Big Spenders: Transferable Points Cards

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Update: The offer for The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN in this post is no longer available, but check the Hot Deals for the latest offers!

As a reminder, in the Big Spender series of posts, I will NOT list cards which give you extra points for spending in certain categories (e.g. gas, groceries etc.), but will cover that in a future post.  This series focuses primarily on regular spending with credit cards for Big Spenders

Big Spender Series:

Transferable Point Cards

These cards are the best cards to spend large amounts of money on if you don’t really care about earning airline elite status, cash back, companion passes, etc. via credit card spending and want to fly in First or Business class and stay in nicer hotels.

Earning points which can be transferred to airline or hotels (hence the name transferable points) are valuable because they give you more options when it comes time to redeem your points.

However, besides the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card & the J.P. Morgan Select card, none of the transferable point cards offer extra miles for spending a certain large amount on the card.  The old Chase Ink Bold offered spending threshold bonuses, but the current version does not.

The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card does offer a 25% transfer bonus for transfers to airline partners in increments of 20,000 points.  So you could view this as a 25% bonus for spending in increments of $20,000.

1.   Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • Link:  J.P Morgan Select
  • Link:  Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Link:  Chase Ink Bold
  • Link:  Chase Ink Plus

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned on the J.P. Morgan SelectChase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold & Chase Ink Plus to United Airlines, British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Ritz Carlton, Korean Air, Southwest, and Amtrak at a 1:1 ratio.

The best use of Ultimate Rewards to me is to transfer to:

  • United which offers 1-way awards and is great for Star Alliance partner flights
  • Hyatt where top tier Hyatt hotels (which sell for over $600), can be had for 22,000 Hyatt Points per night
  • British Airways for short distance flights

J.P Morgan Select card

Link:  J.P. Morgan Select

The J.P Morgan card (unlike the other Ultimate Rewards points cards) doesn’t have a sign-up bonus, but offers 25,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points for the 1st $100,000 in spending in 1 calendar year

This means that you earn a total of 125,000 points (100,000 for base spending + 25,000 bonus points) or 1.25 points per $1 spent for spending $100,000 within a calendar year.

2.   Starwood Preferred Guest

  • Link:  American Express Starwood card (Personal)
  • Link:  American Express Starwood card (Business)

• Earn an extra 5,000 points when you transfer in increments of 20,000 SPG points to many different airlines.

The American Express Starwood personal and business card offers a 25% transfer bonus when you transfer Starwood points into their many airline partners in increments of 20,000 points.

For example, transferring 20,000 Starwood points to American Airlines gets you 25,000 American Airlines miles – or an earning rate of 1.25 American Airlines miles per $1 spent.

This makes the Starwood card better than many airlines’ co-branded cards (for example Citi American Airlines or Barclays US Air card) for regular spending in increments of $20,000 because you get a 25% bonus which you don’t get with that airlines’ own co-branded card!

Starwood points are also very useful to use for stays in Starwood hotels.  See my review of the SPG program here.

3.   American Express Membership Rewards

  • Link:  American Express Premier Rewards Gold
  • Link:  American Express Business Rewards Gold
  • Link:  American Express Mercedes Benz Platinum
  • Link:  American Express Business Platinum

American Express Membership Rewards is the weakest of the transferable point cards, in my opinion, because they:

  • Don’t have any nice hotel partners
  • Their airline transfer partners charge fuel surcharges on many awards (For example, Aeroplan and ANA)
  • It is hard to use Delta miles

British Airways (a Membership Rewards partner) is very useful for short haul flights and should be part of your toolkit, but Delta miles are hard to use for domestic flights because Delta availability at the low-level is poor, though their SkyTeam partners do have good award availability.

Membership Rewards does sometimes offer bonuses for transferring points to airline or hotel partners, which could make up for some of the disadvantages of Membership Rewards points.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold

Link:  American Express Premier Rewards Gold

You get 15,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you spend $30,000 in 1 calendar year.

This means that you earn a total of 45,000 points (30,000 for base spending + 15,000 bonus points) or 1.5 points per $1 spent for spending $30,000 within a calendar year.

Bottom Line

Transferable point cards are great way to diversify your points stash and give you more options if you don’t have a specific goal in mind – elite status, companion passes, cash back, etc.

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21 responses to “Big Spenders: Transferable Points Cards

  1. Oh, thank you! I was wondering about exactly this topic as I considered how my father’s business might begin accumulating more points for credit card purchases. I appreciate your work so much!

  2. Thanks for the great post! Which of these cards are churnable?

  3. Frequent Flyer University

    Transferable Cards are the absolute best. I can’t even count the number of times I have used Ultimate Rewards to transfer points at the last second when I needed miles.

  4. I have been looking forward to this series every step of the way. For the most part i have not learned too much yet. I feel like you are holding back the good stuff, but maybe this is as good as it gets. Anyone know of a good small business focused points blog to as to the reader? Or a big spender one? This is one topic i cannot get enough info on. I found one under smallbusinesspoints.com but the guy it not updating regularly enough.

  5. I would not be so quick to rule out American Express. They do have a relationship with the Preferred Hotels Group and also The Leading Hotels of the World, both of which have some pretty high end properties- and many of which I would not usually stay at due to my Hilton and SPG loyalty and use of Hhonors and SPG points. However, many of these properties are way better than anything one could get with “chain hotel” redemptions.

    I understand you are referring to “transferability” of points – in the case of these hotels you redeem points for one night certificates, but I don’t agree that American Express does not have any “nice hotel” partners.

  6. The referral kick back on the JP Morgan card must be huge! If only I could spend $100k per year on credit cards…

  7. @jkm1317 This blog targets advanced points/miles users. http://boardingarea.com/blogs/frequentmiler/

  8. I like this series of posts. Our daughter starts college next year and we’re paying for tuition, housing and dining from our bank account. I’d like to have it benefit us in some way so these are good options to know about.

    Side note: I can’t seem to get approved for the AmEx Starwood Personal card. I think they pull Experian where my FICO is 778. I did call back for reconsideration but they just gave me a canned response and I think I talked to somebody in India. Any thoughts?

  9. @Shannon, ask if they can transfer you back to the US and make sure to ask for their manager.

    • @Lita – I’ve linked the other posts in the series to this post which explain the other perks of big spending. There are many perks of Big Spending, so it is important to figure out which perks matter more to you. Thanks for reading!

      @Nate – I believe the terms on the AMEX cards suggest you can get the bonus 12 months after cancelling.

      @Frequent Flyer University – I agree! Transferable points are very useful.

      @jkm1317 – I’ve tried to list all the benefits of Big Spending via credit cards that I’m aware of in this post. I’m curious what you consider the “good stuff” to be?

      @RobM – “Nice” is subjective, so perhaps not the best word choice. Sure you can redeem AMEX points for “nice” hotels, but they cost much more than, say, the 22K for a top tier Hyatt.

      @Grant Thomas – No referral for the J.P. Morgan card! The FIRST (!) sentence of the post reads: “Disclosure: Emily and I get a referral for links in this post, except for the J.P. Morgan Select Card…”

      @Shannon – The Frequent Miler is very good at squeezing out points from routine activities! I’d do what Grant suggests and ask for either a US rep or a manger.

  10. @MMS I guess I was hoping for more like the SWA Companion Pass. It seems that there would be other cards that offer something great for getting into the $100k plus range on spending. I have the OLD Bold card that also gets about 47.5% bonus on bigger spending ($100k+ as well). I have an Amex Biz Gold card that gives 25k pts for $50k (50% bonus). I have the United card which gives 40% bonus (10k on $25k spend), but this bonus rate can be beat with the Club card to get that 50% – but that is on every dollar so not really a big spend focus. I would have thought that some of these bigger cards would at least have an annual fee waiver for getting spend that high. For example it would be nice if the Amex Plat would have a fee waiver for spending $100k+, but none of that info came up here, so I would assume it doesn’t exist. I guess I just thought there were a lot more cards like these out there. It looks like I might have been wrong. Anyways, for now the SWA card is my favorite…maybe something new will show up! Thanks for the response!

  11. Great post Daraius! I’m all for the transfer cards as I personally see more value with gaining a ‘bonus’ for transferring my points to an airline. I’m all about First Class/Business Class on flights, especially long haul.

    I did not know that the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card gave a bonus for transferring to their partners. I guess I either overlooked that or thought it was just a ‘timed promotion’. I’ve been waiting for AMEX and Delta to offer a transfer bonus as for me Ive never had an issue with getting flights or First Class with Delta. You do have to be a little flexible, but living in Alaska its much cheaper to use miles than to buy a ticket.

  12. I have a very #FirstWorldProblem in that I can put a lot of expenses on a family-owned business. We cleared 2 Ink Bold spends in less than a week. Now I’m having trouble trying to figure out how to divide spending until the next set of applications. Like I said – #FirstWorldProblem indeed.

    JP Morgan Select seems like a good card, but if you have a Chase Ink, $50K through Vanilla can get you 250K points, instead of double the spend for half the points.

    We have the Business Gold Amex that gives a 25K bonus after $50K charge ($50K -> 75K MR -> 112.5K Avios during transfer bonus = 2.25 Avios/$). But I think the new cards don’t offer that anymore? Or do they? I want to cancel that Amex to become eligible for another bonus …

    • @jkm1317 – The AMEX Premier Rewards gold offers 15K for spending $30K, but there aren’t many other options besides the Delta cards, Virgin Atlantic, and the cards which you mention. I agree that the SW Companion Pass is probably the best perk for spending $100K+

      @Derek – ThePointsGuide – The bonus is more a function of the SPG program than the credit card, since transfers of 20K SPG points to airlines earn a 25% bonus

      @AK – 2 Ink Bolds in less than a week?! That’s $1M a year if you straight-line it. The new Business Gold doesn’t offer that bonus, but the Premier Rewards Gold offers 15K points for spending $30K a year. There are also bonuses on United, Delta, & Virgin Atlantic cards. http://millionmilesecrets.com/2012/07/11/airline-credit-card-bonuses/

      And the SW Companion Pass is a great perk. If you don’t like/fly SW, perhaps others in the family would like the free flights. IF you can do the Vanilla consistently and it isn’t too much trouble, it is much better than the bonus on the JP Morgan Select. But, yes, a very nice #FirstWorldProblem to have!

  13. 2 Ink Bold spends in a week, but it’s because I delayed paying off stuff for weeks as much as possible. I’ve been trying to keep 5x office-supplies to 30% of spend on those, to not attract Chase’s ire. At 30% of 5x and 70% of 1x, that’s still 2.2+ UR/$ total.

    I’m canceling my Delta AMEX this week and will apply for another one in mid-January to get an MQM bonus + maximize time for hitting spending thresholds. I need around 51K MQMs next year to hit Platinum Medallion, which will make award changes free through the end of 2014. Do you know if the signup bonus for the Reserve is transferable? I know the spend threshold bonuses are, but if someone else applies for the card, can they transfer the MQMs from the signup to me? If the bonus is still 10K MQMs, then $30K of spend will get me 25K MQMs, and the rest I’ll get from flying.

    I’m also looking at getting the Companion Pass for my parents, especially since Southwest has now opened up service to cities they visit but Southwest didn’t serve earlier. Hopefully those links are still alive next month …

    • @AK – The Companion Pass is very solid for close to 2 years of free flying. Even if the links disappear, they will likely return in a few months.

      I’m not sure about whether you can transfer the Reserve sign-on bonus. I’m inclined to say “no” based on this –> https://www.delta.com/deltareservemqm/mbrLanding.action
      It only talks about transferring the MQMs earned by spending. When you go to the credit card app, foot note 1 says “Please allow 2–4 weeks after your first purchase for the bonus miles to appear in your Delta SkyMiles account. Delta Medallion Qualification Miles count only in the year they post to your account. ”

      Foot note 2 talks about the spend MQMs which can be transferred.

  14. I got a few cards in short time 2 personal city AA, Chase UA,Sapphire, SW Amex spg and Gold Business 75K. I am almost done with the min Spending for the bonuses but I realize that all those hard Inquiries had an effect on my credit and that I will have to wait a bit before even thinking about getting a new CC. In the meantime, I can try to put spending on some of the cards I already have to try to get the other Bonus points. I chose to put spending on the SPG to try to reach the 40k points so I can transfer to an airline as 50K, The other is may be the Sappire. I don’t have much incentive to put spending on the other cards.
    I am a little confused because some of these cards give points or cash bonus as a reward for money spent. I don’t know which cards use the calendar year and which cards use the Aniversary. If it is calendar , it’s great because I can cancel after I receive Bonus but before the anual fee is due.

    • @luchex – The Chase United card offers an extra 10K miles when you spend $25K within 1 calendar year. The AA, Sapphire, SPG, and Gold Business don’t have a bonus, besides their regular spending bonus.

  15. “The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card does offer a 25% transfer bonus for transfers to airline partners in increments of 20,000 points. So you could view this as a 25% bonus for spending in increments of $20,000.”

    Does that mean, the transaction has to be 20g or the monthly statement has to be 20g?
    Thanks-BTW great website just found it for the first time.

    • @Hal – Welcome and thanks for reading! It means that you have to transfer i.e. move at least 20,000 Starwood points to an airline at ONE time to get the bonus. It doesn’t matter what your monthly statement or transaction is. For example, you will get 25K points from just the sign-up bonus and can transfer 20K of those points to 25K airline miles regardless of what your statement balance is.

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