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Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) is one of my favorite transferable points programs, if not my top favorite. I waffle between American Express Membership Rewards and Chase UR as the best flexible bank points program. Now that they are losing Korean Air SKYPASS as a transfer partner, I wanted to reassess the value of Ultimate Rewards points.
SKYPASS was a very valuable partner
Chase Ultimate Rewards has a number of airline and hotel partner programs to which you can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio. My favorite airline partner has long been United; however, I see fantastic value in both Korean Air SKYPASS and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
But now Korean Air SKYPASS will be exiting the program as of August 25, 2018. If you want to transfer your points to SKYPASS, you’d better do so quickly. Some of the best premium cabin sweet spots are SkyTeam round-trip business tickets to Europe for a mere 80,000 miles round-trip, or first class in Korean Air’s own product for 80,000 miles each way between the U.S. and Asia.
Perhaps the most beloved sweet spot of all was the pricing between the continental U.S. and Hawaii, as Korean considers Hawaii as just another part of the U.S., asking just 25,000 miles round-trip in economy and 45,000 miles round-trip in first. If you can snag seats on one of Delta’s lie-flat products, especially on a nearly 10-hour flight from Atlanta, this is an incredible deal.
Thus, it is certainly sad to see SKYPASS leave the program. I only wish a little more warning had been given. We’re looking at barely over a week.
If you want to continue to use your Ultimate Rewards points for SkyTeam flights, you’re looking at Flying Blue as your sole option. Now that Flying Blue has rolled out a wonky pricing calculator instead of a chart, as well as changing promo deals, no one knows exactly how much anything should cost. Sometimes there are great deals. Sometimes not.
Who are the best UR transfer partners now?
The remaining airline frequent flyer programs include United MileagePlus, Southwest RapidRewards, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Flying Blue, Singapore KrisFlyer, and the British Airways/Iberia/Aer Lingus Avios family. Of these, each have their own great uses and sweet spots. United offers some decent award pricing to some regions and never passes on fuel surcharges. Virgin Atlantic has some great sweet spots, including awards in Delta and ANA premium cabins (SEE: Virgin Atlantic 30% transfer bonus: great deal on premium cabin flights). The IAG airlines (Avios trio) are the only option for Oneworld flights.
Arguably, the best thing Ultimate Rewards has going for it is Hyatt as their only real valuable hotel transfer partner. If they lost Hyatt, I would seriously reconsider strictly using the American Express Membership Rewards program. But let’s hope that day never comes. 🙂
In summary, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program still offers great value with their remaining partners. The loss of Korean Air SKYPASS certainly represents a loss of value, and probably one that will make some people reconsider using the program if they are Delta/SkyTeam loyalists. While I am sad to see this partnership end, I will still continue to focus part of my spending on UR-earning cards due to the value of the other transfer partners in the program.