All points are currency. And just like currency, some are more valuable than others. Further, in the economy of points, valuations can go up and down depending on a number of factors.
For ease of explanation, we'll use our favourite points currency, Chase Ultimate Rewards.
When we first started collecting points, we had a Chase Freedom card that earned 5% cashback in rotating categories each quarter and 1% cashback on everything else. Taken alone, these points could be redeemed for a statement credit at a value of 1 point = $0.01. They could also be used to purchase gift cards. Chase put on a promotion where you could redeem your points for a Kohl's giftcard at a 20% discount. We took advantage of this and redeemed 15,000 Ultimate Rewards, the currency of Chase points, for a $180 Kohl's gift card for some new bedding that we wanted to purchase. Cashback! Or so we thought!!
With a card that has an annual fee such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, or a business card like the Chase Ink Preferred, Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to one of the many of Chase's partners. Chase currently has 9 airline partners, and 4 hotel partners.
Transferring points to a partner is often the BEST way to maximise your points, we'll show you how here.
Let's use the 15,000 Ultimate Rewards that we reference above as an example.
Had we just decided to take cashback in the form of a statement credit, we would have got back $150.
We opted for the gift card where we got a 20% discount. We redeemed 15,000 points and received $180 gift card.
Let's see what we could do if we transferred those points instead through the examples below:.
1. Transferring to Aer Lingus
Transferring 13,000 of these points to Aer Lingus could result in a one way, economy flight between New York and Dublin in their off peak period (plus fees and taxes). Since these flights are around $550 roundtrip, we are getting more than the $150 or $180 had we redeemed these points for cash or gift cards. Further, we're using 13,000 points instead of 15,000.
2. Transferring to Air France
Air France is part of the Skyteam Alliance which includes Delta, Points can be used for travel on Air France, KLM, Delta and Air France's many other partners. Transferring our 15,000 Ultimate Rewards to Flying Blue would result in 15,000 Flying Blue Miles which could then be used for a flight between mainland US and Hawaii which costs 15,000 Flying Blue Miles + tax.
A roundtrip flight between Atlanta and Honolulu in August of 2018 costs approximately $900-$1000.
To prove that not all points are created equally, see how much that flight would cost in Delta Skymiles, below.
3. Transferring to Hyatt
This could be the best use of Ultimate Rewards as Hyatt has some very nice hotels and their award chart is very reasonable. In December 2017, we used Hyatt points to book 5 nights at the Andaz Papagayo Resort in Guanacaste Province in Costa Rica. At 15,000 points per night, this hotel provides unbelievable value as the cash rate per night is extremely high. (Of course, everything else at the hotel is priced high- breakfast at about $40-$45 per person including taxes).
Transferring 15,000 Ultimate Rewards would give you 15,000 Hyatt points and thus allow you to book one night at the Andaz Resort.
The cash rate for the hotel on the same date is $425 a night. What's more, is that when points are used no resort fee (10% of the room cost) is required.
Our nights here in December 2017 were over $1,000 a night- but cost the same 15,000 points per night. What value!!!
Now, just like the above you have seen some GOOD use of points, there are some TERRIBLE uses of points.
1. Transferring to partners whose award charts are very high
IHG and Marriott- looking at you!
While we love the IHG credit card as it gives us a free night at ANY IHG hotel each year, we will never transfer points from Chase to IHG. IHG hotels can be very expensive in points compared to the cash rates. Take for instance the Buckhead Financial district in Atlanta. Hotels at the weekend are much lower than what they are priced at during the week, but the points rates are fixed.
2. Using points when the cash rate is lower.
Virgin Atlantic does have some great redemption's (for example, 12,500 miles + $173 one way in economy class from Atlanta-London).
Take for example the below redemption with Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic is a Delta partner and you can book flights on Delta with Virgin miles. You could transfer points to Virgin Atlantic to book the below.
The same flights booked with cash are the below prices
If you were to book the $74 flight and then use your points as a statement credit this would be 7,400 points (less if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card which points are worth 1.5 cents each.... a post for another time and place).
Not all points are created equally. Just because you are using points doesn't mean it is an overall great redemption. However, great is in the eyes of the holder of the points- maybe that $180 gift card was the greatest use of those 15,000 points at the time. No judgment to you if you have not used your points for the best redemptions. Been there, done that!