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Hawaii is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. There are beautiful beaches, stunning lush green mountains, volcanoes and, of course, amazing weather. Hawaii is also one of the most difficult destinations to book with points. But if you have a good stash of Ultimate Rewards points and take the time to learn how to optimize them, you’ll be jetting off to Hawaii with your entire family in no time.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of our favorite transferable “currencies”. They are fairly easy to earn thanks to Chase’s great lineup of personal and business cards, generous welcome bonuses and great bonus earning categories.
Chase has 11 airline transfer partners, but not all of them will be useful for booking flights to Hawaii. Some partners, however, have extremely good rates and you can save a lot of Ultimate Rewards points by knowing how to strategically use them to take a whole family to the Aloha State.
Know the Airline Alliances
Let’s briefly talk about airline alliances. It is possible, and often beneficial, to use the miles of airline A to book a flight operated by airline B. So don’t be confused when you see us talking about using the frequent flyer programs of foreign airlines. No, British Airways doesn’t fly to Hawaii, but, yes, you can use BA miles to book flights operated by its partner American Airlines.
And why would you do this? Well, American Airlines isn’t a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so if you wanted to fly on AA to Hawaii, transferring the points to BA to book an AA flight is the only option. And you might need fewer miles when you are booking through the partner program too!
A word of warning – this only works when the airline releases saver award space to partners, and with many airlines introducing dynamic award pricing, it’s sometimes hard to tell what is a saver award. If you found a flight through one airline’s frequent flyer program, but it’s not coming up when you search its partners, that means it’s not a saver level award.
Don’t transfer Ultimate Rewards until you find available award space. Once points are converted into airline miles, there’s no going back.
British Airways Avios
Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Avios 1:1 and the transfer is instant.
Be on the lookout for the transfer bonuses too. Just recently Chase had a limited time 30% transfer bonus when you transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Avios. We don’t recommend transferring the points speculatively, but if you’ve already had plans to go to Hawaii, this can turn a good redemption into a really great deal!
BA doesn’t fly to Hawaii, but its partners American Airlines and Alaska do. British Airways has a distance-based award chart, so the number of Avios needed will depend on the distance flown. BA also charges per segment, which means if you have a connecting flight, you’ll pay for each flight, so using BA Avios makes sense only on non-stop flights.
You can book a nonstop economy class award for 13,000 British Airways Avios one-way.
To search for available dates you’ll need to create a BA login. The fastest way to find award space on American Airlines flights is to first check for available saver award space on AA via a calendar view.
The dates that have the 22,500 miles rates should be available via British Airways for 13,000 Avios.
To find Alaska Airlines flights, you can search directly on Alaska or on BA.
Air France KLM Flying Blue
Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Flying Blue 1:1 and the transfer is instant.
If your goal is to fly on a Delta-operated flight, then consider booking it via the Flying Blue program because Delta, Air France and KLM are all members of Skyteam. There’s no award chart, but we can use a handy miles estimator to figure out how many Flying Blue miles we’ll need to fly to Hawaii.
You’ll need to create a Flying Blue account and search on either Air France or KLM.
You’ll have to have lots of patience, as both the Air France and the KLM sites could be very glitchy. But your patience will pay off when you find Delta-operated flights for less than what Delta charges its own members!
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer 1:1 and the transfer is instant.
Singapore Airlines is a long-standing transfer partner of Chase. It’s also a member of the Star Alliance, therefore you can book United-operated flights with KrisFlyer miles. It has Hawaii as a separate region and the rates are excellent. You can get from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii in economy for 17,500 miles or in business for 34,500 miles one-way.
To find available flights you’ll first need to create a KrisFlyer account. When you enter the flight information, make sure Redeem flights is checked.
On the next screen, toggle to Star Alliance or it won’t show you any available flights.
United doesn’t have a published award chart anymore, but most likely you’ll need at least 22,500 miles for the same flight. That’s a huge savings, especially if you are taking the whole family on vacation!
Singapore Airlines also has an individual partnership with Alaska Airlines and has a separate award chart for Alaska-operated flights. The award chart divides the U.S. into zones and the sweet spot is the flights from Zone 1 that can be booked with 12,000 miles one-way in economy.
If you live in one of the Zone 2 states, you won’t have a non-stop option like Zone 1, but Singapore Airlines doesn’t charge per segment, so you can get to Hawaii for just 11,500 miles one-way in economy. That’s right, you’ll pay even less than passengers traveling from the West Coast!
When you find award space on Alaska’s own site, you’ll have to call to book this award, unfortunately, there’s no way to book online.
United Airlines MileagePlus
Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United 1:1 and the transfer is instant.
United doesn’t have the best rates to Hawaii and it doesn’t have an award chart, so you might be thinking, why even mention it here? United is very stingy with releasing saver awards to partners, especially on non-stop flights. So if you must fly on certain dates and have no flexibility to play around with partners, this might be your only choice.
A one-way economy ticket will set you back 22,500 United miles.
United has a very easy to use award search engine, and you don’t even have an account to search. However, United will show better economy award space availability to its own elites and United credit card holders. There’s also a handy calendar search, where you can see the whole month and compare award rates on different days.
The absence of the award chart can work in our favor too. When I was working on this article, I found a whole month when you fly to Hawaii from the West Coast for just 9,100 miles. But with dynamic pricing we never know what the rate is going to be from one day to the next, so you’ll just have to do your due diligence to find the best rate.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Chase just recently added Aeroplan as a transfer partner. Aeroplan’s award chart is both zone and distance-based, so depending how far you are flying, it’s possible to book United flights with fewer Aeroplan miles than with United miles.
For example, you’ll need 12,500 to 22,500 Aeroplan miles to fly from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii one-way in economy. A business class will set you back 25,000 to 35,000 miles. United, however, is extremely stingy with releasing premium cabin award space to partners, so it won’t be easy to find.
To lock in the 12,500-point award rate, you’ll have to stay under 2,751 miles flown, so if you are on the West Coast, this is definitely a solid option.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Southwest’s program is different from other programs we’ve looked at here as the price in points is directly tied to the cash price. The simplest way to use Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer them to your Southwest Rapid Reward account and book a flight. But is it the best use of points?
To answer this question, let’s look at a real value per point, as there might be better ways to use Ultimate Rewards to purchase or offset the price of a Southwest flight. Southwest points are usually worth around 1.3 cent/point, depending on the cash price of a flight. You can, however, get a better value per point through the Chase travel portal or through the recently introduced Pay Yourself Back (PYB) option (more on these two later).
When you book a flight through the Chase Travel Portal or by using the PYB, you’ll also be earning points toward future flights. Southwest flights don’t come up on the portal and, unfortunately, there’s no way to book Southwest flights online. Just find the flights you want on Southwest’s site, write down the flight info, call Chase travel center at (855) 233-9462 and give the information to the phone agent.
Chase Travel Portal
The Chase Travel portal is basically an online travel agency that lets you pay with Ultimate Rewards points instead of cash. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, your Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25c/each. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, your points are worth 1.5c/each.
Because the points value is fixed, it usually makes sense to use the portal to book flights when the prices are low. To determine if you are getting the best value, you’ll have to run award searches on partner airlines and compare the award rates to the portal rates. Keep in mind that airlines treat the tickets purchased through the portal as a cash fare, so you’ll also earn miles and elite qualifying segments.
There’s also a greater degree of flexibility too and you aren’t limited by the available award space and can book flights on any airline, even those that aren’t on the Chase transfer partner list.
Pay Yourself Back
The recently introduced Pay Yourself Back option that allows you to “erase” certain purchases is a backdoor way of getting free flights. Which purchases you can “erase” will depend on what card you have and what you buy.
These categories can change over time, so check for the most up to date information on Chase’s Pay Yourself Back to find what categories are available for you.
Now let’s go back to why you might be better off using cash for Southwest flights. Let’s say the flights you want to book cost $500. So if you bought $500 worth of groceries and groceries are an eligible ‘Pay Yourself Back’ category on your card, erased that amount with the help of PYB, you now have $500 you could spend on any Southwest flights.
And when you are booking a cash fare, you are also earning miles for future flights. You are also earning credit card points for the money spent on travel and you have the most flexibility.
Card to Help You Earn Ultimate Rewards
Chase has a number of Ultimate Rewards earning cards. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of our favorites with a valuable new card bonus. The card comes with a lot of great travel benefits and has a very reasonable $95 annual fee.
For the business owner, the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card also offers plenty of Ultimate Rewards points as the welcome bonus. The annual fee is $95.
Some of our favorite and the best earning cards in Chase’s portfolio are the no annual fee Freedom cards, such as the Chase Freedom Flex℠. You’ll need one of the premium cards, i.e. a card with an annual fee, to be able to transfer the points to partners or book travel through the portal. It’s very easy to combine points earned with various Ultimate Rewards cards into one account.
You do have to be under 5/24 to get approved for the Chase credit cards.
With most domestic carriers moving toward dynamic pricing and eliminating their award charts it’s definitely worth learning more about the airline alliances and partner award bookings.
Hawaii is an incredibly popular destination, so you definitely need to come to the process of booking award flights with a good degree of patience. To get the best value for your points, you’ll need to compare various options, including the PYB option.
New to the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best card to start with.
With a bonus of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. , 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
(on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.