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In general, we recommend earning transferable points when possible. They provide a lot of flexibility since you can hold them in your account until you are ready to redeem them. This provides a level of diversification because if one airline or hotel program devalues, you can choose to transfer to a different program.
There are four main programs for those wishing to earn transferable points. They include Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, and Starwood Preferred Guest.
If you have any of the following, your Chase points transfer instantly to MileagePlus:
And if you have one of those cards, you can combine them with points from the following cards:
United is also technically a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, but the transfer ratio is horrible. You can also theoretically transfer points from Marriott Rewards at a decent rate, but it does take some time, and you can’t place flights on hold in the interim, so Ultimate Rewards transfers are the preferred option.
Getting your Chase account ready to transfer Ultimate Rewards
In order to transfer Ultimate Rewards to United – or for any partner for that matter –there are a few basic steps to complete upfront.
First, you need to have online access to the Chase credit card where you earn Ultimate Rewards points. If you haven’t done so already, you can go to Chase.com and click on the “Not enrolled, Sign up now” link. From there, just enter the requested information.
If you already have a Chase.com account, then all of your Chase credit cards should show up there already.
You also need to have a United MileagePlus account. If you don’t already have one, you can sign up here.
Once you have both your Chase online account setup and are a member in United MileagePlus, you’re ready to transfer some Ultimate Rewards points.
Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to United MileagePlus
First, you should log in to your Chase.com online account:
On mobile, scroll past all of your Chase credit card accounts to the bottom of the left panel, where it will display your Ultimate Rewards balance. On a desktop or tablet, you’ll see a box in the upper right with your points balance.
Click the box that says Use your points:
If you have more than one Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards, the next screen will ask you to select which account you want to use. If you only have one card that earns Ultimate Rewards you’ll skip this step.
At the Ultimate Rewards home screen, you want to select Use Points from the menu at the top and then Transfer to Travel Partners:
You will then be presented with a list of all of the transfer partners. Scroll down until you find United MileagePlus. Then click Transfer Points:
You can then select the recipient from the box on the left. Note that you can only transfer points to either your account or the account of an authorized user on your credit card.
At this point you can enter the number of Ultimate Rewards points that you want to transfer to United miles in increments of 1,000. Ultimate Rewards transfer to United miles at a 1:1 ratio meaning that for each 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll receive 1,000 United miles.
In the example, I’ve chosen to transfer 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points:
You have one more chance to verify the transaction before it becomes final. That’s right, Ultimate Rewards transfers are not reversible and not refundable once you transfer them, so double check that you are transferring the correct amount:
The next screen confirms the transaction. You should receive an email confirmation as well.
That’s all there is to it!
How long does it take to transfer Ultimate Rewards to United?
The following chart shows how long it typically takes for Ultimate Rewards points to transfer to partners.
|Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Aer Lingus Aer Club||1000 : 1000||Instant|
|Air France KLM FlyingBlue||1000 : 1000||Instant|
|British Airways Executive Club||1000 : 1000||Instant|
|Iberia Plus||1000 : 1000||Instant|
|Korean Air SkyPass||1000 : 1000||Instant|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1000 : 1000||~ 12 to 24 hours|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1000 : 1000||Instant|
|United MileagePlus||1000 : 1000||Instant|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1000 : 1000||Instant|
|IHG Rewards Club||1000 : 1000||~ 1 to 2 days|
|Marriott Rewards||1000 : 1000||~ 1 to 2 days|
|Ritz-Carlton Rewards||1000 : 1000||~ 1 to 2 days|
|World Of Hyatt||1000 : 1000||Instant|
As you can see, Ultimate Rewards usually transfer instantly to United miles. That means you should be able to immediately login to your United and account and confirm the transaction (sometimes you’ll need to log out and back in before the balance updates):
Booking award flights with United miles
Now that you’ve transferred some Ultimate Rewards to United miles, it’s time to book a flight. United miles are very flexible and have many good uses, even after the recent devaluation. Ben values United miles at 1.4 cents each.
United’s award availability is pretty good on both domestic and international routes. And since United is a member of Star Alliance, you can book flights on airlines around the world, including Thai, ANA, Lufthansa, and Air Canada, all from the United.com website. You might want to check out Tiffany’s post on 5 Fantastic Uses of United Miles.
It’s worth noting that United now charges more miles for award booked in business or first class on most of their partners. You can verify how many miles are required for a particular award using their interactive award chart, though it gets more complicated if you want to take advantage of a stopover.
The United.com award search engine is both good and bad. It allows you to book awards from most partners right on the website, but there are some annoying glitches that you’ll notice as you start to use it. But overall, it’s pretty good.
Starting at the United.com homepage, login to your account. If you have elite status or a co-branded credit card like the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, you may find better award availability by searching while you are logged in.
Enter the origin, destination, and preferred date of your trip. Make sure to check the box Search for award travel:
The next screen will show a calendar that theoretically provides an indicator of award availability for two months around your preferred date. You can choose a different date if you wish, but know that the dots and lines on the calendar are not accurate for partner flights. You’re best off clicking on the dates even if it looks like they don’t have award space:
Available flights for your selected date are shown below with a column indicating the award miles required to book that flight in each class of service.
You can also sort the list by number of stops, miles required, departure or arrival time, and a few other attributes:
To avoid clutter, you need to click on Details to view the equipment type, duration, and other relevant information for the flight. This is especially necessary when booking connecting flights, as the class of service might not be what you’d expect:
Once you’ve selected a flight, click on the Select button to continue with the booking process.
If you forgot to login, you will be prompted to do so now:
You’ll then have the opportunity to buy various bundles of extra services. Note that if you are a Premier member, you might already get some of these options. There is also an option to Hold fare:
From there you can continue to book the reservation by entering the passenger information and your form of payment.
If things go well, you’ll receive a confirmation number, along with a message that the reservation was “ticketed and confirmed.”
What to do when things don’t go well is a topic for another post, but fortunately those things are more rare with United these days.
Ultimate Rewards are valuable because they can easily and quickly be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel partners. This can give you a lot of flexibility since you can earn points prior to knowing exactly where you’ll redeem them.
Earning transferable points also provides a hedge against devaluations in any single program since if one program changes the price of an award, you can choose to transfer them to a different program instead.
And United can be a great option for using your Chase points, given the instantaneous transfers and the relative ease of booking international award tickets on United.com.