Or, perhaps better titled, “Another Reason Why Chase Sapphire Points Are Awesome.” Back in my Miles and Points series, I mentioned how our favorite credit card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I already talked in the 103 article about how this card gives you double points on dining and travel and its points are bankable and flexible. But a recent travel booking experience helped illuminate just how great these Ultimate Rewards can be. And, since many of you have gotten a Chase Sapphire Preferred card at our recommendation, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about a lesser-known, but highly-valuable, benefit of this card.
With Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer points to Chase’s travel partners on a 1:1 basis. Although there is a meaningful list of airlines (like Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic) and many major hotels, for those of us living in the U.S., the most important partners are Southwest, United, and… British Airways.
British Airways? For U.S. domestic flights? Yep, you heard me right.
British Airways Avios rock for two reasons. First, Avios are unique among the travel rewards programs since they are distance-based, rather than demand-based like the rest of the programs. (You can see the actual award chart here). Second, British Airways is part of the oneworld alliance, which means you can use Avios to book flights on its partners including American Airlines (bingo!), Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and more. Unlike many other credit card programs, Chase’s Ultimate Rewards give you access to two major airline alliances: the Star Alliance network (through United) and oneworld (through British Airways). Plus Southwest.
Let’s see this distance-based value in action. Recently, I helped my mom book a roundtrip flight for my sister from New York to Detroit on Ultimate Rewards miles. We started our search with British Airways since, as I knew from prior experience, they are usually the best for short-haul domestic flights. While British Airways doesn’t fly between NYC and DTW, its partner American Airlines does, and several flight options appeared for 4,500 miles each way. For comparison, the cheapest non-stop flight on United these days would have cost 35,000 miles, and interestingly, booking directly with American Airlines would have cost 25,000 miles!
This is a great article on how exactly to book with Avios. My mom was easily able to create an account with British Airways, log into her Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and request that 9,000 Ultimate Rewards be transferred to her British Airways account, and then log back on to British Airways book the flight. This all took a matter of minutes.
Boom. Roundtrip flight LGA to DTW booked for only 9,000 Chase points. While partner flights aren’t always available on British Airways (we couldn’t get my sister a ticket for Thanksgiving weekend—the busiest travel time of the year—due to no award seat availability), and there are some important caveats about fuel surcharges for longer-haul flights actually flown on British Airways, this little Avios trick is often your best bet for flying cheaply on miles within the United States. Happy travels!