The big excitement this week in the travel credit card world is the new (June 16-22 only) 60,000 Ultimate Rewards point sign-up bonus on Chase’s Ink Bold® Business Card & Ink Plus® Business Card. But with all those points (65,000 after the $5,000 spend requirement), where are you going to go with them?
The great thing about Ultimate Rewards points is their gymnastic-like flexibility. You can transfer them out to Hyatt, United, Southwest, British Airways, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Marriott, Priority Club, and Amtrak. This post will hopefully point you in the right direction with some ideas on what programs have the best hidden deals, and a few examples on how I’ve burned Ultimate Rewards points in the past.
With 65,000 points, you have a lot of options for transferring to British Airways’ Avios. I’ve written about Air Lingus (a British Airways partner) before, but because it’s such a good deal, I wanted to make sure I mention it in this article. Since British Airways is notorious for its high fuel charges, booking an Air Lingus flight (like the one I booked from Boston to Dublin) avoids this, and with Avios’ distance-based award chart, you can book a round trip ticket for 25,000 miles or 50,000 miles in business!
Searching for award availability is easy – you can read up on the specifics in this post. The picture above is from Qantas’ website, which is your best option for finding availability. With this deal, you’ll have plenty of Ultimate Rewards points left over. Balling.
And of course, I use Avios for domestic short hauls on American Airlines and international short hops. It’s a sweet spot. Some of my other recent posts on how to burn Avios are below:
You can get just about anywhere in the world using Ultimate Rewards points on United. Of course, you can use the points for domestic travel on United metal, but I prefer to use British Airways (on AA) or Southwest points for domestic flights. I find that the best value with United miles is flying internationally on their Star Alliance partners. A good redemption is to Southeast Asia – one round-trip economy class ticket will set you back exactly 65,000 miles. With flights like this often going for over $1,500, you get a great return on all those miles.
For example, a sample search found plenty of saver award availability flying on Asiana and Thai Airways to Bangkok from Los Angeles. Using United miles for Star Alliance flights will really stretch out their value. Check out my First Class flight on Thai Airways.
One of, if not my favorite use of Ultimate Rewards, is for flights on Lufthansa. As a Star Alliance member, transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to your United mileage account will grant you access to Lufthansa’s Business and First class products, which is some of the best in the business (check out my recent trip report from First class here!)
Finding award availability for First class is tough, but if you check using ANA’s website, you may find availability. Lufthansa doesn’t release First class seats until 14 days before departure.
As you can see, First class on one of United’s Star Alliance partners is 67,500 miles each way, so just 2,500 more miles than what you’ll have after opening an Ink Plus or Ink Bold credit card and meeting the spend requirement! Business class is a reasonable 50,000 miles each way, and economy is still a great option, too, at 60,000 miles round-trip.
Ahhh. Y’all know I’m a Hyatt man.
Another reason Ultimate Rewards points are great is that you don’t have to only redeem them for flights – they have hotel partners as well! Hyatt’s award chart is very cheap compared with other hotel programs, especially when you consider hotels in its highest category, Category 6. At 22,000 points a night, you can get two nights at a 5-star property for less points than in another program – like Marriott’s, which can charge 70,000 per night at its Ritz Carlton properties.
Paris’ Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome hotel is one of the best redemptions around because of how expensive rooms are each night.
A sample date in July shows non-refundable rooms at 535.50 euro per night (yikes!). But with just 22,000 Ultimate Rewards points, you can stay a night there for free! With 65,000 miles, you are 1,000 points short of a free three-night stay. Jordan and I just booked another Park-Hyatt Vendome stay for the end of September when the rates are over 800 euro per night! We loved our stay there last year, and refuse to stay anywhere else in Paris. Kidding, kind of. You can read my review of the property here.
We also found great value at the category 4 West Hollwood Andaz, which is only 15,000 points a night! You can check out my review here. We love Andaz properties and highly recommend them.
Southwest Airlines is an interesting option for Ultimate Rewards points, since their program is tied directly to the price of the ticket you are purchasing. But since they often have fare sales, you can get good value on domestic flights. Also, with the Southwest – AirTran merger, cheap flights to the Caribbean and Mexico are now in reach. Check out my post on transferring Southwest miles to AirTran here. I’ll have a review of the Air Tran flight soon…it was nothing special.
With the two airlines slowly but surely merging together, Southwest is expanding its own branded network. This year, they’ve started flights to Key West and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
So, only 7,812 points each way will get you to San Juan from Austin. That’s an INCREDIBLE deal!
Jordan and I have mostly used our Ultimate Rewards points to top off our Southwest account, because we have the Companion Pass. Points transferred over don’t count towards the Companion Pass, but it’s a nice way to top off an account for an award redemption.
So, by now, I’m sure you can see how valuable 65,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points are. The deals I’ve highlighted here just scratch the surface of their flexibility. There are other transfer partners that we didn’t detail here, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your points with them! These are your points and you should use them as you please! Remember, if you want take advantage of the new Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold credit card offers, they expire on June 22nd.
— Noob MasterRead More
Here we are again – you, me, and Avios.
I squawk a lot about Avios, but with good reason. They are easy to accumulate, and if you know what you’re doing, you can find Texas-hot value. It’s hot here, people.
I’ve written in the past about using Avios for domestic short hauls on American Airlines, flying to Ireland from Boston for pennies, getting over to Spain via Iberia, and now another treat for y’all: Using Avios on Air Berlin (hat tip to Dan Deals).
We all know that the British Airways Avios program is a distance-based program and has hefty fees and surcharges which make it unattractive to fly long haul flights with them in most cases. However, there are a few rare occasions where the fees are minimal (see above) and burning your Avios through Air Berlin is just one of those options.
Let’s look at some examples.
Here’s a one way routing from New York to Berlin in economy.
You can fly the route for only 20,000 Avios and $2.50! Yeah, it’s economy, but that’s smoking hot. Coming back from Berlin is a little more expensive it will cost you 20,000 Avios and $97.99. A round trip ticket in economy would be 40,000 Avios and $103.00.
Now, if we dare, let’s take a look at a business class ticket. Here’s what turned up when I went searching for New York to Dusseldorf in Air Berlin business class.
Looky there. 40,000 Avios and a whooping $2.50 for a one way business class flight on Air Berlin. Now that’s double the price of Avios in economy, but Air Berlin is rolling out a new business class that looks pretty slick. Here’s a link to their new business class product.
Alrighty, so some nice options. But lets not stop there – how about getting to Israel?
You can fly to Tel Aviv from New York one way in economy on Air Berlin for 30,000 Avios and $20.52. The fees are $60.75 for the flight back, so, a roundtrip ticket would be 60,000 Avios and $81.72.
If you were to book this flight on British Airways metal with Avios, it would cost you 32,500 Avios and $327.05 one way. Gross.
Here’s a link to the Air Berlin flight destination tool to see where they fly.
This is just another option of how you can use your British Airways Avios. And I like it. But it can be tricky to find the right dates, so having a flexible schedule is best when booking.
Don’t forget that June 7th is the last day to take advantage of the 35% American Express Membership Rewards transfer bonus to British Airways. You can also pad you Avios stash with the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, or by transferring Ultimate Rewards points into British Airways. Check out my sick deals page to stay up to date on the best Ultimate and Membership Rewards cards.
(Disclaimer: I do receive a referral credit for the card mentioned. Please only use my links if you’re satisfied with the service I provide. And thanks if you do!)
— Noob MasterRead More
If you’ve read the blog for even a week, you know that I love me some British Airways Avios. Yes, it’s a distance based award chart, and there are hefty fees to fly British Airways metal on longer flights, but there are still some killer redemptions.
I’ve used my Avios for short haul domestic flights on American Airlines more times than John Cusack was in an 80′s chick flick. A few months ago, I wrote about intra international flights with Avios, and of course, flying Aer Lingus to Ireland via Boston for 12,500 one way in economy or 25,000 in business (it’s a great way to avoid the fees of flying directly into London, too). But I realized that I haven’t written on another gem yet – using Avios for flights on Iberia.
And, like Aer Lingus, Iberia has minimal fees compared to British Airways. Iberia is the largest Spanish airline and is based in Madrid, so it’s great for flights to and from Spain. Bam. Here we go:
Iberia and British Airways are friends
You can combine your British Airways Avios with your Iberia Plus Avios. I like it. However, you must have had your Iberia Plus account for over 3 months and have some current account activity, or you will see this message:
Nobody wants to see this happen, so if you don’t have an Iberia account – sign up for one now. Do it. And once it’s been 3 months, you can show account activity by buying Iberia Avios, transferring from a hotel loyalty group, or by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points directly to Iberia Avios.
Here’s how to combine your British Airways Avios with your Iberia Plus account.
Log in to your British Airways account, click on “manage account” and then “combine Avios.” Simple enough.
You will then be directed to the page where you can combine your Avios. Just select Iberia and enter in your account info.
That was easy. Remember, the only nuisance is that you have to have your Iberia account for 3 months, and show some activity before you combine your Avios. Let’s float along.
Iberia award flight examples
I found the Iberia site easier to use than the British Airways site, but that says very little. To begin looking and booking on Iberia’s site, log in to your Iberia Plus account, click on Iberia Plus and “flying with Avios” under redeem miles. You will then be directed to the award search page (I did most of my searches on ExpertFlyer to find availability before heading to the Iberia site).
I did a random search from Madrid to Miami on October 16th.
I found “Blue Class” availability for 25,000 Avios and $133.70 one way. Blue Class is Iberia’s discounted economy cabin, so when flying economy, it’s what you will be hoping to find. When I searched for the same flights on British Airways’ site, the results were 25,000 Avios and $262.60.
That’s a difference of nearly $130, or almost double the cash. Ok, but I think we can do better.
Let’s take a peek at New York to Madrid and see what we can come up with.
Ok, now we’re starting to heat things up. You can fly New York to Madrid one way in “Blue Class” for 20,000 Avios and $75.73. I like it. Now, let’s see what the same flight on British Airways’ site would cost.
Going through the British Airways site, it would cost you 20,000 Avios and $272.20. That’s a difference of almost $200, and $400 for a round-trip flight. Now the savings are adding up, but let’s take a peek at business class seats. I know, what’s with all this economy talk?
Heck yes. You can travel NYC to MAD for 40,000 Avios and 68.83 euro or $88.61. Are you starting to like Iberia as an option yet? You should be. Let’s see how this same flight would price out on British Airways (dot) com.
Ouch, the same flight would cost you 40,000 Avios and $452.20. That’s a difference of $363.59 one way or $727.18 roundtrip. Now we’re saving some coin. And while Iberia’s business class isn’t the world’s greatest, I’m sure it will get the job done.
Let’s do one more example. We have time – I need a break from watching Arrested Development, anyway. Ok, so we’re in Madrid and want to get to London. Is British Airways or Iberia the way to go?
Through Iberia, you can fly MAD-LHR for 7,500 Avios and $45.61 in “Blue Class” economy or 15,000 Avios and $45.61 in business class. The flight is right under 3 hours, so picking economy should be fine as long as you’re not a diva. Intra euro biz class is nothing special, anyway. Now let’s see what British Airways has to offer.
It’s actually a little bit cheaper ($20ish) to fly Madrid to London via the British Airways site. You can fly the route one way in economy for 7,500 Avios and $22.50, or 15,000 and $27.50 in business class. Plus, you can fly on BA metal.
Ways to earn Avios
It goes without saying that Avios can be extremely valuable and used in an variety of ways, so collecting them should be a part of every rewards traveler’s quest. And don’t worry – one of my favorite things about Avios is how easy it is to accumulate them.
1.) There’s the co-branded British Airways Visa Signature® Card from Chase. In the past, there have been 100,000 offers for the card, but the current sign-up bonus is for 50,000 Avios after spending $1,000 in 3 months.
2.) Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards both transfer into British Airways. And there’s a LTO 35% bonus when you transfer Membership Rewards to British Airways now.
There’s a handful of cards that earn Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards, so it’s easy to top of your Avios account. The best public offers to earn Membership Rewards are: The Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN that has a LTO offer of 50,000 points after spending $5,000 in 3 months. Also, the Mercedes-Benz card has an offer of 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months, but the $475 annual fee isn’t waived.
These offers are ok, but I would hang around for a LTO Amex offer through the CARDMATCHTM tool, or a one day offer like the 75,000 Business Gold offer we just saw a couple weeks ago.
For earning Ultimate Rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® is the best personal card, and we all know that the Ink Bold® Business Card & Ink Plus® Business Card are the best Ultimate Rewards business card options.
Combining your British Airways Avios with your Iberia account opens up another possibility of getting to Europe without the hefty fuel surcharges BA will hit you with. Flying business class on Iberia offers the best savings, and is probably what I will do when I find the time to head to Madrid. Can’t wait for that trip. It’s going to be epic.
Because it’s so easy to accumulate Avios, knowing the best ways to maximize Avios is a necessity. Just like brushing your teeth, unless you’re British of course.
I hope this helps as you look for ways to redeem your Avios and find award flight gems.
(tip of the cap to Robert from this FTG post)
[Disclaimer: I do receive a referral credit for most of the cards mentioned in this post. Thanks for supporting the blog if you decide to apply!]
— Noob MasterRead More