Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of my favorite rewards currencies, up there with Amex Membership Rewards. The ability to earn points with general purpose credit cards and not be tied to a specific airline or hotel is a huge benefit. You can just transfer the points to the program you want and in the amount you want once you need them (translation: only after finding award space).
And now, Chase has added a new transfer partner. One Mile at a Time reports that Emirates Skywards is the newest addition to the family at Ultimate Rewards. You can transfer points at a 1-to-1 ration in increments of 1,000 points just like all other Ultimate Rewards transfer partners such as United Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
Emirates is already a partner of some other bank rewards programs, however I prefer Ultimate Rewards because it has better credit cards with more flexible bonus categories. For example, I can earn 3X points on any travel — including parking meters — with my Sapphire Reserve card. Amex tends to limit bonuses to airline tickets and hotels booked through their travel portal. Dining bonuses may only be for U.S. restaurants while Chase includes any restaurant. And it’s easy to combine Ultimate Rewards points across multiple cards or even multiple people.
As Ben points out, Emirates Skywards isn’t the most rewarding loyalty program with relatively high redemption rates and high surcharges on awards. People in the past have often used other programs like JAL and Alaska Airlines to book award travel on Emirates. So this addition may not be that significant.
Personally I do not find Emirates to be a great airline to fly on, not because the quality is bad but because they simply don’t provide convenient service to anywhere I want to go. My travel has mostly excluded the Middle East and South Asia because these destinations are further and less convenient from my home without multiple connections and very long flight times. If you aren’t flying first class, you’re also likely to be in a pretty dense business class layout where not every seat has aisle access.
The one time I did fly with Emirates, I paid for first class during a great sale, and I think that I’ll continue to do that going forward. It’s going to take a great price to make me go out of my way to fly with them, and at least that way I’ll still earn miles on the ticket.