CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.
While many people took a break from travel credit cards over the past year and instead pivoted to cash back cards, travel is now coming back, and one of the best ways to not break the bank when you’re planning your next trip is to utilize airline miles and hotel points. That means it’s a great time to shift back to credit cards that earn points and miles toward that much-needed vacation.
Fortunately, our favorite travel credit card for beginners recently launched a new bonus offer — the best offer we’ve ever seen on the card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is currently offering new card holders 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months after opening the account.
The easiest way to use these points is to redeem them for cash back at 1 cent apiece, which would make 100,000 points worth $1,000. But that’s also the worst way to use them, because you can get a lot more value for your points with a little extra work. Here are some of my personal favorite ways to spend 100,000 Chase points on an amazing vacation.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. There are a number of ways to redeem these points, but one of the potentially most valuable is transferring them to any of Chase’s 13 travel partners, which is made up of 10 airlines and three hotel chains:
All Chase points transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio, meaning that if you transfer 1,000 points from Chase to United Airlines, for example, you’ll end up with 1,000 United MileagePlus miles on the other end. Most transfers are also instant, though a few will take a day or two to process.
But not all points are created equal. For example, it requires roughly triple the number of points to book the same caliber room at an InterContinental Hotel versus a Hyatt property. So knowing the best ways to utilize your points will help you redeem them for maximum value.
One terrific option is to transfer your Chase points to Hyatt and redeem them to stay at one of the chain’s all-inclusive Ziva and Zilara properties. Hyatt currently has eight all-inclusive properties — 5 family-friendly resorts and 3 adults-only resorts — with one more family location opening later this year.
The Hyatt all-inclusive resorts are located throughout Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, and include the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta, the Hyatt Ziva Cancun, the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana, the Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana, the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall and the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Maya, which is a new property opening later in 2021.
Depending on the property, a Ziva or Zilara hotel costs between 20,000 and 25,000 Hyatt points per night, which covers all-inclusive amenities for up to two guests. Additional guests in the same room require additional points, or you can sometimes pay a cash fee per guest.
Personally, this is one of my favorite uses of Chase points. The Ziva properties are amazing for families — my family has stayed at Hyatt Ziva Cancun on three different occasions, and have another trip planned next year. While I have yet to visit one of the Zilara properties, people report that they’re outstanding as well. There’s no skimping on the all-inclusive experience and you truly don’t have to break out your wallet once.
If you earn 100,000 bonus points when you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can use those points to stay at one of these Ziva or Zilara properties for four to five nights, depending on which property you choose. Aside from airfare and transportation to and from the airport, you truly don’t have to spend anything else on food, alcohol, entertainment or even a kids club.
In the past, I’ve booked a Ziva property during Christmas vacation when cash rates were over $700 a night, so using 100,000 points for a four-night stay saved me $2,800. And while those rates are on the high end, most of the winter runs between $500 to $600 per night, which means you could use points to save at least $2,000 on your next all-inclusive vacation.
Use the bonus points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred to book United Airlines flights to Hawaii.
There’s no shortage of flights when it comes to United, as the airline offers many routes both within the United States and internationally. And fortunately, 100,000 Chase Sapphire Preferred points — which can be transferred into 100,000 United miles — gives you plenty of leeway to go wherever you desire.
Since my family took a break from travel over the past 15 months due to the pandemic, we’re now eagerly looking to go somewhere big later this year. To escape the cold Boston winter, we landed on a trip to the Hawaiian Islands. We don’t have a lot of flexibility with dates, but we also want to make sure we book the shortest flight possible since it’s a long flight to begin with.
Although there are many options to get to Hawaii, United actually offers some great choices, and as low as just 22,500 United miles one-way from Boston. For two people, 100,000 bonus points would be enough to get there and back for both of you — and with 10,000 points left over.
Related: Yet another record-high sign-up bonus is just one reason to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
It’s a little more complicated for my family of four. I’ll use 90,000 miles for all of us for the outbound flight, and then we’ll be stopping in California for a few days on the way back, so we’re utilizing miles from a different program to pay for it. But you could also book your return flights using cash, which would still mean spending only half what it would have cost to fly round-trip to Hawaii.
Booking flights on United is also incredibly easy to do online. No need to call the airline or inquire about availability over the phone — you can look up flights using the United website or app. And points from Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to United immediately, so you don’t have to worry about the flight disappearing while you wait for the points to arrive.
When it comes to booking award travel, JetBlue is one of the easiest airlines for redemptions. That’s because there are no blackout dates or issues with award availability. You can always book a JetBlue flight with points as long as there’s a seat available on the flight for cash.
The number of points you’ll need is tied loosely to the ticket price — the higher the cost, the more points are required. For the most part, JetBlue points are worth about 1.4 cents apiece, which means while you won’t get outsized value when transferring Chase points to JetBlue, you’ll do better than redeeming them for cash back or even through Chase’s own travel portal.
When booking JetBlue flights with Chase Sapphire Preferred points, you can get more value by transferring them rather than booking through Chase.
For instance, my brother recently got a new Chase Sapphire Preferred card in preparation for a trip to Cancun, and I was able to help him book a round-trip JetBlue flight for him, his wife and his daughter for 35,000 points per person. That’s slightly more than the 100,000 bonus points new card holders can earn right now, but remember, you’ll also earn points every time you use the card, so it’s easy to accumulate points quickly
What? How can you use British Airways rewards to fly in the US? Well, British Airways is part of the OneWorld airline alliance, which means the airline partners with many other carriers across the world, including American Airlines. This means you can use British Airways points –— known as Avios — to fly on an American Airlines flight, and Chase Sapphire Preferred points can transfer to British Airways.
Related: Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
Now, it’s important to remember that you’re not booking these tickets through American Airlines. You have to use the British Airways website to create a British Airways Executive Club frequent flyer account (which is free to do) and then search for and book your American flights there. You also may see different award seat availability on the British Airways site than you would on the American website.
You’ll also need to keep in mind that British Airways charges a different number of points for flights than American. The airline has a distance-based award chart, which means the number of points you’ll need for a flight depends on the number of miles you’re flying. For flights within the United States, you’ll need between 7,500 and 13,000 points for an economy class seat depending on how far you’re going.
Also, if you’re flying a route which has a connection, you’ll be charged by distance per flight, not for the entire route, so you’d need to pay points both for the first segment and the second segment as if they’re individual flights being booked. This is why you’ll typically want to use British Airways Avios for non-stop flights on American instead of options with a connection or layover.
Living in Boston, there’s a decent American Airlines presence, and I’ve been able to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways to fly around the country on American. Most recently, I booked a flight from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale for just 9,000 Avios one-way per person. For my family of four, that cost me just 36,000 points.
Get yourself to Europe in style by transferring Chase Sapphire Preferred points to Iberia Airlines and fly to Spain.
While you can also use British Airways Avios to fly on British Airways itself to the United Kingdom and beyond, travel through Britain is difficult right now due to pandemic restrictions. But if you’re ready to venture to Europe, you can instead transfer your Chase Sapphire Preferred points to Iberia Avios — another international airline based in Spain.
One of the best ways to use Iberia Avios is to redeem them for flights from the US to Spain, specifically Madrid and Barcelona. Similar to British Airways, Iberia has a distance-based award chart, so the best options are flying out of Boston and New York since they’re closest to Europe. Both cities are in the same award chart zone and cost just 20,000 Iberia Avios to book a one-way economy ticket.
However, if you’re able to fly during an off-peak date based on Iberia’s award calendar — which is a surprisingly long portion of the year — you’ll only pay 17,000 Avios each way. So for as little as 34,000 Avios, you can fly round-trip from the East Coast to Madrid or Barcelona.
Iberia also offers nonstop flights from Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but only to Madrid, and the number of points you’ll need is slightly higher than it is from the Northeast cities (though it’s still a great redemption). And if you’re looking to fly in style, you can book one-way from Boston or New York in business class to Spain for 34,000 points off-peak, or 50,000 points during peak dates.
While I have yet to personally book this bucket list redemption, it was on my radar last year before the pandemic shut down travel. But hopefully, as planes have returned to the skies, I can use my Chase Ultimate Rewards to book this flight, since my husband and I can fly round-trip to Spain from Boston for an incredibly low 68,000 points, a flight which could have otherwise cost over $1,500.
Finally, if you’re eying a particular airline or hotel which isn’t a transfer partner with Chase, you can always redeem your points for any travel experience through Chase’s own travel portal. No need to worry about blackout dates or award availability — you can search for any flight or hotel just like you normally would (or even car rentals, cruises, vacation homes or activities) and then use your points instead of paying cash.
When you redeem your Ultimate Reward points this way and you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, your points are worth 1.25 cents each, which makes the 100,000 bonus points from the sign-up offer worth as much as $1,250 toward your next vacation. Note that if you have the more-expensive Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll get an even higher 1.5 cents per point when redeeming this way.
Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which credit card is best for you?
Even if you’re able to transfer your points to a partner airline or hotel, there are times when booking through the Chase travel portal is actually the better option. Depending on the cash price, for an inexpensive flight or hotel room, you might find that you can use fewer points by booking through the travel portal instead, so it’s always worth checking the cost on the portal before you transfer points.
And if travel is truly not on your horizon right now, you still have one more option. Now through September 30, 2021, you can use Chase’s “Pay Yourself Back” tool to redeem Chase Sapphire Preferred points for purchases made at grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores, and you’ll get the same 1.25 cents per point as you would when redeeming for travel on Chase’s website.
So even if you’ve been thinking about getting back on the road but aren’t quite sure yet when you’ll be ready, getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and grabbing the 100,000 bonus points while they’re available is a great way to have the right points in your arsenal when you want to travel, or to even have options if you elect to stay home for a while longer.
Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2021.
Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.