Chase cards are incredibly generous and the Chase Sapphire Preferred has become nearly every traveler’s favorite credit card. There are a number of transfer options, and many posts on things like Hyatt Rewards often come with a recommendation of transferring from Chase UR points. But my recommendation nearly all the time is to transfer to United.
United has gotten a bad rep after the devaluation causing business class and first class prices to go up, sometimes by a lot. Yet, I think you can waste a lot of points transfers to anything except United, most of the time.
Let me explain a few things.
- Yes, there are other great uses
- United miles still have tons of value. I’ll explain why.
- United miles are better than other miles programs in many ways. I’ll explain why.
- And why the other options are actually terrible.
Earning United Miles with Chase
I should also mention that there are multiple Chase cards that earn United miles. (And here’s a master chart of what credit cards can earn miles).
There are two main United cards:
- United Explorer (personal)
- United Explorer (business)
Then there are a few cards that transfer from Chase UR points to United miles:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Ink Plus (business card)
- Ink Bold (can’t apply for this card anymore)
Then there are cards that earn Chase UR points but don’t transfer to United directly, but you can combine points balances with the cards above, then transfer to United miles:
- Chase Freedom
- Chase Sapphire (the no annual fee version of the Chase Sapphire “Preferred”)
- Ink Cash (business card, no annual fee version of Ink Plus)
Yes, there are other great uses
There are exceptions to nearly anything. United isn’t always the best price on a given route.
For example, British Airways Avios for a Miami to Jamaica flight are 4,500 Avios for a oneway when United would be 17,500 United miles. Or Singapore miles are the best way to fly Singapore Suites.
Check out my post 40 Best Uses of Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. I consider these to be 40 great redemptions with all of the Chase partners.
Still, these are exceptions. As I’ll discuss Avios routes without fuel surcharges and with great prices are the exception, not the rule. I know I can always get great use out of United miles. With other programs, the 40 things listed are above average value.
For many of the programs, finding great prices, avoiding fuel surcharges, and even booking, can be ordeals. With United, it’s straight forward and, I’ll argue, still will be a better value.
Another exception would be someone who has 1 billion airline miles and zero hotel points. Those people exist but are definitely not the norm. Most people get way more value out of miles than hotel points.
Economy Prices Are Still Great
During the devaluation economy awards were barely touched, and when they were it wasn’t a big deal. In many areas United miles are actually the best prices, and some are exceptionally great. In my recent post on getting to Latin America with two tickets, United still stands out as an amazing value. 10,000 miles for Mexico to Peru. 35,000 miles to Fiji or Japan. So many great values.
Fuel surcharges being avoided is amazing for all classes
This applies to all classes of booking, but now that I think about it, it could possibly be even better for business and first class. Especially considering fuel surcharges as it can be $600 on a simple roundtrip to Europe! $600 more, and that’s just for economy!
What’s crazier is that there are a number of examples where fuel surcharges using miles go up for business and first. I’ve seen fuel surcharges over $1,000. That’s crazy.
So let’s just say that you find a ticket that is actually cheaper with a different transfer partner. The next question is whether or not it has fuel surcharges being passed on? Is saving a few thousand miles really worth paying $1,000?
Paying fuel surcharges ever is crazy. They are always optional given that you could just use United miles. Of course, a lot of people don’t understand this stuff, but that’s why I’m here and have the Master Chart of Avoiding Fuel Surcharges.
Business and First Prices aren’t that bad
First thing you need to understand is that AA and Alaska are not transfer partners of Chase. So yes, United is higher than the best two programs out there, but that isn’t relevant here. If you have Chase points, who’s the best for Business and First Class tickets?
Another thing to understand is that United has two award charts for using United miles. One for using United miles on United flights, and another for redemptions on Star Alliance partner flights. The partner flights are often a bit more expensive. Neither award chart is as good as AA’s award chart, but it’s still good.
Going to Europe, United airlines might be the best business class option for availability and price.
Even using partners to Europe, who else are you going to use?
Korean? Well, I’ll give you that Korean is actually cheaper by a bit, although it’s a different alliance all together. But there are a number of reasons Korean is a terrible idea.
- There are horror stories of booking. You have to call the Korean office to book partners… which is bad on its own. Lots of people have said they had trouble booking the tickets at all.
- But you can only book for family members and it requires filling out a form and faxing proof of relationship!
- SkyTeam is tough for most americans because Delta releases so little saver space. For example, when looking for tickets to Tahiti, I could find Air France flights from LAX to Tahiti but I couldn’t get Delta tickets to LAX.
- They still pass on fuel surcharges.
- Delta and KLM don’t even have first class.
And not all of their prices are cheaper. Is it really worth the hassle? For Europe, it could save a ton of miles on a First Class ticket (if you can find a seat or an airline that actually has first class). So yes, I would say that is a possibility. You’ll still end up paying more.
But to most of the rest of the world, the fuel surcharges would go up and the savings go down.
Singapore? I agree there are a number of redemptions with Singapore Miles that are great. Domestic flights, flights to Hawaii, and for flying in Singapore Suites.
But seriously, those are of the few exceptions. In general you’re not going to save any miles, and you’ll gain fuel surcharges.
British Airways? I can’t entertain the idea that Avios will save points on a long haul for very long. It’s often such a terrible idea often costing significantly more than United miles. And the best availability to all of Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Asia is British Airways which has $600 fuel surcharges in economy and more for Business and First.
The best uses are generally with short direct economy flights. In terms of business and first, no one thinks of British Airways first.
More reading on Best Avios uses:
Prices aren’t getting lower
All that to say, people generally complain that United isn’t a great Business/First class option anymore… but what are your other options? The other Chase options aren’t exactly great for first class.
AA and Alaska have better prices, but who cares? And I hate to address the elephant in the room, but those airlines haven’t devalued their miles in a long time. They are exceptions because of that. And when they do, what do you think their first class prices will look like? And ultimately it doesn’t matter what AA’s redemptions are when we’re talking about Chase transfer options.
Stopovers (and getting even better prices with them)
One advantage of United is stopovers. It’s hard to sell this as a major point when most people don’t understand the full potential of it. But I’ve written plenty about United Stopover Secrets.
Even the basic point that United allows 1 stopover and 2 open-jaws on a roundtrip is ahead of the curve. Plus, they are bookable online, which makes my life easier (I hate calling). Check out United Miles Routing Rules.
This increases the value of miles and could potentially allow you to book First Class tickets that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to piece together, or wouldn’t be allowed to route with another airline. Also, it allows you to see more places and book less tickets to do so.
Then there’s the old trick where you book a stopover in a place that has the lower price. You don’t need to compare tickets to Africa with another airlines prices, you can make it price out as a Japan ticket. 😉 Click here to read United’s stopover secrets.
Better than ALL the other options
We’ve only been comparing Chase transfer options for flights. But the value of hotels is incredibly low.
Take a Hyatt stay. 14,000 Chase/Hyatt points would get you a category 4 Hyatt, like the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur. I would put that hotel on the higher end of cat 4 values. Yet the hotel often goes for $150. But 14,000 Chase points via their booking portal is actually worth nearly $170 in the booking portal.
This means that you would actually save points by not transferring to Hyatt. Plus you would earn elite night credit and points.
Marriott and IHG are worse. A top tier IHG hotel is 50,000 points, like the InterContinental Hong Kong. But the IC Hong Kong often is only $250 a night and 50k points is worth $600 of hotel bookings on Chase! You would almost always be losing points by booking your stay this way!
Top Marriott Points redemptions can run you 70,000 points ($840 of Chase bookings), which would be a terrible use of Chase points. But this is often true for even low redemptions, like I saw some cheap hotels coming up in my path available for 15,000 points. That’s $180 in Chase hotel bookings. So I would be losing points on nearly every end.
“Drew, but what about the Park Hyatt Sydney or the Park Hyatt Maldives”
Yes, out of the thousands of hotels possibly booked, there are a few hotels that are better booked with points, and the Maldives is no doubt one of them. These are very rare exceptions.
But in cases like the Park Hyatt Tokyo which are probably close to equal… you don’t have to book a Hyatt, you could book the InterContinental. You could use other points.
Either way, there are few examples where the value of a hotel redemption is obvious, and nearly all flights are obvious redemptions. Even 80,000 points to Bali is way cheaper than the often $1,500+ ticket. And that’s before the stopover or price tricking. And that’s an example that many would say isn’t a strength of United miles.
If I have to transfer my points before canceling a card or something, I would advise nearly anyone to go with United. Unless you have a very specific redemption in mind, United miles are way better.
Often newbies read my posts and get worried about getting the best value out of every mile. Believe me when I say that you’re likely not doing it wrong. If you’ve transferred from Chase UR points to United miles, you’re doing better than booking a flight through the portal.
If you’re using United miles at all you’re probably getting a decent value and there are few Chase alternatives to save miles, and it likely wounldn’t be much. Those savings are rare. So you can rest in confidence.
If you’re interested how to book a stopover with United miles, it’s actually pretty easy to do online. Just go to “multiple destinations.”
But don’t obsess over that either; you’ll earn more miles in the future, don’t worry. The important thing is to see the places you want to see.
Back to my point. It is rarer and rarer that I transfer to anything but United. Yes, there are other good options, but even among those options – like a few British Airways Avios routes – those other options have other ways of earning points. There are other cards that earn Singapore miles, and other cards that earn British Airways Avios. But Chase is the only way to earn United miles. And if you don’t see the value, then you might not know all the stopover tricks.