So we’ve talked some about hotel points and airline miles, but there is actually a 3rd type of mileage “currency” – bank points. The 2 most common and useful ones are American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Today, we’ll talk about Chase, but we’ll get to American Express (as well as some of the less common ones) in due time.
Ultimate Rewards are actually probably my favorite mile to accrue and the main reason is their flexibility. We touched on this the other day. If you have 50,000 Delta SkyMiles, but the flight you need to take is on American Airlines, guess how good those Delta miles are? NOT GOOD!
With Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer your UR points to 10 different travel partners
That’s 5 airlines (United, Southwest, Korean, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic), 4 hotel programs (Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, IHG and Marriott) as well as Amtrak. So no matter where you need to go or where you need to stay, odds are good that you can make it happen with Ultimate Rewards. I don’t have as much experience with the hotel brands that you can transfer to, but the airline partners are some of the best ones for large family travel. We already covered some of the reasons Southwest is great, and United has some of the most liberal routing rules around plus low fees on award tickets. The other three are foreign carriers, and since as larger families we tend to focus on domestic travel, they’re not as useful, right?
WRONG! (okay, okay, I set you up for that one 😀 ). Because most airlines are part of what is called an airline alliance (think of it as a collection of partner alliances), often-times you can use miles from one airline for travel on a flight of one of their partners. For example, British Airways and American Airlines are both part of the oneWorld alliance. So you can use British Airways Avios to fly on an American Airlines flight. This really deserves its own post but the short answer is that this makes Avios EXTREMELY useful for short domestic trips (which are very often the very flights that large families are most interested in!!). This counts double if you live in an American Airlines hub city (Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami).
The Points Guy has a great article on the various Ultimate Rewards transfer partners – definitely worth a read if you’d like even more information.
How do you get Ultimate Rewards? Well they are a bank, so you can’t earn points by flying on an airplane or staying the night at the bank (that…. could get awkward). The main way that you can accrue Ultimate Rewards points is by signing up for (and using) Chase branded credit cards.
Chase divides its credit cards into “basic” and “premium”. One important note is that in order to take advantage of these transfers, you need to have one of the “premium” cards, which are the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold and Chase Ink Plus. The basic cards such as the regular Chase Sapphire and Chase Freedom still accrue UR points, but you can only redeem those on travel with a fixed value of 1 cent per point, which is generally not as good a value. If you have a basic card AND a premium card, you can transfer points between them. So you can get points on your Chase Freedom and then transfer the points to your Chase Ink Bold account (and then on to United or Hyatt).
The other nice thing about Chase is that there are many options to easily get points. The Sapphire and Ink products all typically run bonuses where you can get 40,000 if not 50,000 points after meeting a minimum spending amount. So it’s not very difficult to get a lot of very flexible, useful points!
Anyone have suggestions about what makes the best use of Ultimate Rewards points?