Advertiser Disclosure

Travel Hack of the Week: Save Chase Ultimate Rewards Points by Maximizing the British Airways Award Chart

Oct. 5, 2018
Loyalty Programs, Reward Optimization, Travel
NerdWallet adheres to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Airlines all have their own formulas for deciding how many miles you pay for a reward flight, but some are startlingly similar.

American Airlines and many others use zoned charts that have one price for most flights within the continental U.S., another price for flights from the continental U.S. to Europe, and another price for flights going to South America, and so on. Very short flights are often cheaper, but in general, the number of miles you pay is determined by the region you depart from and the region where you land.

British Airways is an exception, though. And that difference creates a huge opportunity for Chase Ultimate Rewards® members to save points.

The workaround

Imagine you want to fly from Seattle to Dallas using your Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points in early December. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you’ll pay 13,774 points each way if booking directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Or you could convert your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to United MileagePlus miles at a 1-to-1 ratio and pay just 12,500 miles each way on partner airline United.

But there’s an alternative that requires fewer points: Convert your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to British Airways miles and BA will put you on a flight with its partner American Airlines for just 10,000 miles (or Avios, as BA calls them) each way.

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

This trick tends to work best for flights just under 3,000 miles, with the most staggering savings found for West Coast-to-Hawaii flights. If you were to fly United from Los Angeles to Honolulu in early October, you’d find reward fares starting at 22,500 each way, which you could cover by converting 22,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to United MileagePlus miles.

If you had American AAdvantage miles, you’d pay 20,000 miles each way. But a seat on an American Airlines flight will cost you just 12,500 British Airways Avios. And because those Avios cost you just 12,500 Chase points, that’s a savings of 10,000 miles over United each way.

You can’t transfer points from Chase to American because the two companies don’t partner that way. So if you’re doing your own cost comparison, use United as your point of comparison. See how many MileagePlus miles you’d need for the flight, then see how many British Airways Avios you’d need for the flight, then convert your Chase points to whichever gets you the best deal.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2018, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Travel rewards bucket list: Showering on a plane
How I flew for free: Round trip NYC to India using Chase Ultimate Rewards
This strategy is how I started earning major travel rewards

About the author