Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of my favorite award currencies. These points are extremely versatile when it comes to redemption options. The two options that provide the most value for booking travel are:
- Transfer Ultimate Rewards to airline and/or hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. There are 9 airline partners and 4 hotel partners.
- Use the Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal. This is basically using your points as cash to book through the portal
In my post about our free stay at the Andaz Costa Rica, I showed that option 1 would provide the best redemption value. In general, this is my preferred way to use Chase Ultimate Rewards because I can get more value. But there are some scenarios in which option 2 is better.
Learning how to use airline transfer partners is a great way to make your Chase Ultimate Rewards stretch further. But when it comes to hotels, Hyatt is the only Ultimate Rewards transfer partner that I use. Transferring Ultimate Rewards to Chase’s other 3 hotel partners is usually not going to be a great redemption value, instead, you’re better off using the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal.
I was trying to put together our game plan for an upcoming trip to Japan and I thought some of the Marriott/Ritz options were a good example of the value disparity between the two different ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for hotel stays.
In this post, I’ll give examples of Marriott and Ritz properties that make more sense to book using the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal.
Marriott, Ritz, and IHG’s award charts are inflated compared to Hyatt
Hyatt’s highest category costs 30,000 points per night. Remember, all Ultimate Rewards transfer partners are a 1:1 ratio.
In general, I want to be sure I’m going to get at least 2 cents per point if I’m going to transfer Ultimate Rewards to a loyalty program. The scale of Hyatt’s chart makes it easy to get 2 cents per point (or more) on a redemption. For example, our Andaz Costa Rica redemption was about 4 cents per point!
Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards is a different story
Remember how I explained that not all miles and points are equal? Well, the value of Marriott, Ritz, and IHG points are worth significantly less than what Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth. This is because the award charts in these hotel programs are so inflated.
Marriott’s highest category costs 45,000 points and Ritz-Carlton’s highest category costs 70,000 points. Remember, these programs are combining (along with SPG) into one program in August.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal may be a better value than transferring Ultimate Rewards to Marriott Rewards
Using the Ultimate Rewards booking portal is like using your points as cash to book travel. It’s similar to cash back cards in that you do not have to worry about award space/availability. So you’re going to have more options for both hotels and flights.
Also, you are not limited to Chase’s transfer partners. In other words, several hotel brands will be bookable through the portal. According to a Chase rep, the Ultimate Rewards booking portal gets its inventory from Expedia. So anything bookable on Expedia should be bookable through the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal.
More options sounds great, what’s the catch?
The catch is that like cash back credit cards, the redemption rate is going to be a fixed value.
You’re going to get 1.25 cents per point with Chase Sapphire Preferred or 1.50 with Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Comparing the two ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards for Marriott and Ritz-Carlton stays
The The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa is a Ritz Tier 4 property. Ritz Tier 4 redemptions are 60,000 Marriott Rewards/Ritz-Carlton Rewards points per night.* The cash price for the date I entered is $340 per night.
*In August, it becomes a category 7 property in the new Marriott/Ritz/SPG program. The price will remain 60,000 points.
Here are my options for this property (assuming I do not have points in my Marriott/Ritz account):
- I can transfer 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night to Marriott
- I can book through the Ultimate Rewards portal
OPTION 1: TRANSFER ULTIMATE REWARDS TO Marriott
Since Ultimate Rewards transfer to all airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio, I can transfer 60,000 Ultimate Rewards per night to Marriott.
If the room costs $340 per night:
- 0.00567 X 100=0.57
- My redemption value is 0.57 cents per point, which is terrible.
OPTION 2: USE THE ULTIMATE REWARDS BOOKING PORTAL
Remember, booking through the portal gets you 1.25 or 1.50 cents per point, depending on which Sapphire card you have.
Note that the price varies slightly from the price on Marriott.com. This is to be expected.
I can book the Ritz-Carlton Okinawa through the Ultimate Rewards portal for less than half of the amount of Ultimate Rewards as the other option! They have already done the math for the redemption with a Chase Sapphire Reserve card in the screenshot above. For Chase Sapphire Preferred the points required will be a little higher since points are worth a little less in the booking portal.
Chase Sapphire Preferred:
- $354/1.25= 283
- 283 X 100= 28,300 Ultimate Rewards points
SO HERE ARE YOUR TOTALS:
- Transfer to Marriott (60,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night)
- Redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards booking portal
- with CSP (28,300 Ultimate Rewards points per night)
- with CSR (23,663 Ultimate Rewards points per night)
In this case, redeeming through the Ultimate Rewards booking portal is going to be your best option! Keep in mind that the redemption cost through the booking portal will vary since the amount of points required depends on the rate for the dates of your stay. In other words, the price in points could get a lot higher on peak dates when the rates are higher.
There are going to be some properties that just aren’t worth booking with Ultimate Rewards at all.
When neither Ultimate Rewards redemption option makes sense
Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense to use Ultimate Rewards to book. The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto is an example of a property that I would not book using Ultimate Rewards.
Now, that doesn’t mean I would not use other currencies to book. For example, I can use 20,000 SPG points to book this. But that’s a whole other story that you can read about here and here if you’re interested.
As a Tier 5 property, the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto is 70,000 Marriott Rewards per night. The rate for the dates I need is $1271 per night. Since it’s such a high rate, the cents per point value actually isn’t terrible.
- 0.018 X 100=1.8
- 1.8 cents per point is better than the value you get from the booking portal
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the price is 86,606 Ultimate Rewards per night using the booking portal. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it would be about 104,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night!
SO HERE ARE YOUR TOTALS:
- Transfer to Marriott (70,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night)
- Redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards booking portal
- with CSP (~104,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night)
- with CSR (86,606 Ultimate Rewards points per night)
In this case, it would make more sense to transfer the points to Marriott. But again, I would do neither. Instead, I would look for other options that I can book with Ultimate Rewards such as Hyatt.
If you do not have your heart set on a specific property, consider other options. You can either see if Hyatt has some options or you can check for other options through the Ultimate Rewards booking portal.
Another option: search for comparable Hyatt properties
Because of Marriott/Ritz-Carlton’s inflated award charts, the highest category Ritz property is more than twice the amount of the highest category Hyatt property.
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, a Ritz Tier 5 hotel, is 70,000 points per night. The cash rate is $575 which is similar to the Park Hyatt. But 70,000 points for a $600 room is less than 1 cent per point.
The Park Hyatt Tokyo is a World of Hyatt category 7 property. World of Hyatt category 7 redemptions are 30,000 points per night. I can transfer 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night to World of Hyatt to book a free night at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
The rate at the Park Hyatt Tokyo on the dates I searched is $587. After taxes, this is going to be over $600. 30,000 points for a $600 room is a value of 2 cents per point.
My transfer options are:
- Transfer 70,000 Ultimate Rewards to Marriott/Ritz to book the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
- Transfer 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt to book the Park Hyatt Tokyo
These properties are similar in terms of quality and cash rate. In fact, some would argue that Park Hyatt is superior to Ritz-Carlton.
I can get 2 nights at the Park Hyatt Tokyo for less than the price of 1 night at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, so this is a no-brainer. I might be a hotel snob, but I’m not married to one brand. I’ll take a 30,000 point fancy hotel over a 70,000 point fancy hotel any day.
It is important to learn how to use transfer partners if you want to maximize the value of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points. But it is just as important to know when it is not best to use transfer partners.
In general, Chase Ultimate Rewards are most valuable when transferred to airlines or Hyatt. If you want to book Marriott or Ritz properties, the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal is probably going to be your best bet.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
- Minimum spend for bonus: $4,000 in 3 Months
- Annual Fee: $95, but waived the first year
- Bonus Categories: 2 points per dollar on travel and dining