The best use of ultimate reward points, is subject, and I’m going to do my best here to not be extremely bias and just say “transfer to United.” Although I think that is the best option for most people, I want to lay out all the transfer options, their values and explain how to transfer points and some other tricks you may not know already.
Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable points to earn because of their ability to transfer at a 1:1 ratio to valuable miles and points partners. For example, UR Points are the best way to earn United and Hyatt points, both of which have great redemptions.
Not all cards transfer to frequent flyer miles
However, not all cards have the ability to transfer to miles and points. Yes, they advertise that you can redeem for travel via their shopping portal. But it’s a terrible value! I can’t believe that some of the bloggers promote the card with advertising $500 towards travel. (Hear more of my thoughts on that next week).
It is much better to find a transfer partner that may fit your needs. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold (and Plus) are the only cards that allow transfers to travel partners. Yes, you can still earn points with the Freedom, the regular Sapphire, or Slate card but you can’t transfer them without the the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold.
Combining points is really easy though. If you have the Freedom card and want to earn points with that card (because of its 5x on rotating categories), and transfer points out with the Chase Sapphire Preferred… it’s easy.
1) Log into your Chase account.
2) Click “Go To Ultimate Rewards” for the card you want to transfer points from.
3) Click Combine Points (under Manage Ultimate Rewards) and transfer to your Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold.
Once the points are in the account of the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold, you can then click “Transfer Points to Travel Partners” (under Use Points). Once you login, you’ll see how simple it is.
Ultimate Rewards has 10 transfer partners:
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Korean Air
- Ritz Carlton
- InterContinental Hotel Group
Well, Marriott and Ritz Carlton are kind of the same thing so it’s really 9 transfer options. Many of the these transfers are prime.
United is my favorite mileage program to redeem miles for, as I’ve said many times before (here, here, and here… and elsewhere I’m sure). But with good reason. Easy online booking, no fuel surcharges, stopovers and great award chart prices. United is part of Star Alliance, the biggest alliance, and you can use United Miles to book on any of their 28 airlines.
While I tend to use British Airways Avios on really valuable flights for low miles (for example, Boston to Dublin is 12,500 Avios), I haven’t transferred from Ultimate Rewards to Avios. Partly because they are easy to come by as well. They transfer from other programs like Amex Membership rewards, where it’s actually one of the better options.
They are also one of the more complicated programs. It’s not as easy as United. 1) They pass on fuel surcharges on some airlines. 2) They don’t show all partner flights on their award search engine. And 3) They price by segment and by distance. This leads to some funny things, like making routes way cheaper by adding stopovers. For examples Los Angeles to Sydney is 50,000 Avios in economy. But a stopover in Hawaii makes the same flight 37,500 Avios.
Read the Best Use of British Airways Avios to learn about the airline’s tools to make Avios simpler. Also note that British Airways is part of the OneWorld Alliance and you can redeem on any of the OneWorld airlines (AA, Cathay, Air Berlin) as well as codeshares like Aer Lingus.
Southwest Points actually have a fixed value since they just take the price of revenue tickets and multiply by 60 to get the price in points. So it’s at a fixed value of 1.67 cents per point. But if you get the companion pass by getting 110,000 points (via both the 50k personal and business card), one person gets to fly with you for free every time you fly. This doubles the value of each point and makes this a decent transfer option for two people on a domestic flight.
Southwest is part of no alliance and is only good for domestic flights. However, recently they bought AirTran and are now integrating flights to many caribbean destinations. See their route map here.
Hyatt has some of the best top-end redemptions, period. 22,000 points is the most you’d spend on a Hyatt, including many great Park Hyatt hotels all over the world. Many worth over $1,000 a night (like the Park Hyatt Paris, Sydney, Maldives, etc…). Compare this to top hotels costing 70,000 points with Marriott; 95,000 with Hilton; 50,000 with InterContinental. And even Starwood has many of their properties with restrictions or higher prices. But not Hyatt. It’s straight forward – category 1 hotels are 5,000 points, category 6 hotels are 22,000 points and everything else is in between.
InterContinental Hotel Group
Despite our pretty much living in InterContinental Hotels this month, I have never transferred Ultimate Rewards Points to IHG Rewards. I think the points are just too easy to come by and too cheap, while United miles are much harder to obtain, go quicker and are more expensive.
That being said, there are some great uses of IHG Rewards Points. Read the Best Use of IHG Rewards Points to get the low down. But my favorite redemption is PointBreaks, a sale that comes every two months, for the next two months, giving free nights for 5,000 points. 5,000 points is nothing. I’m staying at two InterContinental hotels (IC Athens & IC Bucharest) this month for 5,000 points. Generally these hotels are worth at least $100 a night. At least a 2 cents per dollar kind of value. Which is not bad.
Make sure to read the Best Use of IHG Rewards Points.
Marriott & Ritz Carlton
Quite frankly, I love Marriott, but would never transfer points to them simply because the value per point is going to be so much lower than transferring to say… United. There are just other options for hotels and I can’t justify the transfer. That being said, there are some great redemptions for Marriott. Particularly JW Marriott hotels are nice and you have the ability to do a Marriott Platinum Challenge, where you get Platinum status for 90 days. Read the Best Use of Marriott Rewards Points if you’d like to learn more.
Korean Air & Virgin Altantic
I’m going to be straight forward and say I’m not an expert on these airlines. But here’s what I do know…
Korean Air is part of SkyTeam and should get you anywhere you need to go. Their award chart (it’s in roundtrip prices) looks pretty good. Roundtrip to Hawaii for 35,000.
Virgin also seems to have some decent-priced flights with heavy fuel surcharges. It’s distance based as well, sort of. A one-way from Los Angeles to London is 21,250 miles and a oneway from New York to London is 17,000 miles. However, you are going to pay over $400 on that oneway. Not worth it in my opinion.
*Update* Apparently I know nothing about Virgin. I was going off the pricing calculator but someone just stated that the fees are much lower. Like $100, which is a lot lower… I should look into this.
I personally don’t love trains enough to spend more points to spend more time in transport… but hey, you can avoid the full body scanners.
How to transfer to partners
Again, it’s super easy. You just log into Ultimate Rewards and…
1) Click “Transfer Points to Travel Partners”
2) Click the partner you want to transfer to
3) Do it! Just type in your info and transfer. You need an account to transfer to but that’s free and easy as well, if you don’t already have a frequent flyer account.
It’s pretty simple to me as I’m about free travel/more travel and less about luxury (it’s just a byproduct of this game). So I’d rather transfer points to airlines as flights are way more expensive than hotels. Sure, I could get great value at the Park Hyatt, but I’m not saving myself that money. Value can be deceptive. The truth of the matter is that transferring to miles not only gives more value (at least for me) but it saves more money.
Plus there are a number of other ways to get free nights at hotels.