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.

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, 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.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points
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 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!

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.

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

Link:   The Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points

Link:   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.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points
You Can Earn Extra AMEX Membership Rewards Points by Making the Most of Spending Category Bonuses, Like Airfare Booked Directly Through Airlines

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:

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

And these are their hotel transfer partners:

American Express Membership Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners

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!

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points
Team Member Keith and His Wife Saved Over ~$7,000 Each by Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Delta for Business Class Flights to Amsterdam!

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:   Why Chase Ultimate Rewards Is My Favorite Points Program

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:

Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfer Partners
Aer LingusBritish AirwaysFlying Blue (Air France/KLM)
IberiaJetBlueSingapore Airlines
SouthwestUnited AirlinesVirgin Atlantic

And these are their hotel partners:

Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners

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.

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.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points
Hungry? You Can Earn Extra Points on Dining With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Even Overseas!

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.

I have transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points for many of my trips!  One of my favorite ways to use them is to transfer them to Hyatt, which can be a great deal!

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points
You Can Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Hyatt for a Stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui

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:   How to Transfer Citi ThankYou Points to Airlines

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.

Cards With Points That Directly Transfer to Travel PartnersCards With Points That Transfer ONLY If You Have a Card From First Column
Citi Prestige® CardCitiBusiness ThankYou (No Longer Available)
Citi ChairmanCiti AT&T Access More (No Longer Available)

You can transfer Citi ThankYou points to airline partners and into Sears Shop Your Way points.

These are their airline transfer partners:

Citi ThankYou Points Airline Transfer Partners
AviancaAsia Miles (Cathay Pacific)EVA Air
EtihadFlying Blue (Air France/KLM)Garuda Indonesia
Jet AirwaysJetBlueMalaysia Airlines
QantasQatar AirwaysSingapore Airlines
Thai AirwaysTurkish AirlinesVirgin Atlantic

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.

The Trick To Travel Flexibility Transferable Points
Earn 2 Citi ThankYou Points per $1 You Spend on Entertainment, Including Concert Tickets, With the Citi 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 first choice vanishes while waiting for points to transfer!

4.   Starwood Preferred Guest

Link:   How to Earn and Use Starwood Points

Link:   Starwood Airline Transfer

Only 2 cards earn Starwood points directly.

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

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:

Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfer Partners
AegeanAeroMexicoAir Canada
Air ChinaAir New ZealandAlaska Airlines
AlitaliaANAAmerican Airlines
Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)Asiana AirlinesBritish Airways
China EasternDeltaEmirates
EtihadFlying BlueGol Smiles
Hainan AirlinesHawaiian AirlinesIberia
Japan AirlinesJet AirwaysKorean Airlines
LifeMiles (Avianca)Miles & More (Lufthansa)Qatar Airways
Saudi Arabian AirlinesSingapore AirlinesThai Airways
United AirlinesVirgin AtlanticVirgin Australia

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:


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!

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, 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?

Million Mile Secrets features a team of points and miles experts who have traveled to over 80 countries and have used 60+ credit cards responsibly to accumulate loyalty points and travel the world on the cheap! The Million Mile Secrets team has been featured on The Points Guy, TIME, Yahoo Finance and many other leading points & miles media outlets.

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! :)

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