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Chase Ultimate Rewards® is a great points program because it lets you transfer your points into real airline miles and hotel points with some really valuable travel partners like United MileagePlus® and Southwest Rapid Rewards®.
Unfortunately, if you want to use your points to book American Airlines flights, you can’t transfer Ultimate Rewards points directly into American AAdvantage® miles.
But you do have these options at your disposal to book American flights with your Ultimate Rewards points:
- Transferring points to British Airways Avios. British Airways is a partner of American’s, so you can use Avios points to book American flights that have award space available.
- Using the Ultimate Rewards travel portal to buy American Airlines flights with your points. This doesn’t involve any transfers of points, and your points work like cash to buy a ticket.
You’ll want to check both options before booking, because the price difference in points can be substantial, and there aren’t many hard and fast guidelines for when one option will be more expensive than the other.
Booking American Airlines flights with British Airways Avios
Using British Airways Avios points can offer some good value for American Airlines flights, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Avios charges based on how far you fly, not based on the cost of a ticket or what region you’re traveling to.
- Avios charges for every segment, so connecting flights will cost extra.
- There are no stopovers or open jaws, and flights are calculated on a one-way basis, which makes pricing simple and straight forward.
Taking all of the above into consideration: booking an American Airlines flight from New York to Miami with a connection in Charlotte is going to cost more Avios (15,000 points one way) than a non-stop New York – Miami flight (7,500 points one way), so be sure to fully research your available award flight options and UR Points balances before proceeding with an award booking.
What it costs
Here is how many points you’ll need for a flight, based on the distance you fly.
The easiest way to check how much a trip will cost is to setup an account at BA.com and search for flights there, which we’ll explain below. There’s also a handy calculator that will tell you how many points you’ll need for flights without logging in, but it won’t tell you whether award seats are available on the day you want to travel.
- Avios charges 3-4 times the economy rate for Business Class, and 4-5 times for First Class starting at Zone 4 (10,000 Avios).
- Avios adds large fuel surcharges to American Airlines flights to Europe, so avoid using Avios for those flights
- Avios also allows you to use partial cash and Avios payments for international AA tickets, which is a nice advantage for short haul trips like New York to Toronto, or Miami to Grand Cayman.
The best deals with Avios tend to be flights of 1,150 miles or less that are available for 7,500 Avios (15,000 for a round trip), like:
- Miami to New York, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and most of Central America including Costa Rica.
- New York to Chicago, Nashville, and Bermuda.
- Seattle to Denver, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Edmonton.
- Dallas to Raleigh Durham, Miami, Salt Lake City, and Cancun.
Avios is also great for some exotic domestic or short-haul international flights, too, especially outside of Europe, where you won’t be hit with fuel surcharges.
Here are some examples:
- Charlotte to San Juan for 10,000 points
- LAX to Maui for 12,500 points
- Dallas to Tokyo for 30,000 points
- Miami to Rio for 25,000 points
How to search for and book American Airlines flights on the British Airways website
1. Create your free BA account here if you don’t have it. Hover your mouse over the “Executive Club” and click on the red “Join the Club” button.
2. Go back to BA.com and log on with your credentials.
3. Complete the form on the left. Make sure to choose “Book with Avios”.
4. For whatever reason, the BA search engine sometimes errors out when you look for routes that are served by American Airlines. You might see en error like this. If you know that your route is valid, try to log out and log on again, using a different browser. Another option is to call BA, who can book your flight for you. The number is 800-452-1201.
6. If there is availability for the days you search, you will get this page with some flight choices, and if you find one that works, you’re ready to transfer points from your Chase Ultimate Rewards account to your Avios account, which you can see how to do here.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to proceed with booking.
Booking AA flights on the Utimate Rewards website
Booking travel on the UltimateRewards.com website lets you buy American Airlines flights with your points, with every 10,000 points worth $125 in flights, since your points are worth 1.25 cents each toward travel when you hold a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card.
Using your points this way is helpful when…
- Cash ticket prices are cheap, which generally means you’ll pay fewer points this way than by transferring points to Avios
- There is no award space on the flights you want. Since using the Ultimate Rewards site to book a flight is like buying it with points, you can use your points toward any American Airlines flight you want
- You want to earn miles on American. When you book via the Ultimate Rewards site you’re essentially booking a revenue ticket with your Ultimate Rewards points, so you’ll earn AAdvantage® miles according to the fare you purchase.
Once you search, it’s easy to check prices…
In our example, this one-way flight from New York to Los Angeles will cost you 15,288 UR points.
The same flight booked via British Airways Avios would be slightly less – 12,500 points, but that’s only if American has decided to make award seats available on that flight.
But for more expensive tickets, using Ultimate Rewards points rather than transferring to Avios can be a lot more expensive. For example, this one-way economy flight from New York to Sao Paolo costs 89,000 points when you book using the Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
But if instead, you transferred your points to British Airways Avios, you could book the same American Airlines flight for 25,000 Avios.
So it’s always best to check the price of flights both ways, via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, and via the British Airways site, because one can be substantially cheaper than the other.
Transfers are generally instant, but they can’t be reversed, so be certain the flights you want are available before initiating a transfer to British Airways Avios.