a round-trip ticket. Since paying for this ticket will cost about $4,000, the redemption value is 4 cents/point.
    • Hawaii: 2 round-trip economy class tickets will cost you 80,000 points. I was once able to get a flight from JFK for $600 round-trip, but this is rare. Typical price is probably more around $900/person. This redemption value is about 2.25 cents/point.
    • Domestic: 100,000 points can be used for 4 round-trip tickets from New York to California (or really from any two domestic cities). While this is the worst redemption value, it really depends on what works best for you and your family. If your goal is to travel around the US for free to visit friends and family members, then that’s great, and these points can save you about $1,400! Assuming a $350 ticket normally, this is giving you a 1.4 cent/point redemption value. *Just make sure the cost of each ticket is more than $315, or you might as well use the “pay for points option” instead of transferring to this partner airline.

Average redemption value: 2.55 cents per point

  • Southwest – This program is pretty cut and dry, where each point is worth 1.67 cents when redeemed on a “Wanna Getaway” fare. This means that 100,000 Ultimate Reward points = 100,000 Southwest points = $1,666. If you only want to redeem for domestic travel and Southwest is your airline of choice, this is a great option. While this is not as great of a redemption option compared to redeeming for international flights, you really do not need to worry about award availability. Unfortunately, transferring points from your Ultimate Rewards account to Southwest will not count towards the Southwest companion pass. Read this prior blog post on a roundabout way to transfer from Ultimate Rewards to Southwest to count towards the companion pass. Warning though, this will devalue your points greatly – but, you do get the companion pass!

Average redemption value = 1.67 cents per point

  • Korean AirWhile this program isn’t mentioned often, there are some good redemption opportunities. While I know the least about Korean Air, I have read that they do a good job at keeping a decent number of redemption seats available for all fare classes. Also, Korean Air allows you to redeem for one-way awards at half the cost of a round-trip fare. Before you go ahead and redeem though, you’ll want to check on the extra fees/taxes – there could be some hefty fuel charges. Some examples on redeeming your points include:
    • North America to Korea: 70,000 miles round-trip for economy class during off peak times (which is 90% of the time). You can check the number of miles needed to redeem plus their peak/off-peak time table here). The cheapest non-stop I found from JFK to Seoul costs about $1,700. This gives you a redemption of about 2.4 cents per point. If you were to fly business class (125,000 miles), you could get close to 5 cents per point!
    • US to Hawaii: You can redeem your Korean Air miles on partner airlines. For example, it costs 30,000 miles on Alaska Airlines from the US to Hawaii round-trip. You are also allowed one stop-over which is great! The 30k points needed is less than most other airlines! With partner airlines, however, you are not able to redeem for one-way awards. You can see the rest of the partner charts here.

Average redemption value = 3 cents per point.

  • British Airways – This program has been one of the biggest changes of the year. Your travel style will depend on whether or not this program works for you, most of the positives being for domestic travel and to South America. Typically, you will actually end up redeeming your points for a partner airline, i.e., American Airlines. You can look up the number of points needed for a free flight here – this is given as a one-way redemption and per segment. However, if you need to go to a city that does not have a direct route, you will need to essentially redeem two awards, one for each segment – this is when Avios points might not be worth it.
    • Short haul flight: 4,500 points one-way. Many times these short haul flights can run about $200 each way. For only 4,500 points, this is an awesome redemption! A great example is between NYC and Toronto or Montreal. If used properly, this can give you about 4.5 cents per point.
    • Medium haul flights: 7,500 points one-way.
    • Long haul flights: 12,500 points one-way. This comes out to the same 25k points needed for a round-trip flight which is comparable to all other airlines.
    • Europe: Redeeming BA points for flights via Europe typically will not be the best value. They tack on HUGE fees when redeeming awards to Europe, which can many times cost close to the same as just paying for the ticket outright. Additionally, with the new BA system, you redeem awards per segment. So if you want to go to Barcelona, for example, and the only flight is via London, you will need to book one award from the US to London, and then another from London to Barcelona.
    • South America: For a direct flight, you can redeem only 50,000 points for a round-trip flight (or 100k in business class). Although BA has hefty fees for many international destinations, currently South America is free of the fuel charges. You will only pay taxes which is will be less than $100 per ticket. A round-trip flight can cost over $1,200. Redeeming your points will give you a decent value at 2.4 per point.

Average redemption value = 3 cents per point

Overall, transferring your points for free flights can provide great value! Depending on your needs and how you redeem (economy vs. business vs. first), 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points can net you at least $1,500 in flights (and that is being REALLY conservative). Others will be able to find a way for these points to be worth closer to $5,000!

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

  • Michael A said,

    Any knowledge on KE YQs? I know they exist, but how large are they on award tickets?

  • CodeAdam10 said,

    Very helpful. I did not know you can get to Hawaii from USA for 30k (or reasonbly 60k F) via Alaska Air or Hawaiian Airlines (Korean Air miles). Thank you!!

    Would you know how good is the award availability on Korean Air partners?

  • Dana said,

    Forgive me if this is a silly question, I’m just learning the ins and outs of Ultimate rewards. I know you get extra redemption value on your points when booking through the ultimate rewards site for travel. Does it make more sense to transfer points to an airline program for redemption or book travel through ultimate rewards?

  • Mikes said,

    Thanks for the Avios calculator. I was surprised to find that ABQ->AUS is ‘short haul’. I can usually get on SWA for $79 which is probably a toss up when considering bag fees, but definitely something to keep in my pocket.

    OTOH, AUS->ABQ can’t be booked as a single segment. Ugh!

    One comment though: “Just make sure the cost of each ticket is more than $315, or you might as well use the “pay for points option” “… personally I’d set this number more like $275 because you get miles for flights booked through Chase. Assuming a value of 1.5 cents/mile, a long flight could yield substantial value. Of course it depends on what carrier, and how (or if) you will ever use those earned miles. ;)

  • dealswelike said,

    @Michael – I am not aware of the fuel surcharges, but will do some investigation for you!

  • dealswelike said,

    @CodeAdam10 – Yup! With partner airlines you can only redeem a round-trip (one-ways are not allowed). With award availability, many of the agents are not aware, so it is difficult (and can be painful to get the award you are looking for). For example, Points, Miles & Martinis had an experience trying to get clarification on using Korean Air for a flight from the US to Tahiti : http://boardingarea.com/pointsmilesandmartinis/2011/12/booking-award-flight-to-french-polynesia-with-chase-sapphire-preferred-and-chase-ink-bold-bonuses/

    There also seems to be some award chart conflicts, as the chart I have linked to in the post has US to Hawaii as 30k, but in the post by PM&M, it says 35k!

  • dealswelike said,

    @Dana – Typically, you get the biggest value when you transfer your points to a loyalty partner program, but it really depends on what you are looking for. When you redeem for travel through the ultimate rewards portal with the “pay for points” option, you are redeeming each point for 1.25 cents. For example, if you are looking to book a flight that is $350, you will need to redeem 28,000 points.

  • dealswelike said,

    @Mikes – Yes, the short haul flights can be unbelievable! However, as you mentioned, they are priced PER SEGMENT .So your AUS -> ABQ flight will be 4,500 points from AUS -> DWF and then another 4,500 points from DFW -> ABQ, for a total of 9,000 points one-way. Still round-trip this is less than redeeming 25k points if you were to use AAdvantage points. With the calculator you unfortunately need to search by segment.

    Regarding the value of the “pay for points” option – I agree. When you use points you do not earn miles, however, with the pay for points option, you do earn miles, so need to take that value into consideration.

  • CodeAdam10 said,

    @Dealswelike — Good to know. I suppose with patience and advanced planning — this all great potential. Thanks again for your UR series, I recently moved (from MR) into UR, so I was really glad to come across your series on this subject.

  • dealswelike said,

    @CodeAdam10 – Glad this has been helpful. There are more posts in this series to come!

  • Bill M said,

    I transferred my UR points to CO and bought round trip Business Class ticket to Europe for 100,000 points. I though that was a great value compared to the $ 5,000 cost of a ticket

  • The Weekly Flyer said,

    KE couldn’t find availability on Air France even though the AF site was showing availability. First you have to get them to agree to their 90k business class to Tahiti, then you have to get them to find availability. The first part is easy, I just pointed them to their own website. But I think getting them to find availability on AF metal to PPT will take an experienced agent. So if you have patience, keep trying until you get an agent to find the space.

  • CKP said,

    Korean Air advised they do not have the same inventory that Delta has. Delta has non-stop flights to Europe that are available for DL 90K points, but needed to use KE points instead due to DL points shortage. KE could only offer horrible connections & the taxes were $700 on an award ticket that is 50K points on KE. No deal on this one!

  • dealswelike said,

    @CKP – oh wow. Korean Air really is difficult for redemption. Their representatives have no idea what is going on, so it is challenging to find out the real availability and associated fees/mileage needed.

  • David E said,

    I’m trying to use my pints to fly from New York to Johannesburg….business, if possible. I have over 100k on Sapphire, and around 60k or so on United miles. I’m new at this. Does anyone know how I can do it? Via Sao Paulo, maybe?

  • dealswelike said,

    @david e – you can fly direct on South African airways but availability is limited. You are able to use your united miles as well which is great. Chase sapphire preferred points will transfer to united 1:1.

  • David said,

    Many thanks. I always fly economy SAA, but I’m looking for how to redeem a business class round trip which I’ve been promising myself for ages. The websites are very confusing, but it’s good to know. I’ll persevere. Do I book with SAA or with United? (I also have about 7k Voyager miles)

  • dealswelike said,

    @David – You book with United. You can search for availability on the United.com website. SAA has very limited miles seats available, so be flexible and look ahead of time.

  • curioustraveller said,

    @dealwelike-is the ink bold available to those who do not have a legally registerd business name?

  • dealswelike said,

    @curioustraveler – you can just put in your ss number instead of the business EID. While technically it is for business owners when you speak to the reconsideration line (which you will most likely need to do since business credit card) they will ask you about your business. This comes down to if you feel comfortable or not, but you can tell them you have an eBay business, online website, etc. whatever you want.

  • Sandy said,

    I’m a newbie with ultimate rewards but am looking to use the points my husband received from his new Ink Bold card. Here is my situation – am looking to book a ticket for my daughter to Boston on United. Fares are $333 so would take >26,600points to purchase with UR. I though I could get same ticket for 25,000 miles on United FF so no brainer to transfer except the availability is only there in my Premiere account, not my husband’s nonpremiere account. While I don’t have a $/cents value for my Premiere miles worth, I know it is useful for last minute high prices and travel on holidays like day after Thanksgiving / after New Year when my kids are going back to college. So it seems in this case, the >26.6K UR points are worth spending instead of 25K premiere United miles ? What might I be missing ? Besides that I could hold onto my points for a better than 1.25 redemption rate and for now just pay $’s for that $333 ticket ? I think I’m reluctant because the trip has been brewing for a month but couldn’t actually settle the details and prices have gone up so much in the interim. I liked Mike’s argument that the miles earned with UR points payment is worth $. So that helps with thinking about United miles usage but not discriminating between $ vs UR points. Thanks ! Sorry if this is obvious to the pros.

  • Sandy said,

    No comments anyone ?

  • dealswelike said,

    @sandy – then transfer the UR points to your united account and book there to save yourself a little over 1,000 points.

  • Sandy said,

    @dealswelike — I had not realized till I read comments on another thread that points in my husband’s account could be transfer to my UA account !
    That changes everything ! However, it is now just past the 21 day advance which adds $75 fee. But I’m learning :) – think my choice this time is either paying outright or using UR rewards points (extra points needed is closer to $20 than $75 fee).

  • traveleam said,

    Good post. We’ve posted a flights-deals-for-canadians profile here: http://traveleam.ca/flights-deals-for-canadians/

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