When I was still new to award travel, there was a lot of buzz around the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card. It took me a while to get on board and I’ll explain why because you might be in the same boat…
With DFW being my home airport, American Airlines is usually my best option.
American Airlines AAdvantage is not a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. You cannot transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to American Airlines AAdvantage.
I thought I needed AAdvantage miles to fly AA. At the time, there was a valuable transferable currency that did transfer to AAdvantage, so I stuck with that. That program no longer exists (RIP Starwood), but even before that program died, I learned that AAdvantage miles are not the only way to book AA award flights.
I figured out how I could book American Airlines flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards points (and other transferable points) even if AAdvantage is not a partner. In fact, there are 3 ways to book American Airlines flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are now some of my favorite credit card rewards. Ultimate Rewards points are easy to earn and easy to redeem. There are several redemption options thanks to Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partners.
How to earn transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points
These 3 cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to Chase’s 11 airline partner programs:
Earn your first 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points
The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card welcome bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months is worth at least $750. But you can potentially get even more value out of those points by using transfer partners as I’ll discuss in this post.
Check out our list of 36 ways to redeem!
Bonus categories have been added and/or improved:
- Earn 5 points per dollar on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Earn 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases
- Instead of the old earn rate of 2, you can now earn 3 points per dollar on dining (including eligible delivery services and takeout)
- 3 points per dollar on online grocery purchases (this excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
- 3 points per dollar on select streaming services
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Also, receive credit of up to $50 annually on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards. New cardmembers will receive this credit immediately and existing cardmembers will start earning after the next anniversary.
Each anniversary, you’ll receive bonus points equal to 10% of total purchases made the previous year. This excludes any welcome bonus points, so it’s only on points earned from spending.
The annual fee is $95, but the welcome offer alone is worth a lot more than that.
Credit cards that earn transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points are better than airline co-branded cards
You’re probably reading this because you already have one of the three cards that earn transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points and you’re wondering how to redeem.
But if you do not already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Business Preferred, or Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I suggest opening one ASAP. These are the first cards I recommend for almost anyone no matter what your travel goals are.
The most common argument is “but I fly [insert airline] so I need [insert airline] miles”. This seems like a reasonable argument, but it’s incorrect.
You do not need AAdvantage miles to book American Airlines flights
You can earn transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards and redeem those points for American Airlines flights. The great thing is, earning transferable points also gives you the option to book with several other airlines.
When you use an airline co-branded credit card, you only earn miles for that airline program. For example, if you only use an American Airlines AAdvantage co-branded card, you only earn AAdvantage miles. Airline miles generally do not transfer to other airlines; you cannot transfer AAdvantage miles to other airlines. Your redemption options are limited to that of the AAdvantage program.
Airline co-branded cards are great for welcome bonuses and for benefits, but for everyday spending, it usually makes more sense to accumulate transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards points.
If you only collect AAdvantage miles and there are no award seats available, you’re out of luck. With Chase Ultimate Rewards, if American Airlines does not have an award seat available, you can search other Chase airline partners (such as United).
See also: Intro to Chase Ultimate Rewards
Earn even more Ultimate Rewards points
The earn rate on the no-annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited card is 1.5 points per dollar, which is 50% higher than the rate of 1 point per dollar on non category spending with the CSP, CSR, or CIBP. Also, there are a few bonus categories:
- 5% on Travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% on Dining
- 3% on Drugstore purchases
Welcome offer: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). That’s up to $300 or 30,000 points. Earn 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 4.5% on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, (this includes takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, the normal earn rates (listed above the card) apply.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a cash-back card on its own, meaning points cannot be transferred. But there is an exception if you pair it with a CSP, CSR, or CIBP.
If you also have one of the three Chase cards that earn transferable Ultimate Rewards points (CSP, CSR, or CIBP), then you can redeem any points earned from the Chase Freedom Unlimited the exact same way you would redeem your transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
There are 3 ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book American Airlines flights
- Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for American Airlines flights by booking with the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal.
- The value of your points is fixed
- Redemption price is variable because the paid fare or rate determines the redemption price.
- You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club and then use British Airways Avios (their name for miles) to book American Airlines flights.
- The value of your points will vary
- Redemption price is fixed (but subject to availability). This means that any given route is going to require the same amount of Avios no matter what the paid fare is.
- You can also transfer to Iberia Plus and use Iberia Avios to book American Airlines flights
- The value of your points will vary
- Redemption price is fixed (but subject to availability)
This post is filled with all of the details you need to determine the best way to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for American Airlines flights.
With Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can book some American Airlines routes for significantly less than the amount of miles that AAdvantage would require
The way AAdvantage prices award tickets is different than the way tickets are priced using any of the 3 ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards that I’m going to explain. Depending on the route, this can be a good thing.
For example, a roundtrip itinerary from DFW to Vail would require 25,000 AAdvantage miles for 1 economy milesAAver ticket.
Each of the 3 ways to book with Ultimate Rewards results in a different redemption price
The best way to book depends on routing, paid fares, and availability.
- Book with the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal. Redemption costs will vary when you redeem this way which I’ll explain in great detail. But this DFW-Vail route on the dates I searched requires 23,500-35,400 Ultimate Rewards points.
- Transfer 18,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club and then use British Airways Avios (their name for miles) to book this flight.
- Transfer 17,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Iberia Plus and use Iberia Avios to book
Transferring to British Airways or Iberia definitely results in a lower cost than that of AAdvantage in this example. You would not want to use AAdvantage miles even if you had the option to transfer to Ultimate Rewards to AA.
1. Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for American Airlines flights using the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal
You can use your Ultimate Rewards points to ‘pay’ for all or part of your airfare by booking through the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal. You can also use Ultimate Rewards to book hotels and cars through the redemption portal. Expedia runs this portal, so they should have the same options for flights, hotels, rental cars, and tours as what Expedia.com offers.
The advantage to this redemption option (as opposed to transferring to airline partners) is that you have lots of options in terms of airlines and routing. You are not limited to Chase’s 10 airline transfer partners and you do not have to worry about award seat availability since the ticket is issued as a paid ticket, not an award ticket. This also means that you will actually earn miles for the flight the same way you would on a paid ticket. There are no blackout dates to worry about and you don’t have to worry about award seat availability.
The disadvantage is that you will be redeeming the points at a fixed rate. This is find if the fares are low, but a more expensive plane ticket is going to require more points. This can be a problem if you’re trying to book travel on holidays or other peak dates.
How much are Chase Ultimate Rewards points worth if I redeem via the redemption portal?
Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents per point or 1.50 cents per point, depending on your Sapphire card:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: 1.25 (50,000 points are worth $625)
- Chase Ink Business Preferred: 1.25 (50,000 points are worth $625)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1.50 (50,000 points are worth $750)
DFW to Vail, Colorado operated by AA, nonstop each way
The price of a basic economy ticket for the dates below is ~$352 for basic economy or ~$443 for economy.
- With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, points are worth 1.5 cents each which means you would need to redeem:
- ~23,500 points for basic economy or
- ~29,500 points for economy
- If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred, points are worth 1.25.
- Basic economy would be ~28,200 points.
- Economy would be ~35,400 points
How to book flights with the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal
I’ll use a nonstop American Airlines itinerary between DFW and Mexico for this example.
1. Log in to Ultimaterewards.com using your Chase username and password. On the main menu, select travel.
2. Type in your dates and destination. All available flights will populate. You can filter by airline, nonstop, etc.
3. Select the flights you want.
The cheapest nonstop route is ~$340 and this is the exact itinerary and dates as an example I’ll use to explain the 2nd and 3rd options (Transferring to British Airways or Iberia).
4. Finalize the booking by entering passenger details.
Depending on which Chase Sapphire credit card you have, this DFW-CUN itinerary is about 22,700 or 27,200 points
Note that this is basic economy and economy would cost more money which means more points.
Using Ultimate Rewards points to book flights with the redemption portal is a good option when fares are low. It’s always a good idea to check transfer partners for award ticket availability, though. This is how you can get more than 1.25 or 1.50 cents value out of your Ultimate Rewards points.
Options 2 and 3: Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline partners
The other way to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards for flights is to transfer them to airline partners. Once transferred, your Ultimate Rewards become miles for the program to which you transfer. You can redeem the miles according to the policies of the airline program.
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to these 11 programs at a 1:1 ratio.
Chase Ultimate Rewards has 11 airline partners, but American Airlines is not one
You cannot convert Chase Ultimate Rewards points to American Airlines AAdvantage miles. Instead, you can use 2 of Chase’s airline partners to book flights operated by American Airlines.
The second and third ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for American Airlines flights are with British Airways and Iberia
This is possible because British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus are transfer partners of Ultimate Rewards. Both of these airlines are part of the Oneworld alliance. You can use either of these programs to book flights operated by AA and other OneWorld partners.
Can I transfer British Airways or Iberia Avios to American Airlines?
No. But you can use the loyalty program of either to book award flights operated by American Airlines. This is subject to availability.
British Airways and Iberia are not good programs if you’re trying to redeem for US-Europe routes.
I know… such irony since both are based in Europe. Both programs collect fuel surcharges on transatlantic routes. Unfortunately, this includes flights operated by partner airlines. You can book American Airlines flights between the US and Europe with these programs, but you will have to pay out of pocket fees.
Fuel surcharges may not always be a deal-breaker, but Chase has other partners that we feel are better for Europe.
Do not transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to any airline until you have confirmed price and availability
You need to make sure your dates are available and you will want to confirm the exact amount of miles needed before transferring. Transfers are usually immediate, so there is no reason to transfer before you find availability.
Once you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to partner airlines or hotels, you cannot get them back
When you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to a partner airline or hotel, your points become the currency of the airline or hotel program. For example, if you transfer 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways Executive Club, you now have 20,000 British Airways Avios. Those Avios are now subject to the rules and policies of British Airways Executive Club.
You CANNOT transfer those points back to Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you transfer and then the American Airlines flights that you want are not available, you are stuck with 20,000 British Airways Executive Club Avios. If you wait to transfer, you can check other Chase Ultimate Rewards partners for other options if an American Airlines flight is not available.
Award ticket availability
AA only makes a certain amount of seats available to their partner programs (such as British Airways and Iberia). In other words, just because a seat is available to book with American Airlines AAdvantage miles, it does not mean a partner such as BA will have that seat available to book with BA Avios.
The best way to check for availability on American Airlines operated flights is to search aa.com. You will need to search for MilesAAver tickets. Once you find flights that work, head to BA or IB to book. This post explains how.
Important: AA’s web specials are exclusive to AAdvantage. If a ticket you find at aa.com is available to book as a web special, but not available as a milesAAver, BA and IB are not going to be able to book that ticket. You also cannot book AAnytime tickets with British Airways or Iberia.
When you search AA.com for milesAAver availability, do not pay attention to AAdvantage award ticket pricing.
Award ticket pricing when booking AA flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners
Update: In 2021, Iberia updated its redemption pricing for AA and other partner operated flights.It is now the same as British Airways. The only difference is potentially with fees for international flights. It’s a good idea to check redemption pricing with both British Airways and Iberia.
When you use a partner airline program to book an American Airlines flight, your redemption price is determined by that partner program, not American Airlines:
- If you use British Airways Avios to book a flight operated by American Airlines, British Airways Executive Club determines your award ticket price, not American Airlines AAdvantage.
- If you use Iberia Plus Avios to book a flight operated by American Airlines, Iberia Plus determines your award ticket price, not American Airlines AAdvantage.
Each airline program has its own way of pricing award tickets
Frequent flyer/airline loyalty programs I discuss on this blog fall into one of these categories:
- Region/Zone based
- Dynamic pricing
You can read more about the different types of award ticket pricing here.
- Iberia Plus is distance based
- British Airways Executive Club is distance based
A distance based program means that the redemption price is calculated based on the flight distance. The longer the flight, the more Avios/miles/points you will have to redeem. Distance ranges are divided into tiers and each distance tier has a certain cost.
Each distance based airline program has its own redemption costs, distance ranges, and rules.
Depending on your route, one program may be better than the other
British Airways and Iberia
will have different redemption prices now have the same redemption prices for the exact same AA flight. For long haul flights, particularly transatlantic routes, fuel surcharges may be the only difference between BA and Iberia.
British Airways and Iberia redemption charts for American Airlines flights
Note that both British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus have different redemption prices for their own flights than for award tickets on flights operated by partner airlines such as American Airlines.
British Airways Executive Club
British Airways does not officially publish a partner redemption table, but enough data points are available to make our own chart. The prices shown here are for nonstop one way flights operated by BA partner airlines:
Zone 1 only applies to flights outside of North America. Flights within North America between 1 and 650 miles are 7,500, not 6,000.
Iberia has the same redemption pricing as BA.
Redeeming Iberia or British Airways Avios for nonstop American Airlines itineraries
Nonstop routes are ideal because adding one segment, even if it’s short, results in an increased redemption price due to the way BA and Iberia calculate.
American Airlines nonstop domestic flights
I’ll start with the DFW-Vail itinerary I used earlier. After a quick search on AA.com, I know that this route is available to book as a milesAAver ticket. This means that I should be able to use partner programs such as British Airways Executive Club or Iberia Plus to book the flight.
See also: How to search AA for award space
Calculate the distance of your route
For nonstop flights, you just need to figure out the distance of a one way. Google “(destination a) to (destination b) (airline) distance miles”. For example, ‘DFW to CUN AA distance miles’. Or use Great Circle Mapper (gcmap.com).
The flight distance between DFW and Vail is 721 miles.
British Airways (and now Iberia) calculates the price based on distance per segment. To get the Avios total, you would add the redemption price of each segment. A nonstop flight is one segment. A roundtrip flight where each way is nonstop is 2 segments.
DFW-Vail is 721 miles. This falls in the 651-1150 distance band which is going to require 9,000 Avios each way. To get the roundtrip redemption total, we just need to add each segment (9,000 + 9,000).
Roundtrip is going to be 18,000 British Airways Avios plus $11.20.
Update 2021: Iberia has updated its redemption pricing for AA and other partner operated flights. The redemption price is now the same as that of BA. The only difference is possibly fuel surcharges, particularly when booking transatlantic flights. There are no surcharges on domestic and most other international routes. I generally suggest using BA instead of IB because BA’s customer service is better in the event that you need to change or cancel your plans.
Also, British Airways has a better cancellation policy for domestic AA award tickets than Iberia and I like having the option to cancel or change.
Cancelling award tickets with Iberia or British Airways
British Airways will refund your Avios and you only lose the taxes. For domestic tickets, the taxes are only $5.60. Just remember, the points you get back are going to be British Airways Avios. And you can’t transfer Avios back to Ultimate Rewards.
For international flights with higher taxes and/or surcharges, you can pay a cancellation fee to get your taxes, fees, and Avios refunded. The fee is $55 which is still better than American Airlines.
Iberia charges a fee of $40 (per ticket) if you need to cancel or change an award ticket. I’ve also read that AA tickets are difficult or impossible to change or cancel l when booked with Iberia. So I would avoid Iberia unless the fees on the award ticket are significantly lower than that of BA.
Note that these fees may still be waived due to Covid.
Your options for this itinerary with Chase Ultimate Rewards are:
- Redemption portal- 23,500-35,400 Ultimate Rewards points, depending on which credit card you have
- Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Business Preferred: 28,200/35,400 (basic economy/economy)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 23,500/29,500
- British Airways- 18,000 + $11.20
- Iberia- 18,000 + $11.20
Even at the lowest possible cost in the redemption portal (23,500 if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and book basic economy), British Airways and Iberia result in a lower redemption cost.
American Airlines nonstop flights between DFW and Mexico
The DFW to Cancun route from earlier is also available to book with British Airways Avios or Iberia Avios.
The distance between DFW and Cancun is 1028 miles.
British Airways Executive Club Avios
Each way requires 9,000 Avios.
To get the roundtrip price, just add both segments. 9,000 plus 9,000 equals 18,000 Avios.
DFW-CUN roundtrip would be 18,000 British Airways Avios.
Note about foreign taxes:
Most international award flights are going to have extra taxes and fees no matter which airline program you use. The Mexico taxes here are ~$90. So the total is 18,000 British Airways plus ~$90.
You would need to subtract that from the ticket’s value to figure out the true cents per point value, which I’ll show below. On domestic flights, this isn’t an issue as fees are only $5.60 each way.
Same as BA.
This beats AAdvantage pricing
Even if transferring Ultimate Rewards to AA were an option, British Airways and Iberia result in a lower redemption cost. AA requires 25,000 miles or 30,000 miles (depending on off-peak or peak dates) for this route on a milesAAver ticket.
Your options for this itinerary with Chase Ultimate Rewards are:
- Redemption portal- 22,500 or 27,200, depending on which credit card you have. Note that these are basic economy and “upgrading” to economy requires more.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Business Preferred: 27,200
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 22,500
- British Airways or Iberia- 18,000 + ~$90
If you’re going to use transfer partners, British Airways wins over Iberia for this route.
Once we narrow it down to British Airways vs. redemption portal, it really comes down to personal preference and which card you have. Looking at the cents per point value also helps.
Once we narrow it down to transfer partners vs. redemption portal, it really comes down to personal preference and which card you have. Looking at the cents per point value also helps.
Cents per point value
With international flights, you need to do a little extra math if you want to figure out your cents per point value.
- First, subtract the international taxes and fees from the price of the ticket (340-90=$250)
- Divide that amount by the points 250/18,000=0.014
- Multiply by 100 0.014 X 100= 1.4
Transferring Ultimate Rewards to British Airways Avios (or Iberia) results in a value of 1.4 cents per point.
If you redeem with the redemption portal, points are worth a fixed value of 1.25 or 1.50 cents per point, depending on which Chase card you hold, so no need to do math.
- Redemption portal- 22,500 or 27,200, depending on which credit card you have
- Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Business Preferred: 27,200 (1.25 cents per point)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 22,500 (1.5 cents per point)
- British Airways- 18,000 + ~$90 (1.4 cents per point)
If you’re more concerned about eliminating out of pocket fees, redemption portal is probably best, but you will redeem more points.
If you would rather redeem less even if it means paying out of pocket, British Airways is better.
Chase redemption portal vs. transfer partners
My advice is to always compare redemption prices, but I want to point out something.
As long as the AA ticket is available to book with British Airways or Iberia, that redemption price will not change even if the paid fare is high. If the paid fare is $600, you would still need 18,000.
On the other hand, higher fares mean more points required if you redeem Ultimate Rewards via the redemption portal. A $600 fare would require 40,000 or 48,000 points, depending on which card you hold.
American Airlines itineraries requiring a connecting flight
Any route that has even 1 connecting flight will increase the redemption cost with British Airways or Iberia.
Itineraries with connecting flights
I’ll use Austin to Cancun with a connection in DFW as an example.
How to calculate redemption totals when redeeming British Airways and Iberia Avios for AA itineraries with connecting flights
To calculate the amount of Avios needed with British Airways or Iberia, you first need to find the distance between each segment on the route.
If your flight is Austin to Cancun with a connection in DFW, you would need to find the distance between AUS and DFW. Then find the distance between DFW and CUN.
- AUS to DFW is ~190 miles
- DFW to CUN is ~1028 miles
British Airways and Iberia both calculate the price based on distance per segment. If your flight has just 1 connection, you have two total segments each way. Even a short connecting segment adds 6,000 or 7,500 Avios each way to your redemption price.
Find the cost for each segment and add them together
- AUS to DFW adds 7,500 Avios
- DFW to CUN is 9,000 Avios
- Each way is 16,500 Avios
- Roundtrip is 33,000 Avios
Roundtrip, the additional Avios required for DFW-AUS adds 15,000 to what the total of DFW-CUN would be, bringing the total to 33,000 Avios.
This itinerary in the redemption portal is actually better than BA or IB for these dates:
So your options for this itinerary with Chase Ultimate Rewards are:
- Redemption portal- 21,150 or 25,360 depending on which credit card you have.
- British Airways or Iberia- 33,000 + ~$90
In this case, you would want to use the redemption portal.
You do not need AAdvantage miles to book award tickets on American Airlines flights.
There are 3 ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards for AA flights. The best way to redeem depends on route, paid fares, and availability.
When paid fares are low, the redemption portal is probably the better way to book. For routes with higher fares, always check to see if transfer partners are an option.
The great thing about having flexible points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards is that you have options. If you only have an AA-cobranded card, you only earn AAdvantage miles. You cannot transfer those miles to any airlines. Your redemption options are limited to the AAdvantage program.
Earn your first 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you open a Chase Sapphire Preferred card
Current offer: Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
The annual fee is $95, but the welcome offer alone is worth at least $750 if you redeem for travel in the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal. The bonus is worth even more if you learn how to utilize airline and hotel transfer partners.
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