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Chase Ultimate Rewards Points is arguably one of my favorite flexible travel rewards currencies.
In this blog post, I would like to share my framework on how I maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) redemptions — specifically, determining when it is recommended to transfer my Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners or when to book using the Chase Travel Portal.
Earning URs is relatively easy and straightforward, and can be accrued by using any of the credit cards below:
- Chase Freedom ® Credit Card
- Chase Freedom Flex ® Credit Card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited ® Credit Card
- Chase Ink Business Cash ® Credit Card
- Chase Ink Business Unlimited ® Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred ® Credit Card($95 annual fee)
- Chase Ink Business Preferred ® Credit Card ($95 annual fee)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve ® Credit Card ($550 annual fee)
Cash Back Cards (No-Annual-Fee) Versus Premium (Annual Fee) Cards
Before we deep dive into the various Ultimate Rewards redemption options currently available, it is critical that we understand the distinction between no-annual-fee (cashback) Chase cards and premium Chase cards aside from the fact that the latter group incurs a yearly fee.
The table below illustrates which category each card belongs to.
|No-Annual-Fee Cards||Premium Cards (AF=Annual Fee)|
|Chase Freedom or Flex / CF or CFF||Chase Sapphire Preferred / CSP ($95 AF)|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited / CFU||Chase Sapphire Reserve / CSR ($550 AF)|
|Chase Business Ink Cash / CIC||Chase Ink Business Preferred / CIP ($95 AF)|
|Chase Business Ink Unlimited / CIU|
Premium Chase Credit Card Benefits
To soften the blow of steep annual fees, Chase provides additional benefits to premium card customers that are not available to those who only have no-annual-fee (cashback) cards.
Two of these valuable premium Chase card benefits are as follows:
- ability to transfer to TRAVEL PARTNERS
- increased value of Ultimate Rewards points from 1 cent per point to 1.25 or 1.5 cents when using the TRAVEL PORTAL.
This blog post will attempt to explain in detail these two options as well as provide a roadmap that can assist you in determining which choice to select when you are booking a hotel or a flight.
Not All Chase Ultimate Reward Points Have The Same Value
It is essential to underscore that each Chase Ultimate Reward point is not created equal. The value of each Ulitmate Reward will depend on whether they originate from a premium card or not.
Even if no-annual-fee cards generate Ultimate Reward points, you will not have the ability to transfer to travel partners, such as United and Hyatt, unless you have one of the aforementioned premium “annual fee” cards.
In the image below, you can see that I have Ultimate Rewards Points in several accounts, but not all of these points can be directly transferred to partners.
And this bears repeating – this generous redemption option of transferring to partners can only be carried out through one of the three Chase premium cards.
That is the principal reason why I strongly recommend owning at least ONE premium Chase card because this incredibly fantastic redemption option will not be possible without one.
In my case, the only premium card I have kept in my wallet is the Chase Sapphire Reserve ® Credit Card (CSR), but a Chase Sapphire Preferred ® Credit Card or a Chase Business Ink Preferred ® Credit Card will also make you eligible to transfer to partners as well.
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Travel Partners
Let’s compare the redemption options of cashback “no-annual fee” cards versus premium “annual fee” cards.
At first glance, you might think that the choices are quite generous for no-annual-fee cards, specifically, the cashback option.
Yet I do not recommend redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points using these methods, especially if you also have a premium card. I’ll explain this later.
Unless, of course, you have an emergency and are in dire need of cash, exchanging your hard-earned points for cash or gift cards will not produce the best redemption value, in my personal opinion.
Now let’s check out the redemption options for premium cards. In the image below, you will notice that “Transfer to Travel Partners” became an available redemption option when I logged on to Ultimate Rewards under my Chase Sapphire Reserve ® Credit Card account.
These options will also show up in your Chase Sapphire Preferred ® Credit Card or Chase Ink Business Preferred ® Credit Card accounts because they are also premium cards but not in your no-annual-fee cards.
Chase Travel Partners
The table below lists out all the current Chase travel partners. Please check their website regularly as it is not unusual for Chase to initiate new relationships (Hello, Aeroplan!) and terminate old ones (Bye, Korean Air).
The table below comparatively summarizes the redemption options for each card type.
In my estimation, the choice that usually provides the best bang for my buck is transferring to travel partners, so I primarily save up my Ultimate Rewards points for this purpose.
|NO ANNUAL FEE REDEMPTIONS||PREMIUM CARD REDEMPTIONS|
|GIFT CARDS||GIFT CARDS|
|PAY YOURSELF BACK|
|***TRANSFER TO TRAVEL PARTNERS ***|
If you noticed that I wrote usually in bold, this is because on very rare occasions, transferring to partners is not the best option.
In certain scenarios, using the Chase Travel Portal provides a better alternative. But, what is the Chase Travel Portal?
What is the Chase Travel Portal?
The Chase Travel Portal is operated by Expedia, which is a third-party (OTA) Online Travel Agency.
An OTA is a website that sells a variety of travel products, such as flights, hotels, cruises, activities, and car rental, to consumers. Instead of purchasing the product directly from a company, you go through OTAs to have access to an extensive menu of options.
You can access the travel portal by logging onto your Ultimate Rewards dashboard and choosing “travel”.
Remember when I mentioned that not all Ultimate Rewards points are created equal and that each Ultimate Rewards Point’s value depends on whether they come from a no-annual-fee (cashback) card or a premium card? We will go through a few examples to underscore this difference.
At the portal, Ultimate Reward points that come from your no-annual-fee (cashback) card are only worth 1 cent per point.
Conversely, Ultimate Reward points earned from your premium cards can either be worth 1.25 cents or 1.5 cents depending on which premium card you own.
The table below illustrates the value of each Ultimate Rewards point if redeemed at the travel portal.
|CHASE CREDIT CARD |
(NO ANNUAL FEE & PREMIUM)
|ULTIMATE REWARDS POINT VALUE |
IN THE TRAVEL PORTAL
|CHASE FREEDOM/FLEX (NO AF)||1 CENT|
|CHASE FREEDOM UNLIMITED (NO AF)||1 CENT|
|CHASE BUSINESS INK CASH (NO AF)||1 CENT|
|CHASE BUSINESS INK UNLIMITED (NO AF)||1 CENT|
|CHASE BUSINESS INK PREFERRED||1.25 CENT|
|CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED||1.25 CENT|
|CHASE SAPPHIRE RESERVE||1.5 CENT|
In order to perform a more accurate apples-to-apples comparison, I searched for the same property on the exact dates in the travel portal using three different Ultimate Rewards accounts to underscore the difference between card types.
- A 1 cent UR-earning No-Annual-Fee Card: Chase Freedom / Chase Freedom Flex / Chase Freedom Unlimited / Chase Ink Cash / Chase Ink Unlimited
- A 1.25 cents UR-earning Premium Card: Chase Ink Business Preferred / Chase Sapphire Preferred
- A 1.5 cents UR-earning Premium Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Property: JW Marriott San Francisco
Cash Rate: $290.46
Date: August 15 (one night)
JW Marriott San Francisco using a no-annual-fee card redemption in the travel portal (1 cent per point)
UR points required: 29,046
JW Marriott San Francisco using a premium card, either a CSP or CIBP (1.25 cents per point)
UR points required: 23,236
JW Marriott San Francisco using a premium card – Chase Sapphire Reserve (1.5 cents per point)
UR points required: 19,364
The table below illustrates the number of points that can potentially be saved just by virtue of redeeming your premium cards at the travel portal.
In fact, the difference between the no-annual-fee UR redemption and the CSR redemption is 9,682 URs.
If 1 UR = 1.5 cents then 9,682 X 1.5 cents = $145.23 worth of savings, thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Wow!
|Chase UR Card used at the Travel Portal||Ultimate Rewards required for the Marriott, SF|
Paid Rate: $290.46
|No-annual-fee / cashback Chase card (1 cent/point)||29,046|
|Premium Card: CSP/CIBP (1.25 cents/point)||23,236|
|Premium Card: CSR (1.5 cents/point)||19,364|
If you are worried that the majority of your UR stash is in your no-annual-fee cards, the next section troubleshoots that concern.
What If My Chase Ultimate Rewards Points are in my No-Annual-Fee Cards?
Should you find the majority of your points in a no-annual-fee card, do not worry because Chase generously allows the transfer of points between Chase Ultimate Rewards accounts.
Chase calls this feature “COMBINE POINTS” (see image below) and can be accessed under any of your Ultimate Rewards accounts.
As a general rule of thumb, you would need to transfer all of your no-annual-fee Chase UR points to your premium cards before you are given the ability to move your points to travel partners.
This transfer or “combine points” feature also significantly increases the worth of your UR points acquired from your no-annual-fee cards, effectively making them more lucrative.
Steps On How To Convert Your Cashback Points to Transferrable Premium Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
STEP 1: Log on to any of your Ultimate Rewards accounts and click the drop-down menu button (see image below).
STEP 2: The drop-down menu will reveal the different redemption options including “Combine Points”.
STEP 3: Click “Combine Points” then select a no-annual-fee card under “Move my points from”.
STEP 4: Select a premium card under “Move my points to” where you want your points to go.
STEP 5: Initiate the transfer by clicking “Continue”. You will be directed to a page where you can select either transferring all of your points or a specific amount of points to your premium card.
Since the value of your no-annual-fee Ultimate Rewards points significantly increases when transferred to a premium card, I highly suggest transferring all of your points. Generally, you would want all of your URs stored in one of your premium cards at all times. Click “Review” once you have made your selection.
If you own 2 premium cards that include the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR), transfer all of your points to the CSR as that provides the best redemption value among all the three premium Chase cards. More on that below.
STEP 6: Chase will give you another opportunity to review your selection. You would want to make sure that you are transferring no-annual-fee Ultimate Rewards Points to a premium card.
In this example, I am moving my Ultimate Rewards Points from my no-annual-fee Chase Business Ink Cash ® Credit Card to the Chase Sapphire Reserve ® Credit Card, which is a premium card. Confirm & Submit.
STEP 7: Once you have completed this transfer, you will be notified if the transfer was successful. Once your points are in your premium card, you can now transfer Ultimate Rewards Points to travel partners.
If you are part of a couple / family who lives in the same address, it is possible to transfer Chase points between different individual accounts (between player 1 and player 2). It is no longer necessary to hold 2 premium cards as long as you meet Chase’s criteria of a household member. One player can keep a premium card and the other player can continue to accumulate no-annual-fee Ultimate Rewards Points that can be easily transferred to the owner of the premium card. You would need to call Chase to initiate this transfer.
Which Redemption Option Do I Choose?
Now that we know the different options on the redemption menu and the steps in converting your no-annual-fee URs to premium URs, we can now focus on improving our ability to determine when it is best to transfer to travel partners and when it is recommended to use the Chase Travel Portal.
Personally, I primarily use my points for opportunities to redeem for free premium travel like when I flew in first class with Korean Air (below). Or when I stayed at the exclusive Hyatt Alila Ventana Big Sur which cost $1,500++/night. These were both successfully booked by transferring points to travel partners; however, this lucrative option is not always available.
Now, let me walk you through the process of identifying scenarios when it is better to use the travel portal instead of transferring to partners, or vice versa.
Whenever I plan to redeem my UR points, I follow these 3 steps in order to ensure that I am getting the best bang for my buck.
I go to the transfer partner website and look up the points I need to book for a particular flight or hotel room. We will assign the value “X” to represent the points required by a travel partner.
|Airline Partners||Hotel Partners|
Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
Examples of Travel Partner Websites:
I choose the “Travel” option to access the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.
I then enter the same data I entered in Step 1 so I could compare fares apples to apples. This will yield the value “Y“, which would represent the required number of points in the Travel Portal.
The table below illustrates the conversion rate for each of the Chase premium cards.
|CHASE PREMIUM CARDS||CONVERSION RATE|
|1 CSR point||1.5 cents|
|1 CSP point||1.25 cents|
|1 CIBP point||1.25 cents|
Compare “X” and “Y”. Pick the cheaper option.
Example 1: Booking a Flight
A few nights ago, I tried to look for round trip flights between San Francisco, California and Managua, Nicaragua for a long weekend in May. For the examples that follow, I will be using the conversion rate for CSR which is 1 point = 1.5 cents.
I searched for this flight on United.com. It yielded the following results:
United.com is asking me to shell out 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points plus $84.53 in cash for this flight during Memorial Day Weekend.
If 1 CSR point = 1.5 cents, then 80,000 CSR points x 1.5 cents = $1200.
The ticket total is equivalent to $1,200 + $84.53 = $1284.53.
Thus, X = $1284.53 or 80,000 points and $84.53
Figure out “Y” or the number of required points in the Chase UR Travel Portal.
a. Log on to your Chase.com account and click “Ultimate Rewards”.
b. Click “Travel”.
c. Enter the flight details so you can compare apples to apples with “X” above.
Here are the results:
The same flights only cost 30,365 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and $0 in the Chase UR Travel Portal.
Thus, Y = 30,365 CSR UR and $0 or $455.48
If you are curious how much this same booking will cost if you do not have the CSR and only have the CIBP or CSP, it will be 36,438 CSP/CIBP UR points ($455.48 divided by .0125).
If you do not have a premium card, this particular flight will set you back a total of 45,548 points!
|CHASE CARDS||CONVERSION RATE||$455.48 will require….|
|1 CSR point||1.5 cents||30,365 UR|
|1 CSP point||1.25 cents||36,438 UR|
|1 CIBP point||1.25 cents||36,438 UR|
|1 No-annual-fee point||1 cent||45,548 UR|
As shown in the table above, having the CSR saved me 6,073 UR points or roughly $91.01 (36,438 MINUS 30,365 TIMES 1.5 cents EQUALS $91.01) when compared to CSP/CIBP redemptions.
If I only have a no-annual-fee card, the savings obtained from the CSR become astronomical:
45,548 MINUS 30,365 EQUALS 15,183.
If 1 UR = 1.5 cents with the CSR then 15,183 TIMES 1.5 cents = $227.75 saved.
Compare all of your options and pick the cheapest amount
|X= Transfer Partner|
|Y = Travel Portal |
|Y = Travel Portal |
|Y=Travel Portal |
|80,000 UR + 84.53||30,365 UR||36,438 UR||45,548 UR|
In this example, booking through the travel portal using the CSR saves a total of 49,635 UR points & $84.53 when compared to redeeming directly via a transfer partner (United.com).
Best Redemption for Example 1: Travel Portal
Example 2: Booking a Hotel
I will be visiting Edinburgh this summer and I wanted to use my UR points to book a hotel.
I figure out how much a particular hotel stay will cost using points (“X”) on the partner hotel’s website.
In this case, I searched on Marriott.com for Residence Inn, Edinburgh for June 26-28th. I picked this hotel because I was able to reserve nights from June 28th – 30th using certificates and I did not want to transfer hotels to save time and energy.
Here’s what Marriott.com shows:
Since 1 CSR = 1.5 cents, then 80,000 CSR points transferred to Marriott.com would have had an equivalent value of 80,000 CSR x 1.5 cents = $1,200
Therefore, X = 80,000 UR points transferred to Marriott.com or $1,200
I plug in the same exact details in the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal to determine “Y”.
The same hotel would have only cost 35,898 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you have the CSR.
Therefore, Y = 35,898 UR and $0 cash
If you do not have the CSR and only own the CSP or CIBP, then this exact same booking will require 43,078 Chase CIBP/CSP URs.
A difference of 7,180. (43,078 MINUS 35,898 EQUALS 7,180).
Without a premium card, this particular booking will cost almost 54,000 UR points if you use points from Chase Freedom or Chase Ink Cash/Unlimited.
|CHASE PREMIUM CARDS||CONVERSION RATE||$538.48 will require…|
|1 CSR point||1.5 cents||35,898 UR|
|1 CSP point||1.25 cents||43,078 UR|
|1 CIBP point||1.25 cents||43,078 UR|
|1 No-annual-fee point||1 cent||53,848 UR|
Compare your options pick the best redemption.
|X= Transfer Partner|
|Y = Travel Portal (1.5)|
|Y = Travel Portal (1.25)|
|Y= Travel Portal (1 cent)|
|80,000 UR||35,898 UR||43,078 UR||53,848 UR|
In this example, booking through the travel portal saves a total of 44,102 UR points.
X minus Y = total savings :: 80,000 UR MINUS 35,898 CSR UR points = 44,102 UR.
If 1 CSR = 1.5 cents, then 44,102 CSR X 1.5 cents = $661.53 savings if hotel was booked via portal.
Best Redemption for Example 2: Travel Portal
When to Use Transfer Partners?
Even though I started this post by singing praises on the benefits of the travel portal, it is not always my first choice when it comes to redeeming points.
Since I love maximizing my URs, I always aim for the gold, meaning I set my eyes on business or first-class travel or staying in luxurious hotels.
It will take a boatload of points if I purchase a business class ticket using the travel portal. Hence, my travel strategy here is to book way ahead of time by checking availability in Chase’s many travel partners around the time that seats open up.
The recommended time is around 11-12 months in advance. To read more about this travel strategy, click the image below or click here.
Example 3: Booking a Flight
I am traveling to the Caucasus region this summer and needed a flight back to San Francisco, California, from Yerevan, Armenia.
Since this was an ultra-long-haul flight, I was determined to book a business class ticket using points.
Utilizing the travel strategy above, I initiated my search for an award ticket around August 24 for a July 21 flight the following year.
Determine X (transfer partner). In this case, I compared two transfer partners: Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.
Chase Transfer Partner: Singapore Airlines (SQ)
I initially checked the availability on Singapore Airlines.
Miles required for EVN-SFO on business class = 76,500 Krisflyer
Cash component = 246.30 Singapore Dollars or $182.49USD
Chase Travel Partner: United Airlines (UA)
The next task was to check United.com to see if there is a significant difference in fare.
Since SQ and UA are both Star Alliance partners, my goal is to book this same ticket for a lower price. Let’s see what I got.
I found the same exact ticket for 70,000 United Miles and $83.43.
I saved 6,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and almost $100!
Now, let’s do Step 2 in order to determine “Y”.
Now, let’s plug in these same exact details in the Chase UR Travel Portal and see how many UR points are needed.
The exact same ticket that I booked for 70,000 United miles and $83.43 would have cost a whopping 421,021 CSR UR points or $6,315.32 in the Chase Travel Portal.
If you do not have the CSR and only possess a CSP or CIBP, $6315.32 is equivalent to 505,200 CSP/CIBP UR points! An arm and a leg and some other limb!
Using the travel tactic of booking award travel 11 months out and then transferring Chase UR to partners, I was able to save a total of about 350,000 Chase UR points!
Given the above data, I quickly moved my UR CSR points to United.com by clicking “Transfer to Travel Partners” and transferring the number of points needed to book this flight.
The transfer was impressively instant (This only applies to United.com. Transfers to other airline partners may vary.)
Best Redemption for Example 3: Transfer To Travel Partner
|Transfer Partner |
|Travel Portal (1.25)|
CSP or CIBP
|Travel Portal (1.5)|
|70,000 UR and $84.54||76,500 UR and $182.49||505,200 CSP/CIBP UR|
421,021 CSR UR
Example 4: Booking a Hotel
Aside from Armenia, I am also visiting Baku, Azerbaijan this summer.
Coincidentally, the time that I will be there is also the same time when Formula 1 is underway, so the hotel rates have astronomically gone through the roof.
Thankfully, Hyatt has a property in Baku that was available for 8,000 Hyatt points a night. What an extraordinary deal! I quickly transferred my UR points to Hyatt and booked this hotel before it sold out.
Figure out “X” or the points required by a travel partner, in this case, it’s Hyatt.com.
Let’s check how many points are needed for this same exact hotel in the Chase UR travel portal. Plug in the identical dates from Step 1 in order to perform an apples-to-apples comparison.
The nightly rate is 26,262 points. Since I am staying there for 3 nights, the total UR points required is 78,786 Chase CSR UR points. A difference of 54,786.
If you do not have CSR and only have CIBP or CSP in your wallet, this exact booking will set you back 94,543 CIBP/CSP UR points.
This lucrative redemption mostly works well with Hyatt hotels. All the other partner hotels are NOT recommended because their redemption value is not as generous; however, sometimes you can find sweet spots. I
f no Hyatt is available in the city you’re visiting, it is best to book your accommodations through the travel portal.
Given the data above, booking via Hyatt.com will provide the best value for my points.
I quickly transferred my Chase UR points to Hyatt.com by clicking “Transfer to Travel Partners” then selecting Hyatt.com, and then initiating the transfer of 24,000 Chase UR points.
If you need step-by-step instructions on how to transfer Chase UR points to Hyatt, the article below will walk you through the process.
Best Redemption for Example 4 : TRANSFER TO PARTNER (as long as you book Hyatt in advance)
|Transfer Partner : Hyatt||Travel Portal (1.25)|
CIBP / CSP
|Travel Portal (1.5)|
|24,000 UR||94,543 UR||78,786 UR|
A. BOOK AWARD TICKETS/HOTELS 11 MONTHS OUT if you would like to fly in a premium cabin or reserve a Hyatt hotel during peak season such as holidays or special events.
B. TRAVEL PORTAL works best in booking low-cost coach flights or cheap hotels.
C. Get into the habit of utilizing the FRAMEWORK of comparing “X” (TRANSFER PARTNER) to “Y” (TRAVEL PORTAL) and selecting the CHEAPER OPTION to ensure that you get the best bang for your buck.
What has been your experience with redeeming UR points? What is your favorite redemption option?DO NOT TRAVEL WITHOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE. GET A QUOTE HERE.