A friend recently asked me a question:
Does it matter if I buy the flight through the Chase website or transfer the points to, say, British Airways and book on their website?
The simple answer is: it does. With the Chase website and its Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, your points are essentially cash, which are, depending on your card, worth 1.25-1.50 cents/piece. If you transfer those same points to a transfer partner (i.e. United, British), you could do better or worse than “cashing in” your points. That calculus all depends on award availability. For example, with British Airways, you can book most domestic American Airlines first class tickets for 7,500 points plus a few bucks in fees each way. This is usually a great deal because a ticket like that will run you around $400. So, in effect, you’re getting around 5 cents a point. This is incredible if you think about the fact that you’re earning 3 points per dollar spent on most purchases with the Reserve card. That’s the equivalent of 15% cash back. #worthit.
The fun thing about points and the Chase cards is that you can play around with the frequent flyer programs for Chase’s transfer partners. To hop across the pond, I might find a terrible deal on Virgin Atlantic, but an absolutely fantastic deal on United. It all depends on which route I am taking and timing.
If you want to start enjoying the benefits of one of the few hobbies in the world that will allow you to travel the world, this post is for you. The best card for starting out is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Unfortunately, its 100,000 point sign up bonus was short lived—Chase lost millions on it. The sign up bonus is now 50,000 points (worth at least $625), if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. The points you earn with this card can be transferred 1:1 to loyalty programs at major airlines (United, Southwest, British, Korean, Virgin, etc.) and major hotel chains (Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, etc.). If you don’t have time to check award availability, each point is worth 1.5 cents if you purchase travel (flights, hotels, cars) through Chase’s travel portal.
The card has a high fee ($450), but it is worth it. You get a $300 travel credit, which can be used for just about any travel expense (it’s automatically credited to your account as soon as Chase notices an applicable expense), Global Entry, universal lounge access via the Priority Pass system, and 3x the points for dining and travel. Here’s a great article from one of my favorite blogs that explains all of the benefits: http://thepointsguy.com/2016/08/all-about-chase-sapphire-reserve-perks/