The Trick to Travel Flexibility: Transferable Points

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Update:   You can no longer transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak.

One of the best tricks miles and points enthusiasts use is concentrating their efforts on collecting transferable points to use on award tickets, hotel stays, and more!

Instead of focusing on earning points in a specific frequent flyer or hotel guest program, folks who collect transferable points have many more options for how they use them!

That’s because you can choose to transfer your points to dozens of different programs.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points

The World Awaits: Transferable Points Give You Many More Options for Big Travel With Small Money

Let’s look at why transferable points are a great deal along with some of the best ways to use them!

Why Collect Transferable Points?

If you’re not sure of your travel goals or want flexibility in redeeming your points, transferable points might be the best choice for you.  As long as you’re not looking for elite status, a companion pass, or cash back, you’ll get more travel options by spending on credit cards that earn points which transfer to airlines and hotels.

Transferable Points Give You the Flexibility to Fly Many Airlines or Stay at Different Hotel Chains

And because you don’t have to move points until you’re ready to use them, you can be sure that the award ticket or hotel stay you want is available before you commit to transferring them to a specific program.

In fact, it’s better to wait to transfer points until you’re ready to book a trip.  That way, you can change your plans if an award ticket or hotel stay isn’t available.  With transferable points, you can easily choose a different airline or hotel chain in case your 1st choice isn’t possible.

And because so many airlines are part of alliances like oneworld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam, you can transfer points to 1 airline but book award tickets on any airline that’s part of the same alliance.  That’s great flexibility!

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points

You Could Transfer Points to United Airlines and Use Them to Book Award Tickets on Many Star Alliance Members

Many of the credit cards that earn transferable points have generous category bonuses for spending, which means you’ll accumulate points more quickly.  And you can have several cards at once that all earn points in the same program.

Transferable Points Programs

1.   American Express Membership Rewards

Link:   American Express Membership Rewards

Here are the cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points:

Personal CardsBusiness Cards
Premier Rewards Gold Card From American ExpressThe Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
American Express® Mercedes-Benz PlatinumThe Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Enhanced Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN
AMEX EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
AMEX EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
American Express® Gold Card
American Express® Green Card
Blue from American Express® Note: These are the ONLY AMEX cards that earn Membership Rewards points that can NOT be transferred to airline & hotel programs. But you can use these points on the Membership Rewards website for other redemptions. Includes personal AND small business versions of the card.

That’s a lot of cards!  And remember, many of these cards have spending category bonuses, like up to 4.5 points per $1 you spend at supermarkets with the American Express EveryDay Preferred.  Or 3 points per $1 you spend on flights booked directly with airlines with the American Express Premier Rewards Gold.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points

You Can Earn Extra AMEX Membership Rewards Points by Making the Most of Spending Category Bonuses, Like Supermarkets

American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to partner airline frequent flyer programs and hotel chains.  It can take up to a week for points to transfer, but in my experience it usually takes a day or two.

Here’s a list of their airline transfer partners:

 American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners 
AeroMexicoAir CanadaAlitalia
ANAAsia MilesBritish Airways
Delta AirlinesEl AlEmirates
EtihadFlying Blue (Air France / KLM)Hawaiian Airlines
IberiaJetBlueSingapore Airlines
Virgin AmericaVirgin Atlantic

And these are their hotel transfer partners:

 American Express Membership Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners 
Choice HiltonStarwood

Note:   American Express charges an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99, when you transfer points to US airlines.

If you prefer, you can also use points to pay for travel directly through the American Express Travel website, or redeem them for gift cards.

We transferred American Express Membership Rewards points to fly Air France in Business Class to Papeete, French Polynesia on our 2nd honeymoon.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points

AMEX Membership Rewards Points Helped Us Fly to the South Pacific for a 2nd Honeymoon

I like American Express Membership Rewards points because there are many ways to get them, and sometimes there are transfer bonuses that make your points worth even more.

2.   Chase Ultimate Rewards

Link:   Chase Ultimate Rewards

Personal CardsBusiness Cards
Chase Sapphire ReserveChase Ink Plus
Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Ink Bold (No Longer Available to New Applicants)
Chase FreedomChase Ink Cash
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Sapphire (No Longer Available to New Applicants)
Note: Points earned from the Chase Freedom, Sapphire, and Ink Cash cards can only be transferred to travel partners if you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold card.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to partner airlines, hotel chains, and Amtrak!  Points usually transfer instantly, except in a few cases (like Singapore Airlines).

Here’s a list of their airline partners:

 Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfer Partners 
British AirwaysFlying Blue (Air France/KLM)Korean Air
Singapore AirlinesSouthwestUnited Airlines
Virgin Atlantic

And these are their hotel partners:

 Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners 
HyattIHGMarriott
Ritz-Carlton

Points earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Plus, and Chase Ink Bold (no longer offered) cards can be transferred to airline and hotel partners.  You can also transfer points from the Chase Freedom indirectly to travel partners if you have at least 1 of the other 3 cards.

Chase Adds New Transfer Partner More Options To Europe

Having the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold Card Allows You to Transfer Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Partners Such as Hyatt and United Airlines

And there are great opportunities to earn extra points with these cards, too, like 5 points per $1 you spend at office supply stores with the Chase Ink cards (where I like to buy restaurant gift cards), rotating 5X points category bonuses with the Chase Freedom (such as Amazon.com), or extra points on dining with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points

Hungry? You Can Earn Extra Points on Dining With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

There are no fees to transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to airline, hotel, and rail partners.  And you can use your points to pay for airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.

Emily and I have transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points for many of our trips!  One of our favorite ways to use them is to transfer them to Hyatt, like we did on our trip to Maui.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points

We Used Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui

If you’re new to miles and points, Chase Ultimate Rewards could be a good place to start collecting transferable points.  They’re easy to earn and use!

3.   Citi ThankYou Rewards

Link:   Citi ThankYou Rewards

These cards earn Citi ThankYou points, but only the cards in the 1st column transfer directly to airlines and hotels.  Points earned from cards in the 2nd column can only be transferred IF you have 1 of the cards in the 1st column.

Cards With Points That Directly Transfer to Travel PartnersCards With Points That Transfer ONLY If You Have a Card From First Column
Citi ThankYou PremierCiti ThankYou Preferred
Citi PrestigeCiti ThankYou Preferred for College Students
Citi ChairmanCitiBusiness ThankYou (No Longer Available)
Citi AT&T Access More

You can transfer Citi ThankYou points to airline partners, plus Hilton hotels.

These are their airline transfer partners:

 Citi ThankYou Points Airline Transfer Partners 
Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)EVA AirEtihad
Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)Garuda Indonesia Malaysia Airlines
QantasQatar AirwaysSingapore Airlines
Thai AirwaysVirgin AmericaVirgin Atlantic

You can only transfer points earned from the Citi ThankYou PremierCiti Prestige, and Citi Chairman cards directly to airline partners.  The Citi Chairman card is no longer available, but existing cardholders can still transfer points.

Having 1 of these cards enables you to combine your points from other ThankYou points earning cards (like the Citi AT&T Access MoreCiti ThankYou Preferred, Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students, or CitiBusiness ThankYou card) with your Citi Prestige, Citi Premier, or Citi Chairman account.  And then transfer them to airline and hotel partners!

There are bonus spending categories for these cards too.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points

Earn 2 Points per $1 You Spend on Entertainment, Including Concert Tickets, With the Citi ThankYou Premier

There aren’t fees to transfer Citi ThankYou points to airline and hotel partners, but transfer time varies from a couple of days to weeks.  So you might want to have several award redemptions in mind in case your 1st choice vanishes while waiting for points to transfer!

4.   Starwood Preferred Guest

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfer

Only 2 cards earn Starwood Preferred Guest points.

Personal CardsBusiness Cards
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest has the most airline transfer partners, but no hotel partners (because they’d prefer you use your points at 1 of their hotels!).

And 1 of the best things about transferring Starwood points to airlines is that you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer.  So if you transfer 20,000 Starwood points, you’ll get 25,000 airline miles!

Here are Starwood Preferred Guest’s airline partners:

 Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfer Partners 
AegeanAeroMexicoAir Canada
Air BerlinAir ChinaAir New Zealand
Alaska AirlinesAlitaliaANA
American AirlinesAsia Miles (Cathay Pacific)Asiana Airlines
AviancaBritish AirwaysChina Eastern
China SouthernDeltaEmirates
Etihad Flying BlueGol Smiles
Hainan AirlinesHawaiian AirlinesJapan Airlines
Jet AirwaysKorean AirlinesLAN
Miles & More (Lufthansa)Qatar AirwaysSaudi Arabian Airlines
Singapore AirlinesThai AirwaysUnited Airlines
Virgin AtlanticVirgin Australia

Starwood Preferred Guest points can be earned from the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (Personal) and American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (Business) cards.

While there aren’t any category bonuses for spending on these cards (except for an extra point per $1 you spend at Starwood hotels), the 5,000 mile transfer bonus when you transfer 20,000 points is a great deal!

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points

Earn Extra Points for Staying at Starwood Hotels, and Extra Miles for Transferring Points in 20,000 Point Increments

Note:   Starwood points can take up to 4 weeks to transfer, although in my experience transfer times are less than 2 weeks.  But keep this in mind if you’re booking an award ticket, because the ticket you want might not be there when the points finally transfer!  It’s always best to have a few different options.

Here’s my series on the best ways to use Starwood points!

Folks who are just starting out might want to consider Chase or AMEX 1st, because their points are easier to collect and transfer more quickly.  But Starwood points are very valuable, especially if you take advantage of the airline transfer bonus!

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for the most flexibility when redeeming points for Big Travel with Small Money, you should consider collecting transferable points.  That’s because they transfer to dozens of hotel and airline programs, and you don’t need to move them until you’re ready to book a trip!

Transferable points programs like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest give you lots of options for how to use your points.

And it’s easy to earn points through credit card spending, because most cards in these programs have category bonuses that can get you extra points for every $1 you spend.

Which is your favorite transferable points program?

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* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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3 responses to “The Trick to Travel Flexibility: Transferable Points

  1. I just realized that virgin Atlantic had a award seat sale that ended yesterday, did you report on it? I didn’t see it in any of your posts.

  2. I have a question. If I have to take advantage of these four rewards programs concurrently, which is the best transfer partner that will be able to absorb points transferred by all four programs? If I need 200k points to fund one trip, it will be a lot quicker if I can get 50k each from each program, instead of accumulating 200k slowly through only one of them. Thanks!

  3. Wouldn’t it be smart to transfer AMEX MR points to SPG AND THEN to an airline to take advantage of the 20k points transfer bonus? You’d miss out on this if you transferred AMEX MR points directly to an airline.