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

Rosemarie Clancy
By Rosemarie Clancy 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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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

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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.

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 the Chase portal.

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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 the Chase 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 1.2 cents each.

Photo in Varanasi by Natalia Stone.

How to maximize your rewards

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