Experiment: Do Ultimate Rewards Points Transfer Instantly to Airlines & Hotels?

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I don’t see why Frequent Miler should have all the fun in his Frequent Miler Laboratory, so I’ve been performing a few experiments as well!

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfers

A reader tipped me off that Chase Ultimate Rewards points do NOT always transfer instantly to airline and hotel partners.  I checked for myself and not all transfers were instant.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfers
My experience with Ultimate Rewards transfers

It took ~19 hours to transfer to Priority Club points, ~41 hours to transfer to Marriott points.

I wasn’t able to transfer points to Korean Air for 3 days (I kept getting error messages), but the points posted instantly to my Korean Air account when I was able to make the transfer.

This is my personal experience, so your experience could very well be different.

What is Ultimate Rewards?

You earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points  by using a Chase card which earns Ultimate Rewards points (see this post for a complete list) or by shopping via the Ultimate Rewards portal.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Ink Bold, and the JP Morgan Select card, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to:

  • United
  • British Airways
  • Korean Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Hyatt hotels
  • Marriott hotels
  • Ritz Carlton hotels
  • Priority Club hotels

As I shared before, you can even transfer those points to someone else’s hotel or airline mileage account.  The terms and conditions say that you should transfer points only to your spouse or domestic partner’s account, but it is currently possible to transfer them to other accounts.

So why earn United miles or Hyatt hotel points when you can earn Ultimate Rewards points and transfer them to many different airlines or hotels?  You’ll get a lot more options when it comes time to redeem your miles and points.

And you often earn more for regular spending on the Ultimate Rewards cards than on the airline or hotel co-branded card!

For example, you can earn 5x points in office supply stores with the Chase Ink Bold, or double points on travel and dining with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and then transfer those points to an airline or hotel.

The Experiment

On Sunday, at 4:00 pm CST, I transferred 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Ink Bold account to each of the Ultimate Rewards partners.  You can transfer in multiples of 1,000 points and the minimum transfer amount is 1,000 points.

I finished all the transfers at 4:09 pm CST and checked my account balances to see if the transfer had taken place.

I was NOT able to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Air until 3 days later, but the transferred points posted to my Korean Air account immediately.

Immediate Transfers

Transfers to United, British Airways, Southwest, Hyatt and Amtrak posted immediately.

Within 24 hours

The Priority Club points posted to my account by 11:00 am the next morning, so it took ~19 hours for the points to transfer to my account.

But the transfer screen indicated that the transfer would be complete the same day!

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfers
My transfer to Priority Club took 19 hours

This isn’t great news because you may need the points immediately if you’re getting ready to book a great deal on the PointsBreak list.

Within 48 hours

I kept checking my account balances every 4 hours (except when I went to bed), but the Marriott points didn’t show up until 9:00 am on May 22, 2012 or about 41 hours after I made the transfer.

But the transfer screen indicated that the transfer would be complete the same day!

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfers
My transfer to Priority Club took 41 hours
Korean Air

I kept getting a message indicating that my Korean Air account number was invalid.

The Chase telephone agents were very helpful, but were not able to help me make the transfer.  One agent suggested that the link between Chase and Korean Air was temporarily not working.

After calling Chase, I sent them a secure message and I was extremely surprised when a  Chase rep called me within 24 hours.

We even attempted a conference call to Korean Air, but gave up after 15 minutes on hold when I had to go to a meeting.

But 3 days later (after trying every 4 hours to make the transfer), I was able to make the transfer and the points posted immediately.

Bottom Line:  Ultimate Rewards points are very versatile because they can be transferred to different airline and hotel partners.  But Priority Club and Marriott points don’t transfer instantly, and sometimes the link between Chase and the hotel or airline can go down and delay the transfer.

Now I just have to find the best use for 1,000 Amtrak and 1,000 Korean Air miles since you can’t transfer your miles back to Ultimate Rewards points after making the transfer.

So don’t transfer your Ultimate Rewards points until you really need to use them!

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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