As I mentioned last week, I’ve been getting a lot of questions on Chase Sapphire Reserve. Admittedly, many posts have been written on top uses of Ultimate Rewards points. However, most of them are geared toward high-income travelers or people without children. So, I wanted to put this listicle of some of the uses of UR currency which I consider the best deal for my very average middle-class family.
1) Simply redeem 100K points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
Chase Sapphire Reserve makes this option very compelling due to the fact that you’ll get 1.5 cents per point. For most normal folks, this will trump mileage transfers, especially if you plan on flying in economy.
Think about it. You can transfer 60K UR points to United program for one economy ticket to Europe. On top of it, you’ll pay $120 tax. Or, you can just redeem 60K UR points+$120 on a ticket that costs $1,020. No need to worry about availability, plus you’ll likely earn miles on your flight. Fares to Europe have been incredibly cheap as of late, so you might do better just using UR points.
It will, of course, depend on what time of the year you are flying and other circumstances. But all in all, it’s a fantastic option for economy flyers. Sure, unless you come across a mistake fare, mileage transfer for business class redemption will probably still be the way to go. For families like mine, UR portal will be the holy grail.
Remember, you’ll get 1.5 cents per point not only on flights, but on car rentals, hotels and cruises. The last one is very hard to travel “hack,” so in all likelihood, this is where I’ll spend my CSR windfall. I have wanted to take my mom on a short cruise to Bahamas, so CSR bonus might end up sponsoring us.
2) Transfer UR points for mileage redemptions to Alaska or Hawaii
This is an especially good deal for those who live on the east coast, since revenue tickets can be quite expensive. Some programs don’t charge close-in booking fees, so in all likelihood, you’ll do better utilizing miles as long as there is availability.
- Transfer UR points to Singapore KrisFlyer 1:1 for 25K miles roundtrip economy redemption to Alaska, 35K miles redemption to Hawaii. Transfer takes a day or two to go through. Flights are operated by United Airlines.
- Transfer UR points to Air France Flying Blue 1:1 for 25K miles roundtrip economy redemption to Alaska, 30K miles redemption to Hawaii. Transfer is instant and flights are operated by Delta.
- Transfer UR points to Korean Air SkyPass 1:1 for 25K miles roundtrip economy, 45K first-class redemption to Hawaii. Transfer is instant, but flights (operated by Delta) have to be booked as a roundtrip. This is one instance where I would not hesitate to use miles on first class because flights from Florida to Hawaii are a killer. The redemption process is cumbersome, so keep that in mind.
- Transfer UR points to British Airways Avios 1:1 in order to redeem them on distance-based flights from the west coast. Transfer in instant, but you’ll have to call and book Alaska Air flights over the phone. American Airlines-operated flights can be booked online.
3) Transfer UR points to Avios for economy redemption from Boston to Dublin (and other “outsized value” routes)
Obviously, this will be an especially sweet deal for those who live in or near Boston. Why? As of now, you can fly roundtrip in economy for only 25K Avios plus around $120 in tax. Of course, it pays to compare the price to Chase UR portal. But assuming your dates are fixed and revenue fares are high, transfer to Avios might be the way to go. BA program doesn’t charge any close-in booking fees, so that’s another plus.
You would have to call BA Avios customer center and check if there is award availability on this route. If the answer is yes, go ahead and transfer UR points to your Avios account (instant) and let the agent book your tickets. Make sure to ask him/her to waive booking fees.
There are many other “sweet spot” Avios redemptions, and you can read about them in this post
4) Transfer to Southwest Rapid Rewards for international flight redemptions
Why only international flights? Well, for the most part, you won’t get much more than 1.5 cents per Rapid Rewards point when it comes to domestic flights. That’s not always the case, of course, because Southwest now uses dynamic pricing. So, do your math and decide if the transfer will work favorably in your case. It might pay to call Chase and just redeem UR currency on revenue Southwest flights where you’ll earn points.
International flights will usually yield a better value. Not too long ago, I’ve redeemed Rapid Rewards points on a flight from Orlando to Aruba. By my calculation, I was able to get value of 1.7 cents per point. A nice perk of transferring UR currency to Rapid Rewards (instant, btw) is that you can do everything online, no need to call. Unfortunately, Southwest flights don’t show up in Chase UR portal, but you should be able to book them over the phone.
5) Transfer UR points to Hyatt and use them on Category 1 or 2 properties during holidays and high season
Those cost 5,000 and 8,000 points respectively and transfer on 1:1 basis from Chase UR program. Once again, you’ll need to do the math on this one. Those 5,000 UR points can get a $75 (all-in) hotel room, 8,000 points will get you a room that goes for $120 via Chase UR portal.
It can certainly be a good deal during special events and holidays. Otherwise, you might want to consider hanging on to your UR stash and using cheaply acquired IHG points or other hotel currency. See my post on best category 1 Hyatt redemptions for a family vacation in USA.
6) Transfer UR points to Hyatt and use them on resort properties during holidays and high season
Nancy who contributes to this blog has written about her recent fabulous stay at a Hyatt resort during July 4th holidays. Even though the property goes for 20,000 Hyatt points, transferring UR points during peak times can definitely yield a very nice ROI.
My family just came back from Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa where we vacationed over Labor Day weekend. What a wonderful place for kids! I thought I would like it, but I actually ended up loving it. Hopefully, I’ll have a detailed post on this property in a week or two, but just wanted to give you heads up.
For 15,000 Hyatt points per night this resort is underpriced when it comes to Spring Break season and holidays. In November they are planning to open a brand new waterpark with lazy river, so I have a feeling that this place will become a Category 5 (20,000 points) during next yearly adjustment.
If you are looking for an affordable luxury with a family-friendly vibe, this is it. Rooms go for $400 per night during spring months, so paying 15,000 UR points is a bargain. Have two annual renewal certificates from Chase Hyatt Visa Signature (in yours and your spouse’s names) and are not sure where to burn them? Consider staying at this property. Normally, I’m the opposite of a Hyatt cheerleader, so that should tell you something. Stay tuned for more!
Honorable (or dishonorable, depending on who you ask) mention:
Redeem UR points for cash
The title wasn’t lying! I think I might burn on the proverbial stake meant for travel hacking heretics after saying this.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
But hear me out. If you need cash, there is nothing wrong with redeeming UR points for real American dollars.
Those who frown on this option are usually in decent financial shape and make six figures each year. I don’t. That said, obviously, redeeming UR points for travel is usually the way to go. But only you know your own circumstances. If you’ve previously accumulated a lot of miles and hotel points and just need good ole’ cash to pay for out-of-pocket expenses, burn those UR points and don’t look back.
For those who are in a lower middle-class category, there is another compelling reason: Saver’s Credit. You can see details on it here For example, a married couple who had an AGI (adjusted gross income) of no more than $36,500 in 2015, would qualify for 50% credit on up to $2,000 contribution to an IRA. Check this IRS form or speak to your accountant for details. We actually qualify for 10% credit on retirement contributions, and I make sure to maximize it each year by investing in Vanguard IRA.
So, if you happen to be in this category and have absolutely no money to invest in an IRA, then by all means, redeem your UR points in order to get a 50% credit. Might as well, plus the money will grow interest over the years. When you have to pick between 1.5 cents toward travel and 1.5 cents toward IRA that will grow in value, the choice is easy.
There are many ways you can extract value from Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus. If you are not familiar with this offer and ways you can recoup the initial $450 fee, read my post here Keep in mind, $450 annual fee does NOT count toward minimum spending requirements, and your 3-month clock usually starts on the day of approval, though Chase will normally give you a few extra days as a courtesy. Personally, I would not take any chances with such a lucrative offer. In fact, I recommend you put at least $4,400 on the card just in case.
As a reminder, here are the details on this offer:
- Earn 100K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,500 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card
- 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,500 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide with complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership (apparently, guests in your party can enter for free). See participating lounges here
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre√
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions – as long as there’s a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
If you want to support the blog, Chase Sapphire Reserve does pay me commission if you apply through my site.
Readers, what other lucrative UR redemptions would you like to add to my list?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.