Spending those amassed Chase Ultimate Rewards

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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?

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