Maximizing Ultimate Rewards: Wrap Up & Index

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This is the final post in a series about how to maximize value when transferring your Chase Ultimate Rewards to airline loyalty program partners. 

Maximizing Your Ultimate Rewards Series Index

Let’s talk about the highlights of what we’ve learned. Below I’ll include basic details of each Ultimate Rewards transfer partner and valuable ways to redeem their miles.

United MileagePlus

Mileage Plus’ biggest strengths are that economy and United metal Business Class awards are fairly priced and there is a good deal of award space compared to other programs. There are never any fuel surcharges on United awards, searching for award and booking is easy, and you should never have to pay a close-in booking fee.

You can book award flights on any of these airlines with United miles and not have to worry about fuel surcharges flying any of them.
You can book award flights on any of these airlines with United miles and not have to worry about fuel surcharges flying any of them.

And if you can build them into a bigger trip, United has a bunch of underpriced awards between international regions, like:

  • 10,000 miles between Central America and Northern South America in economy
  • 45,000 miles between Southern South America and Africa in Business Class
  • 30,000 miles between South Asia and Australia/New Zealand in Business Class
  • 40,000 miles between North Asia and Australia/New Zealand in Business Class
  • 30,000 miles between North Asia and Oceania in Business Class
  • 30,000 miles between Japan and Oceania in Business Class

Singapore Krisflyer

Here are the particularly good deals redeeming Singapore miles on Suites Class (with the 15% discount for booking online factored in):

  • New York-JFK to Frankfurt: 57,375 miles in Suites Class + $203
  • New York-JFK to Frankfurt to Singapore: 93,500 miles in Suites Class + $286
  • Singapore to Hong Kong: 31,875 miles in Suites Class + $30
  • Singapore to Mumbai: 42,500 miles in Suites Class + $160
  • Singapore to Beijing: 42,500 miles in Suites Class + $160
  • Mumbai to Beijing: 61,625 miles in Suites Class + $322
  • Hong Kong to Sydney: 63,750 miles in Suites Class + $188
Singapore Suites on an A380
Singapore Suites on an A380

If you want to lock in these prices, book now, as Singapore awards flying Singapore planes are increasing in price as of March 23 (Wednesday is the last day to book the prices listed above). Luckily the price of Singapore awards flying Star Alliance partners aren’t changing. Here are some deals we like:

  • Within the Continental United States, Alaska, and Canada: 20,000 miles in Business or First Class
  • Mainland to Hawaii: 17,500 miles in economy
  • Mainland to Hawaii: 30,000 miles in First Class
  • USA to South America: 50,000 miles in Business Class
  • USA to Europe: 27,500 miles in economy
  • USA to Middle East/North Africa: 57,500 miles in Business
  • USA to Middle East/North Africa: 75,000 miles in First
  • Hawaii to Central America: 17,500 miles in economy, 30,000 miles in Business
  • Hawaii to South America: 25,000 miles in economy, 40,000 miles in Business
  • Intra-South America: 20,000 miles in Business Class

Korean SkyPass

Korean Air has multiple award charts when redeeming its SkyPass miles. There is one award chart to fly Korean, one award chart to fly SkyTeam partners (click SkyTeam awards on left hand side toolbar), and award charts to fly Alaska, Hawaiian, Gol, and Emirates (click partner airlines bonus on the left hand side toolbar, and then click the appropriate logo).

Here are some deals I think are particularly good redeeming Korean miles on Korean flights, which typically have wide open award space and low fuel surcharges:

  • United States to China, Japan, Korea, Northeast Asia: 80,000 miles in First Class
  • Japan, Korea, or China to Southwest Asia or Maldives: 57,500 miles in First Class
  • Japan, Korea, or China to Southeast Asia: 45,000 miles in First Class

There are also plenty of good deals redeeming Korean miles on SkyTeam partners, although you should only book roundtrips since a one way is the same price as a roundtrip.

  • Mainland to Hawaii: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 45,000 miles roundtrip in First Class
  • Within USA, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Hawaii: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 45,000 miles roundtrip in First Class
  • North America to South America: 50,000 miles in economy
  • South America Hopper: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 40,000 in Business
  • China Hopper: 20,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 25,000 in Business
  • Indonesia Hopper: 20,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 25,000 in Business
  • Middle East Hopper: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 40,000 in Business
  • Europe Hopper: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy

If you’re stacked with Ultimate Rewards, you can also use 210k Korean miles to fly Etihad First Class between the United States and the UAE roundtrip, which is likely the best price to fly the famously luxurious product.

British Airways Avios

There are two major components of British Airways Avios to note. A) they are distance-based miles, and B) British Airways collects fuel surcharges on Avios awards when flying a partner airline that charges them. That means short, direct, economy flights on the airlines below will usually be the best circumstances in which to redeem Avios.

  • American Airlines flights within the USA, Mexico, Canada, Caribbean, Central, and South America.
  • Alaska Airlines flights
  • All LATAM international flights
  • Some LATAM domestic flights
  • Aer Lingus and airberlin flights
  • British Airways flights within Europe
  • Qantas domestic flights
  • S7 flights

Flying Blue

Flying Blue is the loyalty program of Air France and KLM, as well as a handful of other airlines:

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 1.06.34 PM

Here are some sweetspots redeeming Flying Blue miles.

  • 30,000 Flying Blue miles + $5.60 in taxes/fees- Mainland US to Hawaii roundtrip in Delta Economy
  • 25,000 Flying Blue miles + $122.81 in taxes/fees- US to Mexico roundtrip in Delta Economy
  • 50,000 Flying Blue miles – US to Israel roundtrip in Economy, with taxes/fees as low as $122.13 depending on what carrier you fly
  • 50,000 Flying Blue miles – US to North Africa roundtrip in Economy, with taxes/fees as low as $123.48 depending on what carrier you fly

Every month, Flying Blue also releases a new list of Promo Awards, which allow travel from specified cities in the USA to anywhere in Europe, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, or Algeria from 25% to 50% off the normal miles price.

Virgin Atlantic

Here are some Virgin Atlantic deals flying Virgin Atlantic I particularly like (out of pocket expense includes fuel surcharges as well as taxes):

  • Economy from Boston, Newark, New York JFK, Washington DC to London: 10,000 miles + $148.60
  • Economy from Atlanta, Detroit, Miami, Orlando to London: 12,500 + $148.60
  • Economy from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle to London: 15,000 + $148.60
  • Premium Economy from Boston, Newark, New York JFK, Washington DC to London: 17,500 + $148.60
  • Premium Economy from Atlanta, Detroit, Miami, Orlando to London: 22,500 + $148.60
  • Premium Economy from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle to London: 27,500 miles + $148.60
  • Economy Class from Hong Kong to London: 25,000 miles + $42.52
  • Upper Class from Shanghai to London: 57,500 miles + $276.33

Here are some sweetspots on partner redemption charts:

  • USA to Southern South America (Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro) roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 45,000 miles + taxes
  • USA to Southern South America (Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro) roundtrip in Business Class on Delta: 90,000 miles + taxes
  • Los Angeles to Auckland roundtrip in Business Class on Air New Zealand: 125,000 miles + taxes
  • London to New York roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 40,000 miles + $186 in taxes

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Rapid Reward prices are based on the cash price of the ticket. Most Southwest flights have less Wanna Get Away fares (the cheapest fares) left within one to three weeks of departure, and the other types of fares require more points per dollar. So really the key to maximizing the points is booking when flights are cheap, either during a fare sale or ahead of time.

The other way to maximize Rapid Rewards is by earning a Companion Pass, which enables you to designate a companion who flies for just the taxes on every Southwest flight you fly. That’s just $5.60 each way within the United States and a bit more on Southwest’s international routes, on every Southwest flight–including paid tickets and awards–for the entire year you earn it in as well as the following year. To fully maximize the Companion Pass, plan on earning it in the beginning of a calendar year so you get it for the maximum amount of time possible. The easiest way to earn Rapid Rewards fast is by signing up for their credit cards. Read more about the Companion Pass and how to earn it in our Master Thread.

How Long Does it Take Ultimate Rewards to Transfer?

Since award space can be a scarce resource, it is important to note that not all transferrable points transfer to their partners instantaneously.

Read How Long Does it Take Ultimate Rewards to Transfer? for tips on how to put certain awards on hold in the instance that your points don’t transfer instantaneously.

Bottom Line

We value Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents each. They give you access to all three alliances:

  • oneworld via British Airways
  • Star Alliance via United and Singapore
  • SkyTeam via Flying Blue and Korean

They also open up the opportunity for domestic redemptions via Southwest Rapid Rewards, and cheap awards to Europe via Virgin Atlantic. To become an expert in redeeming Ultimate Rewards on airline partners, I recommend reading each linked post in the series index at the top of this article for in-depth details about each program.

It’s important to note that the primary way to earn Ultimate Rewards fast is through Chase credit cards. Once you’ve opened five credit cards from any bank in the last 24 months (with the exception of most business cards, as they don’t show up on your personal credit report), Chase will deny you for the majority of their cards. If you’re just getting started with miles and plan on opening a variety of cards, I highly recommend opening Chase cards before moving on to cards from other banks. The best type of mile to collect will depend on your travel goals of course, but the versatility of Ultimate Rewards makes them valuable to most travelers. Read about the top Chase offers in our Top Ten Travel Credit Cards List, updated bimonthly.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you very much for this information.
    It is wonderful to find all of the good methods for using Ultimate Rewards.
    I appreciate all of the time and effort to compile and write this and all of your other good posts.

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