The Trick to Travel Flexibility: Transferable Points
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One of the best tricks miles and points enthusiasts use is concentrating their efforts on collecting transferable points to use for 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.
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, the Southwest 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.
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 first choice isn’t possible.
And because so many airlines are part of alliances like oneworld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam, you can transfer points to one airline but book award tickets on any airline that’s part of the same alliance. That’s great flexibility!
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.
Note: If you’re new to the miles and points hobby, it’s usually best to apply for the Chase cards you want first. That’s because if you’ve opened 5+ new cards in the past 24 months (except for Chase business cards and these other business cards) you likely will NOT get approved for most Chase cards.
Transferable Points Programs
1. American Express Membership Rewards
That’s a lot of cards! And remember, some of these cards have spending category bonuses, like 5 AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 you spend on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel with The Platinum Card® from American Express.
You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points 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:
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And these are their hotel transfer partners:
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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 AMEX travel portal website, or redeem them for gift cards.
Million Mile Secrets team member Keith transferred American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta to fly Business Class from Newark to Amsterdam on his round-the-world honeymoon!
I like American Express Membership Rewards points because there are many ways to earn them, and sometimes there are transfer bonuses that make your points worth even more. And with so many great transfer partners, you’ll have options for booking lots of fun awards, like flights to New Zealand & Australia!
2. Chase Ultimate Rewards
Link: Chase Ultimate Rewards
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to partner airlines and hotel chains like United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Hyatt. Points usually transfer instantly, except in a few cases (like Singapore Airlines).
Here’s a list of their airline partners:
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And these are their hotel partners:
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Points earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Ink Business Preferred, Chase Ink Plus (no longer available), and Chase Ink Bold (no longer available) cards can be transferred directly to airline and hotel partners.
You can also transfer points from the Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Ink Business Cash, and Chase Sapphire (no longer available) indirectly to travel partners if you have at least 1 of the previously mentioned cards.
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And there are great opportunities to earn extra points with these cards, too, like 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 you spend on travel, shipping purchases, advertising on social media sites and search engines, internet, cable, and phone services (on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year) with the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. Or 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 you spend on travel and dining with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
There are no fees to transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to airline and hotel partners. And you can use your points to pay for airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.
If you’re new to miles and points, Chase Ultimate Rewards is a terrific place to start collecting transferable points. They’re easy to earn and use!
3. Citi ThankYou
Link: Citi ThankYou
These cards earn Citi ThankYou points, but only the cards in the first column transfer directly to airlines and hotels. Points earned from cards in the 2nd column can only be transferred IF you have one of the cards in the first column.
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These are their airline transfer partners:
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You can only transfer points earned from the Citi 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 one of these cards enables you to combine your points from other ThankYou points earning cards, like the Citi ThankYou Preferred, Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students, Citi AT&T Access More (no longer available) or CitiBusiness ThankYou (no longer available) card with your Citi Prestige, Citi ThankYou Premier, or Citi Chairman account. And then transfer them to airline and hotel partners!
There are bonus spending categories for some of these cards, too.
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 first choice vanishes while waiting for points to transfer!
4. Starwood Preferred Guest
Only 2 cards earn Starwood points directly.
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Starwood has the most airline transfer partners, but no hotel partners (because they’d prefer you use your points at one of their hotels!).
And one of the best things about transferring Starwood points to airlines is that you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer to airlines with a 1:1 transfer ratio. So if you transfer 20,000 Starwood points, you’ll get 25,000 airline miles!
Here are Starwood’s airline partners:
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Starwood points also transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Amtrak, which can be used for surprisingly valuable train tickets! But you will NOT earn the 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer to Amtrak.
You can earn Starwood points directly from the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (Personal) and American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (Business) cards.
And because you can transfer Marriott points to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio, you can earn Starwood points indirectly with these Marriott credit cards, too:
- Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
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.
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!
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?
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)