You Might Regret Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Airlines If You Miss This Important Step

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You Might Regret Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Airlines If You Miss This Important Step

JasminYou Might Regret Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Airlines If You Miss This Important StepMillion Mile Secrets Team

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For myself (and probably many of us in the miles and points hobby) there’s a tendency to get caught up in finding award chart sweet spots and the most lucrative transfer partners.  Sometimes, as I recently discovered, this leads to overlooking other opportunities to squeeze the most value from your hard-earned points.

Yesterday, I was looking for award flights to Hawaii for me and the kids later this year.  My intention was to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to an airline partner from my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Ink Business Preferred.  And I had a strategy figured out to save the most points … or so I thought.

See, flights from our neck of the woods (Western NY near the Canadian border) to Hawaii are typically pricey.  So I hadn’t thought to check paid flights at all.  But out of curiosity, I had a peek at the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for potential travel dates.  And boy am I glad I did! 

I Nearly Forgot a Critical Angle in Trip Planning Before Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to an Airline for Award Flights

Here’s why you should always check the travel portal before you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airlines.

If I’d Transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Airlines, I’d Have Wasted Over 50,000 Points (Ouch!)

Living where we do, we can take flights from the Buffalo, Rochester, or Toronto airports.  I’d had my eye on flying United Airlines or Air Canada to Hawaii, because you can book these flights using Singapore Airlines miles for less.  All 3 airlines are part of the Star Alliance so you can use any of their miles to book award flights within the alliance.

Singapore Airlines charges 35,000 miles round-trip in coach to Hawaii, while booking with United Airlines will set you back 45,000 miles for the exact same flights.  Singapore Airlines and United Airlines are both Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, so it made the most sense to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore Airlines to book these cheaper award flights to Hawaii.

Until I searched the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal for our possible dates:

Well Then! I Hadn’t Anticipated Such Cheap Flights From the East Coast to Hawaii – and Here I Would Save Over 12,000 Points per Person by Redeeming Points Through the Portal

Lesson learned – NEVER assume!  I know there have been lots of cheap fares to Hawaii of late, but they’re almost always from the West Coast or airports that aren’t convenient to our home, so I’m glad I checked.  From the example above, I could have booked flights on Air Canada (and earned airline miles, too) for just 22,368 Chase Ultimate Rewards points each, or 89,472 points for the 4 of us.

Had I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore Airlines, I would have spent 140,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (35,000 points X 4) for a similar itinerary.  That’s a difference of 50,528 Chase Ultimate Rewards points – and it sure would have stung hard if I’d done it and discovered these tickets after the fact.

Looking at it another way, between the welcome bonus and minimum spending points I earned this past fall with the Chase Ink Business Preferred, I picked up nearly enough points to book 4 round-trip flights to Hawaii for my family – that’s pretty crazy for a single credit card bonus.

These Pipsqueaks Haven’t Been to Hawaii for ~10 Years – and I Was Pregnant With My Son When I Took This Picture so He Doesn’t Really Remember the Trip 😉

And here’s the thing:  If I held the Chase Sapphire Reserve, these flights would have been even cheaper.  That’s because with the Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents each when you redeem them for travel through the portal (as opposed to 1.25 cents each if you only have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Ink Business Preferred).  You can read more about what Chase points are worth here.

So in this case, the flights would have cost 18,640 Chase Ultimate Rewards points each (~$279 airfare / 1.5 cents per point) or 74,560 points total.  That’s a savings of nearly 50% off compared to transferring points to Singapore Airlines for similar flights.

Even if you don’t collect Chase Ultimate Rewards points, there are similar portals with other flexible points programs where you might snag a deal when there’s a cheap sale like this.

For example:

Keep in mind, this trick to save points is really only useful for cheap coach tickets.  If you’re looking to book more expensive Business or First Class flights, you’ll almost always do better transferring points for an award flight – unless there’s an incredible sale.

Did I pull the trigger on these flights?  Alas, I couldn’t, because my kids’ schedules are still a bit up in the air around that time.  But you bet I’ll be checking the portal every single time I’m considering an award flight in the future.  You never know what you might find!

Bottom Line

Always, always, always check the travel portal for the points price of paid flights before you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airlines for an award ticket.  The same principle applies to other flexible points programs, as well.

While testing travel dates for an upcoming family trip to Hawaii, I found flights through the portal for over 12,000 points less per person compared to transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore Airlines for a similar itinerary.  Had I booked, we would have saved over 50,000 points by booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (and earned airline miles for the flights).

And if I held the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead of just the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Business Preferred, my savings would have been even more substantial.  That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards points in your Chase Sapphire Reserve account are worth more when you book through the portal compared to the other cards.

Have you ever saved a ton of Chase Ultimate Rewards points by booking through the portal instead of transferring to airline partners?  I’d love to hear your success stories!

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Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee

More Info

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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Michael Zarrella

I have tried using the Chase Sapphire Reserve program you described in your article but have not been able to get the Ultimate Rewards selection on my PC to respond to flights. I can responses for cars, hotels and the other presented choices. Just not flights. I see the flights selected in the background while the system is buffering the information, however they never post to the screen as do the car, etc. I get a message that says “We are unable to complete your request at this time. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience. If you have any questions please call the number on the back of your card.” I have tried to get flight information several times a day over several days. Same results, no response.

After many frustrating calls to Chase with multiple, multiple, multiple frustrating transfers from one department to another, I just have decided to give up. I have tried different browsers, cleared cookies and cache only to get the same results. Too bad no one there can help.. Maybe you or one of your subscribers can.
Thanks in advance

Author

Hi Michael – I’m really sorry to hear that – very strange. Have you tried from a different computer / location? I’ve never had this experience so don’t know what else to suggest other than calling Chase travel 866-345-4003 – they should be able to book flights for you over the phone.

Thank you! It’s a good reminder!!

Author

Hi Jasmine – Thanks! (From Jasmin with no ‘e’ ;))

Just bought 2 tickets direct flight from Krabi to Shanghai last week with UR points through the Chase Portal. Sweet deal with the discount. We would have had to fly anywhere from 11 to 23 hours including layovers with point transfers and the cost in points would have been a little higher. Now we have a 5 hour flight to China! Always check first.

Author

Hi Philip – That’s a much better deal and itinerary – thanks for sharing your experience!

I have the reserve and as much as everyone usually talks about transferring UR points to airline accounts, I hardly ever do! It is almost always advantageous for me to use the UR points. I look at it as a 1/3 discount so even for international flights it’s so much cheaper. The only place it isn’t is for biz/first tickets, then moving the points makes more sense.

Author

Hi Nina – It is a very good deal – happy to hear you’re making the most of it. Agreed for Business and First it usually isn’t great (unless there’s some crazy promotional fare for super cheap).

Author

Hi Gabriel C – Wow, that’s a fantastic deal! Nicely done – hope you enjoyed the trip!

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