Chase needs to stop banking on Hyatt (on Nick’s mind)

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Chase Ultimate Rewards just isn’t a very good transferable points program. There, I said it. Feel free to (try to) change my mind in the comments, but you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Hyatt. Heck, I’m tempted by the 90,000 point welcome bonus available on the Chase Ink Cash card at the time of writing. And the Chase ecosystem has a lot going for it. But one of those things is not the strength of its transfer partner program.

The truth is that I’m only really tempted by Chase points for the purpose of transferring them to Hyatt. And if Chase were ever to lose Hyatt or Hyatt were to significantly devalue their program, Chase Ultimate Rewards could in a heartbeat lose almost all of its luster. I would hate to see Hyatt devalue its program as much as anyone in this space, but I sure wouldn’t bet the farm that it’s never going to happen. What I’m trying to say is that it is high time for Chase to up their game. To be clear, I don’t think they will… but I hope I’m wrong.

The value of transferable points programs is flexibility

I love transferable points currencies, but what gives those programs their strong value is the flexibility of their points. Most transferable points programs offer a way to get reasonable cash value out of their points, a way to use points toward the cash cost of travel, and transfer partners.

Those who work to master award travel know that (by far) the most valuable use of transferable points in a comparison to retail value savings is transferring them to partners to book award travel. The best of the best redemptions in terms of cents-per-point value typically involve transfers to foreign airline frequent flyer programs and bookings for premium cabin (business or first class) international travel.

I originally got into this game just to travel as much as possible. I was entirely content with flying in economy class and staying in budget hotels. The game and and the persistence of time have changed that perspective: I now almost entirely play the game in order to travel comfortably and in a manner and frequency that is beyond my means. Under ordinary circumstances, I can typically afford a domestic plane ticket and hotel with or without points and miles — but absent award travel, I’d never get to a place like the St. Regis Bora Bora or the Santa Claus Holiday Village in Rovaniemi, Finland or the isolated pacific island of Niue or to a shower in the sky in Emirates first class aboard an A380.

The famed Emirates A380 shower suite.

What makes those experiences accessible to me is transferable points.

Airline miles from a single frequent flyer program can certainly make some great redemptions possible. In our 3 Cards 3 Continents challenge, I chose one card that earned miles in a single program: An American Airlines card specifically to use those AA miles to fly Qatar Airways in business class (and later to leverage a little trick to spend 15 hours in the Qatar first class lounge in Doha!). But miles in a single airline program are very limiting. You only have access to that airline’s partners and the sweet spots where they happen to have good prices.

When you get transferable points, you are able to cherry pick the best award deals. All of the major transferable currencies have partners in all three of the major world airline alliances (oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance), giving you access to potentially book awards on many of the most well-known airlines in the world.

But when it comes to transfer partners, more is better.

Would you rather have 3 transfer partners with excellent redemption options or 10 transfer partners with excellent redemption options? The answer isn’t necessarily as simple as the question implies — an inexperienced award booker would say “10”, whereas a seasoned award booker would say “Which three partners?” — but the fact is that when searching for awards, I appreciate more options. Chase has been hanging their hat on the strength of Hyatt — in my opinion, for too long. That’s not to say that Chase Ultimate Rewards doesn’t have other good redemptions, but rather they don’t have other uniquely good redemptions and because of the disparity in the number of partners they have (versus Amex or Capital One), they give you less flexibility for finding a great award.

For the record, I’m sure that Chase doesn’t see it that way. I’m sure that they would (rightfully) point to lots of great airline partnerships to highlight the many strengths of their transfer partner program. It is true: Chase has some very good transfer partners, but the fact is that their offering is weaker than competitors if you consider everything else other than Hyatt.

Chase’s best transfer partner is World of Hyatt – and even that is niche

Many award travel enthusiasts will tell you that World of Hyatt is Chase’s best transfer partner. That’s because Hyatt offers amazing redemption values, from Category 1 properties like the Hyatt Regency Bali (which can be had off-peak for 3,500 points per night these days) to Category 8 gems like Eichardt’s Private Hotel, which you may have seen in our Instagram story yesterday (Greg’s room there looked amazing!).

We mentioned on the podcast this past weekend that Hyatt has the best on-property elite recognition of any hotel program and anyone who has followed this hobby even lightly is probably aware that the two hotel examples chosen above do not stand alone. There are plenty of great Hyatt redemptions.

The living room of a 1bdrm suite I recently enjoyed at the Andaz 5th Ave.
Schlosshotel Kronberg, an SLH property outside of Frankfurt, Germany that is bookable with Hyatt points for 20K points per night.
The Park Hyatt Mallorca is no longer a Hyatt property at all, but this suite I got there with a Hyatt suite upgrade award was larger than some apartments I’ve had (see the dining room in the background, but not pictured is the study, the bedroom, or the large bathroom).
The last time I stayed at the Park Hyatt New York, I got upgraded tot his swanky suite.

But as much as I love Hyatt, they aren’t everywhere I want to be. Their footprint has improved in recent years with the SLH partnership and the addition of many all-inclusive properties. But there are still plenty of places where there isn’t a Hyatt property and in some situations (particularly domestically), your only option is a limited-service Hyatt Place that’s not quite in the right place to fit your needs. Hyatt is wonderful when it works, but it won’t necessarily be everywhere you need to be.

Chase’s other transfer partners are good, but not better than competitors

In addition to Hyatt, Chase has two hotel transfer partners, Marriott and IHG. Neither is a good use of transferable points since both regularly sell their points for less than 1c per point. If you really want Marriott or IHG points and you don’t want to get a Marriott or IHG credit card, just cash out your points at 1c per point or better and buy the points on sale.

Chase’s airline transfer partners are:

  • Avios (British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Qatar)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France / KLM Flying Blue
  • Emirates Skywards
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • United Mileage Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

There’s no doubt that those partners provide opportunities for good value.

I used Aeroplan’s flexible award rules to book an amazing one-way trip to 6 countries over the course of 5 days.

Gulf Air was one of 5 airlines I flew in business class on a one-way Aeroplan award.

Air France / KLM Flying Blue can be a great program for families booking award tickets.

If you’re traveling with kids between 2-11 years old, you can save 25% on long-haul flights for the child tickets with Air France.

Singapore is great if you want to fly Singapore Airlines in a premium cabin, which can be a fantastic experience that’s worth a splurge now and again.

The *old* suites class, pictured here, was incredible. The new version looks well worth a splurge.

Virgin Atlantic is great for booking Delta One to/from Europe.

A seat like this for 50K miles one-way to/from Europe can be a great use of Virgin Atlantic miles.

We’ve written posts about how to use your Chase Ultimate Rewards point fortune. There are many other ways to do so to good value.

Are you ready to call me a hypocrite? After all, this section is beginning to read like a love letter to Ultimate Rewards. Chase’s transfer partners offer some incredible sweet spots. Why am I not more bullish on Ultimate Rewards?

The reason is because everybody else has most of those same partners, also.

Air Canada Aeroplan partners with Amex, Bilt and Capital One. Air France, Singapore, and Virgin Atlantic partner with everyone. Note that there is certainly value in that: you could get a card from Chase, a card from Amex, and a card from Capital One and combine all of the points into a single airline frequent flyer mileage account to book a valuable reward with those programs that partner with everyone. That’s awesome.

But the fact of the matter is that you didn’t need Chase to book that award. And in fact, if you’re looking to book an award for travel on a partner that is also partners with Amex, you can probably earn the points more quickly with Amex welcome bonuses given the very strong bonuses we’ve seen offered on the Platinum and Gold cards in recent years (and the prevalence of offers to get another Platinum or Business Platinum or Business Gold card) and the much more frequent transfer bonuses we’ve seen from Amex. We’ve even seen great targeted offers on the Blue Business Plus, which out-earns the Chase Freedom Unlimited on the first $50K in spend each year and has been offering a much higher targeted welcome bonus.

Speaking of base earnings, the best that Chase has to offer on unbonused spend is the Freedom Unlimited. At 1.5 points per dollar spent, that just isn’t competitive anymore. Citi has the Double Cash, Capital One has the Venture and Spark cards, Amex has the Blue Business Plus. The Freedom Unlimited is a subpar value in the current environment.

And I think that becomes clearer when you think of the partners that Chase doesn’t have.

Chase is missing partners like Turkish Miles & Smiles (a Citi, Capital One, and Bilt partner) that offers flights to Hawaii for 7,500 miles or business class to Europe for 45K miles one way or India for 52.5K one-way. They don’t have Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (an Amex, Capital One, Citi, and Bilt partner), which offers expanded availability on Cathay Pacific flights, a hackable award chart, and reduced surcharges on British Airways flights. They don’t have Etihad Guest (an Amex, Citi and Capital One partner), which offers transcontinental American Airlines business class for 25K miles or Royal Air Maroc business class to Casablanca for 44K miles among other sweet spots. They don’t have Choice Privileges (an Amex and Capital One 1:1 transfer partner, which is not a good deal, but also a Citi 1:2 transfer partner, which is a great deal), and Choice Privileges, while not as good as Hyatt, presents some impressive options for luxury (at amazing value with ThankYou points). They don’t have Wyndham Rewards (a Citi and Capital One partner), which offers an amazing sweet spot with Vacasa vacation rentals. They don’t have Avianca LifeMiles (an Amex, Citi, and Capital One partner), which has a hackable award chart and occasionally fantastic promotions like the recent deal for business class from Brussels to New York for 25,500 miles.

If you notice something about that previous paragraph, notice how many times Amex and Capital One (and to a lesser extent Citi) get a mention. Both Amex and Capital One share numerous sweet spot partners that Chase doesn’t have (and that’s not even to mention Amex’s partner with the most wild value in ANA with their Round the World awards). Both share multiple partners with each other and with Citi that Chase doesn’t have. I have to imagine that those airline programs that overlap between Amex, Capital One, and Citi must be willing to play ball and partner with multiple bank programs. I guess Chase just isn’t interested in expanding its offerings. I wish they would!

I think the key final point here is that Chase’s airline transfer partners aren’t superior to any of their competitors. The partners they have that are not shared by Amex, Capital One, or Citi are United and Southwest. Southwest points have a fixed value of less than 1.5c per point, so I don’t find them to be a compelling use of Ultimate Rewards transfers. United has some decent redemption values – notably about 60K miles one-way on its own metal in business class to Europe. Its Excursionist Perk can be pretty cool. But there just aren’t many situations where United miles would be the best option for booking a particular award (those business class flights to Europe on United are usually available for 45K Turkish miles) and there are quite a few situations where United isn’t the best option by a clear margin.

And it’s worth mentioning that United also partners with Bilt Rewards. I think that Bilt has a far stronger set of transfer partners than Chase, but they are mostly absent in this conversation because you can’t accumulate Bilt points at the same rate as you can with other transferable currencies. They’re great for combining with your other rewards, but you won’t probably earn enough with just that one card to book the sweetest spots.

For what it’s worth, I think that United becomes a notably attractive Chase transfer partner for people who travel frequently for business and naturally rack up lots of United miles and then need to top up those accounts for specific redemptions. Surely that is the case for a segment of Chase customers and United transfers can definitely make sense in that case. But I haven’t really used United miles in years — and I haven’t felt like I was missing anything. And I should note that I’ve flown plenty of Star Alliance flights, I just haven’t wanted to book them through Mileage Plus.

And for every decent United MileagePlus award that you can book with your transferred Chase points I can probably name 3 or 4 or 6 that you can’t book with transferred Chase points but you could book with Amex, Capital One, or Citi points transferred to partners that Chase doesn’t have. Chase is notably behind everyone else in terms of airline transfer partners because for the most part its competitors have Chase’s airline partner strengths and also more. When you add in the larger Amex welcome bonuses and plentiful transfer bonuses, the margin widens.

Chase does have an accelerated path to earnings, but is missing the boat on grocery

You don’t actually want to bring your Chase cards to the grocery store.

The only major bonus that Chase has going for it is its Ink Cash card and its accelerated path toward earning points given its popular 5x bonus categories. As an example, while it is possible to accumulate Air France Flying Blue miles with any transferable points card, no issuer but Chase offers the opportunity to earn those points at 5 points per dollar spent as broadly as you can if you leverage the Ink Cash card.

Those who spend a lot of money on travel or dining can also be reasonably happy with opportunities to earn 3x in those categories with other Chase cards, but 3x isn’t ahead of the competition. Capital One’s Savor card offers 4% back on dining, which can be converted to 4x Capital One miles (or 3% / 3x with the no-annual-fee SavorOne). The Amex Gold card earns 4x on dining. Citi and Amex offer comparable returns on travel, while Capital One offers 10x transferable points on hotel and car rental bookings through its portal for Venture X cardholders.

More glaring is the grocery gap. While Amex, Capital One, and Citi all offer cards that offer a bonus at US Supermarkets, Chase has been reluctant to add a permanent grocery bonus category within the Ultimate Rewards ecosystem. For anyone who does not have a business card or who is not looking to earn points primarily through office supply stores, Chase just doesn’t have the best option. A grocery-related bonus category is more widely applicable and useful and Chase is notably missing the category altogether except for capped targeted offers or when it becomes a (capped) rotating category on the Freedom cards.

The other major competitive advantage that Chase enjoys over Capital One and Citi is the number of Ultimate Rewards cards on the market, which gives access to multiple good welcome bonuses to jump-start a collection of miles and points. Capital One is arguably competitive on paper, but given the difficulty that many report in getting approved for a Capital One card, it is hard to argue their competitiveness in this regard in real-world experience. Still, I think the Venture X has shown signs that Capital One is looking to be more competitive in this space and major changes take time for large institutions. I think there is hope of things loosening up long-term — and if they do, Chase’s standing could be weakened.

Chase had Pay Yourself Back going for it . . . 

Arguably Chase’s best competitive advantage other than Hyatt has been the introduction of Pay Yourself Back during the pandemic years. From the time this program launched until earlier this month, redemptions through Chase Pay Yourself Back had been at an attractive rate of 1.5c per point for Sapphire Reserve cardholders. Unfortunately, Chase pulled back on that for 2023, dropping the reimbursement rate to a max of 1.25c per point for most categories.

Pay Yourself Back has probably been an expensive proposition for Chase and clearly they decided that it wasn’t something they could continue to offer in the same way in perpetuity. That’s understandable, but it was nonetheless a disappointment.

Travel booked through Chase can be a reasonable redemption

I imagine that the most popular use of Chase Ultimate Rewards points (apart from gift card redemptions or paying for items on Amazon, neither of which are good redemptions but both of which are probably used en masse by the masses) has been using points at a value of 1.5c per point toward paid travel booked through Ultimate Rewards with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

This redemption doesn’t excite me as much as it does others, but I recognize that it works out well for some cardholders. At the end of the day, this can be a reasonable use of points. However, that doesn’t detract from my point: Chase isn’t a great transferable points program. It can be good option for booking paid travel (particularly flights) through the Ultimate Rewards portal if you have the Sapphire Reserve card. I certainly hope that Chase keeps this redemption option, but it doesn’t refute the point that their partners are not superior to any other program.

Bottom line

Chase Ultimate Rewards is a good credit card rewards program, but it isn’t better than its competitors without Hyatt. While Chase is probably in no danger of losing Hyatt as a transfer partner, the fact is that every hotel program other than Hyatt is moving away from award charts. I don’t want Hyatt to ever devalue, but if and when it does, Chase will have lost its main competitive advantage in terms of credit card transfer partners.

Yes, there will still be good opportunities to earn 5x points and booking travel through Chase will remain popular, but from a transfer partner perspective, Chase just doesn’t have much of value that other programs don’t also share and they are notably missing a lot of airline frequent flyer programs that partner with their competitors. I’d love to see Chase add partners like Avianca LifeMiles, Turkish Miles & Smiles, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. I’d be equally happy to see them bring on other partners. For instance, I’d love to see Chase bring Amtrak back into the fold (not likely, but I’d still like to see it!) or seek out a new partnership that we haven’t seen coming. Perhaps the attitudes of Air Canada Aeroplan’s executives will rub off on Chase at some point and convince them that cardholders want more options.

Unless and until that happens, I consider Chase to have an inferior transfer partner program that mostly relies on a single partner. The truth is that I would be devastated to lose my Chase cards tomorrow because Hyatt is such a great partner today, but I wouldn’t lose much otherwise. Given Chase’s overall strength in this space, that’s somewhat surprising. And let’s be clear: it’s not that I don’t like Chase. I love the Ink Cash card and the Sapphire Reserve and Ritz travel protections and the ease of combining points between two cardholders in the same household, etc. But I think they can do better. I don’t anticipate that we’ll see any major changes to the Ultimate Rewards program any time soon and that’s why I didn’t put this in my 2023 predictions, but I’d love to be wrong about that and see Chase surprise us all with new partners and a grocery bonus category to make an argument other than “Hyatt” as to why Chase has a program that is competitive with Amex and Capital One.

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Michael

Having Hyatt as a transfer partner is all I need. Their footprint has been growing at a fast pace in recent years. If only we could see a Park Hyatt Bora Bora in the near future.

Nate

I have been thinking the same and, honestly, am scratching my head a bit on why Chase is so overrated compared to its 3 other main competitors (AMEX, C1, and Citi). Chase does have some exclusive partners that are good and can’t be partnered over through a international program — Hyatt and Southwest — but SUBs have been meh, the CSR is a shell of its former glory, and after SUBs, and earning rates pretty mediocre unless you do some major gaming.

Chase is great on paper and there are a lot of anecdotal bragging stories, but in real life I’d daresay we’re undervaluing the other cards, based on their simpler ease of use and easier whatever redemption schemes.

Or, simply put, Chase for sure if you want to Hyatt and maybe Citi or Venture if you just looking to funnel spend without melting your brain? And, if you’re saving for a big trip with lots of flexibility, just get whomever has the best SUB as since sweet spots are kind of random and you can likely pool if you find one.

Lee

Bilt has Hyatt as a transfer partner.

Bilt also has primary insurance coverage on rental cars.

And, Bilt has a built-in (no pun intended) up to 10k bonus points per month in the form of double points on 1st of the month spending.

Nate

And if Bilt wasn’t a 5/24 slot with no SUB in my churn run, it would be in my wallet.

Nate

Also, looking at it a bit more, Bilt doesn’t have an easy or easy-ish floor liquidation option like Citi (cash at .01/pt), Chase (PYB or Cash Back), Venture miles (.01/mile for travel but with a floor of 2 miles per $ for the AF cards), etc. Instead, you’re limited to travel redemptions (that do max out higher on average because of Hyatt on the upside and have a decent floor at .0125 through portal) or <0.1/mile for the easier stuff like Amazon.

It’s first in class for rent for sure on rental spend and I’ll eventually get it, and I might even give it my restaurant spend, but it’s not something I would make my core earn card.

Dean

This was excellent! Thank you for writing this, I feel the same way about my UR points.

Neil

PSA — I’m surprised this hasn’t come up, If you live within the footprint of any of the Kroger family of stores you can use Kroger Pay in their app to get 3x UR with a Sapphire Preferred as it is considered internet grocery. I actually set a shortcut on my iPhone so I just say “hey Siri, open Kroger Pay” and scan and go.

The only noticiable downside is that every time I have tried to buy a $500 VGC the purchase won’t go through but third-party GCs in smaller values seem to be fine.

Last edited 21 days ago by Neil
John

Great tip, thanks. I have found that buying gift cards alone through Kroger Pay triggers either an error message or a request for identification. But mixing the gift card with regular groceries sometimes goes through without employee intervention.

Last edited 10 days ago by John
Tim

Southwest. That’s why Chase Ultimate Rewards win my business. I only travel within the US and I only spend between 1k-2k per month on my credit cards, so rotating the sign-up bonuses on the Southwest card and Chase Sapphire cards (while having a Freedom) has been the name of my game for the past 10 years (which is as long as I have been in the game). I have tried Amex and Citi once each and I could not for the life of me find good, efficient ways to use those points to fit my travel plans. Sure they have a lot of other partners, but they are terrible if you just want to travel within the US.

Tim

Wow, first off, thank you for the response! I would definitely consider myself a “casual” in this points and miles game, even though I’ve been doing it awhile. You brought up great points about focusing on cash back cards that I had never truly considered. Groceries (~$250/wk) and gas (~$100/wk) are my family’s highest expenses, and I’ve always been pumped (haha) for the added points during the 5x months of those freedom categories, but outside of that, I realize I have not optimized my credit card quiver for my purchases. Also, I always appreciate the year round 3x for restaurants (~$50/wk) on the Sapphire when it’s not a freedom category. Since my current strategy has always left me with more points than I ever needed to use, I guess I have been blissfully content continuing it. It sounds like I need to change! The Blue Cash would net me $265/yr, so what card are you talking about that gets $1500 cash back out of ~$24k spend?

Brian

I’ve transferred to United from Chase multiple times, most recently to spend 8k to fly Eurowings from Windhoek Namibia to Victoria Falls (alternative was $200 cash or 7.5k aeroplan plus higher booking fee). I’ve NEVER transferred a point from any currency to Cathay or Etihad.

Perhaps I’m missing out. Or perhaps you are overvaluing those programs and undervaluing United. One of United’s key benefits is free cancellations, a policy I don’t think you’ll get from any other Star Alliance carrier.

Nick, I once took you to task for over-pimping (IMO) the new Aeroplan program for abandoning its cheap J flights to Europe, which is the most popular premium international redemption, in favor of more complicated sweet spots most people won’t be able to use. You (fairly) retorted that there were other programs that would get you to Europe cheaply (eg ANA) but no other program could do what the new Aeroplan did. Isn’t the same thing at play here? Chase has 2 unique partners, one of which is very useful and one that’s sometimes useful. Plus a handful of other fairly useful programs that aren’t unique. It’s the unique programs that really make URs worth collecting. Adding more programs covered off by other transferable programs is of limited value and doesn’t add much differentiation IMO.

Brian

I’ll have to check out Cathay. But at this point I am generally finding that ANA is dominant on like 75% of international J routes from the US to anywhere in the world, and I’m using them more than everybody else combined (which is why your retort to my Aeroplan complaint was fair). But I do love London so maybe there’s a nonstop flight to be had there on BA that I couldn’t make work with Star Alliance.

I definitely would rather have 400k Amex than 400k UR, just like you. But I’d prefer 300k Amex and 100k URs to either. They offer unique, complementary advantages.

PeterSFO

Interesting article but your logic is hard to follow:

  • Just because Chase shares Aeroplan, Singapore, Air France, Virgin with other currencies doesn’t mean that it only has 1 good transferable partner (Hyatt), it means it has 5 good transfer partners.
  • I’m not a Southwest or Jetblue flyer but it sounds like you are suggesting transferring UR isn’t worth it because you can use the Chase Portal to book directly using points at 1.5cent/point. However PYB is another UR feature. If you had to use Citi, Amex or Capitalone points to book on Jetblue or Southwest, wouldn’t their points would be worth 1 cent/point, not 1.5 cent/point?

I think you feel that Chase relies so heavily on Hyatt because Hyatt is in a lot of cases so much better than 95% of other transfer partners out there across all programs. The truth is UR is an exceptional program for those who care about Hyatt and a middle of the pack program for those who don’t.

Looking at it another way, I could write a very similar article about how the other programs are relying too much on airline transferable currencies and should be adding Accor (I think 2.2cent/pt flat?) or some other hotel program to get on par with Chase. I’d rather have 4 good airline transfer partners and 1 good hotel transfer partner than 10 good airline transfer partners and 0 good hotel transfer partner.

Dugroz Reports

Put me also in the camp of “I’d rather have 4 good airline transfer partners and 1 good hotel transfer partner.”
I think a lot of that comes down to frequency of travel and flexibility of travel. Somewhere in here is an argument about how flexible your life and job are. Nick can more easily “drop everything” and fly to XYZ destination when a good deal comes along or cabin space opens up, even if it’s in February. As a regular old 9-5er, with a wife who teaches, and kids in school, it’s pretty much June-August for me; the peak seasons.
Hyatt offers very predictable, good (if not outsized) value year-round. And without impacting my family budget at all, I can use something like the Chase portal or Southwest, United, etc many times to fit my life. I don’t pay for hotels or airlines, so “just do paid travel” isn’t an option. It has to be points.
Having said that, I do Amex and Chase; so the axiom of “why not both?” seems to apply. 😉 But Chase in an integral part.
Loved the article, BTW.

mbh

I’m really curious about the huge number of Hyatt fans. When I first started this game, around 2014, there was a status challenge and I got the top status in the chain (this is just before they switched to the Globalist, etc. setup). It was great and I used it several times with impressive results. But, I don’t travel on real $$ very often, so I wasn’t able to keep it. I think I avoid Hyatt because I’m able to maintain top status with Marriott and Hilton (though CCs and award stays). I would love to know how many people in the comments touting Hyatt have Globalist status and how many do not. No matter how awesome the property, it’s hard for me to turn down late check out and free breakfast (both of which I highly value). I rarely get upgrades anyway, so that’s not something I add into the calculation (though I’m well aware of why that is a given if one has Globalist status).

I also noted that a lot of CR defenders use a lot of United and SW miles. Both of those are of little use to me, as I’m a DL hub captive (ATL) and mostly use miles/points to travel in luxury overseas. I still regret jumping into a deal on a United biz card when I first started because 90k miles looked so awesome. I have yet to use those miles.

So, with all of that said I’m scratching my head wondering why I’m sitting on over 600k CR! I guess because I can’t find a good use for them.

Robert

Find a great Hyatt and use them up. I haven’t used a Chase point for anything but Hyatt in years. I just used a ton of points to book an 8 night Hyatt stay in Hawaii in a 2 bedroom condo. Can’t use my globalist status there but it comes with free parking and it’s on the beach and it will accommodate our family very nicely in 1900 square feet. Aside from Hyatt I find little value in Ultimate Rewards

James

I 100% agree – without Globalist status, Hyatt is useful, but not amazing. You still have good value with points, and waived resort fees. But with globalist when it then includes breakfast, waived award fees, access to Suite Upgrades, free parking (on points/nights) it becomes a slam dunk.

I can’t get to 60 nights/year with Hyatt. BUT, with the CC that gives 5 nights, and then the $15K for a free night cert also gives 6 night credits. MS another 15K-30K as necessary and then that’s another 6-12 nights. Now that I’m starting from 17-23 nights, I can do the remaining ~40 nights by preferencing Hyatt. So I’ve maintained my globalist status ever since that brief status match they did ~10 years ago.

As an example, I had a one night stay in Chicago. I could have stayed in the burbs for $120-150. Or downtown for $200. Or used 12K points for a Hyatt. And then I also go absolutely $0 in fees, free parking ($60), breakfast for 2 (Charge was $70, but would have actually paid $20-30), water bottles, late checkout. Easily would have been $300+ at just about any other hotel. And you get a lot of small unwritten things – I’ve never had a problem canceling even when I was outside of cancellation window, they proactively give small upgrades (and when you ask, you can usually get bigger upgrades).

And my huge thing is TSUs when traveling as a family. I’ve gone to higher end hotels and TSU makes it so much better to have a confirmed suite that otherwise would add a LOT of extra cost to get something equivalent. And it works on top of both points rates and paid rates (including corporate discounts).

Dave Hanson

Well said James. FWIW your situation is similar to mine:

-Got on Hyatt train 9 years ago with status match
-Wouldn’t generally do 60 nights/year for Globalist, BUT
-Having Hyatt CC for 5 nights, then MS the gap between stays and 60 works

And the value–you often just can’t beat it, esp with many big city / luxurt resort stays (free parking, lots of good properties, high food and lodging costs that are a steal on points.

The two game changers when Hyatt converted from Gold Passport to WOH was CC based nights, and counting award nights. Once they did that, then a Hyatt CC for night credit / promos combined with high earning UR cards like Ink and CSP/R became a compelling combo.

David

Sometimes, when you’ve accumulated more points than you know what to do with… you just have to do a trip/stay just to treat yourself. A sort of getaway. For example 5 nights at Alila Ventana Big Sur (found some award availability in Oct and Nov if that interests you) or Park Hyatt New York, Miraval in Austin or Tucson.. some trip of that sort. You have the points for both the stay (hyatt) and the flight (united or Sw). I say make it happen! Good luck

Mbh

Outstanding advice!

JustSaying

I get 5X on my phone, cable, office supply and the 5X right now on Freedom. I’ve booked a hotel on the travel portal but IHG treated me horribly because it was an agency booking. But I hate AMEX and Citi is squirrelly.

Mbh

+1 on both IHG and Citi

Pam

@ Nick – “I consider Chase to have an inferior transfer partner program” – inferior to AMEX; Citi; Capital One; Bilt it seems from your posts? Which program IS the best do you think, and why in comparison to URs, if: “Chase Ultimate Rewards just isn’t a very good transferable points program?”

I might be wrong, but it seems to me you take bits and pieces from most, if not all, the programs to make what you consider to be the most valuable redemptions for many very-long-haul flights. I think all of us reading kind of pick and choose our favorite features as well for whatever our purposes. For a frequent and long-distance traveler like yourself, though, is there a “best” program that’s a solid go-to?

TravelMike

I’m betting that Nick’s favorite transfer currency is AmEx.

Pam

Likely…with Sky Hotel Rewards who needs Hyatt?!

LarryInNYC

Thoughtful analysis. Some counter points:

  • With a little effort Chase has 5x+ back on groceries (buy profitable gift cards at 5x using an Ink card at Staples / Office Depot).
  • While Amex has had their points parade the past few years, those points come with very high annual fees and require a fair amount of work to get back some of the fee. Also, the spend is very high for the bonus. “You can earn 600,000 points and it will only cost you $2,800 in fees, but don’t worry” is not going to make a lot of people feel that comfortable. Repeated 90K Ink offers with $6K spend and no annual fee against repeated 150K Business Plat offers with $15K spend and $695 fee? Maybe a wash?
  • Most people will only need United, Aeroplan, and Flying Blue for their travels. Sure, we talk about international premium cabins but, for instance, when Greg does his hotel points analyses he limits himself to domestic hotels — because that’s where most people redeem. Likewise, most people are probably redeeming for economy flights within North America and maybe some Europe.
  • There’s talk about Chase not having a 2% card, but that ignores the 5x Ink cards. Redeemed in the portal or transferred to Southwest, those are north of 7% rebates.
mbh

Do you really think most people in the game are redeeming economy flights in NA? I mean, as he says, the public en masse may, but not those of us in this hobby. I do this almost exclusively to get flights in Biz and F and stay in killer hotels.

A B

Yes? Thanks to Chase and Amex I can count on one hand the number of domestic flights I’ve paid cash for in the last few years. Then every year or 2, me and P2 cross an ocean in J. The money we save flying the lower 48 year-round in Seat 28F is what pays for the fun stuff.

mbh

Interesting. Based on the blogs I’ve been reading the last 8-9 years I had the impression that most in the game are in it to get max value per point/mile. Though, I’ll confess to being someone who regularly transfers MR to Marriott to avoid paying just $250/night for a room in NYC. So, same diff I guess. But, I do mostly try to use points to fly to exotic lands and stay in luxury. (I do not, however, have a P2, so my earnings are capped to an extent. OTOH, I never need two seats in F to book that dream flight!)

Dave Hanson

It would actually be great to get some hard data on how both “gamers” like us and customers in the aggregate redeem their points.

My guess is that the silent majority redeems for domestic flights–and that very fact is a reason why some of the more aspirational awards have not died earlier.

Nate

My god I thought this article would never end

Kirk

I was one of those people that signed up to CSR when it had the initial 100k SUB. But I was probably also amongst the many uninformed users at that time, not realizing the power of transferrable points. I’ve read about the pass great redemptions on Korean Air, and wish Chase would add that back. I don’t recall the last time Chase added any new transfer partners. I also use UR points primarily for Hyatt now, but wish they would add new partners too.

Alex King

Chase added Aeroplan recently

Parts Unknown

TL;DR other bank points can be just as (or even more) useful than UR. Sometimes. Also: everyone loves Hyatt.

Anyone doing this long enough knows to diversify, one day you’ll need a UA ticket & TYP aren’t going to get it done. While it’s infinitely easier to earn millions of MR than millions of UR (anyone earning millions of TYP needs to reexamine life choices) it’s not difficult to earn substantial amounts of both.

Also, Bilt is not a real rewards program. They have one card with a 2nd (3rd?) tier bank and will run out of VC funding and free influencer meetups on tropical islands at some point.

Jason

I’m someone who rents (with relatively high rent in NYC) and I don’t see the value of Bilt. I’m not sure how many apartment complexes allow credit card payments, but all the ones I’ve looked into allow credit cards (with a 3% fee). Even with the 3% fee, it’s much better for me to continue signing up for new cards every 3 months to earn the bonus than to sign up for a Bilt card.

Without paying rent with my credit card, I’d never be able to make the $15,000 spend requirement for Amex business platinum in 6 months for example. Then the question is, would I rather pay 3% transaction fee for 150,000 Amex points, or earn 25,000 Bilt points in 1 year? Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

It seems to me Bilt is only valuable when the apartment doesn’t take credit card at all, which again, I’m not sure how frequent that is.

Billy

Nick – Just curious as you think through this decision (adding a SavorOne vs. continuing to pay $250/year for AMEX Gold), what is your rationale/calculation for keep vs. drop? I’m in a very similar situation with Gold AF coming due soon.

Parts Unknown

Gaming 3x on dining via methods isn’t that exciting for a card with no SUB and therefore isn’t worth churning even if it was even churnable. Especially when 3x-5x is available on multiple other cards that do have SUBs and are churnable and have the same transfer partners (ie Amex & Chase, but if we’re pretending those aren’t churnable that’s cool, they still have gigantic SUBs. No you can’t transfer to AA but don’t we all have like half a million AA miles sitting there and nothing to use them on? Have you tried booking a partner award with AA lately? It’s BA or bust over there)

Let Richard Kerr slip me a few daiquiris at the next tropical locale & I might change my tune.

Parts Unknown

I guess we’re thinking of different audiences & skill sets. If I had an extra $50k of spend to do each year I could probably turn that into another 400k-700k of MR/UR/various other points (depending on current SUB, MSR & multipliers). $50k of 1x spending (even with no fees) is like lighting money on fire. But it’s not my money and tbh the more who play the game, the fewer rewards out there for other players. Maybe I owe Kerr a daiquiri now.

Parts Unknown

In that unique situation I would create spend via other methods and basically swap expenditures. If my rent is $5k I fund a bank account or two (or use one of several other other methods, this one is just clearer for the sake of example) with a new Ink, pay rent via the bank account, use the rent money to pay the cc. Presuming you have a fixed budget I don’t feel like that’s an advanced technique, but maybe? I would then have 90k+ UR (or 75k, whatever they’re offering) for 1 to 1.5 rent payments depending on MSR. If you have infinite spend capability it doesn’t really matter, as you can just MS regardless. In those cases I guess a whopping 50k of Bilt points would be something? Again, different philosophies, skill sets, risk tolerances, bandwidth, etc. I can’t imagine opening a card just to chase(no pun) 5k points/month when I could earn significantly more, but what works for some doesn’t work for others.

karma

Where is the value in BILT if you have no rents to pay? I am surprised most in this game are not home owners. Would love to see what am i missing

Gene

I have a large family with young kids so domestic travel is all I do and I think this is where Chase’s program really stands out. Since this is my focus I find Chase to be more valuable than any other program. As far as a grocery bonus goes I think this is simply a business decision by Chase. I’d be surprised if they ever added one permanently. Amex has permanent grocery categories but has also invested in the RAT team to provide oversight. Chase knows the grocery category will be abused the most so they steer clear. Their way of having a grocery category is with targeted quarterly offers and spending caps.

mbh

Wait — they avoid grocery stores due to the possibility of abuse, but Ink . . . . .?

Gene

Still nowhere near as bad as a permanent grocery category would be.

Mike Chicago

I did this analysis back in 2020 when PYB was first announced. I don’t have many paid flights (due to points), already have plenty of United & Southwest miles, all Chase’s other airline partners are covered by Amex/Citi, and their travel portal stinks for hotels. That left just Hyatt and PYB so with easy point replacement thanks to multiple Ink Cash cards it was an easy decision to PYB a majority of my UR points in 2020. Did it again last month at 1.5 upon learning of the pending devaluation of PYB. With PYB now at a lousy 1.25, that leaves Hyatt as the sole useful redemption of UR points for me. Yes Hyatt is great, but Chase needs to step it up.

Stevenson

same here.
i liquidated most of my UR points back in 2021 using PYB, and was planning on doing again once my recent SUBs get deposited.
however i missed the posts regarding the devaluation until it was too late.

David

So many people pushing back with you in the comments Nick. I wonder how Greg would feel about this. Would make a great main event for a Frequent Miler on the Air!

David

I think that because Chase has Hyatt they don’t feel the need to add more partners. Hyatt doesn’t work for everyone or every situation but its such a strong hotel program tha, even though limited, it makes up for it in quality. If Hyatt ever did devalue significantly… Chase would have to act quick. IMO though significant devaluation would be doing away with award charts. I think they can do a small devaluation like raising points per category and as long as the reasonable redemption was above 1.5cpp it would still provide enough value for people to stick to Chase. I do agree they should look to add more valuable partners but I just don’t think they feel they have to.

usernamechuck

The flaw in this analysis it undersells United + Southwest, esp compared with Chase’s bank competitors. Of the big American carriers, Amex has Delta – but those awards generally suck. No one transfers to AA right now. There are several transfer partners to jetBlue. But only Chase transfers to 2 of the big domestic carriers. With UA able to be redeposited, I find that being able to book backup flights is a huge benefit. And I have topped up w Southwest, on occasion.

Also, this doesn’t mention what you yourself were complaining about last week: unavailability of partner awards on domestic carriers!

Perhaps I might agree with you if I only valued first class or biz class travel. Since I don’t, I continue to think URs are the most valuable transferrable currency. I would happily trade 100K MRs for URs any day of the week.

A guy named Mike

Nick, Can you enlighten me here? I don’t understand why Southwest points are so popular outside the context of the companion pass.

Given the differential between earning MR and UR, it feels like the return on non-CIC spend is similar to booking Delta on Amex.

Brandon

I agree with most of what’s said. My thoughts are if you know you have the best hotel program compared to others then why add more options? Yes flexibility is cool, but if you have the best program for hotels then everyone is still going to use that over alternative options. I do agree with needing a dedicated grocery category on either the freedom or sapphire card.

NK3

My argument would be that Chase is very good entry level transferable points program. You mention above that United might be a helpful transfer partner if people already earn points in that program. I would argue the same for Southwest and Hyatt. The last non-Hyatt transfer I made was to Southwest. I rarely fly with them, but they were the only decent option a couple years ago, so I transferred a few thousand points to top off my account so I could book the flight. For a lot of my friends who are more casually or new into the points & miles game, Chase is really the best option. If I try to explain Turkish Miles & Smiles to them, they would tune out immediately. They can top off the accounts they already have, and use the Chase portal to book at 1.5 cents per point. This is why they keep their CSR.

I think the Citi Premier has a bonus structure that is great for an entry level card, but the TYP program is not great for people early or casually in the game. And Amex has US based airline partners, but charges an excise tax for those transfers.

For people at the 90th or 95th percentile of points & miles expertise, yeah, I would agree with your overall sentiment. About a year ago, I transferred all my remaining Chase points to Hyatt and downgraded to another Freedom card. When I am eligible to sign up for a new Sapphire, I will. But I knew I was unlikely to use the points any other way.

Pam

Agree completely. I want a fair/fare airline deal but not the absolutely-ultimate-go thru an exhausting/time consuming ordeal of waiting on foreign reps etc-price found on more uncommon carriers.

Pam

I think for customers redeeming points for quality carriers to mainstream destinations, Chase fits the transfer bill perfectly. Both for transferring points to individual carriers and when redeeming 1.5 on their portal. I know this because I fit that demographic! And for those also seeking more unusual/complex destinations, the airlines offered can still usually get you there with a little more effort and addtl transferring.

As for accumulating enough points to actually transfer, my husband and I will soon have 30k Hyatt points & 30k BA miles deposited from a 10x Chase gas offer last quarter on those respective cards. Chase has better point accumulator spend offers than AMEX, though I also do AMEX but (more often than not) for statement credits.

AMEX can have the better SUBs, but they come & go (even as a customer-specific invite sometimes pulled well before the expiration date!). And jockeying multitudes of extremely high AF MR cards is just not of interest to my time or credit file (though clearly for many others).

Chase’ targeted spending offers are also hit or miss, but Chase is at least guaranteed to also offer 5x quarterly in some cat (Freedom/Flex) you can generally take advantage of. Other than purchasing airfare (Plat and travel portal) where are you going to go on AMEX for 5x anything spend?

I really like my Citi 5x Custom Cash cards (x4) for 1:2 transfers to Choice in that regard, but that is only 1 specific use for Citi for me. And Capital One with only, always, 2x is also not where I want to put a lot of spend, other than mainly on Savor.

I just want to safely (& with reasonable comfort) get to Point A to Point B & stay at a very nice property. Chase achieves those objectives for me with the most cost/point efficiency. That said, if they pull 1.5 redemptions on their travel portal (like they just did with PYB), or 5x CIC at OD, I will definitely be recalculating.

David

Great points and, though you’re obviously more advanced than the average customer, you demonstrated the simplicity of the Chase program that drives their customer base. I usually don’t find much value for myself through Chase besides Hyatt.. I love the 2x back from Capitol One Venture X because I spend $1200 a month at Costco and 2x is the absolute best I can do there. Also flying out of Seattle I easily find flights to Europe through Istanbul and who doesn’t like a free stopover in Istanbul? I do realize that mine is a very niche situation though.

Dave Hanson

I’ve kept the AR Visa for 4 years for primarily this reason. Unbeatable for heavy Costco shoppers.

David

4.5% with the altitude reserve? Please do tell.. I did not know this was an option… since Costco doesn’t fall into grocery I thought non category spend was its limit and since I can’t use a Mastercard at Costco I honestly thought my best option was C1

Pam

Lately I have been using 5x fee-free gc (CIC) at Costco & Sam’s

Eric

You like 2x Capital One over an effective 4.5% back toward travel with the Altitude Reserve?

I’ve been looking at this myself since we spend about $10k/year at Costco.

Using only the travel credits to offset the annual fees on each card and doing simple math ignoring the opportunity cost discount of the travel credits:

Venture X would yield 30,000 miles for a $95 effective annual fee. ($10k spend @ 2x + 10k annual bonus)

Alt Reserve would yield $450 for $75 effective annual fee.

I think in a vacuum and focusing on the “floor” value of the points the Altitude Reserve wins, but I feel like there is more potential upside with 30,000 transferrable miles than $450.

ffI

I agree with 30k points more valuable than 450$ travel
– but this is better
Buy 10k gift cards fee free at Staples <1k a month = 50k UR points
Spend those visa gift cards at Costco – Best value

DSK

What an article–thanks Nick. I live on Hyatt points and can never get enough. Having said that, just a few points for your consideration.

1.My closest airport is Newark, so I care about United. The United program can be very useful to book awards using space that only opens up if you have a Chase-issued United credit card since other Star Alliance partners can’t see that space. United is also useful with MileageplusX, where you can get over 9 points per dollar at many family friendly restaurants that your kids would like (and wouldn’t cost you that much money to take out the family) as well as other stores, and it generally stacks with portals. The excursion perk has been very useful for me in the past (you mention that). Finally, if flying from somewhere to somewhere with lots of airports in an era of full planes and lots of IRROPS, if I want to get to south Florida from the metro New York area, I have a choice of JFK, LGA and EWR to PBI, FLL or MIA. If I need to change airports and get reticketed, that means something bad is going on and that is probably the worse time to try and contact Turkish for reticketing!

2. The Chase ecosystem with groceries could become a bigger issue in the future but isn’t currently due to lots of 5x quarterly bonuses on United and Hyatt (and Marriott, if the number is greater than 5) credit cards or Freedom/Freedom Flex. For a data point, we spend a fortune on groceries but spent only about $900 last year on AMEX Gold due to the large number of Chase bonuses on groceries throughout the year.

3.I personally think you are selling Bilt short and that has implications for Chase. I maxed out on the 5x for 5 day promotion (I don’t do MS but had enough to cover it), and the Christmas bonus I believe was up to $25K of spend (more than I could do). Even at 2x on the 1st of the month, Bilt is pulling most of my spend from Freedom Unlimited that I would use to transfer to Hyatt since I can use Bilt on the first of the month to pay taxes, pay medical insurance, pay or pre-pay utilities and pay off other bills I received. Even if Bilt never has a rent day above $5K, that would be $60k of spending that is going to Bilt for Hyatt points instead of Freedom Unlimited. Also, Bilt got me United Gold for several months due to a promotion, and my 90,000 point transfer from Bilt to Hyatt was truly instantaneous. If you’ll notice, I never said the word rent (kind of like how the Freedom cards never mention the words “transferrable currencies”).

4.You are throwing around Citi and Cap One, but when they have similar transfer partners, there is a difference in that I can get 10% back in points annually using Citi (with Rewards+) compared with Cap One. For that reason, if Citi and Cap One both have a transfer partner that interests me, I will use Citi over Cap One for that first $50K of spend.

Zack Wojtowicz

Great article Nick.

I’d argue Chase points are much more valuable to the “average American.” We have limited vacation time (makes it hard to have time to reposition and domestic nonstops are clutch. We also don’t live near a “big airport.”

While, it played a part in their meltdown the point to point system of Southwest makes for more compelling non-stops for the majority of us who’s closest airport isn’t a hub or gateway airport. I’d rather pay with Southwest points for a direct flight to Florida than use Lifemiles for a cheaper connecting flight on United.

Which also leads me to the fact I think you’re undervaluing United points. The caveat here is you also need a United cars. But, I’ve found United economy award availability has been horrible from my airport (IND) domestically. Even though I want to use my points for big business class flight redepemptions lately I find myself have to use United miles to utilize xn availability and have itinerary on sale PNR so I don’t have to reposition.

Amex is the most overrated to me. Only big transferable currency that doesn’t have a compelling lodging option (Hyatt, Preferred Hotels through Choice with 2X citi transfers, Vacasa through Wyndam) and their big shining star is ANA. Finding an itinerary that fits my wife and I’s limited vavation times with the domestic connections we need both directions has been non existent over last couple of years. I’ve had a stash of 100s of thousands of Amex points I have to keep bypassing because their points never seem to be able to meet my needs.

Food for thought! Love the conversation. Thanks for all you do.

Pam

@DSK & @eponymous coward – you have both provided me with the most valuable data from this discussion. I had prev been very interested in Bilt because of its AA transfers (a US carrier I myself can never have enough miles) but dismissed it as “rent only” since I didn’t think I could do better/same on cat bonuses than my current program using many cards.

Based on your positive experiences, I have now done a much deeper dive on Bilt, along with confirming with their reps their “rent” bonus works the same on HOA fees. HUGE for me as mine just increased another 10% for 2023.

Thank you both for the addtl info about Bilt’s generous, extra promos. I want to apply & looks like they have referral bonuses if either of you wish to provide me with a code?

DSK

Thank you for the kind words. My referral code is ETKV-3B8H. Hope the card works out for you!

Pam

Perfect, thx! Hoping desperately I’m offered 5 days/5 points – 50k AA miles about the same as a Citi/Barclays AA SUB

Pam

Hi again, DSK – I unfort didn’t have the other part of the referral link (to go w your above code), so I messaged c/s. They said I had to either provide you w my email/cell or join first as a “member” before I could get the entire referral link to apply with & that was by applying for the card? Made no sense, but Bilt took 2 days to respond w that even (not the best service I’m already seeing), so I gave up (since I wanted in my hands before “Rent Day” & my Feb 1 HOA pmt), applied, & was immediately approved.

Anyways, sorry about that but I got the Bilt card today along with their text upon delivery:

“1. This promotional offer is only valid for 5 days from the date this email was sent. During this time you will earn a total of 5 rewards points, (1 base point plus 4 bonus points), per $1 spent on net purchases (purchases minus returns/credits), excluding purchases classified as Rent in the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card Rewards Program Terms and Conditions. The maximum bonus points you can earn with this offer is 50,000, regardless of how much you spend.“

Success – I’ve seen the light! Many thanks again, I’ll knock
out 50,000 AA or Hyatt points by month-end & be ready for Rent Day (in my case HOA Day).

Bilt’s approach is so much better for me than a SUB with an ongoing AF. I appreciate all your user comments about how Bilt REALLY works, will be a long-term keeper for me.

DSK

No worries. Glad you got the five day promotion!

JohnnyBoy

I have to disagree, at least for my purposes. Living in northern California, having Hyatt, United and Southwest as transfer partners is huge. Being able to immediately transfer points to United MP has allowed me to snag international Polaris seats for our family when they briefly become available and with no surcharges. And I have gotten incredible value from Hyatt point stays at Alila, Andaz and Park Hyatt properties all over the world. I can’t have enough UR points.

Phil Ridolfi

This is a great, thought-provoking piece. The way I see it, the Chase UR program is focused on being the easiest to use, and it’s primarily for domestic travel. It’s aimed at the 90% of the market that doesn’t pay much, if any, attention to point valuations, signup bonuses and category multiples. For the other 10% (that’s us), they throw us a bone with Hyatt and a few international airline partners that get us excited. The 5/24 rule underscores this focus.

Dan

I agree with this on all counts. The familiarity and ease of use with United, Hyatt, Southwest and Marriott/IHG (even though their points are worth less than most others) plus the bonus multiplier through the portal is great for most people. Grocery spend is a different conversation.

Plus, everything we’ve seen with award pricing and availability suggests that booking Star Alliance awards direct through United will offer far more (and more practical) options for most people (albeit higher prices) than hoping their alliance partners have access to saver space.

Peter N.

Excellent article Nick, glad to see people coming to their senses. So many Chase fanboys and in reality, Hyatt is really keeping that ecosystem afloat. Honestly, it’s just a glorified cashback cashback setup with their cards.

Harry

Totally agree. Finally some blog has the courage to say it. Chase with their silly 5/24 when someone with FICO 800+ can’t get one of their cards if over. Amex is light years ahead of Chase. Remember Jamie Diamond, Chase CEO, has said Chase and this points system (cards) is on borrowed time. He must be pure Democrat aligned with Durbin trying to be like Europe and basically no cards. As written, without Hyatt, I would not put any spend on Chase. Ask yourself, with Amex would you be in the game?

Harry

of course, “without Amex”

Lukas

I think I summed it up well when there was an opportunity to get 40% transfer bonus from Chase to Aeroplan. I decided not to do it because as I said Chase UR points = Hyatt points. I don’t think of Chase having any transferrable currency at all.

Mantis

I haven’t made a redemption with UR that wasn’t Hyatt or PYB since they lost Korean air. Man I miss Korean air.

But still, I can’t help but think, in this space all change is bad, so I’ll just accept that UR are for Hyatt if I can keep the flow of CIC flowing.

Last edited 21 days ago by Mantis
Raylan

Had to Ctrl+f for Korean and I totally agree. Losing KE was a pretty big blow and programs added since that loss don’t close the gap.

Markj

Thanks for putting in writing what I have felt for a long time….the Chase ecosphere is not that strong outside of Hyatt. I suspect so many bloggers were making money pushing Chase cards that there hasn’t been much room for honesty. Kudos to you!

A guy named Mike

Great post, the two tent posts of value for Chase are Hyatt and the CIC-Staples Visa GC point generator.

If either or both go away, none of Chase’s remaining partners can paper over the fact that they earn 33% less on dining and gen spend than Amex and lack a grocery category.

Tony

I wholeheartedly agree that the value proposition of Chase UR points is highly dependent on Hyatt. Since the value of transferrable points isn’t only about the value of redemptions themselves, but also partially comes from their optionality (i.e. the embedded options to redeem in a number of different programs), I personally find Chase points are less valuable than AmEx points (I still think Chase points are more valuable than Capital One or Citi points, though). Chase does have a few somewhat unique or less common transfer partners (e.g. WN, UA), but these programs have lower values of redemptions. Other than to Hyatt’s program or to top up for an imminent redemption, transferring to other partners’ programs only makes sense (to justify the theoretical value of Chase point) when a transfer bonus is offered (e.g. when there was a 30% transfer bonus to AC last November).

Tony

Here’re the reasons why I still think Chase points are more valuable than Capital One’s:

It still has the Hyatt program, as we all agree.We’re more likely to see transfer bonuses to programs (particularly Aeroplan) from Chase than from Capital One, because of Chase’ relationships with these programs.Southwest points are actually more valuable than their theoretical redemption value because the cheapest award tickets are fully refundable (unlike tickets paid with cash).UA points are much less valuable these days (for booking awards on its own metal), but it still uses the old award chart for its partner awards, which can be cancelled without any fees and is unique within the Star Alliance (I highly value this option).

Last edited 21 days ago by Tony
Tony

Yes, Chase historically didn’t offer transfer bonuses (because it didn’t have to) but it does now because it faces more competitions. With Chase’s relationship with Aeroplan (which is the program I’m most interested in after Hyatt), I expect to see bigger and more frequent transfer bonus to Aeroplan from Chase than from Capital One.

UA is still mostly sticking to its old award chart for partner awards. I recently booked an award for a family member on EVA in business class for the same number of points as before. I could have done the same (with roughly the same number of points and a bit higher carrier imposed charges)) with EVA points, which I could transfer from either Citi or Capital One, but I’d lose the ability to cancel the ticket without fees. On top of the fees, if I were to cancel the EVA flight booked with EVA points, I’d be stuck with redeposited EVA points which will expire in less than 3 years without the ability to extend them.

You don’t need to convince me that ANA has the cheapest redemption for flights to Asia (certainly within Star Alliance). That’s one of reasons I value AmEx points more. However, with ANA points, you need to book roundtrips and the points expire in 3 years just like EVA.

I agree with you that UA miles are worth much less these days (like DL) because it’s hard to find good saver awards on its own metal. However, there’s still value to be found in its partner awards (unlike DL). I remember AA miles not too long ago were also worth much less for the same reason (lack of save awards on its own metal), but there has be significantly improvement since then and its miles are probably worth more than any of its domestic competitors (other than AS). I hope for the same with UA miles.

Last edited 21 days ago by Tony
Poe

At the end of the day I think having Hyatt (which no one else does) is more valuable than Turkish, LifeMiles, Cathay, etc considering there are still good partners.

A guy named Mike

Bilt?? They have a similar earning structure to the CSP without a fee, so even if you don’t have rent I could see why someone would be interested.

Pam

+1

Lee

Agreed.

Nick, you mention your interest in travel ultimately gravitated toward “comfortable.” Let’s apply that same concept to the points game itself (as opposed to the travel we receive from the game).

If a person is willing to commit only a certain amount of time and energy to the points game, the person will begin to focus on simplicity (comfort), paths of least resistance, and value per unit effort. Of course, the answer will be different for each person. And, that’s okay. For my objectives, the Chase ecosystem is that dating relationship that is just not quite a fit . . . it takes too much energy . . . and the Sapphire has simply become a back-up card in the wallet.

Mike

I fly mostly Star Alliance, and have dipped my toes in Avianca, Turkish and Aeroplan awards. Given the strong likelihood that I need to make a small or large change to an award booking after first making it, I have found all 3 of those options which offer cheaper awards to be a huge headache to make changes with. Either through terrible phone reps or very high fees (e.g. $200 cancellation fee on a 6000 mile aeroplan award), I have been very turned off from using those options.

United’s flexibility on award changes is so convenient, that is a huge plus for me. Although I haven’t had to transfer from Chase to United yet, it is good to know that option is available.

Last edited 22 days ago by Mike
José

I have plenty of mileage plus miles and fly economy domestically and oversees so award availability is usually not much of a problem for me. I like United’s flexibility because I frequently change plans, but I have been thinking that when I am sure I will fly, I should book another reservation on Avianca or Aeroplan at a lower point cost and cancel my United award, keeping the United miles for the next time when I might need more flexibility. Anyone see any pitfalls with that strategy?

James

One huge missing thing is that United provides a LOT of extra availability with their own miles, but isn’t available to partners. It’s pretty common to see saver level availability on UA when booking with UA miles, but not available to partners. If you’re regularly flying within north america, United at least has the option to use the miles, with partners there is nothing.

Flow

I fully agree with this article and it’s something I’ve been quietly saying ever since Chase lost Korean Air as a partner. Hyatt is an amazing partner and makes it absolutely worth hoarding Chase UR but aside from Hyatt, there aren’t many great transfer partners that don’t also partner with Amex, Citi, or Capital One. United used to be a nice program to transfer to but after a few devaluations, it’s usually better to book with Aeroplan, Lifemiles, or ANA unless it’s a United flight that isn’t available to partners.

Lee

Southwest is the only transfer partner unique to Chase. This is Nick’s fundamental argument. What does Chase offer that no other card issuer offers?

People tend to thing of Hyatt, IHG, and United. But, Bilt has them as transfer partners. As well as American.

Some criticize Bilt’s lack of a sign-up bonus, but its “Rent Day” double points offers up to 120k extra points per year. Think of it as a locked-in retention bonus. With that, does a SUB matter?

A guy named Mike

To your point, if you adjust the value of Southwest points to account for earning less on dining, grocery, and gen spend compared to Amex, are basically getting a Delta level of ROS.

It’s not even that much better return on spend than a no fee alternative cash setup.

Those point are vastly overrated by casual points and miles blogs outside the context of earning the companion pass.

eponymous coward

Yeah, everyone goes “BiLt DoEsN’t HaVe A sUb” and I just smile and nod and mention they give points away ALL the time: you get points for connecting partner accounts, you get points for answering Rent Day quiz questions, you get 2x on Rent Day, they regularly do 5x/10x/2x during your first week or month.

It’s pretty smart if you ask me, if you give away points on the regular that require engagement with the program you incentivize regular card usage and disincentivize churning in a way less heavy handed way than 5/24. And you still get lots of points without an annual fee.

Dave Hanson

Nick, well done. FWIW, I agree with essentially everything in this thoughtful post. I’ll be referencing it for folks who ask me about the value in Chase vs other currencies.

As a longtime Diamond / Globalist who makes heavy use of Guest of Honor bookings, I’ve been transferring every last UR point to Hyatt for years. But your point here is right on, “Hyatt is wonderful when it works, but it won’t necessarily be everywhere you need to be.”

For me, this is where IHG offers a great alternativo to Hyatt value after their impressive 2022 program revamp. Outside of truly rural & rustic areas like some national parks (where Choice and Wyndham often shine), IHG is just about “everywhere [I] need to be”. Their points bookings often offer great value on the low end, and new diamond and Milestone benefits increase the value proposition on the high end.

Interestingly, even as Chase’s transferrable cards are falling behind (aside from Hyatt), their affinity cards are newly ascendent. Three clear examples are their IHG, Hyatt, and Aeroplan cards. The newer IHG cards got massively better last year in several respects, boosting unbonused earn from 1x to 3x points and adding enticing new big spend benefits at $20k and $40k. Hyatt’s business and personal cards not only come with various promotions and bonuses all year round, but allow spending for night credit / status–which didn’t happen back in the Hyatt Gold Passport days. And Aeroplan, the newest member of the group, also has much value to add for people who use those currencies.

Meanwhile, other affinity cards like Amex’s Delta offerings are bland and uncompetitive. Even Amex’s best affinity card, the Hilton Aspire, is rumored to face an annual fee boost, without a corresponding bump in benefits.

I think the lesson here may be that Chase got burned badly enough by their huge loss on the CSR rollout that they’re wary of keeping up with Amex in doling out their currencies. So, they’re focused on leveraging their affinity relationships. That’s seems like a smart business decision on their part. One someone at Amex calculates just what a bath they’ve taken on their massive points giveaways, we’ll likely see them pull back also.

Nathan

I looked at my own Chase UR habits, and I have used 90% of my points for Hyatt. The other 10% was the occasional Southwest booking, or Marriott during a 50% transfer bonus.
On the hotel side, Hyatt is their only strong partner. I’d like to see them increase the transfer rate to Marriott from 1:1 to minimum of 1.5:1 but with the upcoming devalution, better get ahead of that with a 2:1 ratio.They also need to increase the IHG transfer ratio to 2:1 everyday, with the occasional 3:1 transfer bonus.
On the airline side, Chase already has some strong options, with United and Aeroplan and Virgin and Avios all having the potential for very good value. But more options is always better as each program has its strong suits and sweet spots. I’d like to see LifeMiles or Turkish or Etihad or Cathay added. Dare I ask for AA?
If Chase ever nixes their partnership with Hyatt, or Hyatt axes their award chart, I will defintiely turn my spending to focus more heavily on Amex and Cap1.

Alex

Hotel partners are weak for everyone besides Chase/Hyatt simply because of lower value hotel points provide. The only other reasonable hotel partnership is Citi/Choice but Choice isn’t that exciting for the most part.

Daniel Rall

This is why one has a stable of affinity cards alongside transferrable points cards (the latter being only for emergency top ups, WRT lodging).

Nico Z

Being a globalist and applying suite upgrades vastly increases the value of chase points. If they ever lose Hyatt as a transfer partner I would need to reevaluate my credit cards.

Dima

I am sure someone at Chase crunched the numbers and determined that slowly devaluing the program (RIP PYB) and throwing some marketing money towards TPG and the likes is more profitable than improving the program.

Biggie F

In other news, Lionel Messi does not seem to be a guy who, intellectually or physically, could be making the kind of money he does doing anything other than playing soccer.

(Writing this after having just checked out of a Park Hyatt that is running a bit north of $1,000 a night more than I could otherwise afford to pay for it. <wink>Thank you Chase UR points!</wink>)

James

Chase/Hyatt makes it really easy to get 2-3cpp most of the time without a lot of work on day-to-day travel, as well as on the aspirational travel.

And I agree, there’s really no other good hotel option other than Chase + Hyatt.

eds183

I have primarily used my Ultimate reward points for transfer to United in combination with a United card’s increased (X class) availability. I would have loved to use Amex to transfer to Air Canada but the problem is that first/last pesky united connection to a partner. In combination with United’s lower fees and cheaper partner rewards compared to AC those Chase pts can give outsized value many times compared with transfer from Amex.

Last edited 22 days ago by eds183
ECR

I know most people arent junkies following the points game closely (we are definitelty in the minority) but I’m surprised Chase hasn’t felt compelled to offer 2x on the Freedom Unlimited cards when Citi has with the DoubleCash (or CapitalOne with the VentureX). I’d like to accumulate Chase points, but without holding a business card there really isn’t an efficient way to do that over what I can get with Amex/Citi/CapitalOne points. I’m basically stuck maxing out Freedom 5x categories and using the sapphire for non-flight travel. Am over 5/24 so the business cards are out of consideration for now. Chase definitely has lost some luster for me .

eponymous coward

They don’t offer it because Chase UR are 1.25x/1.5x on the Chase portal, Citi/Capital One are 1x on their portals, and AMEX is 1x/sometimes BELOW 1x (for non/FHR hotels).

Offering 2x that’s redeemable at 3% is a “we lose money on every transaction but make up for it in volume!” kind of deal for Chase…

Jim Lovejoy

For me Freedom Unlimited is the card I use for Costco, and for virtually nothing else.

Jim Lovejoy

Because I don’t have that in my wallet, and won’t until we’ve finished meeting the bonus requirements for the Amex Gold.
If I had the Altitude Reserve or another Visa with a better Costco bonus I would probably not use my Freedom Unlimited at all.

Alex

They don’t have to be better than everyone else for us to efficiently use them. They have Hyatt, United and Aeroplan which is plenty to be completely functional. And they have office 5x plus reasonably high sign up bonuses. I think your view is just overshadowed by recent Amex generosity but if that didn’t exist, Chase would look as pretty as usual.

Dave Hanson

But remember, Aeroplan is an Amex partner as well. Hyatt and United, OTHO are exclusive. Nick’s point is that for him (and many of us), Hyatt is the overwhelming value add here. (eds123 does make a good point above about “first segment” UA metal flights offering a good transfer case for UA too.)

Alex

Sure, but my counter-point is that it does not matter. The fact that we can transfer to Aeroplan from Amex does not mean transferring from Chase is less valuable.

Sheng

The 10% bonus if you have the Aeroplan card is unique to Chase though. Also, ironically, when Chase was running the 30% Aeroplan bonus Greg wrote about how he wasn’t going to transfer. One of the reasons he mentioned was that he would rather use Amex MR for Aeroplan since he gets better value from his Chase UR for Hyatt redemptions. To me that says he values Chase points at more than MR.

eds183

I think the other issue is the the 5/24 that puts a dampener on UR. I haven’t had the chance to apply for any Ink cards and wont have open slots until May. It’s much harder to accumulate UR points so I tend not to use them except where I have to. So I accumulate 100K for so and then put the cards away for sometimes months and focus on other transferable currency.

Alex

Maybe, but once you find yourself under 5/24, you can keep adding Chase business cards with great bonuses and Chase is pretty liberal in approving.

eponymous coward

… which is bad for Chase because they want you spending on those cards (the exception being “I only spend at 3x/5x”).

Pam

Succinctly put. AMEX might rock cheap airfare via huge (tho perhaps temp) SUBs but no way am I booking a hotel with, or thru, them outside my $200 credit with FHR/Plat. I’ll mosey on over to Chase & Hyatt/30% off portal bookings.