Predictions: What Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners Could Chase Add?

Yesterday we learned that Korean Air SkyPass will be removed as a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner as of August 25, 2018. This is a big blow to the value of the program.

Why Korean Air leaving Ultimate Rewards is a big deal

After this Ultimate Rewards will have a dozen transfer partners, but the number of actual value-add programs will be less than that:

  • Both Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards are transfer partners, except they’re really the same program, and the programs are formally merging as of this coming weekend
  • Even taking that into account, I still don’t consider either option to be decent, given the 1:1 transfer ratio, and that I value those points at ~0.8 cents each (the transfer ratio would need to be 1:2 for me to consider this worthwhile)
  • IHG Rewards Club is a 1:1 transfer partner, though I only value IHG Rewards Club points at ~0.5 cents each, so to me that’s not a redemption that should be seriously considered (the transfer ratio would need to be 1:3 for me to consider this worthwhile)
  • British Airways Executive Club, Aer Lingus Aer Club, and Iberia Plus are all transfer partners, but Avios can be transferred between all those currencies, so there’s not that much unique value in having all three as partners

When you remove those five programs (Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and IHG), that leaves you with seven partners. Of those:

  • British Airways Executive Club is also an Amex Membership Rewards partner
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue, Singapore KrisFlyer, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club are also Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou partners
  • That means the unique Ultimate Rewards partners are Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, and World of Hyatt, and while they’re good, that’s not all that many options

What partners could Chase Ultimate Rewards add?

With that in mind, I know many of us are wondering what Chase will do to make Ultimate Rewards more valuable again, presumably by adding more transfer partners.

This post is pure speculation, but I wanted to share some thoughts on which programs I think we may see Chase Ultimate Rewards add, and which I think are unlikely. Here they are, ranked from most likely to least likely (again, this is all speculation on my part):

Etihad Guest — very likely

Etihad Guest is a useful niche program with some great redemption rates on partners. Both Amex and Citi partner with Etihad Guest, so I imagine it should be easy enough for Chase to form a partnership with them as well. Goodness knows Etihad needs the money. This won’t be a huge value-add, but it’s better than nothing.


Etihad Guest has excellent redemption rates on Royal Air Maroc

Emirates Skywards — very likely

Emirates doesn’t have a US credit card, though they do partner with Amex Membership Rewards. I could see them also partnering with Chase, though to be honest I couldn’t care less about this. I guess more options are always a good thing, but Emirates Skywards miles are among the least valuable out there, as their redemption rates are crazy.

Avianca LifeMiles — likely

There’s probably not a program out there that’s more run like a business than LifeMiles. They constantly sell miles at a discount, often for under 1.4 cents each. They recently became transfer partners with Citi ThankYou, and I could see them partnering with Chase Ultimate Rewards as well, to add some variety.


LifeMiles are valuable for travel on many airlines, including Avianca

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles — likely

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is an Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou transfer partner. The program has some niche redemptions that could be worthwhile, but overall I don’t consider it to be a great program.

Lufthansa Miles & More — possible, but not likely

Lufthansa Miles & More is in an interesting position. They have a US credit card issued by Barclays (though it doesn’t seem to be that popular), and their redemption rates and fees seem high enough so that they should be able to make this work in a mutually beneficial way.

I’m not convinced this will happen, but of the wild cards it’s one that I see as a possibility.


Booking Lufthansa first class awards in advance would be awesome

JetBlue TrueBlue — possible, but not likely

JetBlue partners with both Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou, so on the surface you’d think they’d be open to a third parter.

There are a few catches, though. The first is that Chase partners with Southwest, and I could see them wanting Chase to not partner with JetBlue. While they’re not necessarily direct competitors, they are similar.

Furthermore, TrueBlue transfer ratios for Amex and Citi aren’t 1:1, and historically Chase likes to have 1:1 transfer partners (for better or worse), so I could see that being an issue.

Aegean Miles+Bonus — possible, but not likely

Aegean Miles+Bonus is an example of a frequent flyer program that has become extremely popular for a small airline. They’re a popular program to credit miles to, and they have some very reasonable redemption rates. I’d love to see them partner with one of the transferable points currencies.


A little airline with a big frequent flyer program

Japan Airlines MileageBank — unlikely

Japan Airlines has a distance based award chart that’s potentially lucrative (though it’s not as valuable as it used to be, given that JAL devalued redemptions on Emirates significantly). They’d be a huge asset to any transferable points currency.

They were even recently added as a transfer partner for Barclays new transferable points currency. What’s telling, however, is that the transfer ratio for JAL is worse than for other partners, which suggests they want more money from the banks than other mileage currencies. That doesn’t bode well for this happening.

Alaska Mileage Plan — highly unlikely

The front runner for a new transfer partner for one of the major currencies has long been Alaska Mileage Plan. I’m sure a vast majority of us would love to see that. Personally I think Alaska miles are the most valuable airline mileage currency out there.

Unfortunately I suspect this is highly unrealistic for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I doubt they could agree on cost. Alaska is no doubt trying to monetize their frequent flyer program, and they’re aggressive about selling miles for around 2.1 cents each during sales. I just don’t think they’d go much lower than that. I imagine (pure speculation) Chase would be willing to pay something closer to 1.5 cents.

Bigger picture, I don’t think Alaska could maintain the quality of their program while literally opening the floodgates on redemptions to those with Ultimate Rewards points, given how popular they are. I imagine if they did partner together, we can expect many Alaska redemptions to be devalued quickly.

I’d love to be wrong, but I just think this is highly unlikely.


I’m sure most of us would love to redeem just 70,000 miles for Alaska first class!

American AAdvantage — exceedingly unlikely

American is the only one of the “big three” US airlines that doesn’t partner with a transferable points currency (Delta partners with Amex, and United with Chase). A couple of years ago there were rumors that AAdvantage would be added as a Citi ThankYou partner, but allegedly they couldn’t agree on price.

I suspect there are two reasons American wouldn’t partner with Ultimate Rewards:

  • United wouldn’t be happy about it, and they have a close partnership with Chase
  • Barclays and Citi wouldn’t be happy about it, given their co-brand credit card agreements with American

So I think both parties would have pressure causing this not to happen.

Bottom line

Korean Air SkyPass leaving Ultimate Rewards is a huge loss for the points currency, and leaves a big void that needs to be filled. I found Korean Air SkyPass to be one of the most unique and valuable programs out there.

I think it’s likely we’ll see Chase replicate some of the transfer partners that Amex and Citi have, though that doesn’t add all that much value. What I’d really love to see is them adding some unique partners that other currencies don’t have.

Sure, Alaska Mileage Plan would be amazing, but it seems unlikely to me. Of course I’d love to be wrong. But I also suspect there’s a reason they haven’t partnered with a transferable points currency yet, and it’s not due to a lack of interest.

But otherwise I’d love to see Ultimate Rewards add something like Lufthansa Miles & More, Aegean Miles+Bonus, etc.

Furthermore, it would be great to see them offering occasional transfer bonuses, like we see from Amex and Citi, and perhaps also improve the transfer ratios for IHG and Marriott. For example, if Marriott transfers suddenly went from 1:1 to 1:2, that would add a lot of value. I doubt we’ll see them change transfer ratios from anything but 1:1, though, given that a consistent transfer ratio is something they seem to pride themselves in.

What programs would you like to see added to Chase Ultimate Rewards? And which do you think are actually most realistic?

Comments

  1. Emirates is trying to push the US hard as a market but has no credit card or miles partner other than limited flights on Alaska, but they’ve both devalued their miles recently. Being able to access the whole Emirates network with miles would be a game changer.

  2. Pretty much everything is useless now except hyatt. Cash back cards looking much better and less complicated life.

    Good time to get married and settle down. Well planned.

  3. @Jay Emirates is a partner of Amex.

    Would like to see chase add OZ/NH/JL as point transfer partners. All of them are geometrically proximate to KE, and their points are very useful.

  4. Your Cathay first picture caption says ’im sure most of us would love to redeem just 70,000 miles for Alaska first class!” I don’t think anyone wants to do that, ha.

  5. I highly doubt they would add JetBlue given Chase’s relationship with Southwest. I would love to see ANA added.

  6. Chase likes to market pretty heavily that all of their transfer ratios are 1:1 (which I guess is a dig at Amex having some less-than-1:1 ratios) so I wouldn’t expect JetBlue is very likely.

  7. Alaska is, IMO, even less likely to partner with Chase given their CC relationship with BoA, who values that partnership highly. So even if AS did go with Chase, that would require an overhaul of their entire CC strategy, not just their rewards program.

    Preferably, I’d like to see add another Asian partner if they are losing KE. While I am biased given my flight patterns, I’d want to see the transferable currencies (and airline alliances) fill in gaps instead of reinforcing areas they already have strong positions for.

  8. Miles and More – that would be amazing. There are so many airlines using this program – it would be a game changer. In addition to Lufthansa, there’s Swiss, Austrian airlines, and LOT airlines that have a ton of transatlantic flights, especially from the northeast US to Europe

  9. I would love to see JAL added. They would be a good replacement for KE with their (and CX’s) route network in Asia and their long-haul redemption rates are great. NH would be great for similar reasons but they already partner with Amex so I’m doubtful that will happen.

    Alaska would be great too but I fear that it would eventually lead to a devaluation, with UR points being so popular and fairly easy to collect.

  10. I agree, please not AS.

    I am using a Marriott travel package here at the last minute to effectively transfer UR points to AS at better than 1-1, while getting a future Marriott-Starwood hotel stay I want at the same time. Since I can generate UR points more readily than AS miles, even though UR points are in theory “more valuable,” I decided that was a good deal.

  11. OZ would be a good replacement for KE from a routing perspective. I think the bigger issue might be that OZ uses Bank of America as their credit card partner but I feel like their CC was never really marketed well. Having Chase would increase OZ’s visibility.

    While I love ANA, their scheduling of flights into HND is non-ideal for flights from the US where connections are required. JAL might be interesting with flights into NRT. They also have one of the best wifi services as well, which i like.

    Lastly, there needs to be better Skyteam representation. Air France is there but I don’t think their redemption is all that great.

    That leaves one of the Chinese airlines, but I try to avoid them. Connections via the Chinese cities is a real pain.

  12. Which SkyTeam programs would be likely replacements? In your long list none are mentioned. Amex has Alitalia and AeroMexico. Barclay’s has one of the Chinese airlines. Could one of these be likely? Or another as yet untapped program by Amex, Barclay’s, and Citi?

  13. Whether Chase adds a transfer partner at all is not known (there may be no additions at all), and whether Korean Air is a permanent removal or not is also not known.

    Further, the addition of a transfer partner and Korean Air’s removal (temporary and otherwise) are two independent events unless information to the contrary can be provided.

    Another consideration here is the commercial aspect. There are some programs that will sell their loyalty currency for bugger all compared to others – HSBC removed Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles as a transfer partner (with no notice) and added the two most useless programs I’ve ever seen associated with a flexible points currency (Aeromexico and Jet Privilege) . The fact that transfers are 1:1 is *not* a selling point in this case.

    I wouldn’t consider Chase adding Aeromexico or Norwegian as transfer partners to be an improvement to the program, for example even though the cost is likely to be favourable to the issuer. The impact on the perception of the brand is likely a consideration as well.

  14. I think replacing like for like would be nice. Go from Korean to Asiana. OZ’s transatlantic redemptions are really great, and their value to Asia is not too bad either. If there’s room in UR for all 3 IAG carriers, why not add another Star Alliance carrier?

  15. Asiana has a decent route network in Asia and a great partner award chart. Their B of A card is a genuine sleeper.

  16. I agree with @Chris’s one point that there’s nothing that says Chase is going to add another partner. We probably would all like them to but there is no way to know that Chase sees a need to do so…or if they do, whether an agreement could be reached with another partner.

  17. Hoping it will be JAL for emirates redemptions (Despite surcharges and devaluation). Need to fly Chennai (MAA) – SFO annually ; but would’nt mind flying out of CMB just to avoid surcharges.

  18. Come off it – this is complete nonsense – you must really think your readers are fools who will believe anything you try to sell them. The idea that Chase will add ANY new partner is a fantasy, the idea that they would add a major, international airline with premium services – and make that available for redemptions – is laughable.

    Things DE-value. They don’t increase in value. This is just a devaluation of UR points, one that many of us have seen coming for a while. What the hell are you smoking?

  19. Lucky, I’m glad youre actually taking this KE departure as something that definitely takes value away from Chase UR.

    The guys at the points guy are acting like it’s not a loss at all and that as such, the Chase points are JUST as valuable as they were if KE stayed… seems like they dont want to tarnish the image of UR points.

  20. The new partner will be…

    Nobody

    Listen, the transfers are costing Chase too much money
    But the Sapphire Reserve brings some high class clientele to Chase

    They need to CUT costs, while not alienating their new clientele

    Thus…

    Add nothing

    The Miles community will gravitate to Amex and Citi

    But Chase will keep many of their current cardholders

    There is no reason to “compete” when you’re winning more than you can handle

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