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If you're new to the points and miles game, it can be a bit overwhelming, to say the least. My first piece of advice for friends and family members just getting into the hobby is simple: Pick up a travel rewards credit card. Doing this gives you a way to earn points on everyday purchases and earn a huge sum of points with its included sign-up bonus.
One of the best cards to start with is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It's a solid beginner travel credit card that's currently offering a huge 80,000-point sign-up bonus that's worth $1,600 per TPG's most recent valuation. The card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be used to book everything from first-class flights to luxurious hotel stays.
Thinking of applying a Sapphire Preferred but not sure how to use the points? You're in the right place. While there are many ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value, I'll give you a look at my favorite uses of the 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points in this article — let's dive in!
A look at the Sapphire Preferred's sign-up bonus
The Sapphire Preferred offers a stellar sign-up bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, making it an ideal candidate for your first travel rewards card. It also awards 2x points per dollar spent on broad definitions of both travel and dining purchases (1x on all other purchases).
You'll also enjoy primary car rental coverage and pay no foreign transaction fees when using the card outside the U.S. In addition, the annual fee is a modest $95, making this card affordable for less-frequent travelers who are new to the world of points and miles.
These 80,000 points (plus the 4,000 or more you'll earn from spending your way to the bonus) can be redeemed directly for travel at the rate of 1.25 cents apiece. This is well under the latest TPG valuations, but the points are more valuable when you transfer to partners such as United MileagePlus or The World of Hyatt. As you're about to see, both open myriad lucrative awards.
Transfer to The World of Hyatt for luxurious hotel stays
One of my favorite transfer partners in the Ultimate Rewards program is The World of Hyatt. Even though it has a relatively limited global footprint, it has some of the newest and most luxurious hotels worldwide. These include brands like the Hyatt Regency, Park Hyatt and Andaz.
Transferring Ultimate Rewards points to The World of Hyatt can yield excellent value, especially when covering expensive stays. Here are a few of the best ways to use 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points with the World of Hyatt program. These range from short stays at luxurious hotels to longer stays at mid-tier properties.
Spend two nights in a Category 7 or 8 hotel
The World of Hyatt award chart is broken down into eight categories, with the highest category hotels requiring the most points. At the same time, they're some of the most luxurious hotels out there. These can often cost several hundred (or even thousand) dollars a night, — so you pay a premium for the luxury experience.
Alternatively, save your money and transfer 30,000 or 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points to The World of Hyatt for a free stay at a Category 7 or 8 hotel. In doing this, you'll generally pay $0 out of pocket for your stay. A few hotels charge a resort fee on award nights, but you'll still save the bulk of the nightly rate.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred's sign-up bonus will give you two nights at any Category 7 or 8 property worldwide. On the Category 8 side, the Le Grand Bellevue hotel in Gstaad, Switzerland is an interesting property. This Small Luxury Hotels property is located in a traditional Swiss mountain village, offering chic rooms, an on-site spa, numerous restaurants (including a "chesery"!) and is close to several ski spots. A weekend night in 2021 costs $935, giving you a nice 2.3 cents per point value.
One of my favorite Category 7 hotels is the Park Hyatt New York. This is one of the most luxurious hotels in New York City and offers elegant rooms in the heart of Manhattan. Its pool and spa give you a place to relax after a long day of touring the city, so it's an excellent place for a domestic city break. It isn't cheap though — weekend cash rates cost roughly $858 after tax. This means 30,000 World of Hyatt points gives you an excellent 2.86 cents per point in value.
Spend a week in Category 2 or 3 hotels
You don't always have to use your points for pure luxury. Often it makes sense to use points to cover longer stays at Category 2 or 3 Hyatt properties that cost just 8,000 and 12,000 The World of Hyatt points per night, respectively. This means that your 80,000-point sign-up bonus gives you more than enough points for a six-night stay.
One of the most interesting Category 3 hotels in the U.S. is the Hyatt Regency Chicago. This hotel is in downtown Chicago, just steps from The Magnificent Mile and River North. The rooms are modern and spacious, so it's a great place for a family trip or couple's weekend away. A night costs $179 after-tax, giving you 1.49 cents per point in value. This is lower than TPG's Ultimate Rewards valuation but can be a good way to save money on a last-minute trip.
As discussed, Category 2 hotels cost just 8,000 World of Hyatt points per night. One of the best hotels in this category is the Hyatt Place Las Vegas. This hotel is located a few blocks off the Las Vegas Strip, giving you a place to recharge after a day of exploring all the city has to offer. Those 8,000 points give you a whopping 3.15 cents per point in value, as weekend rates can soar as high as $252 after tax per night.
Splurge on an all-inclusive resort
Finally, Hyatt has a handful of all-inclusive resorts scattered around Mexico and Jamacia. When you book a stay at these resorts, your food, beverage and some activities are included with your stay. The points price of these resorts run between 20,000 and 25,000 points per night — you can see the full price list below.
In my opinion, this is an excellent redemption when you factor in the cost of food and drink. Since most parts of Mexico are open to Americans, you can use this redemption to treat yourself to a much-needed break from 2020. Check out TPG Travel Analyst Zach Griff's full review of the Hyatt Ziva Cancun for a look at what to expect.
Domestic flights for the whole family
During the age of coronavirus, most U.S. travelers are spending the year traveling domestically. Thankfully, you can use your Ultimate Rewards points to cover domestic flights on all the major U.S. airlines. Your 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points are enough to book flights for a family of three (or more!) around the U.S. — something that can save you a ton of money in the process.
Chase offers a few different ways to book domestic flights, though, so it can be tough to decide which transfer partner to use for a specific domestic booking. Here are three different ways to use your points for domestic bookings and a look at when you'll want to use them.
Look for domestic deals with United MileagePlus
One upside to United MileagePlus switching to dynamic award pricing is cheap domestic tickets. As a primer, dynamic award pricing is when an airline can change the price of specific awards at-will. One day a ticket can be 5,000 miles one-way and the next, it can be 12,500 miles. That said, United is known for offering excellent deals on domestic award tickets departing its U.S. hubs.
For example, I recently found a flight from New York-LaGuardia (LGA) to Chicago (ORD) for just 5,000 miles per person one way. This is an excellent redemption rate when compared to other transfer partners, although the price could change on a whim. You'll want to book deals like this quickly to lock in the redemption rate.
I've also found that Houston (IAH) to Orlando (MCO) is discounted frequently. You can book a one-way ticket between the cities for just 7,000 miles per person in economy class at press time. These tickets can often get very expensive on peak dates, so make sure to check United's award price before you plan your next trip to Disney World or Universal Studios.
Book short-haul American Airlines flights with British Airways Avios
Want predictable pricing on American flights? Consider transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways. The carrier's distance-based award chart is lucrative for short-haul flights, as these tend to be quite expensive (especially if booked as a collection of one-ways).
If your flight is 1,151 miles or less, it'll only set you back 9,000 Avios each way for economy. Your welcome bonus gives you enough points for four round-trip itineraries on American Airlines or Alaska. Plus, you'll even have a few thousand miles left over to jumpstart your next trip — not bad, right?
There are plenty of interesting routes under 1,151 miles or less too. Some good examples are Seattle (SEA) to Phoenix (PHX), Austin (AUS) to Chicago and Tampa (TPA) to New York-JFK. These flights can get expensive when booking at the last minute, so Avios can be a useful way to save cash on your next flight.
Related: Here's why you should care about British Airways Avios
Book inexpensive flights in the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
One thing I always recommend doing before booking a domestic flight with points is comparing the cost of a paid ticket to the points cost of an award ticket. The best way to do this is by finding the cent per point value — you can do this by dividing the cash price by the points cost. For example, a $75 ticket that costs 9,000 miles to book has a 0.83 cent per point value.
This isn't a good deal as you'd get more value by redeeming your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal at 1.25 cents per point. You can use this portal to use your points to cover paid flights at this set cent per point ratio. Plus, you'll earn both redeemable airline miles and elite qualifying miles on the flight.
So if you're getting less than 1.25 cents per point in value from a flight, book it through the travel portal. A good example of this is a $39.10 American Airlines flight from New York to Chicago. This would cost 9,000 Avios if booked through British Airways, or you could use just 3,128 points when booking through the travel portal.
Fly to French Polynesia with Air France
Looking for an international destination that's welcoming U.S. citizens? Look no further than French Polynesia. The country has been open to tourists from the U.S. since July, so long as you bring a negative COVID-19 test. Better yet, you can fly there with Air France on its little-known nonstop flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Papeete (PPT) with your Ultimate Rewards points.
You can do this by transferring your points to Air France/KLM's Flying Blue loyalty program. Like United, it employs dynamic pricing, so the price of this award varies by day and route. On many dates, however, you can find one-way tickets for 25,500 and 64,000 points in economy and business class, respectively. So if you save an extra 9,500 points, you could book one way in business and another in economy with your miles.
This is an excellent redemption when you consider the cost of flying to the islands. Once there, you can enjoy miles of beaches and excellent resorts on the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. And let's be real — we all need a trip to paradise this year.
Take a post-coronavirus trip to Europe in style
Looking to the future, you may want to use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a luxurious trip to Europe. The sign-up bonus of 80,000 points are more than enough for a one-way business class ticket to any European country, and you have plenty of options for booking. Here's a look at three of my favorite ways to book business class tickets to Europe with Ultimate Rewards points.
Book Delta One to Europe for 50,000 points
Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines have long had a partnership that allows reciprocal mileage redemption. This means that Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members can redeem points for Delta flights and vice versa. One of the best deals to come out of this partnership is 50,000-mile, one-way tickets between North America and Europe in Delta One business class. You can transfer Chase points to Virgin Atlantic instantly at a 1:1 ratio, so you'd have 30,000 points leftover with this redemption.
Try United Polaris for just 60,000 points
On the other hand, you may be able to snag a one-way business class award on a United flight to Europe by transferring 60,000 points to United MileagePlus. The actual price you pay varies by day and route since United employs dynamic pricing, but if you can score a 60,000-mile award for a flight in Polaris business class, it's an excellent deal. Plus, you'll have 20,000 points left over to book a hotel.
If you'd rather fly on a Star Alliance partner such as Lufthansa, Swiss or Austrian, you'll pay more miles. These awards recently switched to dynamic pricing as well and — unfortunately — skyrocketed in price. You can expect to pay 77,000 miles for a partner flight from North America to Europe, but pricing varies by day and route.
Fly to Frankfurt in Singapore Suites for just over 80,000 points
If you want to experience true luxury when headed to Europe, save an extra 6,000 points and fly Singapore Suites from New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA). This is one of the best first-class products in the sky, with a separate bed and seat in an enclosed suite. This ticket usually costs well over $5,000 one way, but you can transfer 86,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer and pay just the cost of taxes and fees. You can easily earn the 6,000 extra points by moving your everyday spend to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
Booking this ticket isn't too hard. Find award space by searching on Singapore Airlines' website and call the airline to ask for an award ticket hold. Then, transfer the miles required from Chase to Singapore Airlines — this takes roughly 48 hours to process. Call Singapore Airlines to finalize your ticket once the miles land in your account.
Or, fly round-trip to Japan
Japan is one country that's high on my post-coronavirus travel bucket list. If you'd like to do the same, transfer just 65,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and book a round-trip economy ticket from U.S. Midwest or East Coast to Japan on partner ANA. If you'd rather fly in luxury, save up another 15,000 points to book business class for 95,000 points round-trip.
To book this ticket, use United.com to find open award space. Find nonstop saver tickets operated by ANA. Then, call Virgin Atlantic to verify award space — once verified, transfer your points and book over the phone. In my experience, this is by far the best way to use points to fly to Japan in economy or business class. It's an excellent price, and the ANA experience is great regardless of your class of service.
There are plenty of travel credit cards out there, but I think the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card to start with. As you've seen in this article, its substantial welcome bonus can be used to book everything from hotels to international business class. You can use these points to book a post-coronavirus getaway abroad or a quick staycation near home. Whatever you choose, you'll get an excellent value.
If you're still on the fence about applying for a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, make sure to check out our full review. This will give you the ins-and-outs of the card's various benefits, bonus earning categories and other features. Use this information to make an informed decision on what credit card is right for you.
Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy
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