How I Flew for Free: Round Trip NYC to India Using Chase Ultimate Rewards

Updated
Profile photo of Rosemarie Clancy
Written by Rosemarie Clancy
Profile photo of Mary M. Flory
Edited by Mary M. Flory
Lead Assigning Editor
Fact Checked

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Natalia Stone was able to pay for her $1,300 air travel using Chase Ultimate Rewards® and a clever strategy, where she earned points on one card and transferred them to another for a bigger bonus on redemption. Here’s how she did it.

The cardholder

Name: Natalia Stone Age: 38 Occupation: Travel photographer Residence: Both New York City and San Francisco Credit cards: Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

» Learn more: Get personalized travel advice in our community of experts

The trip

Route: Round trip: John F. Kennedy International Airport - New York City to Indira Gandhi International Airport - Delhi Dates of travel: June 24 - July 19, 2018 Airline: Air India Class of service: Economy

Q: Did you visit a lounge at the airport?

A: Yes, I have a Priority Pass through my Chase Sapphire Reserve® that allows me lounge access. I stopped in the Wingtips Lounge in Terminal 4 at JFK on the outbound flight, and the Plaza Premium Lounge on the way home.

Q: Did you travel alone or with someone?

A: I flew alone. But I joined a group of four for a photo tour and led a photo workshop in India. I also had a week on my own to scout for upcoming workshop locations, network with local organizations in Varanasi and take photos.

Get up to 100,000 bonus points with our favorite Chase cards
Check out our nerdy picks for the best Chase credit cards and find the right card for you.

The rewards program

Q: What card/loyalty program did you use to get a free trip?

A: I used the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program. I got 80,000 bonus points when I signed up for the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card in October 2017, and transferred them to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to book. Both cards earn the same points, but the points are worth more when redeemed through the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Q: How long were you a cardholder at that time?

A: I had the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for nearly two years, and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card for about six months.

Q: How long were you saving for this trip?

A: It only took a few months. I met the $5,000 minimum spend to get the bonus points on the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card in less than three months. The welcome and bonus earnings on spend were nearly enough to get the ticket so it only took a little more spending on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which I transferred the points to.

Q: What's your favorite perk of this card?

A: I like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for many reasons. It has no foreign transaction fees, Priority Pass lounge access, and earns 3x points on non-Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel and dining expenses. I eat out a lot and go out often, so those bonus points add up quickly. But by far, the greatest perk is that it gives a 50% bonus on Chase Ultimate Rewards® points when redeemed for travel through Chase's travel portal.

» Learn more: Find the best travel credit card for you

The redemption

Q: Did you take advantage of promotions while earning points for this trip?

A: In addition to the welcome bonus for the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, I took advantage of triple bonus points earned on travel and dining on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Q: Where and how did you book?

A: I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards® points from my Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card to my personal Chase Sapphire Reserve® to get more value, and used Chase's travel portal. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offers a 25% booking bonus, but Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers 50%.

Q: How many points did it cost?

A: It costs 86,377 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for a $1,295 round-trip ticket.

Q: Did you book in conjunction with a promotion or deal?

A: No.

Q: Any surprises or hassles?

A: The booking process is pretty seamless with Chase. On board, my screen wasn’t working for the entire flight. And it was a long flight. But other than that, everything went smoothly.

What’s up next?

Q: What's your next travel rewards goal?

A: I travel a lot. I’m always flying somewhere. I fly back and forth between New York and California often, and those transcontinental flights earn over 2,500 miles each way. I usually fly Alaska Airlines (which merged with Virgin America last year), and get a free one-way ticket every five flights or so for 12,500 miles. This flight coming up is a freebie. NerdWallet values Alaska miles at 1.4 cents each.

Photo in Varanasi by Natalia Stone.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Chase Cards from our Partners
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Freedom Flex

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Flex®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1%-5%

Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Chase Travel®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

$200

Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

See more Chase cards
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.