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If I had to pick 1 points program as a favorite, it’d be Chase Ultimate Rewards.
They’re valuable because they:
- Are flexible
- Have great travel transfer partners
- Are relatively easy to earn
And that’s why Chase Ultimate Rewards is the best for beginners in the miles and points hobby, too!
I’ll go over the highlights of Chase Ultimate Rewards. And compare it with other transferable points programs.
My Favorite Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to the following partners:
|Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfer Partners|
|Aer Lingus||British Airways||Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)|
|Southwest||United Airlines||Virgin Atlantic|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners|
Note that, effective December 8, 2015, you’ll no longer be able to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak.
1. United Airlines
In fact, you have access to award seats on over 2 dozen Star Alliance partner airlines with United Airlines miles!
There are lots of ways to earn and redeem United Airlines miles. And if you need more, you can instantly transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your United Airlines account.
Hyatt Category 1 hotels are only 5,000 Hyatt points per night for a standard room. There are lots to choose from in the US, and many of them are great deals!
Emily and I stayed at the Park Hyatt Milan, and had a terrific time!
The nightly room rate is ~$1,262 in November, so you’ll save a lot of money by using Hyatt points instead!
Hyatt has hotels all over the world at all award levels and price ranges, and many of them are a terrific value with points. If you need more Hyatt points, you can transfer them at a 1:1 ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Emily and I always have enough points to fly on Southwest because of Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers. And then we get double the value with the Southwest Companion Pass!
Note: Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Southwest do NOT count towards the 110,000 Southwest points required in a year to earn the Companion Pass!
4. British Airways
Be sure to check out my series about the best deals with British Airways Avios points!
And, if you need more, you can always transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards, and then book your award flight!
The Other 3 Programs
I like Chase Ultimate Rewards because their transfer partners tend to match the most with my travel goals. That said, I like to use Starwood points and AMEX Membership Rewards points whenever I get the opportunity! As always, choose the 1 that works best with your plans. 🙂
I recommend starting out with Chase Ultimate Rewards, and then branching out to the other programs, especially for beginners.
I like Starwood a lot (Cash & Points is my favorite!), but if I had to choose 1 program, I’d still pick Chase Ultimate Rewards points. That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are much easier to earn and most transfers are instant.
- Award stays here in the US, at a top US beach, the Caribbean and Mexico, Europe, Central and South America, or Asia and Australia
- Free 5th night on award stays
- Cash & Points to stretch your points even further
- Transfer to ~30 airline partners such as American Airlines for Big Travel (points do not transfer instantly to all partners)
- Nights & Flights (which you could use for a Disney World visit!)
- Redeem for nearly any flight on almost any airline with no blackout dates
- SPG Moments such as 1-on-1 golf lessons with a pro or VIP seats to Broadway shows
Aside from stays at Starwood hotels, you can earn 1 Starwood point per $1 spent on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express cards. And you’ll earn 2X Starwood points per $1 spent on Starwood hotels.
These cards are great for everyday spending in categories that don’t earn bonus points! Otherwise, use a card that WILL earn bonus points. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining.
2. AMEX Membership Rewards
Delta miles are great to use for award trips to Europe! But keep in mind you’ll pay an excise fee to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to US-based airlines.
AMEX Membership Rewards also transfer to these hotel partners:
|American Express Membership Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners|
There’s a lot of value in this program, but I find myself using Chase Ultimate Rewards points much more often. Depending on your travel goals, some folks might prefer to stick with this 1 as their primary program.
Here are the cards that earn AMEX Membership Rewards points:
3. Citi ThankYou Points
Update: Beginning July 23, 2017, Citi ThankYou points with the Citi Prestige card will be worth 1.25 cents each toward flights.
Citi ThankYou points added lots of transfer partners recently but it’s not yet up to the level of the others. Although I like the ease of redeeming each Citi ThankYou point earned with Citi Prestige for 1.6 cents each on American Airlines flights and its codeshare partners for international flights.
Citi ThankYou points transfer to these partners:
|Citi ThankYou Points Airline Transfer Partners|
|Avianca||Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)||EVA Air|
|Etihad||Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)||Garuda Indonesia|
|Jet Airways||JetBlue||Malaysia Airlines|
|Qantas||Qatar Airways||Singapore Airlines|
|Thai Airways||Turkish Airlines||Virgin Atlantic|
|Citi ThankYou Points Hotel Transfer Partners|
That said, I’m excited to see where this program will go because it’s fairly easy to earn points.
I like that I can transfer Citi ThankYou points to Singapore Airlines. Because that allows me to save my Chase Ultimate Rewards points, AMEX Membership Rewards points, and Starwood points to transfer to other airline programs.
Singapore Airlines miles are a great choice to book United Airlines flights. That’s because you’ll pay fewer miles than United Airlines charges, depending on the route. You’ll save 10,000 miles on a coach award flight, and 20,000 miles for First and Business class. Those discounts can add up, especially if you’re booking multiple award tickets!
Be sure to read my reviews of Citi Prestige and the Citi ThankYou Premier card.
Earn More Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Link: Chase Freedom
Link: Chase Ink Plus
You can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points with these cards:
|Personal Cards||Business Cards|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Chase Ink Business Preferred|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card|
|Chase Freedom||Chase Ink Bold (No Longer Available to New Applicants)|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Chase Ink Plus (No Longer Available to New Applicants)|
|Chase Sapphire (No Longer Available to New Applicants)|
|Note: Points earned from the Chase Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Sapphire, and Ink Business Cash cards can only be transferred to travel partners if you also have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold card.|
And keep in mind you can transfer points between your accounts.
For a limited time, you can earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you sign-up for the Chase Ink Plus, and 30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you sign-up for the Chase Ink Cash and complete the minimum spending. Read my review of both cards! (EXPIRED.)
They both offer 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 you spend (5% cash back) at office supply stores and on cell phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services. The Chase Ink Plus has a limit of $50,000 per year in these categories combined. And the Chase Ink Cash has a limit of $25,000 per year in these categories combined.
The Chase Freedom earns 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points in quarterly categories, like gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. And because it’s a no annual fee card, you can keep this card forever to build your relationship with Chase.
Finally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred always earns 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel and dining. Because those are such strong categories, and very popular ones, this is the card I recommend to beginners and old-timers alike!
And because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are easy to earn, especially on spending within certain bonus categories, I always have plenty to transfer when I get ready to take a trip!
Remember, points you earn with the Chase Freedom and Chase Ink Cash can NOT be transferred to airline and hotel partners unless you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Plus, or Chase Ink Bold.
Chase Ultimate Rewards are my favorite transferable points program.
That’s because I can use them for Big Travel on United Airlines, Hyatt hotel stays (like at the Park Hyatt Milan), in conjunction with the Southwest Companion pass for flights on Southwest, or for flights within the US and abroad on British Airways. Between those options, I find myself turning to Chase Ultimate Rewards a lot.
The other programs (Starwood, AMEX Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou) all have their perks, too. But if you’re new to miles and points, Chase Ultimate Rewards are a great place to start.
And the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the 1st card I recommend for beginners.
You can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points with:
Which of the 4 programs do you recommend to a friend just starting out in our miles and points hobby?