underscored nationalplanvacationday lead vacation beach travel

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective. 

When it comes to travel rewards currencies, many consider Chase Ultimate Rewards to be the best. Of course, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One miles are strong rivals, but I find that Chase offers a well-rounded suite of hotel and airline travel partners. Especially for beginners to the travel rewards space, Chase is one of the better places to start off, as you have plenty of redemption options and can easily get great value from your points.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card is currently offering a very generous 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card within the first three months. Of course, you could redeem the points through Chase’s travel portal, which would see those 80,000 points worth a fixed $1,200 toward your next vacation. But transferring them to partner programs will typically get you significantly more value.

Chase partners with 14 different travel providers — 11 airlines and three hotels — where points transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth about 2 cents apiece, based on the frequent traveler website The Points Guy’s valuations. In other words, when those same 80,000 points are used more strategically, they can be worth about $1,600.

Airlines
Aer Lingus AerClub Air Canada Aeroplan Air France-KLM Flying Blue
British Airways Executive Club Emirates Skywards Iberia Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Southwest Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Hotels
World of Hyatt IHG Rewards Club Marriott Bonvoy

But how can you use your points, and where can you go? I’ll show you how I recently redeemed about 80,000 points for a free trip to the Caribbean. Of course, this is just one example of travel options when it comes to using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Learn more about earning 80,000 points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

How I redeemed 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for a free Caribbean vacation

My family loves visiting the Caribbean. Living in Boston, the winters can be cold, so escaping the harsh winter for some sun is a common occurrence in our world. And since my husband and I had to put our 10-year anniversary getaway on hold a couple of years ago, we were looking for a long weekend trip — without the kids.

Hyatt is our typical go-to chain, thanks to my husband’s Globalist elite status, and we’ve found that Hyatt has some phenomenal properties throughout the Caribbean and Mexico. Perhaps best of all, World of Hyatt is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, and it’s one of the more favorable options, since its award chart requires significantly fewer points to redeem for a free night’s stay. For example, a Hyatt property might charge 25,000 points per night, whereas a comparable Marriott, Hilton or IHG property will charge 50,000 points in the same resort destination. And since points transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio from Chase to Hyatt, your points can go further.

One of our favorite Hyatt properties is the family-friendly Hyatt Ziva Cancun, but since we’re planning to have no kids in tow, we settled on the adults-only Hyatt Zilara Cancun — the adults-only version of the property we love so dearly.

Hyatt Zilara Cancun

The Hyatt Zilara Cancun is an all-inclusive resort, so it falls under Hyatt’s relatively new all-inclusive award chart. As a Category C property, the Hyatt Zilara Cancun typically costs 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night for two guests (21,000 points on off-peak dates or 29,000 points on peak dates). For our vacation, we were able to book three nights during off-peak dates, which would have otherwise cost $568 per night. At just 63,000 points for the whole stay — as opposed to paying more than $1,700 — this is a great usage of our points and makes our points worth a terrific 2.7 cents apiece.

And since it’s an all-inclusive property, all of our food and drinks are covered — even when using points. There’s also no resort fee at this particular property, so our final bill will truly be $0 at checkout.

With hotel rooms secure, it was time to look into flights. I ended up booking with Southwest Airlines — another Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner — since I hold a Southwest Companion Pass, thanks to my Southwest credit card. With this pass, another passenger can fly with me an unlimited number of times for free — they just have to pay the taxes and fees on the ticket.

I was able to book a round-trip flight for 19,885 Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Cancun, which would have otherwise cost $384. And best of all, even when you use points for a Southwest flight, you can still use the Companion Pass to cover the cost of the second passenger. This means both my husband and I are flying for a total of 19,885 Southwest points — plus taxes and fees. Since this is an international flight, taxes and fees were more expensive than if we were flying domestically, totaling about $98 per passenger.

southwest plane from underneath cloudy sky

At the end of the day, I was able to redeem a total of 82,885 points and $196 for an all-inclusive getaway for the two of us. Without points at my disposal and the Southwest Companion Pass in my pocket, this trip would have cost us $2,472 for the three-night getaway.

If you apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve now, the sign-up bonus alone won’t give you the full amount of points I described above. However, when you consider that you need to spend $4,000 in the first three months in order to secure the 80,000 points, you’ll have enough points in your account for my exact redemption. That’s because each dollar that you spend to meet that $4,000 minimum will be one Ultimate Rewards point in your account — at minimum. Keep in mind that with the Sapphire Reserve, you’ll also earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked through Chase Travel, 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase Travel, 3 points per dollar on other travel, most dining and more.

And, if you’d prefer a completely different vacation, with 14 different transfer partners, it’s extremely easy to use the points earned from the Chase Sapphire Reserve toward any getaway of your choice. Whether it’s a different beach destination, a quaint European city, a jungle trek or even a domestic stay, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can take you quite far.

As we all know, vacations can get quite expensive. A nearly $2,500 price tag is not something that my husband and I would have most likely jumped on — especially for such a quick jaunt to the beach. But, thanks to travel rewards and travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, my family is able to travel quite a bit.

Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points to use toward your next vacation.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.