Let’s talk about transferring Ultimate Rewards to airline partners for redeeming on domestic awards. This is part one in a series that will allow you to master redeeming awards within the United States, no matter what kind of points or miles you might have.
For those of you that have already read the first post in this series, you will notice repeat information at points in this post (as well as the rest of them to follow) because some of the airline partners overlap between transferrable points programs.
“How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions” Series Index
- How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions: ThankYou Points
- How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions: Ultimate Rewards (this post)
- How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions: Membership Rewards
- How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions: SPG Points
- How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions: Conclusions About Best Overall Miles for Domestic Awards (future post)
Chase Ultimate Rewards can transfer 1:1 to seven types of airline miles and four types of hotel points.
All the airline programs and Hyatt have value. (The other three hotel programs you should avoid.)
Below are some of the higher value redemption options on awards within the United States when transferring your Ultimate Rewards to one of their seven partner airline programs.
I love that British Airways Avios has a distance-based award chart. They also do not charge fuel surcharges on American Airlines nor Alaska Flights within the western hemisphere.
Here is the chart for award bookings of flights that touch the United States:
For perspective, American Airlines charges 7,500 American Airlines miles for direct flights of 500 miles or less, and United charges 10,000 United miles for flights of 700 miles or less. So you can see that the strength in British Airways chart lies in short distance redemptions.
I also love that for 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly roundtrip on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines planes from the West Coast to Hawaii. Here are the possible routes.
Both Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) and Delta are part of the Skyteam Alliance. It costs 30,000 Flying Blue miles + standard taxes/fees (no fuel surcharges) to fly roundtrip in Delta economy between the mainland United States and Hawaii. You can also book one way Flying Blue Awards for half the price of a roundtrip (in this case, 15,000 Flying Blue miles).
Delta charges 45,000 miles roundtrip between the mainland United States and Hawaii.
Stopovers are not allowed on one way Classic Flying Blue Awards. It is not clear how may stopovers you can have on a roundtrip, but definitely at least one. Travel is Free also reported that you have to call Flying Blue (1 800 375 8723) if you’d like to include stopovers as a part of your roundtrip award.
There is currently a glitch with Flying Blue’s award prices between the mainland United States and Kauai (LIH) specifically. While it should be priced at 15,000 Flying Blue miles, it’s actually priced at 12,500.
Read Flying Blue Glitch: 12,500 Miles to Kauai to learn more.
Korean miles can book a roundtrip in Delta economy from anywhere in the United States to any of the four major Hawaiian islands for 25,000 Korean miles. A roundtrip and one way is the same price, so only book roundtrips. Korean awards allow a stopover en route an open jaw at the destination though, so consideration that your consolation prize for having to book roundtrip.
A roundtrip between the United States and Hawaii in Delta One is 45,000 Korean miles, which is much cheaper than using Delta miles to fly their own premium cabin (80,000 Delta miles roundtrip).
Korean does not collect fuel surchrages on awards flying Delta, only the standard taxes apply.
To learn more about finding award space and booking this award, read my guide to booking Delta flights to Hawaii with Korean miles.
Southwest Airlines is the world’s biggest low-cost carrier. It is based in the United States with an extensive domestic network, so you can see how useful their reward points could be for domestic redemptions. Being a low-cost carrier however, there are no premium cabins, so if that is a requirement for you than look elsewhere.
Redeeming Southwest Rapid Rewards is a whole different (and most probably consider much easier) ballgame than redeeming region-based or distance-based miles. Rapid Reward prices are based on the cash price of the ticket. Most Southwest flights have less Wanna Get Away fares left within one to three weeks of departure, and the other types of fares require more points per dollar. So really the main key to scoring cheap Rapid Rewards is booking when flights are cheap, either during a fare sale or ahead of time.
Take a look at this flight between Maryland and Florida in November:
There are going to be many instances in which Rapid Rewards options will be cheaper than using any other type of mile for domestic redemptions, so if you have Ultimate Rewards you should always double check what the Rapid Reward price is to compare to your other options.
Another huge plus that can save you tons in the long run is that they do not charge checked baggage fees for up to two bags (50 lbs each). If you don’t have status or a co-branded credit card with any of the big American carriers, you’ll get slapped with baggage fees starting with the very first checked bag.
Here are United’s one way domestic award prices for flying…
United has market standard prices for domestic awards, although 10,000 miles for a one way economy flight of 700 miles or less could be useful considering American charges 12,500 for any non-direct domestic flights and those that fly more than 500 miles (in economy).
If you’re working with a stack of Ultimate Rewards, I would definitely check out a redemption with British Airways Avios or Southwest before looking straight at United.
Singapore Airlines and United are fellow members of Star Alliance. You can redeem Singapore Krisflyer miles between the continental United States and Hawaii on United flights for 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles in First with no fuel surcharges. United charges 22,500 and 40,000 miles respectively for the same flights! (Get the flat bed in first!)
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have flights within the United States, but they are partners with Delta.
For 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles you can fly Delta One roundtrip within the United States, which is 5,000 miles less than what Delta charges for it. It must be booked as a roundtrip however, as Virgin Atlantic partner redemptions will cost the roundtrip price even if you book a one way.
You can redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on Hawaiian or Delta flights to Hawaii from the mainland as well, but remember if you have ThankYou Points that you can find better deals redeeming Krisflyer or Flying Blue miles between Hawaii and the mainland.
How to Get Ultimate Rewards
The easiest way to get a lot of Ultimate Rewards is by signing up for the Ink Plus and the Sapphire Preferred.
The Ink Plus currently offers:
- 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
- 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
- 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
- 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
- $95 annual fee
You might qualify for a business card and not realize it, so don’t write off the possibility just because you don’t have your own booming startup.
The Sapphire Preferred currently offers:
- 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
- 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months
- 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants
- 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- $95 annual fee
As all of the cards that earn Ultimate Rewards are Chase products, before applying for either of these cards remember to consider the Chase 5/24 rule. In short, if you’ve opened any five credit cards in the last 24 months, an application for a new Chase card will be denied.
While Ultimate Rewards have a shorter list of airline transfer partners, it is a diverse list and that is what makes them valuable for domestic redemptions.
Distance-based miles like Avios and revenue-based points like Rapid Rewards really help to fill in the gaps for short distance awards, where using a major airline’s region-based miles (like United) would cost thousands more. You also have access to all the major American carrier’s award space: American and Alaska’s via British Airways Avios, United’s via Singapore/United miles, and Delta’s via Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic, and Korean miles.