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How My Family of 8 Flew to Europe Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Here's the credit card rewards strategy my wife and I use to fly our family around the world for next to nothing.

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Miles and points have had a huge impact on our family. Ever since we first started collecting these credit card rewards back in 2013, they have helped us travel in ways that we would otherwise never have imagined.

Everyone has different ways in which they travel, and what works for me might not work for you. In my case, because I have six kids, we travel quite differently than someone who is traveling by themselves. It’s pretty much impossible to collect enough points (and then find the award space!) for eight first-class tickets. However, we’ve had a lot of success using flexible currencies like those earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to book travel for our family.

Post-Pandemic Travel

Our family of eight flew to Portugal and Spain in the summer of 2019. Of course, the travel landscape looks a lot different now than it did back in 2019, but many of the same principles apply. While travel understandably declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s started to pick back up in recent months. As more and more people get vaccinated, travel is opening up and more people are starting to feel comfortable traveling again.

Our family is not yet comfortable flying and staying in hotels, so we’ve only taken two smaller road trips over the past year, but we have also been stockpiling miles and points towards future travel. My wife and I are both in the process of getting vaccinated, and we are looking forward to traveling more over the duration of 2021.

Using Miles and Points to go to Europe

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are among the most valuable types of rewards currencies out there. One reason that they are so valuable is because they have a ton of flexibility. You can transfer your points to a variety of hotel and airline partners. This can be a great way to get even more value from your Ultimate Rewards, especially if you want to fly in premium airline cabins.

Another way to use Ultimate Rewards points is through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Through the travel portal, you can redeem your points for a fixed value.

If you want to fly in a premium cabin, you’re almost always going to be better off transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to an airline’s mileage program. In our case, we knew that we needed to fly economy, so redeeming through the Ultimate Rewards portal made more sense. We could have transferred our Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus, for example. But United typically charges 30,000 MileagePlus miles for a one-way flight in economy between the United States and Europe. That would have meant that we’d need 480,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (transferred to United) to fly our family of eight to Europe and back.

>>RELATED: Why I Helped My Mom Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Instead, we looked for a cheap cash fare in order to use the points on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It’s not uncommon to find fares from the East Coast to Europe for $200 or less. We ended up booking our trip as two different one-way flights. The first one was $148 for a one-way flight on TAP Portugal from Newark to Barcelona with a 3-day stopover in Lisbon. Using Chase Sapphire Reserve points, that was only 9,867 Ultimate Rewards points per person and included visiting two cities on the same ticket.

For our return, we found another TAP Portugal flight from Barcelona back to Newark. The one was $189 on our preferred dates. Again, we paid with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. This time it was 12,600 Ultimate Rewards points per person. In total, we paid 22,467 Ultimate Rewards points per person for round-trip flights. That’s less than you would likely have to pay one way if you instead transferred your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus miles.

Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Earning points with a Chase credit card is an essential tactic in my family’s rewards travel strategy. Cardholders of no-fee Chase credit cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card or Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card can get a value of 1 cent per point. If you have a premium Chase credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can redeem your points for 1.25 cents per point. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get a value of 1.5 cents per point.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: This travel credit card earns 5x points per dollar spent on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, 2x points on other travel expenses and 1x point on all other purchases. The Sapphire Preferred also offers 80,000 bonus points (a $1,000 value) to new cardholders who spend $4,000 during the first three months of account opening. The card has a $95 annual fee.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: This premium travel credit card earns 10x points per dollar on hotel and rental car reservations made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Similarly, earn 5x points on airfare booked through Ultimate Rewards. Cardholders also earn 3x points spent at restaurants, including eligible delivery services,  as well as travel expenses and 1x points on all other purchases. It offers a host of luxury travel perks like statement credits and access to Priority Pass Airport Lounges. The Sapphire Reserve currently offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points to new cardholders who spend $4,000 within the first three months from account opening. The card has a $550 annual fee.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card: This card has no annual fee, and it earns 5% back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back at restaurants and drugstores and an unlimited 1.5% points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, earn an additional 1.5% cash back on all purchases (up to $20,000 spent) during the first year of card ownership. 
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card: This no-annual-fee card earns 5% cash back up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter, 5% on travel booked through Chase, unlimited 3% on dining and restaurants and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases. It currently offers a $200 bonus to new cardholders who spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

If you have more than one Chase card, you can combine your Ultimate Rewards points between cards, so it pays to transfer your points on your card with the highest redemption value.

The Bottom Line

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of the most valuable types of rewards points. Right now, there are some extremely attractive limited-time offers for both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards which can help you add to your stockpile of Ultimate Rewards points.

If you’re looking to fly multiple people on your next vacation (in economy), the Sapphire Reserve’s 1.5 cents-per-point redemption value can help you get to Europe, or anywhere else, for a fraction of the normal cost.

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Dan Miller
Dan Miller
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free and cheap. He is an expert in all things personal finance, and his work has been featured in Forbes, NerdWallet, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, Rocket Mortgage and Intuit Mint. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and six kids.