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
Every summer, Jordan and I meet family in Mexico for a quick all-inclusive escape from the daily grind. This is mostly awesome, but usually we have to connect to and from Mexico, since there aren’t non-stop flights available (not awesome).
BUT, this year is different. Air Tran has a non-stop to Cancun from Austin, which makes me very happy. I didn’t have any Air Tran credits, but that wasn’t a problem. Since Southwest has acquired Air Tran, you can transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Air Tran (and vice versa).
I actually didn’t have Southwest Rapid Rewards points because I’ve exhausted most of them by taking advantage of our Companion Pass. But…Ultimate Rewards points earned from the Ink Bold® Business Card, Ink Plus® Business Card, or Chase Sapphire Preferred® cards can transfer into Southwest, which can be transferred into Air Tran. Winning.
If you’re looking for a killer beach getaway, AirTran has non-stop service to destinations such as Aruba, The Bahamas, Bermuda, The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Here are some recently added non-stop routes:
- Chicago – Cancun
- Denver – Cancun
- San Antonio – Mexico City
- San Antonio – Cancun
- Austin – Cancun
- Orange County – Cabo San Lucas
- Orange County – Mexico City
And here’s how I transferred my Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Air Tran and booked Business class flights to Mexico…
Checking Air Tran for availability
If you’re not an A+ member, you can sign up here. After you create an account, log in and click on “book a reward flight.” Enter your dates and destination.
From there, you will see a calendar with availability. I like that Air Tran will show you 3 weeks of availability. You can also see if there’s coach or Business availability. Unlike Southwest, there’s a Biz class on Air Tran. You know I like that.
After seeing the dates you want, click “continue” and then decide between a one-way coach trip for (8) A+ credits, or Business for (16) A+ credits. My dates only yielded Biz class award availability, which is fine, but I was actually looking for economy since it’s only a 2.5 hour flight to Mexico. I usually save Business bookings for longer flights when it really counts, but hey, it’s peak season. Do whatcha gotta do.
Now that you’ve found the flights that work for you, it’s time to book (or transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards points to A+ credits).
Transferring Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Air Tran
You can get to the Southwest conversion site from the Air Tran site. Go to the My Account page and click Rewards Conversion in the top right corner. You will be directed to this page, where you can start transferring Rapid Rewards points.
Here’s the transfer table when transferring Southwest currency to A+ credits:
- 1,200 Rapid Rewards Points = 1 A+ Rewards Credit
- 1 Rapid Rewards Credit = 1 A+ Rewards Credit
- 1 Standard Award = 16 A+ Rewards Credits
- 1 Freedom Award = 32 A+ Rewards Credits
In most situations, you will probably be transferring Rapid Rewards points to A+, so it would cost 19,200 Southwest Rapid Rewards (Ultimate Rewards points) for a one-way in Business class (38,400 for roundtrip), or 9,600 points for a one-way flight in economy (19,200 roundtrip).
I highly recommend going for the cheaper option in economy and paying for preferred seating or the ability to select your seat, which you can do with Air Tran. Of course, if the trip is longer, then going for Business class could be worth it. I’m easily convinced to fly Biz.
Beware: Once you transfer Rapid Reward points to Air Tran, you can’t transfer them back as “points” – they will instead be transferred back as “credits.” Southwest credits are more restricting than points, so be sure before you transfer any points over to Air Tran.
Booking Air Tran flights
Once you have the necessary Air Tran A+ credits in your account, it’s time to book. Booking was pretty easy, even though the Air Tran site is very slow. I had to change the dates after I initially booked and that was really easy and didn’t cost me a thing. I did it all online and was done it 2 minutes. I like that.
I love that Air Tran gives me another option when I’m looking to fly to Mexico/Caribbean. Here’s Air Tran’s interactive flight chart. I found it pretty handy to see where they flew.
I don’t love that Air Tran doesn’t honor our Southwest Companion Pass, but that would just be too good. I guess I won’t be too greedy. I’m just happy to get a non-stop flight to Cancun from Austin. Really, any non-stop from Austin puts me in a good mood.
You can fly Air Tran Atlanta/Fort Lauderdale without having to transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Air Tran, but that’s the only destination for now. Hopefully, they will open up more Air Tran flights that you can book with SW points on the SW wesbite soon. Also, watch out for bag fees when you book flights on Air Tran.
There is an Air Tran rewards credit card from Chase (of course). I’m not sure it’s worth a Chase inquiry, but you can read my review here. It may be going away once the Southwest-Air Tran merger is complete, but it could be used as a way to pad your Southwest account since you can transfer A+ to Southwest, too.
I hope this helps by giving you another way to use your Ultimate Rewards or Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
(Disclaimer: I do receive a referral credit for the cards mentioned in this post. Thanks for the support if you decide to apply!)
— Noob MasterRead More
I’m off traveling today, so Noob contributor, Ethan, lets us know about the hardly heard about AirTran card.
What are the perks of the AirTran Card?
The AirTran card is a Chase-issued Reward card that offers you pretty standard benefits for an airline rewards card. Some of the benefits include:
- 2 A+ Rewards Dollars per $1 spent on AirTran and Southwest purchases made directly with the airline and with A+ Rewards and Rapid Rewards Hotel & Car Rental Partners
- 1 A+ Rewards Dollar per $1 spent on all other purchases
- 2 A+ Rewards Credits per year on your cardmember anniversary
- 1 A+ Rewards Dollar for every $1 in balance transfers your first 90 days (subject to fee)
Now in AirTran’s program 1,200 rewards dollars earns you 1 reward credit. 16 rewards credits earns you a roundtrip flight. So you have to spend over $19,000 on the card to earn a roundtrip flight under normal spend, or $9,500 on AirTran/Southwest purchases.
Ok, that’s not that great, why should I get it?
I figure this is the question you’re asking yourself at this point. Well the thing is, AirTran got bought by a little airline called Southwest back in 2011. They’ve been taking things slow and steady with integration, but they’re slowly inching toward where they’re one airline. Recently AirTran connections became bookable on Southwest.com, and they’re pushing the integration more and more. With the elimination of the AirTran brand will come the elimination of the AirTran credit card.
In addition, Chase has on their website an Air Tran offer with a decent sign-up bonus of 16 A+ Credits, which gets you a roundtrip flight! You also get a couple of business class upgrades if you do fly on AirTran (no business class on Southwest). It might be better to hold off until the 32 (2 roundtrip flights) credit bonus comes back (which expired along with the 50,000 point Southwest bonuses), but there’s no way to be sure it will before this card vanishes. Some people have reported being able to find a 32 A+ offer in this Flyertalk thread.
So this could be a last opportunity to get some AirTran credits if you fly AirTran, or convert them to Rapid Rewards credits if you fly Southwest!
How would I convert to Southwest?
I won’t go into too much detail, because Southwest has made a great website explaining just that. Essentially, your AirTran credits can become Rapid Rewards credits, which will get you flights on Southwest! For the Southwest flier, this is an opportunity to earn more points with a product that isn’t one of the 4 Southwest-branded credit cards.
It seems unlikely that this card will stick around once the merger is complete (you might want to think about the US Airways card too…), so this might be your last chance to earn this particular sign-up bonus.
I can’t say I would recommend the AirTran over the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold®, Ink Bold, Southwest, or any of the other card you can find on the sickdeals page. But if you already have all of those cards then it could make sense.
It might not be the greatest in the world, but it might be worth a look! Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the “Chase” credit pull for my upcoming churn, but you might have some travel coming up that makes it worth a look!
— Ethan CarterRead More