Kind of like my Fantom Blue post from the other day (god I hope that takes off), I’m going to write about another opportunity that probably isn’t very good but still worth looking at. Why write about an opportunity that isn’t very good? Well, given how often things change, there’s always the chance that a mediocre opportunity becomes a good one, especially if it can be stacked with a limited-time promotion. So bear with me.
What I’m writing about today is Hyatt’s point transfer feature, which is kind of a poor man’s SPG. I had forgotten that you could even transfer Hyatt points at all, and I figured that the ratios were so bad as to make it a terrible deal. I noticed a thing about it on the new World of Hyatt homepage when I logged into my account, though, so I decided to give it a look to see what’s what. Before I get started, look at the tagline here. WTF? If anything, doing this would push you further away from earning a free night. How long before someone notices this and changes it?
Getting back on track, the first thing I noticed is that Hyatt has a decent range of transfer partners, including programs that don’t partner with any transferrable currencies. Here’s the list:
With some exceptions, the transfer ratio is 2500 Hyatt points into 1000 miles. Not great, although Hyatt does offer a 25% bonus if you transfer 50,000 Hyatt points, bringing the ratio to a straight 2:1. Okay, so what idiot would convert Hyatt points to miles at a 2:1 ratio, right? Well.
I pick on the SPG card sometimes, because I think people like it too much. I have one myself, but I just get frustrated with its low earning rate. I get that the points are great, but without manufacturing spend, I just don’t spend enough money to make a meaningful contribution to my SPG balance each year. I love the SPG program, but the card’s 1x per dollar earn rate is a snoozer to me. I sometimes consider changing my earning strategy to focus more on SPG, but I always decide not to, since I’d rather earn other points more quickly.
The reason I bring it up is that I started thinking, what if the SPG card had category bonuses? If they offered 2x on gas and 3x on dining, would I use it more? I can pretty much guarantee that I would. So then I started thinking about that in the context of Hyatt’s airline transfers and Chase’s card portfolio. Is it possible to mash a bunch of Chase cards together, transfer the points to Hyatt, and create a kind of bastardized SPG sitch? Sorta. Of course, the first caveat is that SPG’s transfer partner list is better. However, both SPG and Hyatt benefit from having transfer partners that are incredibly useful strategically, including Lufthansa, Japan Airlines, and American Airlines. The second caveat is that in this thought experiment, you’re burning all your Chase points this way. There’s a reason no one tells you to use your SPG card for everything: with its low earn rate, it’s only good for unbonused spend. And I’ll acknowledge that in the scenario I’m describing, you’re probably getting a sub-optimal return on your Chase bonus categories.
But, for discussion’s sake, here’s how it would look. Say you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Freedom Unlimited, Freedom, and Ink Cash. That means your earning looks like this:
- Travel & Dining: 3x
- Cell phone & internet: 5x
- Office supplies: 5x
- Rotating categories (currently gas, etc.): 5x
- Everything else: 1.5x
Looking back at the Hyatt transfer ratio, cut everything there in half and that’s your earning ratio when using Chase cards to earn airline points via Hyatt. Not great, but not nothing either. Hear me out: American Airlines doesn’t partner with any bank points right now, which means that it’s hard to earn more than one AAdvantage mile per dollar unless you’re using a co-brand card – and only then if you’re spending money on AA tickets (or on business bonus categories if you have the CitiBusiness card). However, using this method, you can earn 2.5x AAdvantage miles per dollar for cell phone or office supply purchases, or 1.5x on dining and travel.
JAL is a good example too. Last year when Alaska sodomized the Emirates first class redemption prices, JAL became the best program to book Emirates awards. The difference is pretty ridiculous: 135,000 R/T from JFK to Dubai via JAL vs. 300,000 for the same route via Alaska. Imagine your friend is getting into churning and is dying to fly Emirates first because they heard it’s the nicest one. You tell them to get an SPG card, and they earn 35,000 miles (because you told them to do it while SPG has the elevated bonus). Maybe they’re going to be really aggressive, so you tell them to get the Marriott card too, and to convert the sign-up bonus points to SPG. Great, so after the min spend requirements, they have around 68,000 SPG points and need to come up with another $40k or so in spending (factoring in the SPG transfer bonus) before they have enough for Emirates – and earning 1 point per dollar, that becomes a slog.
That’s when Chase can come to the rescue – the Ink Preferred bonus is good for 40,000 JAL miles. Tack on 27,500 more from the Sapphire Preferred bonus. Is this the best redemption you can think of with these Chase bonuses? Probably not, but in this hypothetical, there is a very specific goal, and the oft-overlooked Hyatt airline transfer program offers a pretty decent strategic opportunity to accelerate the progress toward that goal.
I also think it’s kind of funny that Alaska made those redemptions so ungodly expensive that it’s actually cheaper to convert your Chase points at 2:1 to JAL miles (270,000 vs 300,000). Thinking about it that way, I guess what I’m saying is that Hyatt’s transfers add an interesting strategic opportunity for Chase points that other bank points don’t offer. Chase’s Hyatt partnership gives them a stable of “Tier 2” partners that – while they don’t have great ratios – could definitely make sense in the right circumstance, which only further enhances Chase’s value in my mind.
Finally, it should be obvious by now that there’s no reason to think of it as Chase/Hyatt OR SPG. If your goal is to earn points in programs like American Airlines or JAL that are common to both SPG and Hyatt, you can combine both, earning up to 2.5x on certain categories but never less than 1.25x.
Bottom line: can you imagine how people would lose their shit if Amex announced that the SPG card would now start earning 2.5x in quarterly rotating categories? Boarding Area would explode. However, if your travel goals happen to line up with the programs that SPG and Hyatt have in common, that’s exactly the opportunity that this presents.
So now the requisite question for the commentariat… Am I super late to the party here? Does everyone already know about this? Is there a reason you never really hear about this as an asset for the
Gold Passport World of Hyatt program? (As an aside at the end of an already long post, I want to make it clear that I don’t fashion myself as some lone voice in the wilderness. I’m sure people talk about this, and I don’t really read FlyerTalk or Reddit, so I miss a lot of stuff that gets talked about there. This is more about how I discovered something for me, which I hadn’t really thought about before. If it’s useful to you, then great, but I’m not standing here trying to pat myself on the back for being the smartest guy in the room or anything.)
Regarding your final paragraph – I read lots of blogs (and have been doing so for a fairly long time) and I’ve certainly never seen this subject addressed. Definitely out of the box thinking. And also (as you posited) niche appeal at best. Hyatt points and Ultimate Reward points far too valuable to most to exchange at these ratios (i.e. $1000 in cell phone charges on Ink = 5000 United miles or 2500 JAL miles).
You call spending 350,000 Chase points to fly from London to Bandar Seri Begawan in business class “niche” ???!!!
I mentioned on twitter that with an AA transfer bonus of 25% your math changes to 3.125 pts per 5x category and 1.875 pts per 3x category. Which is obviously much better than putting spend on an AA card. So I guess your point is, why would anyone put any bonus spend on an AA or SPG card when you can get vastly better earn rates using Chase UR cards.
One other thing that I’d say is worth mentioning, If someone was considering using URs to transfer to Marriott to redeem a Nights and Flights package it might be worth considering transferring UR to Hyatt instead of transferring to Marriott. Transferring to Hyatt would give you 133K AA miles while transferring to Marriott would give you just 120K AA miles (and the cat 5 7 night stay). Though I’d imagine that most people wouldn’t transfer 270K points to Marriott just for the AA miles.
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