There’s currently lots of hype over Ultimate Rewards points, but not all Ultimate Rewards transfer partners are created equal.
Just because Ultimate Rewards are easy to get right now, especially with the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, doesn’t mean you should waste them.
There are great strategic reasons to transfer Ultimate Rewards to:
- United miles
- British Airways Avios
- Southwest points
- Korean miles
- Virgin Atlantic miles
- Hyatt points
(Click the links for posts on great redemptions in those programs.)
But there are also a few programs where I would not transfer Ultimate Rewards. Specifically, I would never recommend you to transfer your Ultimate Rewards to:
- IHG points
- Ritz-Carlton points
IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty program of Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, InterContinental and Staybridge Suites.
Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to IHG points, but don’t make that transfer.
You can essentially “buy” IHG points for 0.7 cents each any time or for 0.57 cents during the upcoming Daily Getaways. I value Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents each, so transferring them to points that you can buy for 0.7 cents or less would be a big mistake.
Ritz-Carlton hotels cost 30k to 70k points per night. That means that even the huge 60k sign up bonus would be worth 0-2 nights at Ritz-Carlton properties.
That’s not enough of a return, especially when you consider that Ultimate Rewards also transfer 1:1 to Hyatts and free nights at Hyatts range from 5,000 to 30,000 points per night.
You can’t convince me that a top tier Ritz-Carlton is more than twice as nice as a top-tier Hyatt (such as the Park Hyatt Maldives, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Andaz Maui, Grand Hyatt Kauai, etc).
And if you want even more luxury, you can book suites with Hyatt points that are still well below the base room price with Ritz-Carlton points.
What about Marriott points and Amtrak points?
These are two programs that I have never transferred to, but I think there could be some value for some of us.
Howie from the Frugal Travel Guy transferred 25,000 Ultimate Rewards to Amtrak for a $1,250 trip for two from Los Angeles to Seattle in a private Sleeper room. This is certainly an extremely niche redemption, but if a nostalgic and scenic train trip appeals to you, it’s also a very high value redemption.
Marriott has an award chart with some cheap properties in the lower tier properties.
I wouldn’t want to transfer 1:1 to Marriott points and pay 45,000 points for one night in a top tier property when that’s almost enough for one night in a suite at a top tier Hyatt. But I see value in spending only 6,000 points per night (and getting the 5th night free) on Category 1 PointSavers. However, many lower-tier Marriott properties price out at low nightly rates to begin with.
As much as I think that Hyatt’s chart is better than Marriott’s, there aren’t Hyatt’s everywhere, so if there is a good value Marriott where you want to go, transferring some Ultimate Rewards can make sense.
Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to 10 partners. Some are extremely high value and some should be avoided.
Racking up Ultimate Rewards is easy with the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card. You can also earn 40,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Visa Card.
Do you agree that transferring Ultimate Rewards points to IHG and Ritz Carlton is a big no-no?
Carleton Hafer says
I don’t necessarily agree…if I was in a competition to waste points and lose all the value, then it might make sense to transfer to IHG or Ritz_Carlton. I actually holding out until Chase makes Motel 6 a transfer partner! Luxury here I come!
Amtrak can be an excellent redemption, particularly for last minute travel in the northeast corridor, for example DC-NY. You can book non-Acela travel for 4000 points, and if it is a last minute trip or a prime booking time, this trip can cost as much as $180 one way. That’s potential redemption value of almost 4.5 cents per point.
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Jim levites says
Re:ritz-if you are short a few points on a redemption it can make sense to top up. It is a nice option to have even though from a pure value proposition you aren’t maximizing your value per point. I needed a few thousand points for a 5 night ritz stay in Hawaii and was long UR points. Every one has a different value for points.
Any thoughts on the best way to rack up some IHG points, besides outright purchase?
If UR transfers are poor value, that means using the IHG CC is also poor value, unless staying at a IHG property. Maybe using the IHG CC to get the 2X groceries bonus, but then 5% is probably better.
I agree with Amtrak in the Northeast. They almost always have availability, even last minute.
Mark R. says
No, on UR to IHG. In Feb. I transferred 25k UR to Amtrak and took the Coast Starlight Express from Burbank to Seattle (36 hours) in a private bedroom. We had very good meals in the dining car, and the trip was a lot of fun (& the internet mostly worked). But, I would recommend doing this trip May – October because it stays light longer in the evening.
Richard H says
I think that there may be an exception to not transferring to IHG, and that is when there is a pointsbreak award available at a property where you want to stay. At only 5k points per night, I would transfer a few nights worth of UR points to IHG.
With IHG, you still need “kindling” to start the points/cash cascade. So you have to transfer 5,000 in to get the party started.