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But because there are so many great Ultimate Rewards airline transfer partners, it can be hard to figure out which airline partner to use when you’re searching for award tickets.
So I put together a step-by-step guide to help!
I’ll show you how to choose the best transfer partner when you’re booking award flights within North America using Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Use These 3 Steps When You’re Booking an Award Flight Within North America With Ultimate Rewards Points
But how do you know which airline transfer partner to use when you’re booking an award ticket?
Here’s a guide to figuring out whether you should transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest, United Airlines, or British Airways, when you’re booking an award ticket within North America.
Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to all 3 of these airlines at a 1:1 ratio.
This is a simple recipe, and there are other options too. But these 3 steps will get you started!
Besides determining which transfer partner will charge the fewest miles, you should also consider each airlines’ perks, like comfort of the plane, free checked bags, etc. And if the flights are non-stop versus having connections.
I’ve written before about the best ways to use airline miles for domestic award tickets.
Sometimes it’s worth paying a few more miles if you’ll save on baggage fees and get to your destination faster! 😉
If you answer “yes” to all 3 of these questions, flying Southwest and using your Companion Pass might be your best deal. But do the math!
Because the cost of Southwest award tickets is NOT static, but tied to the dollar price of the ticket. Unlike other airlines that use award charts.
It’s also worth checking Southwest’s award ticket prices when you’re traveling solo, because of Southwest’s perks like 2 free checked bags and generous refund policy.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Southwest points at a 1:1 ratio. So once you’ve determined how many Southwest points you’d need for your flight, write down this number.
Go to Wandering Aramean’s Avios map that shows how many British Airways Avios points you’ll need for short non-stop flights on partners American Airlines and Alaska Airlines between different locations.
I’ve written about how to use this great tool.
If you can NOT find your departure and destination cities on the map, skip this step and move to Step #3.
If you DO find your departure and destination locations on the map, check how many British Airways Avios points you’ll need for the flight. And write this number down.
The number of British Airways Avios points required is the SAME as the number of Chase Ultimate Rewards points you’ll need. Because Ultimate Rewards points transfer to British Airways Avios points at a 1:1 ratio.
To make sure the flights between these two cities are actually available to book, you can check on the British Airways site (sign-in required). Or use the American Airlines site to check for award seats.
Note: If your departure flight is within 21 days, you won’t pay extra if you’re using British Airways Avios points. But you WILL with United Airlines miles, unless you use this trick!
Go to Wandering Aramean’s United Airlines 700 Mile Radius map. If you do NOT see your departure location on the map, skip to Step #3B.
If your departure city IS listed, click on it and the map will display the cities and their airports within a 700 mile radius.
This is important, because you’ll save 2,500 United Airlines miles one-way (5,000 United Airlines miles round-trip) versus regular United Airlines award prices for flights of 700 miles or less — when there are saver awards open.
Are your departure and destination cities further than 700 miles apart? Go to Step #3B.
The number of United Airlines miles required is equal to the amount of Chase Ultimate Rewards points you’ll need, because Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United Airlines miles at a 1:1 ratio.
After you’ve worked through Steps 1 to 3, you’ll be able to decide where to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points!
Here are 3 examples of award ticket searches I did to compare round-trip domestic coach award ticket prices between Southwest, British Airways, and United Airlines.
Example 1: Dayton to New York in October 2016
Go to Southwest and enter your trip details, including your departure and arrival cities, dates, and number of passengers. Make sure to click the “Points” button so your search results will show the number of Southwest points needed for the ticket.
After clicking the “Search” button, you’ll see your departure and return flight options.
Select which flights you want, click “Continue”, and you’ll see the final price.
I found a round-trip coach ticket between Dayton and New York (LaGuardia) in October 2016, for 17,196 Southwest points and ~$11.
Write these numbers down and work through Step #2 to see how many British Airways Avios points you’ll need for the same itinerary.
From Wandering Aramean’s Avios map, you can see that you’ll need 7,500 British Airways Avios points to fly between Dayton and New York (LaGuardia).
Go to American Airlines to see if a saver award flight between these 2 cities is actually available to book.
Just remember, you’ll need to find non-stop flights, because British Airways charges per flight segment.
Because here are saver award seats between Dayton and New York (LaGuardia) in October 2016, you CAN book these tickets for only 7,500 British Airways Avios points each-way (15,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip).
Don’t forget, you could also use the British Airways site (sign-in required) to make sure the tickets are bookable!
Using Wandering Aramean’s United Airlines map, you’ll find that New York (LaGuardia) IS within 700 miles of Dayton.
So you know it will cost 10,000 United Airlines miles each way in coach for an award flight between these 2 cities.
That’s 5,000 fewer United Airlines miles than the regular cost of a round-trip domestic coach ticket (25,000 United Airlines miles).
But it looks like the best deal is using British Airways Avios points! Unless you’re using Southwest’s Companion Pass.
Because 2 tickets between Dayton and New York (LaGuardia) will cost 30,000 British Airways Avios points (15,000 points X 2). But using the Companion Pass, you’ll only pay 17,196 Southwest points and ~$22 in fees.
Southwest also gives everyone 2 free checked bags, but you’ll pay to check luggage on other airlines (usually $25 per bag!). So for folks with a lot of luggage, it could be cheaper to fly on Southwest!
Example 2: Dayton to Jacksonville in October 2016
I found a round-trip coach flight between Dayton and Jacksonville in October 2016, for 17,330 Southwest points per person.
Again, if you have Southwest’s Companion Pass and are flying with your designated companion, using Southwest points is a no-brainer.
Because you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. And essentially get 2 tickets for the price of one.
If you’re traveling alone, figure out if British Airways or United Airlines is a better deal.
When you search for Dayton using Wandering Aramean’s Avios tool, Jacksonville’s airport is NOT shown on the map. So you can NOT use British Airways Avios points for a discounted award flight between the 2 cities.
So go on to Step #3 to determine if using United Airlines miles is a good option.
Using Wandering Aramean’s United Airlines map, you can see that Jacksonville IS within 700 miles from Dayton.
So it will cost 10,000 United Airlines miles each-way in coach (20,000 United Airlines miles round-trip) for an award ticket between these 2 cities.
I found a number of flights from Dayton to Jacksonville in October 2016.
And lots of low-level award seats for the return flight from Jacksonville to Dayton too.
So which Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner is best in this particular example?
Because you can’t use British Airways Avios points for a short-haul flight between Dayton and Jacksonville, it’s best to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest for an award ticket!
Example 3: Wichita to Minneapolis in October 2016
Searching on Southwest, I found a round-trip ticket between Wichita and Minneapolis in October 2016 for 14,183 Southwest points and ~$11 in taxes and fees.
When you search for Wichita using Wandering Aramean’s Avios map, you’ll see you can NOT use British Airways Avios points for award flights between Wichita and Minneapolis.
So the next step is to check if it makes sense to use United Airlines miles.
Using Wandering Aramean’s United Airlines map, you’ll see that Wichita and Minneapolis ARE within 700 miles of each other. So you’ll be able to use fewer United Airlines miles for an award ticket!
I found award flights between these 2 cities in October 2016, for 10,000 United Airlines miles each way.
Or 20,000 United Airlines miles round-trip.
And looking at my notes, transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest would be the best deal for an award ticket between Wichita and Minneapolis!
NOTE: If you’re flying to Hawaii, there are exceptions to these 3 steps. Because you can fly round-trip from the West Coast to Hawaii for 25,000 British Airways Avios points. Or use Singapore Airlines miles to fly round-trip on United Airlines to Hawaii for less.
Earn More Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Link: Chase Ink Plus
Link: Chase Freedom
Link: Chase Freedom Unlimited
You can also earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you use your Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, or Ink Cash card. But you can’t transfer them to airlines and hotels directly. You need to have one of the 3 cards mentioned above, and transfer the points to one of those accounts first.
A big reason that Chase Ultimate Rewards is my favorite program is because of the terrific airline partners. Having options makes it easier to get great deals!
You can transfer to whichever airline program you like best. Or compare prices to save points!
Using the 3 steps I outlined above, it’s simple to figure out whether you should use Southwest points, British Airways Avios points, or United Airlines miles, for a round-trip coach ticket within North America.
If you have the Southwest Companion Pass and you’re traveling with your designated companion, it’s usually hard to beat 2 tickets for the price of one.
But sometimes it makes sense to use British Airways Avios points for short-haul flights! And United Airlines charges 5,000 fewer United Airlines miles for flights under 700 miles!