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Chase Ultimate Rewards Points: Better to Book Through Chase or Frequent Flier Programs?

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Ultimate Rewards Points: Better to Book Flights With 'Em Through Chase or Frequent Flier Programs?

If you’re looking to book a flight with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you have two options: transfer your points to a frequent flier program, or book directly through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal. Each option could potentially earn you a higher value from your points, but that depends on a few factors.

Which Chase card do you have?

The value of your points depends on the card you use to book travel through Ultimate Rewards. A point is worth:

Booking through Ultimate Rewards is more cost-effective if you’re using a card with a rate of 1.25 or 1.5 cents per point. But the Ultimate Rewards redemption rate shouldn’t be your only consideration when deciding which is the best way to book your flight.


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What’s the price of the flight?

The value of an Ultimate Rewards point stays constant, but the value of airline miles may change. That’s because the number of miles it takes to redeem for a flight usually stays the same, but the ticket price fluctuates.

Let’s say you’re considering using 25,000 United miles to go from New York-JFK to San Francisco International. If the ticket costs $150, your value per point is 0.6 cents, or $150 divided by 25,000 points. If the ticket costs $400, the value of your points jumps to 1.6 cents per point.

Recall that when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the value of your points will be either 1 cent, 1.25 cents or 1.5 cents per point, depending on the card you use. In the first scenario above, you’d see a better value by redeeming through Ultimate Rewards. In the second scenario, your points would be worth more if redeemed through a frequent flier program.

How close are you to an award flight?

Let’s say you have 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points in your account, and you’re 10,000 points shy of earning an award flight you’ve been eyeballing. You may want to transfer those points to United’s frequent flier program, especially if your existing miles will otherwise expire. Keep in mind that it may take a few days for your points to transfer to a frequent flier program.

If you don’t have enough frequent flier miles and Ultimate Rewards points to redeem for a free flight, consider using the Ultimate Rewards travel tool to get your flight. The tool lets you pay with points and cash, so you can cover the difference if you don’t have enough points.

Are your travel dates fixed?

Some airline loyalty programs have blackout dates or limited award availability, which limits your redemption options. But Ultimate Rewards points essentially function like cash, so if there’s a seat available on the plane, you’ll more than likely be able to book it.

As a rule of thumb, you should look into the flight you want before you transfer your miles so you can confirm availability and make accurate point value calculations.

Where can I transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points?

Airlines:

  • Air France/KLM
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Hotels:

  • Hyatt Gold Passport®
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards®
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®

Information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Erin El Issa is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: erin@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @Erin_Lindsay17.