I consider Ultimate Rewards (UR) Points from Chase to be one of the most valuable points currency as the points are extremely flexible and can transfer to multiple travel partners. Although these points can be redeemed for cash (1 point = 1 cent), the real value lies in the ability to transfer them to these travel partners where you can extract 2-3 cent value (or higher) out of each point. The points transfer to all these travel partners in 1:1 ratios. For example, 1 Ultimate Rewards Point = 1 United Mile. Here are some options if you have 25,000 or less UR points.
1. Transfer to United Airlines to redeem for a round trip within the mainland US or between the Mainland US, Alaska, and Canada.
Cost: 25,000 miles roundtrip or 12,500 miles oneway. You are likely to get excellent value out of US to Alaska or Canada flights as those can be quite expensive.
2. Transfer to United Airlines to redeem them for a one way to Hawaii
Cost: 20,000 United miles at the saver level.
You can also use the leftover 5,000 miles to book an interisland flight such as LIH – HNL on United’s partner airline Island Air. Those inter-island flights can sometimes be expensive. However, sometimes, they can be cheap as well (~around $70)
3. Transfer to Southwest Airlines to redeem for a domestic one way or round trip ticket.
Cost: Variable. However, you can frequently find one-ways less than 12,500 points (which is what it would cost on United) and round-trips less than 25,000 points. See the Houston – Chicago roundtrip below (9479 Rapid Rewards points + $5)
If you have a Companion Pass, then you can double the value of the Ultimate Rewards points you transfer since a companion can fly with you for free. Can you imagine 2 people flying for a total of 9,479 points.
In addition, Southwest Airlines allows change / cancellations without any penalty fees. As a result, you can really maximize the flexibility of Southwest Rapid Rewards points. This Ultimate Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards transfer is one of my favorites.
4. Transfer to Hyatt and stay 1 night at their finest properties
22,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points can get you a 1 night at some of the most luxurious Hyatt properties in the world such as the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris which often retails for over $800 a night, or the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the number one hotel in Tokyo according to Tripadvisor.
I have had the pleasure of staying at the Park Hyatt Vendome and I can honestly say it is the best hotel that I have ever stayed in. Hyatt provides ones of the best transfer values for Ultimate Rewards Points. Other amazing Hyatt properties include the Park Hyatt Sydney, Beijing, Shanghai, and Seoul.
5. Transfer to British Airways (Avios)
British Airways Avios distance based redemptions are one of my favorites as well. For example, a flight from New York to Toronto roundtrip would cost 9000 Avios. That same booking would cost 25000 United miles. With 25,000 Avios, you can:
- take 5 one-way trips that cost 4500 Avios each
- 3 one-way trips that cost 7500 Avios each
- Fly roundtrip from Boston to Dublin
- Fly one-way business class from New York to Vancouver.
I recently took a one way flight from Iguazu Falls, Argentina to Buenos Aires, Argentina which cost me 7500 Avios and few dollars in taxes. At the time, that ticket was over $250 dollars. There are some excellent opportunities for arbitrage on routes that would be expensive if you paid for them.
6. Transfer to Amtrak
You can get fantastic value out of redeeming points for travel on Amtrak trains. For example, a $293 coach ticket on one of the most scenic American routes from Portland to Chicago on the Empire builder would only cost 8000 points for 1 person. A business class seat would be 10,500 points and a roomette (allows 2 people) that would otherwise be over $1000 can be had for just 20,000 points. Visit the Amtrak website for details on redemption options. If you are going to do this, be aware of the travel blackout dates. I would just call Amtrak to make sure the itinerary you want is available before transferring any points.
7. Transfer to Korean Air for redemption on Alaska Airlines
According to the Korean Air website, a domestic roundtrip or US-Canada roundtrip on Alaska only costs 20,000 miles roundtrip and can include a stopover. I have never tried this, so please call them for details before you jump in on this. I know that Korean Air redemptions are not the easiest as they can’t be booked online and require reward requests to be faxed and can take some time.
8. Transfer 5,000 points to Priority Club to get a 1 night stay at a participating Priority Club Hotel.
Priority Club which includes Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, and Intercontinental Hotels, offer PointBreaks where you can get a hotel for only 5000 points a nights. Although the selection of hotels is limited, there are certainly times when this may be worth it. However, other than for PointBreaks, I would not transfer UR points to Priority Club because you can get better value when transferring to other partners.
9. Top off accounts
With the flexibility that UR points provide, you can “top off” accounts when you don’t have enough miles or points to get the award you want. For example, if you are short 2000 United miles to get an award ticket, then just transfer 2000 UR points to United. Short 1500 Hyatt Gold Passport points, just transfer 2000 UR points to Hyatt – you get the idea. Points can be transferred in increments of 1000.
10. Transfer to someone else’s (friend or spouse) airline or hotel loyalty program
For example, let’s say that my wife is short 2000 United miles from getting an award, I take MY Ultimate Rewards and transfer them to her United account. I write this last because it is not something I would do a lot as Chase may frown upon it. Although Chase hasn’t punished people for transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to other people’s airline or loyalty program, they have shut down accounts where people have transferred Ultimate Rewards Points to other people’s Ultimate Rewards Account. There is an excellent article by Gary Leff, that explains the details of transferring points to others.
As you can see, Ultimate Rewards are a fantastic travel currency! Is there anything else you would do with 25,000 Ultimate Rewards Points?