Spending those amassed Chase Ultimate Rewards

This morning, Greg shared some great ways of Amassing Chase Ultimate Rewards, reviewing the various signup bonuses and category bonuses you can utilize to build up a healthy stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards. There are tons of ways to use those points. From great transfer partners like Singapore Airlines and Korean Airlines to the use of the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, there are many ways to redeem your points for memorable moments. Tonight, I thought I’d share a couple of ways I’ve enjoyed “spending” my Chase Ultimate Rewards over the past few years. This is by no means a “greatest hits” or “best uses” — but rather a couple of uses that were memorable for me.

Transferring points for award tickets/stays

The first Ultimate Rewards redemption that comes to mind was an itinerary I built using United miles (while not the world’s favorite carrier today, I found their miles useful when booking these flights :-). The following flights, which were all in business class, cost me 80,000 United Miles per person (transferred from Ultimate Rewards):

UA Itinerary SPN-ICN-BKK-PER-BNE-BKK-ICN-NRT

As you can see, I flew from Saipan, Micronesia to Seoul to Bangkok for a stopover. I then continued on from Bangkok to Perth, Australia. After a couple of weeks in Australia, I continued from Brisbane to Bangkok to Seoul (12-hour stopover) to Tokyo — all in business class on Asiana and Thai Airways. At the time of booking, United tried to tell me that the cash price was north of $12,000 for that itinerary. I’m sure that I could have built it significantly cheaper — but not cheaply enough to have used the Chase Travel portal to book it (where I could have gotten a maximum of $2,000 in value out of my 160,000 Ultimate Rewards points as a Chase Sapphire Preferred holder — redeeming at 1.25 cents per point). By instead transferring my points to United and booking the trip above, I got quite a bit of comfortable flight time out of that deal — and a chance to visit some great destinations!

What’s more, the ticket above was changed at the last minute. Rather than stopping over in Bangkok, we had been scheduled to fly to Ho Chih Minh City that night. While packing up to leave the hotel, I realized that I had made a rookie mistake — I never looked up the visa requirements for Vietnam! Without a visa and unable to get on that plane, I had to scramble — and luckily, I got a very sympathetic United agent who was willing to change my ticket for no fee to route through Bangkok the next day. If I had booked with cash, I can’t imagine the nightmare that may have ensued. I won’t make that mistake again ;-).

For the Saipan leg of the trip, I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt to stay at the Hyatt Regency Saipan. While the Hyatt Regency there isn’t the most modern or flashy, it is a great value on points. Just now, I looked up a random 4-night stay in October (the month I visited). Here are the cash rates:

Hyatt Regency Saipan Cash Rates

With tax and resort fees, the cheapest room comes to $412.50 per night. The Club King comes to $562 a night. As a Hyatt Category 3, the standard room is just 8,000 points per night. Alternatively, you can book a club room for 12,000 points per night.

Hyatt Regency Saipan Points Rates

We stayed for 5 nights. At the time, I had no Hyatt status, so we booked a club room for 12,000 points per night — that’s 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for a room that would have cost more than $2,800 (actually even more at the time of booking). While the Regency Club wasn’t the largest or most well-provisioned, the service was fantastic and the food plentiful enough to substitute for dinner (it seemed many guests agreed with that sentiment). That saved us real cash beyond the room rate as food could be fairly expensive on the island.

Saipan was a fascinating place to visit. I knew embarrassingly little about this US territory before stumbling on it while looking for places to visit in Oceania. Saipan has a complicated history; I’ll leave the story to historians — suffice it to say that visiting was an educational experience that I feel fortunate to have had. That’s what made this redemption memorable for me: Saipan was a place I might never have known — and almost certainly never would have seen — without learning about how to use points and miles.

Hyatt Regency Saipan Water

That’s the Hyatt Regency in the background — the water was very shallow, so we had walked out to this point.

There was great, shallow snorkeling right off shore of a nearby island (about a $25 boat ride from the Hyatt Regency)

There was great snorkeling in very shallow water right off shore of a nearby island (about a $25 boat ride from the Hyatt Regency)

The island itself was gorgeous.

The island itself was gorgeous — with many reminders of the reach of World War II.

The Old Japanese Jail -- where some swear Amelia Earhart was imprisoned. I'll leave conclusions up to the Internet theorists.

The Old Japanese Jail — where some swear Amelia Earhart was imprisoned.

This abandoned 1990's mall was a reminder that the complex history of these islands continues to modern times.

This abandoned 1990’s mall was a reminder that the complex history of these islands continues to present times.


A Chase Travel Portal Redemption

While transferring to partners can be a great way to get outsized value out of points, the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal can also be a great way to use points. Last fall, my wife and I took a trip to Hawaii with her family. We visited Oahu, The Big Island, and Maui. On Maui, we used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a night at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. As a Tier 4 Ritz-Carlton property, the Ritz-Carlton/Marriott Rewards points rate would have been 60,000 points per night.

A one-night stay

A one-night stay

We could have transferred those points over from Chase Ultimate Rewards. Instead, we booked a night through the Chase UR travel portal using points from my wife’s Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The final price using points at a rate of 1.5 cents each? Just 26,100 Ultimate Rewards points:

Chase Ritz Itinerary 1

 

 

The pool area / grounds

The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua pool area / grounds

The Ritz-Carlton wasn’t actually my favorite property — but it was a decent redemption that cost us fewer points than it would have if we had transferred to Marriott first. We spent two nights here altogether — the first being booked via Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. We also spent a night at the Andaz Maui. In the future, I’d try to find award availaibility at the Andaz Maui and transfer 25,000 points per night to Hyatt. While the cash rate there is sometimes low enough to spend fewer than 25,000 points per night through the Chase Travel portal, there are benefits of booking through Hyatt: no resort fee on award stays and free parking for Globalist members — a savings of nearly $100 a night.

One final transfer

One final example of time when I found Ultimate Rewards particularly useful was a couple of years ago when my parents had to travel to a wedding. They had been planning to travel by car — a drive of more than 13 hours. Two days beforehand, a back injury was making that thought unbearable.  I was able to transfer some Ultimate Rewards points over to British Airways Avios to book them a flight on American Airlines. As a last-minute (day before departure) booking, cash prices were over $650 per person. I was able to book those tickets with 18,000 Avios each plus $11.20. One of the many advantages of hoarding points is being able to respond in unexpected situations.

I already had a few Avios in my account -- just had to top them off with Ultimate Rewards.

I already had a few Avios in my account — just had to top them off with Ultimate Rewards.

Just a few examples

These are far from being the best uses of Ultimate Rewards. I can think of times I’ve gotten more value — or award charts that I haven’t used that might have been even better. These were just a couple of my favorite memories/uses. The possibilities are endless.

So on that note, I’m curious: What have been your favorite uses of Chase Ultimate Rewards?  Where have they taken you and how have you used them to get you there?

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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Comments

  1. I just booked two RT from DTW to DEL in J. My heart is still pounding from the huge transfer I made from Chase to United.

    • Nice! Haha! It’s hard to watch them disappear, isn’t it? Don’t worry — they’ll be back again. And that’s a long time in the airplane — it’ll be worth it. What airline(s) are you flying?

  2. Honestly, aside from shipping points over to Hyatt, my best uses of UR have been to Southwest. I just LOVE that you can cancel award tickets with free redeposit…so having a “backup” award ticket on WN provides tremendous flexibility.

    • I agree that Southwest flexibility is huge. I think that’s something that is often overlooked in the valuation of Southwest points. The flexibility is huge — I’ve changed plans and cancelled 30 minutes before a flight has taken off and I book speculative flights all the time since it’s so painless to redeposit the points. Most of my current Southwest points were transferred from Marriott — but I can see where they could be a great use of Ultimate Rewards in a lot of situations where flexibility is paramount.

  3. I have over 200k but parked on Chase.

    But I dont find the value in transatlantic premium class. too short and pricey for a decent meal.

    Good article. Saipan and WWII historical sites sound interesting!

    • Agreed that transatlantic premium class is overpriced at the moment (especially with Membership Rewards providing strong value with the Business Platinum). But there are still values to be had to other destinations. 30k transferred to Singapore will get you mainland US in first to Hawaii. Not many flat bed seats to be had — but we did snag 6 on one flight from EWR-HNL for the trip I mentioned in this post. I had transferred those points from Membership Rewards and Thank You Points — but they could have just as well been URs.

      Some values to be had crossing the Pacific to Asia, too!

  4. Why did you book your first night at the Ritz Carlton thru Fine Hotels program? Was it for the room upgrade (since you had free breakfast on the club floor) and amenity at the hotel? I assume they allowed you to stay in the upgraded room for the second night? Did it work out better to pay cash rather than use more UR points? Just wondering…

    • I was wondering the same. For two separate one night stays, I’d be hesitant, lest they force me to switch rooms.

    • Great question! There were a couple of reasons. First, for clarity, we didn’t have a club room at the Ritz. We had a club room at the Hyatt in Saipan — you can use extra points for a club room with Hyatt, but not with Ritz-Carlton. You only get a Ritz club room if you pay for it or if booking a paid stay directly with your Ritz-Carlton credit card at certain rates. If you book through FHR or Chase, you would need to choose (and pay more for) a club room. We just chose the most basic room at the Ritz through both FHR and Chase.

      But some reasons we went with FHR for night #1 and Chase for night #2 for several of the FHR benefits:

      1) Booking through FHR gave us a $100 resort credit and free breakfast — we were planning to leave early enough after night #2 that we wouldn’t have had time for breakfast.
      2) It gave us noon check-in, and we planned to arrive around 1 or 1:30pm.
      2) There was an Amex Offer for $100 back on $500 at Ritz-Carlton.
      3) Room rate, tax, resort fee, and parking came to almost exactly $500
      4) As you suspected, we had hoped to get an upgrade on night #1 that would carry over to night #2

      So, after the Amex Offer, we’d pay $400. The $100 resort credit was as good as cash to us since we were all going to eat and we were arriving early, so we’d have a free lunch. Free breakfast had some value as well (and it was quite good). Seemed like a decent deal.

      However, we didn’t get any upgrade. I was kind of surprised, actually — I had traded emails with the property in advance and only requested that 1 out of 3 rooms booked through FHR get an upgrade to an ocean view. No dice. I’m not sure if that was because of the fact that we booked the second night through Chase or because it’s Hawaii and everyone wants an upgrade — I’m sure resort staff get tired of that. C’est la vie!

      Anyway, that’s why we did it the way we did. Hope that answers your question!

      • I had booked the same room type for both nights. I figured worst case scenario, they’d not upgrade any of the rooms and we’d stay in the same room type (which is what happened). I’ve very, very rarely been made to move rooms when booking different room types for different nights. It’s not impossible for that to happen — but I knew this hotel wasn’t close to full at the time (there had just been a storm that actually shut the resort down for a few days — I’m sure a lot of people cancelled plans — and there were rooms of every type available for booking on the website).

        I also emailed a week or two ahead of time to explain my reservations and make sure we wouldn’t have to switch rooms. They were responsive about that.

  5. Last month my grandson got married in Juneau, AK, and prices for supporting myself in AK for a week can border on the ridiculous. But thx to UR, I wasn’t impacted negatively when it comes to my budget. I used UR points for my hotel and for a rental car. Having redeemed UR points for shelter and transportation, I was freed up financially to do more for “the happy couple,” and for that alone you can bet I’m an UR devotee.

    • Congratulations! That sounds terrific. One of the things I enjoy about using points is what you said about being freed up financially — when you can use a sign up bonus to cover your flights/hotels, it certainly makes it easier to use your cash for the things that matter to you on your trip. And you had a great example of that.

  6. A few years ago before the deval we flew LAX-FRA (LH J), stopover for 2 weeks, FRA-BKK (TG J), stopover for 1 week, SIN-CTU (some Chinese F that I don’t remember, crappy angle seats), CTU-SFO (UA’s new 787 in J). This was our first time flying J and redeeming points for a big trip, and it was our first time overseas. To say we jumped in head first would be an understatement. But it was an amazing time and got my wife hooked on overseas travel and especially premium travel. I think we paid something like 120k UR points each that I transferred to UA.

    I was close to redeeming for AA’s Explorer award and we were going to spend my wife’s entire spring break traveling since she’s a teacher and it’s the only time we can travel. But they pulled that rug a few months before I could book it.

  7. Nick – when we last visited Saipan around 2011, I was really disappointed with how run down it had seemed to get since our first visit in 2002.
    Seemed there were prostitutes all over the place on our last visit … we stayed at Fiesta last time which is right next to the Hyatt… Did you notice any of that during your visit or did it seem cleaned up?
    Hopefully they’ve somehow cut down on all the dudes in Spedos too… that was pretty nasty.
    I hope we can try the Hyatt Saipan on our next visit because its such a great use of points. We’ve been to the Guam property but its a higher category.

    • There is definitely still a lot of poverty on the island. If your first visit was on 2002 and second was in 2011, I think a large part of the reason you noticed a change was because of the shutdown of the garment factories, which occurred during those years in between. There is no doubt that the economy of the island continues to struggle — and there had just been a massive hurricane before we arrived (part of the reason the rates at the Hyatt were higher than those above during our stay was because most of the hotel was occupied by FEMA workers). There is quite a juxtaposition between the touristy spots — like the shopping center downtown — and the living conditions of many of the people. And things like the abandoned shopping mall pictured in the post and some abandoned construction projects certainly do contribute to the run-down feel you’re mentioning on some parts of the island — though I found it kept me wanting to read more about the island and its history, so they didn’t detract from my experience. I felt like Saipan has a lot more going for it than detracting from it — but that was just my/our opinion.

      There were a number of massage joints in the strip of shops across from the Hyatt and people certainly came running out to offer up massage services every time we passed. But we were never propositioned in an inappropriate way (perhaps this was because we were a couple — I didn’t see obvious prostitution, but I don’t know that it wasn’t happening). A lot of the local people just seemed to be struggling for business. My wife did get a massage at one of the places across the street from the Hyatt. I went with her (didn’t get a massage myself, but sat there waiting). Everything seemed to be on the up and up and the place was clean and nice enough.

      I did meet a law enforcement agent who was relocating to the island who indicated that there had been an increasing drug problem on the island. Not sure that’s unique to Saipan, but it did come up in conversation anyway.

      There are a lot of places I’d like to go — but I would definitely go back to Saipan again — though not necessarily as a standalone destination (there was plenty of history and some great snorkeling, but not a ton of things for the average tourist to do). I’d build it into a larger itinerary though for sure. And I would definitely stay at the Hyatt Regency again. The guy who helped us with our bags at check-in remembered our names every day, as did the staff in the club lounge — and it didn’t seem forced (indeed, it probably was genuine as my last name is fairly common locally — each person who heard it showed some surprise and asked if I was local…I think many folks found it to be a novelty.)

      Saipan isn’t for everyone — but I came in looking to just spend a couple of days on a tropical island with a cheap-on-points Hyatt and came out with an education. That was totally worth the miles and points to me.

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