We all travel nowadays – may it be a weekend getaway or a long trip with family/friends – or for work. It has become such an integral part of our lives, we don’t give it much thought until we realize how much it is going to cost us. In such a world, flexible points you earn by just spending your money as you normally would, might just get you that free flight or hotel stay you’ve been eyeing at for quite sometime now.
What are points?
For the sake of this article, I will consider points earned using Chase Ultimate Rewards cards and American Express Membership Rewards cards.
Points are the number of units you earn per transaction. For example, if the American Express Gold card has a 4X multiplier on Restaurants and Dining, a bill of $100 paid using the card will earn you 400 MR points.
Points are just the numerical value of the units you are awarded each transaction. The worth of each point on the other hand is controlled by the Bank that awards you these points – Chase or AmEx.
You may redeem these points for a cashback rate fixed by the bank: 1 MR point = 0.6 cents (AmEx) or 1 UR point = 1 cent (Chase) – but mind you this is the worst form of redemption.
How can I redeem these points?
Apart from redeeming them for cashback – which is the worst form of redemption, you can use these points to book car rentals, hotels or flight tickets directly from the travel portal of the bank or transfer those points out at a fixed scale to “Transfer Partners”. These may include airline partners, hotel partners or events.
Chase Travel Partners
If you hold either of the Sapphire Cards (Preferred/Reserve), you get access to 12 unique travel partners to which you may transfer points.
For example, in 1000 point increments, you may transfer 10000 UR points to Southwest to effectively get 10000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
Once transferred, you may redeem your points on the Southwest portal. Do note, all transfers are FINAL and irreversible.
Which partners are the top picks here?
Personally speaking, except Iberia, JetBlue and Aer Lingus – due to them not operating in my region – I find immense value in all the partners. I recently transferred 10,000 UR points to the World of Hyatt to book a stay of three for two nights in downtown Houston. The same would’ve cost me $777 incl of taxes, hence I was able to get a redemption of 7.77 Cents per point (CPP).
This may not hold true for all transactions or partners, but this is an example I can share. Additionally, I can book round-trip business class tickets with United for 170,000 points to/back between Houston, Texas and New Delhi, India while the cash price is $3500. This redemption puts my point redemption at 2 CPP.
Sometimes, I may not be able to get a good rate (CPP) and that’s when having the Reserve or Preferred card UR portal comes into play. The Reserve gives me a 1.5x redemption on my points meaning I can buy a $90 airline ticket for 6000 UR points. (1.5 CPP).
I’ve been accumulating and using Chase points often for redemption and I can safely say I’ve gotten great redemption/value out of them.
Apply for the cards that earn UR points:
American Express Travel Partners
To use these transfer partners you need to hold either the Amex Green, Gold or Platinum card. I’d personally recommend getting the AMEX Gold Charge card (I cover it’s benefits here) to get at-least 52,000 MR points from the spends.
Personally, I feel like AmEx offers more and more relevant partners to sectors I see myself traveling more often. Points can be transferred to Emirates and BA to upgrade to business for cheaper than actually buying them as fuel surcharges and taxes are too high.
Aeroplan – the program for Air Canada is a great way to redeem points too especially given its a Star Alliance member (which includes the likes of United and Air India amongst others)
I’m going to take an example of point transfer to the Flying Blue program (which includes Air France). I screenshot the dollar price I’d have to pay for the non-stop economy flights between Houston and Paris in September which came to $1642.19.
Currently, AmEx is having a promotion on transfers made to Flying Blue at a 25% increment: 1000 MR points = 1250 Flying Blue miles.
Hence, to pay down the 58,000 Miles, I need to transfer 46,400 MR points and pay the additional taxes which are ~$200.
If I were to calculate further, I subtract $200 from $1642.19 = $1442.19 and divide this by the 46400 points to get a 3.1 CPP value.
Hence, for every MR point transferred to this Travel Partner gave me a 3.1 CPP – it won’t necessarily always be the same when redeemed for other transfer partners.
Occasionally I may not get as good a CPP rate so I could then use the AmexTravel Portal to get a fixed rate redemption as determined by AmEx.
My two cents
Both offer great value in terms of redemption of your points – it is very much dependent on when you travel. If you’re willing to pre-book your tickets/hotel stay you can get some amazing redemption values – it just requires some time and effort. Many airlines are part of various alliances such as One World, Star Alliance, KrisFlyer, etc… with some of them having fixed points redemption charts and others variable
Fixed charts are on the basis of miles traveled/tier of hotel and may be split up into levels or zones. Variable charts fluctuate on demand/supply of availability.
Personally, I like the redemption possibilities by AmEx due to larger transfer partners but the point pooling ability of Chase. My advice: transfer points to common transfer partners to maximize both portals. For example, Virgin-Atlantic flying club, BA, Marriot Bonvoy are common partners and you can point pool to get even higher redemption value.
Links to all related articles are attached via hyperlinks.