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Chase Ultimate Rewards: Best and Worst United MileagePlus Redemptions

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Chase Ultimate Rewards: Best and Worst United MileagePlus Redemptions

United is arguably the most popular Chase airline transfer partner, and transferring Ultimate Rewards points to United often makes sense when the price in points on the Ultimate Rewards website is too high compare to what you could pay for the flight using alternative currencies — frequent flyer miles. Since the United MileagePlus program is region-based and isn’t linked directly to the price of a revenue ticket, you will come ahead if the Ultimate Rewards cost is more than $300 (for a Sapphire Preferred cardholder) or $375 (for a Sapphire Reserve cardholder).  For better understanding of how this valuation works, read the first installment: Best and Worst Examples of Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points – The Portal.

Ultimate Rewards on United: Best Redemptions

1) 25,000 miles for a medium or long-haul roundtrip domestic flight.

Since United redemption levels are region-based, redeeming miles for a long domestic flight in the Continental U.S. is usually a good value. For example, a nonstop flight between Boston and San Francisco is often in the $400-600 range, so using 25,000 miles can save you the points vs booking on the Ultimate Rewards site, regardless whether you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card.


2) 35,000 miles to Alaska

Getting to Anchorage can be expensive and convoluted if you don’t live near a hub served by Alaska Airlines. Airfares can rival fares to Europe and a flight can require 1-2 layovers depending on the departure airport. A ticket between Miami and Anchorage, for example, can cost $700-800. When this is the case, transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to United and grab a 35,000-mile award ticket. That will beat booking your ticket on points, even with a 25 percent or 50 percent bonus.

3) 45,000 miles to Hawaii

A nonstop flight from the Northeast to Hawaii takes whopping 12 hours and can easily cost $800 or more. Yet, a United nonstop flights to Honolulu from Newark (or anywhere in the continental U.S.) is only 45,000 miles.

4) 20,000 miles for expensive short-haul flights

United charges reduced 20,000-mile roundtrip rate for redemptions that are under 700 miles one way. One of the best examples of how to save Ultimate Rewards points is a Untied  flight between New York (Newark) and Quebec City, Canada, especially if you’re looking for a nonstop flight. Since the distance between New York and Quebec City is less than 700 miles you will only pay 20,000 United miles for a ticket that often costs $400-600.

5) Premium class long-haul flights

As we mentioned in our first installment, paying cash (or, in our case, UR points since they are linked to the cash price of a ticket) for a long-haul business or first clasnons flight is almost always a losing proposition unless there is a short-lived promo or a fare war going on. By transferring you Ultimate Rewards points to United you will usually get a much better value.

6) For premium class travel, try to redeem your miles on United metal.

Since United charges more miles for redeeming awards on its partners, try to find a flight on United, or, if there are two or more segments, choose the flight with United for the first international leg.


Even if United doesn’t serve to the city you’re going to, for example, Bangkok, you will still pay the lowest mile redemption rate as long as its first international leg is on United.

In the example below, the first row shows a flight NYC (Newark) – Shanghai – Bangkok with the first leg on United and the second on Thai. As a result, you’re paying the United redemption rate of 70,000 miles per oneway flight, even though the second leg is on United’s partner.

Pay 70,000 miles for travel partly operated by Thai Airways

The second Thai segment is in economy for this particular itinerary, which is why you see the “Mixed cabin” note.

The second row in this screenshot also shows a flight between New York and Bangkok, but in this case, the first leg is on United partner China Airways, which is why you would pay the partner’s rate of 80,000 miles per that flight.

7) Using a stopover/Excursionist Perk

There are things you can do with miles that you can’t do on a revenue ticket. If you want to visit two places instead of one, transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to United and enjoy getting more travel for free. You can stop in Europe on the way to Asia or in Asia on the way to Australia.
Use stopovers and see more
While United is going to tighten up its stopover rules after October 6, you can still enjoy a “detour” on the way to or from your destination on the condition that they are in the same region (for example you will still be able to visit London and Munich on the same roundtrip flight, but not Paris and Hong Kong). But you can take advantage of United stopover rules in its current form if you book your travel before October 6.

Ultimate Rewards to United: Worst Redemptions

1) Ultra-cheap short flights

Don’t transfer Ultimate Rewards points for short and cheap flights. For example, flights between New York and Boston or Washington or between LA and San Francisco or San Diego are often priced below $100. With your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus you will save a lot of points by booking at the portal.

2) Redeeming for first class on United partners

Here are the numbers.

Europe115,000 miles in business, 140,000 in first140,000 in business, 220,000 in first
AsiaFrom 115,000 miles in business, from 160,000 in firstFrom 140,000 in business, From 240,000 in first
Australia and OceaniaFrom 115,000 miles in business, from 120,000 in firstFrom 140,000 in business, from 220,000 in first

Since United first class levels on partner airlines are punitive, you will do better by redeeming your miles on business class or first class flight on United whenever possible.

These are just some examples of how you can stretch the value of your Ultimate Rewards points when transferred to United. While United is the most popular Ultimate Rewards partner, it’s not the only one. The Ultimate Rewards program gives you a choice of transfer partners, so you can transfer points to six other airlines: Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore, FlyingBlue Air France/KLM and Korean when United miles don’t work for you.

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