Book through United or Chase UR?

Old Aug 20, 19, 5:27 pm
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Book through United or Chase UR?

In a few weeks, travel will be released for late July 2020 dates . We are a family of four wanting to use our 210,000 Chase points towards airfare . Iím a bit confused on if itís better to transfer to United if it appears they have the best deal or if we should book through the Chase portal ? Iím not sure if I was imagining things or what but it seems like I typed in pretend dates in Chase just to get an idea and it cost more points to book through chase than directly on the United website . Is this common ? I basically need advise on how to start figuring out which airline and what method is the best to trade in our points for airfare to Hawaii . Thanks !
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Old Aug 20, 19, 5:39 pm
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Welcome to FT!, coloradotraveler

The two approachs are very different.

Use the Chase portal, you are purchasing a "cash" ticket and the points are used to offset the cash transaction.

Move to UA and you will purchase an award ticket with the points converted to UA MP miles.

You will need to research the "price" of each method. One may be better than the other this week but next week it may be different.

The cash tickets will be mileage and status earning, the award ticket will not.
The award ticker will have lower cancel and change fees than the cash ticket.

The points once moved to UA can only be used for UA tickets,
The points at Chase have more flexibility in there use.

Simple, huh?
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Old Aug 20, 19, 5:44 pm
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oh my...see I knew I needed help. Iíll see if I can figure all this out :-)

Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Welcome to FT!, coloradotraveler

The two approachs are very different.

Use the Chase portal, you are purchasing a "cash" ticket and the points are used to offset the cash transaction.

Move to UA and you will purchase an award ticket with the points converted to UA MP miles.

You will need to research the "price" of each method. One may be better than the other this week but next week it may be different.

The cash tickets will be mileage and status earning, the award ticket will not.
The award ticker will have lower cancel and change fees than the cash ticket.

The points once moved to UA can only be used for UA tickets,
The points at Chase have more flexibility in there use.

Simple, huh?
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Old Aug 20, 19, 6:01 pm
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WineCountryUA is always a fount of good, useful info, however, I think the following bit is an over-simplification and worth a tweak...

Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
The points once moved to UA can only be used for UA tickets...
Yes and no. Yes, once moved to United's program, those UR points can only be used to book a ticket through United's MileagePlus program and system. That does NOT mean you can only book a ticket that puts you on a United Airlines plane.

Going through United's MileagePlus system, (right on United's website) you will see (and be able to book) flights on United and also on partner airlines. In your case, this may be moot (a difference without a distinction) for flights from the US mainland to Hawaii (off the top of my head, I can't think of any partner airline that would actually get you from the continental USA to Hawaii), but with United MileagePlus miles, you can indeed book tickets on multiple airlines (just for the record and for future clarification of others) -- at least you could in theory if you were going someplace else.

And now, back to the challenge of finding a reasonable award flight that actually works for your family (a whole other thing)...
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Old Aug 20, 19, 6:07 pm
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Welcome to FT!, coloradotraveler

The two approachs are very different.

Use the Chase portal, you are purchasing a "cash" ticket and the points are used to offset the cash transaction.

Move to UA and you will purchase an award ticket with the points converted to UA MP miles.

You will need to research the "price" of each method. One may be better than the other this week but next week it may be different.

The cash tickets will be mileage and status earning, the award ticket will not.
The award ticker will have lower cancel and change fees than the cash ticket.

The points once moved to UA can only be used for UA tickets,
The points at Chase have more flexibility in there use.

Simple, huh?
just a couple of points to add on and clairify here:

- the points once moved to UA can be used for UA tickets - technically that is correct, but they can be used across any UA partners, which are mostly *A. The UA miles are also less flexible in that there needs to be availability for award tickets
- when determining the true cost, many consider the mileage/status thing - if these flights will bring you over the next status level, booking annaward through UA May cost more than you think, but as always, YMMV
- note that using Chase points also allows you to split the cost between cash and points. So if you have a cash ticket that costs $500, youíd need 33,334 UR to buy that ticket outright. But Chase allows you to split that in any increment you want - you could pay $250 cash and 26,667 UR, $100 cash and 26,667 UR, or $450 and 3,334 UR.

Another thing to consider is is that I believe there is still the potential UA/Expedia spat/lawsuit that if it continues, means you may not be able to purchase tickets using UR for flights after some date in October, and Expedia/UR wonít be able to changeoreciously ticketed UA flights after that date as well. Stay tuned.

Oh, also, IME, Chase doesnít always offer every single option you might find elsewhere. Not sure why. I had trouble finding the flights on SQ I was looking at at some point, and at another, couldnít find some infra-Asia tickets on TG I know weíre available. Calling didnít help.

Personally, I tend to use UR to lower the cost of higher priced flights I donít want to pay the full price for, especially when traveling with the family. For me, it allows me to adhere to a budget even if flight prices arenít cooperating. Maybe itís a better use of points sometimes, maybe not? But itís how I like to use them. Everyone will have a different opinion, so do what seems right to you.
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Old Aug 20, 19, 6:16 pm
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I wouldn't purchase a ticket for cash for a Hawaii flight almost a year out. There is no advantage to doing that - and you'll likely be paying more than booking the flight a month or two out from the flight date.

I'm seeing a decent number of July 2020 (from SF) Saver awards in Economy if you are a United Chase cardholder.
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Old Aug 20, 19, 6:30 pm
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Thanks for all the replies ! I need to decipher all this over some wine :-)

HNLbasedtraveler, arenít the award or saver flights available for a limited time ? Iíve always heard the earlier the better . But it would make sense they release more of them later on if they arenít getting their planes filled up . My other issue is I need to get a condo booked in Kauai that tends to fill up almost a year in advance . Cant do that until I have my flights secured .
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Old Aug 20, 19, 7:05 pm
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Originally Posted by coloradotraveler View Post
HNLbasedtraveler, arenít the award or saver flights available for a limited time ? Iíve always heard the earlier the better . But it would make sense they release more of them later on if they arenít getting their planes filled up .
UA rarely releases many award seats -- especially at the saver level -- far in advance. That was once common, but hasn't been in several years. (Fewer and fewer airlines are releasing award seats in advance).

Originally Posted by coloradotraveler View Post
My other issue is I need to get a condo booked in Kauai that tends to fill up almost a year in advance . Cant do that until I have my flights secured .
Book the condo, if that's what your limiting factor is. The flights aren't going to fill up anytime soon.

Search United's site every now and then, and if you see a good price, or a good value in terms of United miles, buy it then. Remember, with Ultimate Rewards points, you have access to United's entire inventory; they sell hundreds of seats to Hawaii every day. Generally, your best prices are going to be somewhere between 4 months and 3 weeks prior to departure. Basically, they start prices high to see who might bite.
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Old Aug 20, 19, 7:22 pm
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jsloan guess Iím worried about booking the condo now and then finding out the most reasonable flights didnít land on those days . And if I wait until four months out or so, I definitely wonít have any wiggle room in changing the dates of the condo . Am i missing something ?
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Old Aug 20, 19, 8:23 pm
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I'll assume you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and get 1.5 cents per Ultimate Reward point.

The following would be my decision process:
  • Take the cash price of the ticket you want (as listed in the Chase portal) and divide by the number of United miles required to purchase that ticket.
  • If the result is more than 1.5 cents per mile, then use United miles to purchase it, because it costs less UR points to book in that manner. Otherwise, book using the Chase portal.
The above has you use as few UR points as possible. However, you could amend the 1.5 cents per mile figure upward or downward depending on your view of other considerations. For example:
  • If you think there is a decent chance of needing to cancel/change the reservation, award tickets offer (relatively) low change fees. Thus, you might purchase an award ticket if the cash price is more than 1.4 cents per mile.
  • If you account for award miles earned by booking (an essentially "cash" ticket) through the Chase portal, then maybe the threshold is 1.6 cents per mile.
  • If you care about earning elite status, the threshold might be 1.8 cents per mile.
United economy saver is 45,000 United miles round trip; economy standard award is 90,000 miles round trip. (Those may change with dynamic award pricing, which is rolling out.) Finding round trip flights priced at 45,000 United miles that align well with your schedule would require some luck, and you should view 45,000 United miles as the best case scenario.

45,000 UR points equates to $675 of spend on the Chase portal; 90,000 UR points equates to $1350 on the Chase portal.

Based on your user name, I'll assume you are flying out of Denver. Practically speaking, I think you're likely to get a better deal by booking using UR points in the Chase portal. Non-stops from Denver priced at $650-$700 are frequently available, which would require approximately 45,000 UR points. Even if you can find saver economy award tickets (which also would cost at least 45,000 UR points) for that time period, there might not be non-stops available, and you will not earn award miles or credit towards elite status.
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Old Aug 20, 19, 8:35 pm
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Originally Posted by coloradotraveler View Post
jsloan guess Iím worried about booking the condo now and then finding out the most reasonable flights didnít land on those days . And if I wait until four months out or so, I definitely wonít have any wiggle room in changing the dates of the condo . Am i missing something ?
No, you're not really missing anything. It's just that I can tell you right now when the cheapest flights will end up being: Tuesday and Wednesday. (For continental US flights, I'd add Saturday, but Saturday flights are reasonably popular to the islands). I'm guessing that you don't want to fly Tuesday and Wednesday -- which is why the prices will be cheapest on those days.

If you see a price that you're comfortable with when the flights are first available, then, by all means, book it. But, if not, you have to make a decision: book now at a price that you don't like, or wait. My advice would be to wait, because the chance is good that the fare will come down, and the chance is small that that the fare will go up appreciably if it starts at a level you don't like.

It's a little late in the year to do this comparison, but if I wanted to fly from Austin to Lihue this Saturday, for a one-week stay, the fare comes to $733 (Basic Economy) or $823 (regular economy). In Ultimate Rewards points, that'd be 49K basic / 55K regular (with Chase Sapphire Reserve) or 59K/66K (with Chase Freedom). If I were to book the same trip for the last pair of Saturdays on the schedule (July 11-18), it's $1051-$1251. I suspect that if I were to repeat this same search again (for late July) in January, the fare would not have increased, and might well have gone down.
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Old Aug 20, 19, 8:59 pm
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saFlytalk thank you so much for that process ! Itís what my brain needed :-). All our chase points are from the three Chase Ink Business Cards . Does that change anything ?

jsloan I see what you are saying ! Something to consider for sure !
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Old Aug 20, 19, 9:20 pm
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Originally Posted by coloradotraveler View Post
saFlytalk thank you so much for that process ! Itís what my brain needed :-). All our chase points are from the three Chase Ink Business Cards . Does that change anything ?
Yes, actually. See https://upgradedpoints.com/chase-ult...travel-portal/

The redemption value of UR points in Chase travel portal using the Chase Ink Business Cards is 1.25 cents per point, instead of 1.5. Therefore, you don't get as much value booking thru the portal relative to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The same general thought process applies, but the threshold should shift to 1.25 cents per point (plus/minus adjustments for other considerations), instead of 1.5 cents per point. This makes transferring to United a more competitive option, under the assumption that saver award availability with favorable schedules exist. If only standard (90,000 mile cost) award availability is there, the Chase portal probably remains the better option.
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Old Aug 20, 19, 9:33 pm
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I understand OP specifically asks for UA. But don't forget - WN flies to HNL as well.

So OP is not limited to use UA as the UR transfer partner.
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Old Aug 20, 19, 10:58 pm
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Consider getting the Sapphire Reserve credit card before booking your trip. You could easily come out ahead.
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