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I’ve taken a lot of trips on credit card rewards points
When it comes to picking favorites, I’d have to say that one of my all-time best trips booked with Chase Ultimate Rewards points was a quick five-day visit to Seoul, South Korea.
Chase Ultimate Rewards are my favorite flexible credit card points currency. Not only can they be used to book travel directly through Chase’s own travel portal, but you can also transfer them to 10 different airline partners or three different hotel partners. While both options offer good value for booking travel, I most often choose to transfer my points to a travel partner when I need to book high-priced luxury accommodations or first-class flights.
How I booked a direct flight to Seoul
When I flew between Los Angeles (LAX) and Seoul’s Incheon airport (ICN) in 2018, before the pandemic shut down most Western access to Asia, it was a quick luxury trip that I was looking for. While most Singapore Airlines flights between the U.S. and Asian destinations required to transit through Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN), for years, the airline had been operating a direct “fifth freedom” flight from LAX to Seoul.
This unusual routing on a less popular route meant that I’d have a chance to be able to book myself a coveted seat in a Singapore Airlines first-class cabin for just 95,000 miles each way.
As you might imagine, I don’t fly Singapore Airlines often enough to be earning a lot of miles on the regular in its Kris Flyer program. And while many people wouldn’t even consider booking a rewards ticket on an airline with which they have no points, this is exactly what I did.
I had zero points in my Kris Flyer account, but I easily transferred 190,000 points I’d been saving up in my Chase Ultimate Rewards account, and I booked a saver fare directly through Singapore Airlines as if I had been a frequent flyer with the airline for many years.
The flight itself was amazing. I remember that the seat was so big that I asked for extra pillows to fill the space. I’d also taken advantage of Singapore’s “book the cook” preflight meal ordering and was served lobster thermidor for dinner and scallop congee for breakfast – all with a side of free-flowing Dom Pérignon, of course.
At current rates, and with current routings for this same trip (Singapore no longer flies directly to ICN), you’d be looking at a price tag of nearly $14,000 to fly round trip first-class or $6,000 round trip business-class.
Booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, this trip prices out at nearly 500,000 points for a business-class flight. Booked through Singapore Airlines, however, the cost is 142,000 miles for the same round-trip business-class ticket. Transferring points to Singapore Airlines is still the best way to go to maximize value on this itinerary.
Where I stayed
Because Ultimate Rewards are a flexible points currency, I was also able to use them to book my accommodation, so I had a place to stay once my first-class flight landed in Seoul.
For two nights, I stayed at the Park Hyatt – Gangnam style. The hotel was beautiful, with modern architecture, sleek amenities and a marvelous soaking bathtub. As a category 6 Hyatt property, the Park Hyatt Seoul costs 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night. To my advantage, Chase Ultimate Rewards points also transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 rate, so I could easily top off my Hyatt account with the points I needed to make the redemption.
After two nights, I shifted my sightseeing base to the Grand Hyatt Seoul in order to experience a different part of the city near Myeongdong and Itaewon. Since this is a category 4 Hyatt property, one reward night would only cost 15,000 points. I was also able to use my one free night anniversary certificate benefit from my World of Hyatt Credit Card to offset the cost.
I spent the last night of my trip in the Grand Hyatt Incheon. Since this was an airport hotel, and I was mostly staying there in order to make it convenient to catch my flight the next day, I had very low expectations.
I was blown away! This hotel is only a category 3 – the same level as many Hyatt Place properties in the U.S. – but it was fantastic. My free night there was complete with fluffy robes and a soaking bathtub, all for 12,000 rewards points. I remember wishing my flight would be delayed so I could hang out just a little longer in my room before checking in at the departure gate just a walking distance away.
Visiting Korea for a luxury trip was a great way to maximize value from my Chase Ultimate Rewards points that I earn on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. While you might not be able to replicate this trip since travel routings and redemptions have changed since 2018, you can still take advantage of point transfer opportunities from your Ultimate Rewards to maximize both flight and hotel bookings – especially when it comes to luxury travel!