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
In a move to improve its United MileageBold® Explorer Card, Chase has unveiled a new bennie: no more foreign transaction fees.
It’s always nice to see new benefits on a card I already have in my wallet. I’ll take no foreign transaction fees, even if it isn’t chip & pin. In most of my travels, I have only needed chip & pin a small portion of the time.
I know United elites aren’t too fond of the United Explorer, but it does have some nice features for the leisurely United traveler (me). You receive priority boarding, 2 United Club passes every anniversary, free checked bag for you and a companion, and primary car rental coverage.
These benefits easily make the card worth paying the $95 annual fee.
The public (my affiliate) offer is below, but don’t apply for it before checking if you have a targeted offer in your United account, or through your email. Many people have been successful receiving the higher bonus by sending Chase a secure message after applying for the public offer, but I can’t guaranteed that.
Now that the card has 0% foreign transaction fees (starting June 1) on top of the primary car rental insurance, it will be a go-to of mine when renting cars abroad.
This is one of the cards Jordan and I keep open because we travel enough (a few times a year) on United for the benefits to justify the annual fee. It’s not a great everyday spending card, but at the end of the day, I’m happy with the perks that it provides me. They may not make sense for you, though, especially if you’re already a United elite.
— Noob MasterRead More
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards have been very popular for points redemptions since their introduction a few years ago. The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card gives you 2.2 points per dollar back on all restaurant and travel purchases (7% annual dividend), the Freedom has 5x rotating categories, and the Ink cards have a variety of lucrative category bonuses, making it easy for any budget to rack up points for award travel quickly!
One aspect of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program that some may overlook is the ability to book with cash (or points) for specific flights, hotels and car rentals, instead of transferring to Chase’s many hotel partners. Let’s dive in and see what some of the best deals are, in comparison to other travel booking sites like Kayak or Hipmunk.
In most cases, transferring Ultimate Rewards points out to travel partners is the best way to maximize Ultimate Rewars points. However, bookings made through the Ultimate Rewards site do count towards your elite status, and open up the possibility of flying airlines that aren’t transfer partners of Ultimate Rewards.
To test Chase’s flight booking engine, I chose a sample trip from Los Angeles to New York City from June 21st to June 28th.
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Portal
The flight search grid came up as so:
So, taking a look at the data, the cheapest flight is a non-stop from LAX to JFK and a one-stop from La Guardia to LAX for $436.70 on American Airlines. You can also use 43,670 points (1 cent per point), which is nearly double what an award flight on American would normally cost. Keep in mind American isn’t a partner of Chase.
However, United Airlines is a partner, but their flight is over double the amount of points needed for an award flight. The redemption rates are truly awful, so I would not recommend using your points for booking a specific flight, unless it is an emergency and all award flights are taken. Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Ink Bold® Business Card,or Ink Plus® Business Card members do receive 20% off points used for booking travel, but it’s still not a great deal.
In addition, Chase provides Chase Freedom® Visa or Mastercard users a 2% cash back option for booking through their portal, which will come in handy later for our verdict.
Using Kayak, the same American Airlines flight, at the same price, was returned during my search.
Using Hipmunk, the same American Airlines flight, at the same price, was returned during my search.
Verdict for Flights:
Using Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal is superior than the other travel booking sites, simply because Chase Freedom gives its users 2% back (a savings of $8.74 on this itinerary). So, not big money savings, but you do earn. Don’t forget you also earn 2.2 points per $1 on travel purchases with the Sapphire Preferred.
So, a week in New York City will cost you a pretty penny if staying in Manhattan (or a lot of your hard earned points!) Let’s see what booking engine is best to save you money!
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Here’s what Chase’s booking engine came up with, in a simplified form:
Wow! Those are some expensive hotels! The cheapest hotel within 10 miles of New York that Chase could find was the La Guardia Plaza Hotel, a sub-prime location available for $175 a night. If you wanted to stay in Manhattan, the cheapest was the Eurostars Wall Street, at $289.91 a night (or 23,100 points).
Let’s see if the other sites had better luck finding hotels.
Kayak’s search came up with multiple Manhattan-area hotels for less than $200 a night, including some near Central Park. That’s not to say that these are world class hotels, but I would pick a Comfort Inn near Central Park over a hotel that’s LGA-adjacent any day of the week!
Hipmunk also had similar success finding cheaper hotels than Kayak. I would say the list is more “curated” than Kayak’s, though, so you may not be seeing the cheapest hotel possible, but a combination of location and reasonable price that they dub “ecstasy.” Check out the site to see if it fits your needs, because the user interface is top-notch.
Verdict for Hotels:
I have to give it to Kayak on this one. While I like the Hipmunk user interface a lot more, Kayak’s search appears to find the absolute cheapest rooms. You can then decide if you want to spend a little more money for a better hotel from there. Hipmunk was a close second, though!
Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal
Now, for a week in Manhattan, it would be crazy in my opinion to rent a car, unless you’re doing some exploring around the area, but since we’re doing comparisons here, let’s check to see what’s the best option!
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal does not allow for one-way drop offs, so for the purposes of this comparison, we’ll use JFK as a round trip destination.
For Chase, the cheapest car is a Dollar Rent A Car Chevrolet Aveo for $34.25.
For car rentals out of JFK, Kayak’s best find was a Ford Escape SUV for $72 a day. That’s rough and more than double Chase’s booking engine gave us!
Verdict- Car Rentals
Ultimate Rewards by a landslide. More than half the price of Kayak, though there’s no option to return a car to a different location.
In summary, I found that the Ultimate Rewards portal can be good for booking flights and great for car rentals, but not great for hotels. You’re best served looking at Kayak or Hipmunk for the other options. Hipmunk has the best user interface of the group, but still has more features to add if it’s going to take on Kayak as the #1 booking site on the web.
Those this was just a sample trip, and other trips may price out differently, I think it gives a great overview of what is available to you as a Chase cardholder and only adds value to your wallet!
(Disclaimer: the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Ink Bold® Business Card, Ink Plus® Business Card, and Chase Freedom® Visa provide a referral credit to the blog. Only apply through the links if you’re satisfied with the service Noobtraveler provides. Thanks for the support if you do!)
— Noob MasterRead More