We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
The key to getting Big Travel with Small Money is flexibility. And you’ll have greater success if you’re flexible with more than just your travel plans. You’ll also want to collect the most flexible miles & points – transferable points!
Having a stash of transferable points allows you to fly with multiple airlines and their partners. But each program has different transfer partners! And remembering them all is not easy. If only there were a handy chart you could refer to when you needed this information!
Million Mile Secrets reader, Lindsay, tweeted:
What credit card can I apply for that will allow me to transfer points to American Airlines? I already have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®.
Thanks for the tweet, Lindsay!
American Airlines has only one transferable points partner – Starwood Preferred Guest! You can transfer Starwood points at a 1:1 ratio, and get a bonus 5,000 miles for every increment of 20,000 points you transfer.
Let’s take a look at the most popular airlines and their transfer partners in a clear and understandable way. And help you decide which points will be the most valuable to collect!
Know Which Points Transfer to Your Preferred Airlines
I love transferable points because of the flexibility that comes with them! But it can still be hard to figure out which miles & points to collect for your trip.
If you already have an idea of where & how you want to travel, and which airlines or alliances you prefer, it’s easier to decide which credit cards to apply for.
Knowing which airlines serve your home airport will help a lot in making a decision! Choose the points you earn by how useful they will be to YOU.
Here is a chart to help you along the way! It doesn’t include every single airline, but instead covers the most popular airline transfer options.
And remember, when you transfer points to an airline, you aren’t stuck flying ONLY that airline. You can also fly on partner airlines!
Make sure you examine the partners of each airline to see what works best for you.
|Airline||American Express Membership Rewards||Chase Ultimate Rewards||Citi ThankYou||Marriott|
|Air Canada (Aeroplan)||1:1||No||No||3:1|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA)||1:1||No||No||3:1|
|Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)||1:1||No||1:1||3:1|
|Japan Airlines (JAL)||No||No||No||3:1|
|Miles & More||No||No||No||3:1|
Note: The conversion rate for Starwood points becomes 1:1.25 when you transfer to airlines in increments of 20,000 points. That’s because you will receive a 5,000 mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starwood points to airline partners with a 1:1 transfer ratio!
Note: You can also convert other hotel points to some airlines for more miles. But the transfer rates are NOT good, and should be used as a last resort, or if you need just a couple thousand more miles for an award flight.
Only Certain Cards Can Transfer Points
Most of these points programs will only let you transfer your points if you have one of their annual-fee cards.
For example, I gladly kept my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, even with the $95 annual fee, because it allows me to transfer ALL my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Big Travel partners, like United Airlines and Hyatt. Including the points I’ve earned with the no-annual fee Chase Freedom card!
American Express Membership Rewards
You can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to lots of great partners. But only certain credit cards are eligible to transfer points!
You can earn transferable American Express Membership Rewards points with:
Personal Cards Business Cards
American Express® Gold Card American Express® Business Gold Card
The Platinum Card® from American Express The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
American Express charges a fee to transfer miles to US airlines. They have to pay an excise tax for the transfer, and they pass along the costs to you, the cardholder. You will pay 0.06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99 when you transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to a US airline.
American Express Membership Rewards points usually transfer within 2 days, but can take longer depending on the airline.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
In order to transfer the points you earn with these cards to travel partners, you must first transfer them to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Plus / Ink Bold (no longer available).
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to combine Chase Ultimate Rewards points to a card which allows you to transfer them to hotel and airline partners. Transferring points is free to all transfer partners. But it’s not always instant!
Citi ThankYou Points
Like other programs, you can NOT transfer Citi ThankYou points from just any card to travel partners.
Cards like the the Citi ThankYou Preferred or Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students do not have the capability to transfer points to most airlines. You must combine those points with either the Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige® Card. Then you can use them with transfer partners!
Note: Citi ThankYou points don’t transfer to American Airlines, but if you have the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier Card, each point is worth 1.25 cents toward airfare booked through the Citi travel portal.
You can do this by signing into the Citi ThankYou website and clicking on “Combine ThankYou Accounts.”
It is free to combine your Citi ThankYou points, but transfers are far from instant. The average wait time can be 2 to 14 days for the process to complete. You can also share your Citi ThankYou points with other members. But if you do this, the shared points will expire in 90 days!
Starwood Preferred Guest
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express credit cards earn the most flexible points for transferring to airlines. And Starwood does not have any card-specific transfer restrictions. As long as you have Starwood points, you can transfer them to airline partners!
You can transfer Starwood points to a lot of airlines that aren’t partners with any other program. Starwood has more than 30 transfer partners, which is more than American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards combined!
The only downfall is Starwood points are hard to earn. There is no shopping portal, and there aren’t a variety of bonus categories. Beyond the sign-up bonus, the best way to earn Starwood points is by spending at Starwood hotels.
But thanks to the Marriott-Starwood merger, you can now transfer Marriott points to Starwood! That means you can indirectly transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Starwood. And AMEX Membership Rewards points transfer directly to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio. These transfer ratios are NOT good, so it’s typically NOT a good deal to do this.
There is no fee to transfer Starwood points, but they take the longest amount of time to transfer. Even though they usually transfer in 2 to 12 days, it can take up to 4 weeks! That’s a big deal if you have a certain redemption in mind and are afraid it will sell out!
You can transfer Starwood points to American Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. And you’ll get a 25% bonus when you transfer Starwood points in increments of 20,000 to airlines.
American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou require you to have certain cards before you can transfer your points to airlines. Starwood Preferred Guest is the one exception, but Starwood points transfers usually take the longest time to post to your travel partner account.
Which kind of transferable points are your favorite?