a seat in an airplane
ANA business class. Yes, it looks like First Class, and feels like it too...

Since Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the most popular transferable points programs out there, with some incredible ways to turn points into smiles, let’s waste no time and get get right to it. Yes, when points unlock luxury travel you could only dream of, without the price tag – it’s time to smile.

Before we dive into some of these fun ways to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points, we want to remind beginners that Chase is the place you want to start when it comes to credit card points, if you’re applying for new cards.

That’s because Chase will only approve you for new cards with great welcome bonuses if you’ve taken up fewer than 5 new cards in the last 24 months.

If you’re considering a new Chase card to help boost your Ultimate Rewards balance, you have some great personal and business card options. With Chase upgrading its Ultimate Rewards platform in 2021, it could be an extra exciting year. Let’s dive in!

Pay Yourself Back: Higher Values Than Usual

There’s a bunch of awesome ways to get immense value for your points in this article, but if you want one that gets better than average value, and helps lower any bills you might have, this is one worth paying attention to.

Until the end of September, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve card holders can use their points at higher than usual values, to “pay yourself back” with points, for purchases in categories of dining, home improvement and more.

In other words, if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and buy a $150 dinner, you can use 10,000 points after the fact, to “erase” that purchase, and reduce your card statement. There are ways to extract more value per point, but if you’re not traveling, this is a great one!

Air New Zealand Business Class Via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

air nz business premier new seats

There’s no getting around the fact that flying to New Zealand is going to take a while, but perhaps surprisingly to some in the USA, it’s actually close than Australia. If you want to save time, and money, finding  award space on Air New Zealand out of Los Angeles, Houston, or Chicago, is your golden ticket.

Booking it with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles is the icing in top.

If you can find business class “saver” award space on Air New Zealand, 62,500 Virgin Altantic Flying Club miles (one-way) is enough to get it done, with no carrier-imposed surcharges, either. Here’s a guide to searching for seats.

New Zealand is currently closed to outsiders, but for trips far afield, well into next year, you may find better than usual availability to book these seats with points, due to the uncertainty.

New Zealand is an absolutely gorgeous place to visit and you’ll feel much better on arrival if you’re able to lay flat during that 12 to 16-hour journey. When points are an option, it’s a no brainer.

Whatever time of year you visit, it’s going to be beautiful, especially Queenstown. There’s a reason it’s so popular and it just can’t be recommend enough. You might even find yourself chowing down on a heavenly burger at the one and only Fergburger. If you know, you know.

SAS Business Class

United MileagePlus Excursionist Perk

If you’re booking a round-trip ticket using points with United miles, you might as well get as much out of it as you can. That’s where the Excursionist Perk comes into play which is basically United’s stopover option, with some oddly complicated red tape.

The Excursionist Perk allows you to include a free one-way flight within a single region when you book a round-trip ticket using points. The easiest way to get a handle on this is to just look at an example. We’ll look at an option that includes both a free one-way ticket and an open jaw on the actual ticket you pay for with miles.

Let’s say you want to take a couple (maybe a few?) weeks to visit Europe.

You could fly Austrian Airlines non-stop from Washington Dulles to Vienna. After a few days exploring, you could take a train to Salzburg — it’s a beautiful ride — to see the birthplace of Mozart. From there you could take a train to Munich, perhaps for Oktoberfest.

Your “open jaw” is your travel between Vienna and Munich, which effectively means that the place you fly to, isn’t the place you fly back from.

Once in Munich, you could fly to Copenhagen on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) or Lufthansa in intra-European business class which would be your free one-way flight. After Copenhagen, you could complete your round-trip by flying back to Washington Dulles in business class on SAS, with the return bit of your original ticket.

So… ticket A = Washington to Vienna, Copenhagen back to Washington.

And ticket B – aka your excursionist perk – is your free ride from Munich to Copenhagen.

All-in, this would cost 140,000 United miles plus taxes/fees for the flights and maybe $50-100 for the two train tickets to see four great European cities. Having lie-flat seats and lounge access throughout the trip doesn’t hurt either.

Luxury Hotel Stays Via World Of Hyatt

Park Hyatt Sydney

The Chase x Hyatt partnership is one of the biggest reasons the Ultimate Rewards program is so valuable. While you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton and others, transferring Chase points to Hyatt almost always gets you much better value for your points thanks to reasonable redemption rates.

It’s exactly why Chase Points are the best to earn, for luxury hotel stays.

When you pair the Hyatt points redemption rates with some amazing luxury properties, it’s a potent combo that could help you book the trip of a lifetime.

Top hotels in the Hyatt program typically tap out around 25,000 to 30,000 points per night, compared to over 100,000 for most other hotel loyalty programs. In short, that’s a fantastic way to book a stay at a hotel that regularly charges over $900 per night, since Chase Ultimate Rewards Points transfer to World of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.

The Chase World Of Hyatt Card only helps to sweeten the deal.

With Hyatt’s pick up of Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) properties, the destinations where you can find extraordinary stays keeps growing, including places like the Maldives, Bali, and wellness retreats in the USA.

Iberia Business Class Via Iberia Avios

While many people probably think about using British Airways Avios, you shouldn’t sleep on Iberia Avios. Specifically, Iberia provides a great business class sweet spot between Boston, Chicago, or New York and Madrid.

You can book a one-way business class ticket from US cities to Madrid for only 34,000 Avios — round-trip for 68,000 Avios. The total taxes/fees on these points bookings will be more than reasonable, at about $210 for a round-trip booking.

If you’re flying to/from New York, you could even find your way onto one of Iberia’s nice new Airbus A350s. Can’t go wrong with that!

Singapore Suites Class Via KrisFlyer

a bed and chair in a plane

The original double bed in the sky, Singapore Suites has long been a favorite of those looking for a luxury flight experience. Of course, the massive pre-order options via their Book The Cook service doesn’t hurt, nor does the option to enjoy both Dom Perignon and Krug champagne.

From start to finish, Singapore Airlines just does things right.

To try Suites Class on the A380 to/from the USA, you’ll need to find your way to New York (JFK), or if business class is cool for you, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and more come into play. You can also book Suites on flights within Asia, or other exciting parts of the world, as a broader trip.

Hot tip: Singapore isn’t currently flying its A380’s, but as the country opens travel bubbles, they may start to reappear. Most flights involve the A350, where business class is the highest cabin, but it’s lovely!

First Class Suites are not the cheapest redemption in the world, at 132,000 KrisFlyer miles one-way to Singapore — but it’s worth it — and you won’t get hit with airline imposed surcharges, which can add big cash costs to your points ticket.

Think, like $20 bucks.

Often, award space is better flying to New York, rather than from, so it might make sense to work in this experience on your return from Singapore, or via other cities. Whatever direction ends up working for you, you’ll be super impressed with this luxury experience, at every turn.

Intra-Region Flights Via British Airways Avios

qatar qsuites business class bed

Changing direction a bit, sometimes you just need a quick flight within Asia, Australia, Europe, or South America. That’s where British Airways Avios can really shine with its distance-based award chart.

In Asia, Cathay Pacific provides a ton of non-stop routes at reasonable rates including 20,000 Avios to/from Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore. Not too bad for a 3-4 hour flight. If you’d prefer to save some points, you can book economy for only 10,000 Avios.

If you find yourself in Australia, the short hops between Sydney and Brisbane or Melbourne on Qantas can be booked for as little as 4,500 Avios one-way. Obviously, it might be a while before we’re allowed back in Australia or New Zealand again.

If you want to try Qantas true business class — lie-flats and everything, you can even find award space on an A330 between Sydney and Melbourne for only 9,000 Avios. It’s a short flight, but a fun one.

The route that’s really fascinating is Qatar Airways’ fifth-freedom route from São Paulo, Brazil to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points converted into British Airways Avios, you can book this ultra luxe 3-hour flight for 7,500 Avios one-way in economy class or 15,000 Avios for business class.

Oh, and this flight has Qsuite. Talk about fun on a fun 3- hour fifth-freedom flight!

The important thing to remember is that surcharges are rough flying from Buenos Aires, so you’ll want to fly from São Paulo to keep the cash cost down.

Not to be left out, off-peaktravel in Europe can be had for as little as 4,000 Avios when you fly Aer Lingus, British Airways, or Iberia. Now, that’s tough to beat!

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass


If you’ve earned the Southwest Companion Pass through one of the Chase co-branded Southwest credit cards or through lots of work travel, you have access to one of the best travel perks out there.

The ability to book 2-for-1 award and cash tickets, you can travel all over the U.S. or two Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean at amazing rates. While you might have already earned Southwest Rapid Rewards points from the Southwest cards or your travel, Ultimate Rewards are a great way to supplement your balance.

Just think about that, you only need enough Rapid Rewards points for one person to get two tickets. All you have to do is take care of the taxes/fees for each passenger which are more than reasonable.

ANA First Class Or Business Class Via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Transfers

Like Singapore Suites Class, this also made the top 10 list for using American Express Membership Rewards points. But, seriously, how could we not include it on our Chase list?

a row of seats with screens on the side

The ability to book a round-trip ANA first class award for 110,000 Flying Club miles from the west coast and 120,000 miles from the east coast/central U.S. is just too good to pass up. You can start from Europe, or end in Europe as well.

Fun fact: these flights can now be booked one way, or as an open jaw.

Beyond the great points redemption rate, ANA first class truly is a fantastic experience, and you’d totally be excused for thinking you’re in first class with “The Room”, ANA’s stunning new business class. It’s under 100,000 points round trip, which makes for even better value!

If you’re going to visit the most Michelin-starred city in the world — you might as well fly there in style while sipping Krug champagne. Of course, you should also make sure to try the Hibiki 21-year-old Japanese whiskey on your flight that often retails for $500, if it’s on offer. This is not the time to order your whiskey and coke.

United MileagePlus Intra Japan Award

Short Star Alliance Flights Via United MileagePlus Points Transfers

Similar to the cheap short-haul awards you can get with British Airways Avios, United MileagePlus offers a cheap option for short-haul awards using points outside North America.

You can book non-stop flights of no more than 800 flight miles within Japan for only 5,000 miles. While United doesn’t pass on surcharges, you won’t even have to pay taxes/fees on some routes — the example in the image above requires exactly $0 out of pocket.

If you’re traveling within other regions outside the U.S., you can book non-stop economy flights (under 800 flight miles) for 8,000 United miles. These can really be useful if cash prices are steep when you need a flight.

Fare Deals With The Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Travel Portal Search

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and plan to book flights for domestic or international travel, you’d be wise to check the Chase Travel Portal rates before making any bookings.

With the Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents each in the travel booking portal. Here, you can pay cash, aka your card, but you can also use your points to cover some, or all of the cost of an airline ticket. A $1500 ticket would require 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders.

From time to time, when there’s a fantastic sale in any cabin. fare deals via the Chase Travel booking portal can be a better deal than transferring to an airline partner to book a reward flight.

This is a little less common when booking business class flights as awards usually require fewer points, but you might be surprised. Also, if you’re an expat booking a round-trip from Europe to the U.S, business class fares via the portal are often quite good.

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a go-to for booking fare deals because of the 1.5 cents per point in the portal, you can also get a solid 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred Card. While it’s not quite as good, you can still beat some of the points rates airlines charge.

Oh, and hot tip: even though you pay in points using the Chase Travel Portal, the airline thinks you paid cash, so you’ll actually earn miles and elite status credits, which is something you wouldn’t earn if you transferred points and booked through the airline.

Kauai, Hawaii

Fly To Hawaii From The West Coast Via British Airways Avios

Last but not least, a great way to book flights to Hawaii using points from the west coast. This one talked about as much, but it’s still a great way to book a trip to Hawaii.

With 12,500 British Airways Avios, you can book a non-stop one-way award ticket using points to Hawaii on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines with no surcharges — just the standard taxes/fees. That’s only 25,000 Avios for a round-trip to Hawaii.

These aren’t always easy to come by, but with covid-19, these seats are more available than ever. It’s just a matter of when Hawaii will drop Quarantine measures.

If you want to book a flight on American, your main options to fly to Honolulu are out of Los Angeles or Phoenix. However, Alaska Airlines operates flights from Anchorage, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle.

If you want to fly to Maui, American and Alaska operate non-stop flights from the same airports with one exception. Alaska offers non-stop service to Maui from Sacramento but not Anchorage.

How To Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Chase Ultimate Rewards are the go-to points for beginners because of the Chase 5/24 rule, which limits your chances of approval to nil, if you have more than five new cards within the last 24 months.

If you’re just starting out, you’ll have several options, but you need to remember that you need a card with an annual fee if you want to transfer points to airline partners.

This means you’ll need at least one of these cards:

Of course, having a second one without an annual fee, but with high earning rates, a la the Chase Freedom, is a fantastic combo. To help you earn more Chase points, you can use one of the Ultimate Rewards cards that don’t have an annual fee but have different bonus categories to help you earn points faster.

Final Thoughts

Like Amex Membership Rewards, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program has plenty of options to help you book business and first class awards and even some cheap short-hauls in economy class.

Whether you’re a points novice or a points pro, Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most versatile you can earn. With a little thought and the right combo of cards, you won’t have any trouble earning the points you need for your next trip.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Gib, I just saw a post that mentioned that a prominent travel blog had stopped allowing comments but didn’t mention which blog. Do you know which, and if so can you say? Another if so here, but any thoughts on why you might or might not follow suit.

    1. It’s a three letter word, and the tough guy who wrote that they’ve stopped didn’t name names because he gets his credit card affiliates off them 😂

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