Unique Timesaver: Fly New York – South Africa (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Roundtrip)

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Want to go to South Africa for free?

A few days ago I wrote about South African Airways scheduling operation of their new A350 service from New York to Johannesburg (and vice versa) beginning 7 February 2020.

The one-way journey clocks in at a long ~15 hours so I had been keeping my eyes peeled for business class award availability. However, a unique opportunity crossed my desk that I thought may be useful for those that want to go to South Africa regardless of fare class.

The crew over at Thrifty Traveler pointed out an opportunity that I had not considered…flying from New York to Johannesburg roundtrip in economy for ~50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points. This is a bit of an advanced topic but it’s an easy concept to understand.


If you have Chase points, you can book travel in one of two ways:

  1. transfer your points directly to an airline and redeem for travel
  2. redeem your points directly through the Chase portal

Again, this topic is a bit more advanced and I haven’t covered the advantages and disadvantages of both but we’re going to focus on #2 for this article.

As always, I love examples so let’s dive into this opportunity.


Chase has a travel portal that is very user-friendly and is similar to searching any third-party travel site (i.e. Expedia, Orbitz, etc.). Interestingly, the Chase portal is powered by Expedia so in short, if you can find the price on Expedia, you will find the same price through Chase.

At the moment, South African Airways is charging ~$755 for a round trip economy ticket from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg (JNB) on their new A350 on most dates in February – March and October – December.

When searching for a ticket within the Chase portal, you will essentially give you two prices: 1) a cash price and 2) how many points you could redeem for the cash value of ticket.

Depending on the Chase credit card you have, Chase allows you redeem your points at a standard rate of 1.25 cents per points for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Preferred and 1.5 cents per point for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

If you’re confused already, keep reading. I’ll show you how this works below.


Here are the steps that I used to find this price:

  1. Search google flights for non-stop, JFK-JNB flights that have a price of ~$755. Every date in February 2020, pretty much works.
  2. Search the same dates (from step #1) on Expedia to ensure that the price is the same. If you can find the price on Expedia, it will be the same in the Chase portal.
  3. Using those same dates, plug them into the Chase portal.

You can also click HERE for example that I did.

I found the dates of 02/08 – 02/15 work, so I plugged them into the Chase portal and looky..looky…here…

It’s worth noting that I am searching using my Chase Ink Preferred (thus 1.25 redemption rate). In other words, Chase is giving me the option to buy the ticket in cash for $754.62 OR redeem 60,369 points ($754.62 divided by 0.0125) for the roundtrip flight. However, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve this would say “$754.62 OR redeem 50,308 points” ($754.62 divided by 0.0150).


The great part about this strategy is Chase is “buying” you a revenue ticket. In other words, you won’t pay any taxes…or surcharges…or fees. Once you click “buy with points”, the ticket is yours and no cash needs to be exchanged.


Do you remember THIS ARTICLE where I suggested getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred card a few weeks ago?

Well, I want to add some perspective. The welcome bonus for that card is 60,000 points. If you met the minimum spend in the first 3 months, you would, literally, have a free roundtrip ticket to South Africa right now and could be leaving as early as next week.

If you were approved for the Chase Ink Preferred, you would have a free roundtrip flight and have, at least, 20,000 points remaining to explore the explore other options.


Keep in mind that if you have additional Chase points, you can also book Comair flights (via British Airways Avios) if you’d like to fly to other countries in the region.

While I would prefer a lie-flat business class award flight, 25,000 points one-way without having to search for award availability is hard to beat!

Pro-Tip: If you’re a little more adventurous (and have a bit more time on your hands), I was also able to find roundtrip economy tickets from New York to Johannesburg (via Doha) on Qatar Airways for $682 (~45,000 Chase points). With a little bit of ingenuity, you can create a long layover and 1) leave the Doha airport and see the city 2) fly the Qatar A350, albeit in economy 3) still arrive in your destination of South Africa for A LOT cheaper than your friends did a few weeks ago for Afropunk and the holiday festivities. Now that’s travel hacking!!!

Also, keep in mind that seasons are the opposite in South Africa than they are in the US (winter here is summer there, etc.).

So who is going to South Africa next week? And who is going to South Africa for Thanksgiving (for those of us that need a bit more time to evaluate our PTO)? 😉

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