In this guide, I will show you how to use Chase travel partners to get the best value for your reward points. Travel hacking offers many programs you can use. Ranging from bank programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards to specific travel programs, such as American Airline’s AAdvantage Program. Many people will use these programs for one of two things. Either using their points to get cash back at a value of 1 cent per point, or to book travel directly. For Chase, booking through the Ultimate Reward portal gives a maximum value of 1.5 cents per point when you have the Sapphire Reserve. Travel hackers know that this isn’t the best value. Instead, utilizing transfer partners will allow you to get greater value than you often can through the portals.
How to Utilize Chase Points
Booking Travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Portal
Chase’s Ultimate Reward Portal can be used to search for awards. Although you will generally find a better value through Chase travel partners, you should start here. Don’t assume you will get a better value. It requires the knowledge of what travel partners you are using ahead of time, however. So once you have an idea of what Chase travel partner you will book, compare the points to book through the partner versus the travel portal.
For example, the Grand Hyatt Kauai is a Hyatt Tier 6 Property – meaning it costs 25,000 Hyatt Points per night. On Chase’s website, it costs 31,161 points per night (for a random date in February 2017).
Ultimate Rewards transfer to Chase travel partners at a 1:1 ratio. Through Chase’s portal you will spend approximately 6,000 more points than if you transfer them to Hyatt, but this isn’t always the case. Check before you transfer to a travel partner, because you cannot transfer them back to Chase! If it is cheaper on Chase than through a transfer partner, then click book to proceed with the booking process.
Often, transferring to a travel partner will get you a better redemption. In the example above, if you booked on Chase you would spend 6,000 points, or $60 worth of points more per night. While it may seem insignificant, for a 5 night trip that is 30,000 points lost. The same amount of points it costs to book your flights. Without utilizing a travel partner, you would lose a free flight to Hawaii.
To transfer to travel partners, first set up an account with the partner reward program. Chase has various travel partners including United Airlines, Hyatt, Southwest, and many more. Go to their respective websites to set up your account. You will need your account number for Chase to transfer the points.
Under the “Use Points” menu, click “transfer to travel partners.” This will take you to a screen where you can see the various travel partners that Chase has. Select the program you would like to transfer to and enter the relevant information from the account you set up with the partner. You will then be able to enter the amount of points you want to transfer, and confirm the transfer. It is nearly instantaneous for most partners, but there may be some delay.
IMPORTANT: Before transferring, especially for airline partners, be sure there is availability that you want first! My next step covers how to check for availability, so always do that first. You don’t want to transfer your points only to realize you can’t use them!
Sometimes, you may have specific airlines you want to fly but they don’t partner with the banking program you have. If you are based in Dallas, you may have status with American and wish to fly with them. For those in Atlanta, you may enjoy Delta only to see neither program is a travel partner with Chase directly! This is where airline alliances come in.
An airline alliance is a group of airlines that are considered “code-sharing” partners. What this means is that all airlines in the alliance can see seat availability on the other airlines for cash ticketing. So if you wanted to fly to Doha on Qatar Airways, you could book through their alliance partner – American. This is the reason you can get a flight on a different airline if yours is cancelled. The airline you were on will simply book with an alliance partner.
There are three major airline alliances: OneWorld, Star Alliance, and Skyteam. Star Alliance is the biggest, and the major US carrier is a travel partner with Chase – United! But Star Alliance has more than just United – Star Alliance has 28 airlines.
How does this affect you as a travel hacker? Chase has at least one travel partner in each alliance. At initial glance, it looks like with Chase you can only transfer to certain airlines. But thanks to alliances, transferring to one partner program will allow you to book flights throughout the alliance. A transfer to United will allow you to book flights on Air New Zealand. Transferring to FlyingBlue (the awards program of AirFrance and KLM) will let you book flights on Delta. And transferring to British Airways Avios would allow you to book flights on American Airlines. So what may at first look like a very limited list of travel partners through Chase actually opens the opportunity to book a flight with almost every major airline!
The biggest catch is that not all award flights are available to partners. American may have 10 award seats available through their AAdvantage program, but only allow 4 of those seats to be booked by alliance members. Just because you see United award availability on United’s website doesn’t mean they will allow partners to see that same availability. Step 3 will cover how to find this availability before you book.
Alaskan airlines is one of the biggest non-alliance members. Alaskan does, however, have many of its own travel partners across the various alliances. This list includes AirFrance, American Airlines, and other travel partners. This makes award seats on Alaskan airlines available across many different alliances.
Putting it all Together – Airline Award Charts
Airline award charts are the key to maximizing value with a travel partner. Some of them have loopholes that provide a cheaper redemption than others. Most airlines have a region-based chart. They break the globe into different regions, and it is a fixed amount of points to fly from one region to the other. Comparatively, other programs have a distance based chart. British Airways’ Avios program is one of these. Instead of depending on your departure and arrival city, it depends on how far you fly.
The loophole we will use to book 2 tickets to Hawaii, from anywhere in the US depends on a region-based chart. FlyingBlue requires only 15,000 miles for a one-way ticket to the Caribbean from anywhere in the US. (FlyingBlue groups Hawaii as part of the Caribbean region.) Also, Flyingblue is both a direct transfer partner of Chase and a member of Skyteam. Meaning you can use Chase points to book on alliance partners like Delta. AirFrance, a member of flyingblue, is an Alaskan partner. This means you can book on Alaskan as well with your FlyingBlue miles.
After finding your flight availability, you just transfer your Chase points to the travel partner FlyingBlue and use FlyingBlue to book your flights on Delta or Alaskan.
Understanding that alliances allow you to book on travel partners is key to getting you where you need. In Step 3, we will use this information to help find flights to Hawaii on Delta and Alaskan airlines. Additionally, you’ll learn what information you should have available and what numbers to call to guarantee availability before you book.
And remember, do NOT transfer until you are ready to book and know you have flight availability. Once you transfer the points out, you will not be able to get them back!