In previous sections I have described a number of different ways to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points. When it comes to redeeming the points, I feel that you can get the most value by transferring your points to airline and hotel programs. Today we’ll dig into this idea a bit further.
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards from one account to another
One of the best aspects of the Ultimate Rewards program is its flexibility. In addition to being able to transfer points to loyalty programs, you can freely transfer points from one account to another. For example, suppose you have both the Sapphire Preferred and the Freedom cards. You can freely move points from one card account to another. Simply log into Ultimate Rewards, hover over your points balance and then select “Combine Points”. One great thing about this is that you can move points not just between your own accounts but to your spouse or domestic partner’s accounts as well. Most point programs charge a fee to move points from one person to another, so it’s refreshing to see that this is free and easy with Ultimate Rewards. This is important, too, because not all Ultimate Rewards cards have the ability to move points to other loyalty programs. If your spouse has earned points with, for example, the Freedom card (which doesn’t allow transfers to loyalty programs), they could transfer their points to you so that you could transfer the points to their loyalty programs.
The best loyalty program transfers
Once points are collected in an account that has the ability to transfer to loyalty programs (e.g. Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, Ink Plus), it’s a good idea to keep the points there until you know how best to use them. Listed below are the transfer options and advice about when and how to use them.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
When you search for fares on Southwest.com, you will often see very inexpensive “Wanna Get Away?” fares. For these fares, you will get the best value for your points. The redemption value used to be 1.4 cents per point, however Southwest recently went to a variable value model, so there is no fixed value for points.
Advice: transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest only when “Wanna Get Away?” fares are available for the flights you need.
United Mileage Plus
Transfers to United are often, but not always, a good deal. First check United.com to make sure there is award availability for the dates and times you want to travel. Next, determine whether your points are worth using (see “When is an award flight a good deal?”).
Advice: In general, you are likely to get the best value from your points in these situations:
- International flights (especially business or first class)
- Last minute flights
- One way flights
- First class domestic flights
Note: United charges different amounts for most partners compared to what you pay when flying on their airplanes. Also, for last minute bookings, non-elites are subject to a $75 close-in booking fee.
British Airways has a distance based award program in which short flights cost fewer points than long flights. They also charge separately for each leg of a trip if you do not have direct flights. The worst part of their program is that they charge huge fuel surcharges and taxes when flying British Airways.
Advice: skirt British Airways’ hefty charges by using their points (called “Avios”) to fly partner airlines. Here are some examples of how to get the best value from British Airways points:
- Find direct flights within and across North America and South America on British Airways partner airlines such as American, LAN, and Alaskan Airlines.
- Fly Cathay Pacific between New York and Vancouver
- Fly Aer Lingus between Boston and Dublin
- Transfer Avios points to Iberia Airlines which often has lower fuel surcharges for award tickets. You must be a member of Iberia’s rewards program at least 3 months before you can make the transfer.
Korean Air SkyPass & Singapore Krisflyer
Korean Air has amazing award availability for flights to Asia. Unfortunately, the process for booking awards is extremely complicated.
Advice: if you’re interested in going this route, consider hiring an award booking service to help you.
Singapore Air has a very good international business and first class product and offers more award space and discounts to members of their Krisflyer program who book online. There are fuel surcharges and redemptions are distance based.
Advice: Have a specific redemption in mind before transferring. Miles can take a few days to post so give yourself plenty of time.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic is often not a good value at all. In addition to expensive redemptions, they also include fuel surcharges with each award. That said, award availability is often pretty good. Economy flights have reduced fuel surcharges, so they can be a good value. There are also times where it makes sense to use Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta flights. See: Bet You Didn’t Know: Tricks to using Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Delta.
Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards
With these programs, it’s possible, but not common to get more than 1 cent per point value from award redemptions.
Advice: Don’t transfer points to Marriott or Ritz-Carlton unless you can get more than 1 cent per point value.
IHG Rewards Club
As with Marriott, it is possible to get more than 1 cent per point value from IHG Rewards Club when booking a room, but it is unusual. Also, there’s a fairly easy trick that makes it possible to buy IHG Rewards Club points for less than a penny each.
Advice: Don’t transfer to IHG Rewards Club. There are better ways to get IHG Rewards Club points (which I cover in other sections).
Hyatt Gold Passport
With Hyatt, it is quite common to get 1.5 cents or more value from points, and Hyatt now offers a cash and points redemption which can offer terrific values for category 2-7 Hyatt hotels.
Advice: Cash and points redemptions can be great values since they still count as qualifying stays. Transfers to Hyatt are instant.
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