I was originally planning on including ways to book flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards points in this post about Big Sur hotels, but once I started, I realized I should probably dedicate a separate post to flights. Because this was meant to be part of the Big Sur post, I’m focusing on flights to Big Sur and the Bay Area. This post will also be a good reference for ways to book flights to other domestic destinations with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but just know that redemption prices may vary for other domestic routes/destinations.
There are 2 ways to redeem transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points for flights:
- Redeem miles/points at a fixed rate for travel purchases. How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel via the Chase redemption portal
- Transfer to airline partners. Chase Ultimate Rewards points become airline miles. You can redeem them according to the rules and redemption prices of the airline program to which you transfer. How To Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards Points For Award Flights On Over 50 Airlines
The redemption portal can be useful, but transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points hold great potential value if you learn how to utilize their airline or hotel transfer partners.
Flight options to Big Sur and the Bay Area with Chase Ultimate Rewards points
There are several airport options, but some are more convenient than others. It helps to show the area on a map.
Traffic and exact starting point/destination could add or take off a few minutes but Carmel-by-the-sea to where we stayed in Big Sur (Ventana) is about 30 minutes.
- Monterey (MRY) is about 15 minutes from Carmel and 45 minutes from Big Sur
- San Jose (SJC) is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Carmel and about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Big Sur.
- San Francisco (SFO) is about 2 hours from Carmel and about 2.5 hours from Big Sur.
- Oakland (OAK) to Carmel is about 2 hours from Carmel
Monterey is the closest, but it also tends to be the most expensive (or tough to find availability/good value on points). SJC, SFO, and OAK are served by several airlines and may have better options.
The best airline for a flight to one of these airports really just depends on your departure city. Our airport is DFW, so we always check AA first since they are most likely to have nonstop flights.
San Francisco is a United hub. This means even if you’re in a non-hub city, you may find a nonstop flight with United. For example, New Orleans isn’t a hub for any airline, but there are nonstop flights between New Orleans and San Francisco operated by United.
The first way to book flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards points is with the redemption portal
When you redeem Chase UR points through the redemption portal, you are essentially paying with points and the points have a fixed value. The redemption cost depends on the paid fare and the value of your points depends on the type of card you have:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: 1.25 cents per point (50,000 points are worth $625)
- Chase Ink Business Preferred: 1.25 cents per point (50,000 points are worth $625)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1.50 cents per point (50,000 points are worth $750)
When we were originally booking our Big Sur trip, we were starting in Yosemite (we were planning to fly into Fresno), and then we were flying home from San Jose*.
*We had to cancel Yosemite, so we changed the Fresno flight to San Jose, and in the end we spent the whole trip in the Big Sur area so we flew in and out of San Jose. You can read more about the change of plans and how we booked in this post. But because I already did the research with the original itinerary (DFW-Fresno and San Jose-DFW), I’m going to use that for this example.
I had a few options for checking the price of this itinerary in the redemption portal:
- Search for 2 one ways (DFW-Fresno and San Jose to DFW) and add the total
- Or search for a multi city itinerary
Both of these resulted in a roundtrip cost of over $400 per ticket in economy. The flight to Fresno/Yosemite was nonstop and operated by AA, and the flight from San Jose to DFW was nonstop and operated by AA.
For a $400 ticket in economy, here are the amounts of Ultimate Rewards required:
- With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, points are worth 1.5 cents each which means you would need to redeem ~27,000 points for a $400 ticket
- If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred, points are worth 1.25, which means you would need to redeem ~32,000 points for a $400 ticket
27,000 Ultimate Rewards points for a roundtrip ticket between DFW and California isn’t terrible, but I knew I could possibly do better with transfer partners. It’s always good to compare redemption pricing using both the redemption portal and the partners.
Using the portal is pretty straight forward so I’m going to focus a majority of this post on Chase’s airline partners. This post explains how the portal works in greater detail, including step by step instructions: How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel via the Chase redemption portal.
I found this exact roundtrip AA itinerary for 22,000 points with a transfer partner
Now we’re going to switch gears and talk about how you may be able to redeem less points by utilizing transfer partners. I’ll explain how I transferred my Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways, and then used British Airways to book the AA itinerary in a moment.
First I want to give an overview about Chase’s airline transfer partners. Then I’ll go through the Chase Ultimate Rewards airline partners that may be useful for flights to California.
With the redemption portal, your redemption value is always going to be 1.25 or 1.50 cents per point (depending on which card you have). When you redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points with airline partners, the value could be higher.
Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for flights with airline transfer partners
Chase Ultimate Rewards partners with 10 airline loyalty programs. You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to any of these programs, and your Ultimate Rewards points become miles in whichever program you choose to transfer.
I will briefly go over each program you may want to look at for California flights, but for more information about each of the Chase Ultimate Rewards airline transfer partner programs, click here.
Earn your first 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points by opening a Chase Sapphire Preferred card
Current offer: Earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
The annual fee is $95. Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. 100,000 points are worth $1250 when you redeem in the Ultimate Rewards portal. With transfer partners, 100,000 points could go even further.
Before you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to partners
The most important step is to confirm that your preferred flight is available to book as an award booking on your date. Never transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to an airline until you have confirmed availability.
- Most Ultimate Rewards transfers are instant, so there is no need to transfer in advance
- Once you transfer your points to one of these partners, you’re subject to that airline program’s policies and pricing.
- You cannot transfer those miles or points back to Chase Ultimate Rewards. So if you transfer a large amount of points to British Airways, then the AA flights you want are not available, you’re stuck with all of those points in your British Airways account.
I don’t see American Airlines (or Delta) on that list?
Of the 10 Chase transfer partners, you may notice that only 3 are based in the US: JetBlue, Southwest, and United. Other US common carriers such as American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Delta are notably absent, but you can still book these airlines with other Chase partners. For example, you can use British Airways or Iberia to book flights operated by American Airlines. This is how we booked our flights to California. In fact, this is how we book a majority of our flights within North America.
Booking American Airlines flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards (via British Airways)
Chase Ultimate Rewards points do not transfer to American Airlines. But they do transfer to British Airways and Iberia, both of which can be used to book AA flights.
Once you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways, your points become British Airways Avios (their name for miles). Then you can redeem the points through the frequent flyer program, British Airways Executive Club. You cannot transfer British Airways Avios to AA, but you can use British Airways Avios to book American Airlines flights.
British Airways is a OneWorld alliance partner of AA. This means you can use BA to book award flights operated by AA. This can be an extremely valuable way to book flights with points, but redeeming this way is subject to availability.
This post about booking AA flights with BA gives more detailed instructions including how to search for availability.
British Airways prices award tickets based on distance and per segment.
DFW to any of the four airports mentioned earlier (MRY, SJC, SFO, OAK) fall into the distance band that is priced at 11,000 Avios each way in economy. Depending on your home airport, flights could be more or less. If you’re closer to California and have nonstop flights, less Avios may be required. If you’re further from DFW, the redemption cost using British Airways could be higher.
Since each segment is priced separately, booking AA flights with British Airways is usually best for booking nonstop flights. Iberia, another Chase partner that can be used to book AA flights, has a different way of pricing award flights operated by AA. If you live in a city that does not have nonstop AA flights, Iberia may be a better way to book.
The redemption cost is fixed (but subject to availability)
If this American Airlines itinerary is available to book as an award ticket with British Airways, the roundtrip cost is 22,000 points/Avios no matter what the paid fare is. Redeeming 22,000 points for a $400 ticket gives a value of about 1.8 cents per point.
This is why it is sometimes more valuable to book this way (with transfer partners). Remember, depending on which card I have, the value of my points in the redemption portal is always 1.25 or 1.50. At $400, this ticket was going to be ~27,000 or 32,000 points.
You can read more about how to book AA flights with British Airways Avios here.
Other ways to book flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards airline partners
For more info about booking flights with airline partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards, click here.
There are several factors that may make one airline better than another for the particular route you’re trying to book. I’ll go over ways to book flights operated by other US common carriers and what you need to know about availability and/or redemption pricing. Again, do not transfer Ultimate Rewards points to any airline until you have confirmed availability and pricing for your dates.
But here is a quick reference table:
|To book flights operated by this airline||You can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to this program||Redemption pricing ||Economy prices from continental US airports to California*|
|*prices could be lower or higher, but these are the typical range|
|American Airlines||British Airways Executive Club||Distance based||Between 7.5k and 13k each way for nonstop|
|Iberia Plus||Distance based||Between 17k and 28k roundtrip, depending on your starting airport and route|
|Alaska Airlines||British Airways Executive Club||Distance based||Between 7.5k and 13k each way for nonstop flights|
|Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles||Zone-based||Between 7.5 and 12k each way for nonstop flights|
|Emirates Skywards miles||Zone-based||From anywhere in California to another California destination is 15k roundtrip|
Anywhere else in the continental US to California is 25k roundtrip
|Delta||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Zone-based||12.5k each way for nonstop from anywhere in the continental US. Adding a segment is more|
|Flying Blue AirFrance/KLM miles||Dynamic(ish)||11.5k-14.5k each way, but this could vary slightly based on starting airport and nonstop vs. connecting flights|
|JetBlue||Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer directly to JetBlue||Fare-based||Redemption prices are mostly tied to the fare. BOS-SFO, a long route, was available at low rates on dates I searched, so the redemption cost was as low as 11,200 each way|
|Emirates Skywards miles||Zone-based||Redemption prices aren’t good for flights to California, but using Emirates miles to book JetBlue flights may make sense with other destinations.|
|Southwest||Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer directly||Fare-based||No matter what the route is, Southwest redemption prices are mostly tied to the fare.|
-A $300 ticket is ~21,000 points.
-A $200 ticket is ~13,600
|United||Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer directly||Dynamic||DFW-SJC 12.5k each way in economy. Dynamic pricing means this could vary.|
|Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles||Zone-based||A United operated flight from anywhere in continental US to California 12.5k Krisflyer miles each way (subject to availability)|
Award Ticket Pricing
Redemption pricing is determined by airline with which you book, not by airline operating flight- for example, if you use British Airways to book American Airlines, you are subject to BA’s redemption prices, not AA.
Most airline programs fall into one of 4 categories:
- Region/Zone based
- Pro: Fixed pricing
- Con: Availability can be an issue
- Pro: Fixed pricing
- Con: More segments/further distance may mean more miles/points required
- Con: Availability can be an issue
- Pro: Low fare=low points
- Pro: Availability is usually not an issue
- Con: Holidays and peak travel times mean higher fares. Higher fares=more points
- Dynamic pricing
- Pro: none! Just kidding, sometimes you can find super low redemption prices
- Neutral: Availability may or may not be an issue, it just depends on the airline program
- Con: Said super low redemption prices are completely unpredictable
- Con: Actually, all redemption prices are unpredictable
Click here for more details about the different types of award ticket pricing.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Southwest serves San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco.
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account at a 1:1 ratio to book Southwest flights.
Southwest’s loyalty program is structured in a way that availability is not an issue. If a paid ticket is available on a Southwest flight, you should be able to book the ticket with Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
Southwest Rapid Rewards award ticket pricing
The amount of Southwest Rapid Rewards points required for a flight is tied to the fare at the time of booking. If revenue fares at the time of booking are high, more points are required. When fares are low, redemption prices are low. I find that Southwest usually prices award tickets using a value of 1.4-1.6 cents per point, but it could vary slightly.
I searched Denver to San Francisco and found a few different roundtrip options between $200 and $300:
-The $300 ticket is ~21,000 points.
-The $200 ticket is ~13,600
Other things to know about Southwest Rapid Rewards
- Note that when you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest, they do not qualify for the companion pass.
- One way tickets are allowed.
- There are no change or cancellation fees on award tickets.
JetBlue True Blue
Southwest serves San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco.
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to your JetBlue True Blue account at a 1:1 ratio to book JetBlue flights.
Another Chase partner, Emirates Skywards, can be used to book Jetblue flights. Redemption prices are relatively high for flights to California, but using Emirates miles to book JetBlue flights may make sense with other destinations.
Jet Blue True Blue award ticket pricing
When redeeming for a JetBlue operated flight, the amount of points required correlates with the paid fare. If the paid fare is lower, the amount of points required is lower and if the fare is higher, more points are required. This is similar to Southwest. Click here for more info about Jetblue pricing.
BOS-SFO, probably one of the longest routes in the continental US, was available for as low as $320 roundtrip on dates I searched in November. Those same flights were available to book with 22,400 JetBlue points roundtrip (11,200 each way).
Other things to know about redeeming JetBlue points
One way ticketing is allowed
United Mileage Plus
San Francisco is a United hub, so you may be able to find nonstop flights even if you live in a city that has more of a regional airport. United also serves San Jose, Oakland, and Monterey.
Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer directly to United at a 1:1 ratio, but there’s also another option. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, another partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, can be used to book flights operated by United.
United Mileage Plus award ticket pricing
United switched to a dynamic pricing model and no longer publishes award charts.
Award space on United flights is still subject to availability, but the dynamic pricing model does mean there is more availability. The catch is that pricing is somewhat tied to fare and demand, so it’s tougher to get the kind of value you would get with more of a fixed pricing model (such as the way Singapore Airlines prices award flights operated by United).
Other things to know about redeeming United miles for United flights
One way ticketing is allowed.
The dynamic pricing model allows United to make more seats available to book with United miles, but the amount of seats made available to book with partner miles is different. In other words, you may see a one way ticket on United’s website, but that same seat may not be available to book with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles.
Redemption prices using Singapore Krisflyer miles to book flights operated by United
To redeem Krisflyer miles for flights operated by United and other Star Alliance partners, this chart applies. It is zone-based. A flight operated by United between any 2 continental US cities, regardless of connections, is 12.5k Krisflyer miles each way in economy. So assuming the same United flight is available to book with either program, the flight is always 12.5k Krisflyer miles each way. United, however, may have different pricing.
For what it’s worth, 12.5k was the typical domestic one way economy redemption price when United did publish an award chart. 12.5k is generally a fair amount, depending on your departure city.
When booking United with KrisFlyer miles, availability may be different than what United Mileage Plus shows
The best way to check for availability is to use KrisFlyer’s website.
Why would I want to use Singapore when I can just use United?
Well it all comes down to price. In some cases, KrisFlyer’s pricing model makes award tickets operated by United lower when booked with Singapore Krisflyer miles than the same flight booked with United miles. This is more likely to happen with long haul international flights than with domestic flights.
For flights within the continental US, there’s a good chance that any award space given to partners can also be booked with United miles at a redemption price of 12.5k miles (or maybe even less) each way.
If United’s redemption price for a route within the continental US is more than 12.5k each way, you can check Singapore to see if the same United flight happens to be available, because if it is, Singapore’s price will be 12.5k. I hope that makes sense. I know this is a lot of information.
KrisFlyer miles can also be used to book flights operated by Alaska Airlines. There is a different award chart, though, so I’ll discuss it when we get to Alaska Airlines.
Other things to know about redeeming Krisflyer miles
One way tickets are allowed.
How to book American Airlines, Delta, or Alaska Airlines with Chase Ultimate Rewards partners
You cannot transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Delta, but you may be able to utilize other transfer partners to book these flights for less points than what the redemption portal would require.
Book with these Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners:
- British Airways Executive Club Avios
- Iberia Plus Avios
You cannot transfer British Airways or Iberia to American Airlines AAdvantage, but you can use the programs of British Airways or Iberia to book American Airlines flights.
British Airways Executive Club
For several nonstop routes, British Airways actually has better pricing than American Airlines AAdvantage. So even if AAdvantage was a Chase partner, you want to use BA anyway!
At the time we booked our Big Sur trip, transferring Ultimate Rewards to British Airways turned out to be the best way to book our flights.
British Airways award ticket pricing
British Airways has distance-based award ticket pricing for all award flights. To determine the total, British Airways calculates the cost per segment, so nonstop flights are going to be ideal. Any connection adds more Avios to the redemption total. If your AA route has a connection, Iberia may be the better program to use.
Within the continental US, nonstop flights operated by AA will be 9,000-13,000 Avios each way depending on distance. Our DFW-San Jose flights fell into the distance band priced at 11,000 Avios each way.
You can also use British Airways Avios to book flights operated by Alaska Airlines. When you use BA to book a flight operated by Alaska Airlines, redemption pricing is the same as that of flights operated by AA.
Compared with British Airways, Iberia is generally the better program for AA if you live in a city that is going to require a connection. You can read about British Airways vs. Iberia here.
Iberia award ticket pricing
Iberia has distance-based award ticket pricing for award flights operated by Iberia and most partner airlines such as American Airlines. Iberia calculates the distance by adding the sum of all segments. This sometimes results in different pricing than British Airways.
An itinerary with a connecting flight, especially a short distance connecting flight, does not necessarily add to the redemption cost since Iberia calculates total distance. If your city does not have nonstop AA flights, Iberia may be the best way to book an AA itinerary with connections. The catch is that Iberia only allows roundtrip, so you will need to find availability for both ways.
For routes between continental US cities and California operated by AA, prices will most likely fall between 17k and 28k Iberia Avios roundtrip. Less total distance means less Avios required.
Other things to know about redeeming Iberia Avios
One way ticketing is not allowed on partner flights when redeeming Iberia Avios. This can be an issue since award space would need to be available both ways.
Book Delta flights with these Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners:
- Flying Blue AirFrance/KLM miles
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles
This post has more info: How to book Delta flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards points
AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to AirFrance or KLM and then redeem Flying Blue miles for flights operated by Delta.
AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue award ticket pricing
Flying Blue has a dynamic pricing model for flights operated by KLM and AirFrance. This means they price flights however they feel like on any given day, but the paid fare does seem to be somewhat of a factor. Dynamic pricing means that it’s not easy to predict the amount of miles required for any given route, which is unfortunate.
For partner flights, such as Delta, the website states “You can also use Miles to book flights for yourself or the person of your choice in Economy and Business with SkyTeam partners and other partner airlines. On all partner flights, the price in Miles is based on the booking class and flight distance.”
So I guess we can say award ticket pricing is distance based? But without a published chart, it is unclear how distance is calculated when there are multiple segments. Sometimes itineraries with connecting flights require more miles and sometimes they do not. I search this program all the time for various routes and I still have yet to figure out a pricing pattern.
Anyway, here are some routes I found that are operated by Delta and available to book through KLM or AirFrance with Flying Blue miles:
- ATL-SFO nonstop is 14.5k Flying blue miles each way
- DFW-SFO with a connection is also 14.5k Flying Blue miles each way
- SLC-SFO nonstop is 11.5k Flying Blue miles each way
The shorter distance nonstop requires less miles than the longer nonstop. But the route with the connection is the same as the ATL nonstop. As you can see, pricing is all over the place so it can be tough to predict, but it’s always worth checking.
Other things to know about redeeming Flying Blue miles
One way flights are allowed.
You can book Delta flights online with Flying Blue miles using either a KLM or AirFrance Flying Blue account, which is free.
If a Delta flight is available to book with KLM/AirFrance, it should also be available to book with Virgin Atlantic miles. It’s worth it to check both, because depending on where your originating airport is, one program may require less miles than the other for a Delta flight.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (after confirming availability) and then redeem Flying Club miles for flights operated by Delta.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club award ticket pricing
Virgin Atlantic’s chart for flights operated by Delta is zone-based. Any flight operated by Delta that is nonstop within the continental US is 12.5k Virgin Atlantic miles each way. Distance does not matter. Nonstop ATL-SFO is the same redemption price as nonstop SLC-SFO when you redeem Virgin Atlantic miles.
Adding a segment adds another 12.5k each way, though. This means that the DFW-SFO route with a connection would be 25k each way (12.5k for DFW-SLC and then another 12.5k for SLC-SFO). 25k is way too much for a one way domestic economy ticket. But remember, the same Delta DFW-SFO one way is only 14.5k miles when you use KLM/AirFrance Flying Blue miles to book. If you do not live in a city with nonstop flights, you will definitely want to check pricing using KLM/AirFrance Flying Blue miles instead.
Other things to know about Virgin Atlantic
One way tickets are allowed.
Book Alaska Airlines flights with these Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners:
- British Airways Executive Club
- Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
- Emirates Skywards
British Airways Executive Club award ticket pricing
Using British Airways Avios to book flights operated by Alaska Airlines would result in the same pricing rules as using BA to book AA. Redemption prices are calculated by distance, and per segment. Again, nonstop flights are best.
Within the continental US, nonstop flights operated by Alaska should be 9,000-13,000 Avios each way depending on distance.
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer award ticket pricing
In addition to Star Alliance partners, Singapore Airlines has some non alliance partners including Alaska Airlines. This award chart is also zone-based, but it is different than the chart for flights operated by Singapore’s Star Alliance partners such as United.
Flights between California and other continental US cities that are operated by Alaska Airlines are between 7.5k and 12k Krisflyer miles each way (in economy). It’s not entirely clear but based on the conditions listed on the Krisflyer website, it seems like these prices are per segment. This means adding a connection would add another 7.5k-12k miles each way.
Emirates Skywards award ticket pricing
For flights operated by Alaska Airlines, Emirates has 2 different prices:
- From anywhere in California to another California destination is 15k roundtrip
- Anywhere else in the continental US to California is 25k roundtrip
Emirates only allows roundtrip bookings when Alaska is operating the flight.
Redeeming Ultimate Rewards points in the portal is like using your points as cash to book travel. You’re going to have more options for flights and you are not limited to transfer partners of Ultimate Rewards. But like cash back credit cards, the redemption rate is a fixed value, so a higher fare is going to cost more points.
Some of our best redemptions have happened thanks to transfer partners. Transferring points to airlines is how you may be able to book the same flight that is available in the redemption portal for less Ultimate Rewards points.
Check the cost of both options before you do anything. Say it with me… always do the math.
Earn your first 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you open a Chase Sapphire Preferred card
Current offer: Earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee is $95. Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. 100,000 points are worth $1250 when you redeem in the Ultimate Rewards portal. With transfer partners, 100,000 points could go even further.
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