How to fly on American Airlines with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, even though they’re not partners

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You might have noticed that American Airlines isn’t a Chase transfer partner.

Still, that doesn’t mean Chase Ultimate Rewards points aren’t useful for award flights on American Airlines. There are several ways you can fly on American Airlines with points you earn from:

As a matter of fact, using Chase points for American Airlines flights can be a better deal than using American Airlines miles. Because of this, you could argue that these cards are some of best airline credit cards for American Airlines flights. I’ll show you the loopholes you need to know.

 

American Airlines flights are often cheaper with Chase Ultimate Rewards points than American Airlines miles. (Photo by Brendan Dorsey/Million Mile Secrets)

Fly American Airlines with Chase Ultimate Rewards points

It’s true that you can’t transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to American Airlines. But you can transfer your points to two airlines that partner with American Airlines: British Airways and Iberia. When you transfer your points to either of these airlines, you can use their respective websites to book flights on American Airlines. In other words, you’ll book American Airlines flights without ever visiting the American Airlines website and without ever needing to earn AA miles.

This is particularly valuable information now that American Airlines intends to completely abolish their award chart. No longer will there be fixed award prices based on origin and destination. American is moving to “dynamic pricing,” which is just a fancy way of saying they reserve the right to charge whatever they want, whenever they want. This is a two-edged sword, as prices will likely be higher during the busy season and lower during the off-season.

When you use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to fly American Airlines, you won’t have to deal with American Airlines’ dynamic award prices. You can always know exactly how many points it’ll take to fly your desired route at any time of year.

If you put in a bit of extra effort and study the American Airlines schedule, you could turn your points into a luxurious lie-flat experience, even on domestic flights. American Airlines has quite a few aircraft with top-notch business-class seats and not all of them are transcontinental routes. The Points Guy has a comprehensive post about how to find these coveted seats.

You can quite often find these particular seats when flying between Miami and Dallas. (Photo by JT Genter)

Onto the instruction. As an example, let’s look at how to book a flight from Columbus to Dallas.

Example 1. Book American Airlines flights through British Airways

Log into the British Airways website and click “Spending Avios” from the “Discover” drop-down menu.

Click “Spending Avios”

Scroll down the next page until you see “Book a Reward Flight“. Click it.

Then, you can fill out the search form and click “Get flights.”

You’ll then see search results of all available flights. If you’re flying a domestic route, you should see plenty of American Airlines flights available.

 

Example 2. Book American Airlines flights through Iberia

Log into the Iberia website before you begin your search.

You must book a round-trip flight with Iberia Avios points or the website will tell you there are no seats available.

Again, you’ll see plenty of American Airlines award flights available to book with Iberia Avios points. If you find award seats on British Airways, they should also be available on Iberia.

 

Example 3. Book American Airlines flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal

This method is pretty simple, as it’s similar to booking with any online travel agency, like Orbitz or Expedia. Log into the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal and click “Travel” from the drop-down menu at the top of the page.

Enter your travel information.

You’ll then have your pick of flights from multiple airlines, including American Airlines. If you have an Chase Ink Business Preferred or a Chase Sapphire Preferred (my example below), your points will be worth 1.25 cents each. If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points will be worth 1.5 cents each.

 

Always do the math

Let’s break down the information we’ve just covered.

Chase points value depends on how you redeem them. As you can see through the Chase Portal screenshot, the going rate for a round-trip flight between Chicago and Dallas is typically around $326 (although with the current pandemic prices have dropped significantly). For that same flight, you’ll pay:

  • 26,128 Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase Portal (if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred)
  • 21,774 Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase Portal (if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve)
  • 17,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you transfer them to Iberia (Iberia charges 17,000 points round-trip for this route)
  • 18,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you transfer them to British Airways (British Airways charges 9,000 points each way for this route)

British Airways and Iberia have different award charts, so these prices will vary depending on your route. But quite often the best way to use Chase points is by using Chase transfer partners instead of booking through the Chase Portal. As I said earlier, using these partners can a better deal than using American Airlines miles. For example, I flew to Oklahoma round-trip in coach over the holidays for 17,000 Iberia Avios points. At the time, that same flight would have cost 25,000 American Airlines miles (that’s a difference of 8,000 miles).

But because of dynamic pricing and American Airlines Web Specials, sometimes it’ll take fewer AA miles to book the same flights. For example, at the time of writing I could book the exact same flights from Chicago to Dallas for only 12,000 American Airlines miles round-trip. However, that price was a Web Special which means it can’t be changed and because you’d have to book it through American Airlines it would cost $150 to cancel the award flight and redeposit your miles.

Bottom line

Chase Ultimate Rewards points don’t transfer to American Airlines – but collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points is still one of the best ways to get American Airlines flights for free. You can transfer your points to British Airways or Iberia and book American Airlines flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.

And you can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points in a hurry by opening the best Chase credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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