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Today I posted the fantastic TAP Portugal deal of ~$700 one-way business class flights from Dublin to Chicago and San Francisco. The Chicago deal is especially good: $693 flights all summer long, which is cheaper than economy flights in some cases. But how can you make a good deal better? Using points for a cash deal, and/or earning significant miles on your cheap flights. Plus earning Ultimate Rewards with this deal, as more Chase UR are always welcome. First, let’s look at some UR spending options instead, using the Chicago fares.

Using Chase UR: Travel Portal vs Transfer Partners

I hold a Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) card, and I use it for all travel purchases. Not only do I get incredible value out of my Priority Pass membership, but earning 3x Ultimate Rewards on each flight and hotel (and Lyft and taxi and subway and…) purchase keeps my UR balance continually growing. I generally transfer to partner airlines for great deals in business and first class. However, sometimes using the Chase travel portal is a superior option. This is one of those times.

Chase UR Travel Portal

Chase has 7 transfer partners for European flights, and generally transfers at a 1:1 ratio. Flights from Dublin – Chicago with those partners cost:

  • Iberia (connecting through Madrid): 45,250 off-peak, 62,500 peak + ~$235
  • United: 60,000 = ~$50, at least until United changes to dynamic pricing this fall
  • Virgin Atlantic: 50,000 (Delta flights) + ~$50
  • British Airways (connecting in London): 70,250 off peak, + ~$235
  • Aer Lingus (direct): 50,000 off-peak, 60,000 peak + ~$95 fees off-peak
  • Air France: 53,000 or more (dynamic pricing) + ~$200 in fees
  • Singapore Airlines: 72,000 (United flights) + ~$200

(Fees estimated using ITA Matrix)

Contrast those numbers with simply booking through Chase’s travel portal. With a CSR, my points are worth 1.5x in the portal.

Chase UR DUB - ORD

46,000 miles for Europe to the US is a great price, with no fees of course. Plus, it’s immediately apparent that only transferring to Iberia comes close to matching the portal for this deal. Even then you’d owe $235 in fees, but there’s a twist. Through June 16 Chase UR transfers to British Airways with a 30% bonus. You can transfer Avios between BA and Iberia freely, if you have previously created accounts with activity. That means Iberia flights could be booked for 34,807 miles + $235.

Doing the Math on Transferring UR

If you want to see the math on whether to transfer to BA and then to Iberia, it’s just below. If not, skip to the next header:

  • 46,293 portal  UR – 34,807 transferred UR = 11,486 UR
  • $235 / 11,486 UR = 2.1 cents each

I value my UR highly, but I wouldn’t pay 2.1 cents each for them. Therefore, I’d still use the travel portal and keep the $235 in my pocket. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP), transferring through BA to Iberia is probably better, and Virgin Atlantic is probably about the same as using the portal.

Chase CSR Travel Portal > Transfer Partners (This Time)

Given that most transfer partners don’t come close to the portal rate, it’s pretty clear which is the better value. Even if you do value UR at 2.1 cents, you’re committed to finding space MAD – ORD which may not exist. So if you have a CSR, the portal is the better option, and it generally is with CSP as well. Plus, using the portal means I earn airline miles instead of using them, which is our next topic.

Earning Points and Miles When Buying the Deal

This deal represents a nifty opportunity to close in on status and award flights by earning miles as well.  Buying with UR or with a credit card both provide mileage earning; transferring to partners does not.

While these are TAP Portugal flights, you can earn miles for all Star Alliance partners, including United. In fact, you’ll earn more United award miles with TAP than if this were a United flight.According to the Great Circle Mapper, these are the distances from Dublin, connecting in Lisbon.

  • Chicago: 5,029 miles
  • San Francisco: 6,701 miles

These book into fare class J with TAP Portugal. I recommend using WhereToCredit.com and verifying with your frequent flier program for accurate mileage earning. Using the estimate, a United flier would earn 125% by flying TAP, or 6,286 and 8,376 respectively. That’s not a bad haul for a single direction. 8,000 miles is a significant chunk of a domestic economy flight; it might be worth even more with dynamic pricing. Moreover, it’s better than earning on United itself. If UA offered this same deal, a non-elite United flier would earn just 3,465 miles (5 miles x $693). As is often the case, with this deal US-based travelers earn more on alliance partner flights than their own domestic airline. Of course, using my CSR to buy the tickets nets another ~2,100 UR on top of the flying miles.

How I’d Book This Flight

This deal is really very good. I’m tempted to buy a cheap flight from Seoul to Ireland just to fly to San Francisco the long way. If I do, I’ll find a date through Google Flights, then book through the Ebates portal, then Expedia or Orbitz. I’ll pay with my CSR, as every dollar (and Chase UR) helps.

Are you buying the one-way flights from Dublin to San Francisco or Chicago?


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