You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles to Another Airline, but Here’s What You CAN Do

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You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles to Another Airline, but Here’s What You CAN Do

Million Mile SecretsYou Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles to Another Airline, but Here’s What You CAN DoMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Robert M Jones, commented:

I have 60,000 Lufthansa miles.  I thought I could transfer them to United Airlines through the Star Alliance, but the Lufthansa website doesn’t offer that option.  Do you know of a way to transfer the points?

Thank you for the question, Robert!

It’s NOT possible to transfer Lufthansa miles to United Airlines miles.  In fact, you generally can NOT transfer airline miles to another airline.

But, you CAN book award flights on other airlines if they are travel partners.

You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles To Another Airline But Here's What You CAN Do
It’s NOT Possible to Transfer Airline Miles to Another Airline. But, You Can Use Your Miles to Book Award Flights on Partner Airlines

I’ll explain how it works!

What Are Alliances and Travel Partners?

Most major airlines are in 1 of 3 alliances: oneworld (includes American Airlines), SkyTeam (includes Delta), and Star Alliance (includes United Airlines).

You can usually credit paid flights from all the airlines in an alliance to any other airline in the same alliance.

For example, you can credit your flights on Finnair, Qantas, or Royal Jordanian to American Airlines.  That’s because they’re all in the oneworld alliance.  So you can pool all of your miles into 1 account (American Airlines).

You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles To Another Airline But Here's What You CAN Do
Use Airline Miles to Book Award Flights on Other Airlines in the Same Alliance or With Partners

And, you can use 1 airline’s miles to book flights on another partner airline.  For example, reader Robert can use his Lufthansa miles to book United Airlines flights.  But he can NOT transfer them to United Airlines.

And he can NOT use his Lufthansa miles to book award flights on American Airlines, because they are NOT part of the same alliance.

Note:   You can NOT transfer your airline miles to another airline.  And you can NOT combine airline miles from 2 or more different airlines.

See Related:   Book flights with the American Express airline partners with flexible AMEX Membership Rewards points!

Think of It Like This

Each airline’s miles is like a country’s currency.  And each FLIGHT can only be purchased with 1 currency.  You can NOT mix and match.

So let’s say American Airlines is like US dollars.  And British Airways is like British pounds.  You can NOT combine the American Airlines “dollars” with the British Airways “pounds.”  But…

You CAN use the British Airways “pounds” to buy an American Airlines FLIGHT, paying the rate that’s charged in British Airways “pounds” instead of the rate charged in American Airlines “dollars.”  You’ll check the “exchange rate” by looking at the award charts. 

In this example, your British Airways “pounds” have a terrific exchange rate when you use them to buy short flights within the United States on American Airlines.

You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles To Another Airline But Here's What You CAN Do
Comparing Mileage Programs Isn’t Exactly Apples to Apples…but It’s Close! Once You Understand the Alliances, It’s Much Easier to Put Award Trips Together

Not every “country” (really, airline) accepts every currency.  It depends on their alliance and partnerships.

So for example, Lufthansa (a German airline that’s part of the Star Alliance) WILL accept your United Airlines “dollars” but NOT your American Airlines “dollars.”  That’s because United Airlines is in the Star Alliance with Lufthansa while American Airlines is NOT.

Don’t worry, you do NOT have to memorize the alliances!  I’ll show you easy-to-read charts below!

1.   Oneworld

Link:   oneworld Alliance Airlines

Oneworld‘s member in the US is American Airlines.

It includes these global airlines:

 oneWorld Partners 
airberlinAmerican AirlinesBritish Airways
Cathay PacificFinnairIberia
Japan AirlinesLANTAM
Malaysia AirlinesQantasQatar Airways
Royal JordanianS7 AirlinesSriLankan Airlines
You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles To Another Airline But Here's What You CAN Do
If You’ve Ever Wanted to Experience Cathay Pacific First Class, You Can Use American Airlines to Book an Award Ticket!

One of my favorite uses of American Airlines miles is to book First Class seats on Cathay Pacific.  According to the American Airlines partner award chart, it costs 67,500 American Airlines miles to fly First Class between North America and Hong Kong.

Considering these flights can cost thousands of dollars, that’s a fantastic deal!

To find a flight’s award price, use the chart of the miles you’ll be using NOT the airline you’ll actually be flying.

That means if you want to use American Airlines miles for flights on Air Berlin, British Airways, or Cathay Pacific, use the American Airlines award chart.

2.   SkyTeam

Link:   SkyTeam Alliance Airlines  

SkyTeam is the alliance that includes Delta in North America, as well as these airlines internationally:

 SkyTeam Partners 
AeroflotAerolineas ArgentinasAeroMexico
AirEuropaAir FranceAlitalia
China AirlinesChina EasternChina Southern
Czech AirlinesDeltaGaruda Indonesia
Kenya AirwaysKLMKorean Air
Middle East Airlines (MEA)Saudia AirlinesTarom
Vietnam AirlinesXiamen Air

It’s easy to use Delta miles to fly on their airline partners to Europe!

You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles To Another Airline But Here's What You CAN Do
Fly on SkyTeam Partner Korean Airlines Using Delta Miles for a Business Class Award Seat!

Or, you can use Delta miles to book a Business Class award seat on SkyTeam member Korean Air!

3.   Star Alliance

Link:   Star Alliance Airlines

Star Alliance has the most member airlines.  And it includes United Airlines which you may remember is a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards!

 Star Alliance Partners 
Adria AirwaysAegean AirlinesAir Canada
Air ChinaAir IndiaAir New Zealand
ANAAsiana AirlinesAustrian
AviancaAvianca BrazilBrussels Airlines
Copa AirlinesCroatia AirlinesEgypt Air
Ethiopian AirlinesEVA AirLOT Polish Airlines
LufthansaScandinavian AirlinesShenzhen Airlines
Singapore AirlinesSouth African AirwaysSWISS
TAP PortugalThai Airways
Turkish AirlinesUnited Airlines

I’ve written about all the ways to redeem United Airlines to fly all over the world.

You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles To Another Airline But Here's What You CAN Do
Fly Singapore Airlines Business Class With United Airlines Miles!

You can redeem United Airlines miles (or Lufthansa miles, Air Canada miles, or other Star Alliance partner airlines miles) for a Business Class award seat on Singapore Airlines!

4.   Partner Airlines

If an airline is NOT in an alliance, it usually has partner airlines (though there are a few exceptions).

Note:   You can NOT transfer miles between partner airlines.

Reader Abby asked if she could transfer her British Airways Avios points to their partner Aer Lingus.  She can NOT.  But, she can use British Airways Avios points to book an award flight on Aer Lingus.

As another example, you can credit paid flights on airlines including DeltaEmirates, LAN, or Qantas to Alaska Airlines because they are partners even though Alaska Airlines is NOT in any alliance.  Then use Alaska Airlines miles for Big Travel!

You Can NOT Transfer Airline Miles To Another Airline But Here's What You CAN Do
Use Airline Miles to Fly on Partner Airlines Too, Even If They’re NOT in an Alliance!

Before you fly on an unfamiliar airline, check its airline partners (usually on the airline’s website).  And credit the miles to your favorite partner!

Then you can use the miles to fly on other partners.  For example, you can credit a Delta flight to Alaska Airlines.  And then use the Alaska Airlines miles you’ll earn to book an award seat on Emirates.

Partnerships can be just as effective as alliances when it comes to redeeming your miles!

What About Bank Points?

There are 4 transferable points programs that transfer directly to airlines:

Keep in mind that once you transfer your points to airlines, you can NOT transfer them back.

So, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines miles.  But you can NOT transfer United Airlines miles to Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

This is true for each program with transferable points, and it’s something to keep in mind before you make the transfer.

A Few Possible Scenarios

Here are just a few ways you can use your bank points.  They are valuable because they are very flexible, so remember there are many possibilities!

AMEX Membership Rewards

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta to fly on any SkyTeam airline such as:

  • Air France to Paris, Lyon, or Nice
  • KLM to the Netherlands
  • Korean Air to Asia
  • And many more!
Chase Ultimate Rewards

You could transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines to fly on any Star Alliance partner such as:

  • Air New Zealand to Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific
  • ANA to Japan
  • LOT Polish Airlines to Poland
  • Lufthansa to Germany
  • Singapore Airlines to Singapore (or other cities in Asia)
  • And many more!
Citi ThankYou Points

You could transfer Citi ThankYou points to Singapore Airlines to fly on any Star Alliance partner such as United Airlines at discounted Singapore rates such as to Hawaii in Business Class for 60,000 Singapore Airlines miles round-trip!

Starwood Points

Starwood has many transfer partners in every alliance.  So you can create lots of trips with these flexible points!

  • Starwood Points to American Airlines to fly on any oneworld partner such as Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong
  • Starwood Points to Alaska Airlines to fly on Emirates
  • Starwood Points to Delta to fly on Virgin Australia

Each transfer partner opens many more options for you to use your points!

Bottom Line

Be aware that it’s NOT possible to transfer airline miles from 1 airline to another.  It’s also NOT possible to combine 2 different types of miles into 1 account.

And in the case of transferable points programs, once you transfer your points to airlines, there’s no way to reverse the transaction.

However, you CAN use an airline’s miles to book an award seat on another airline within the same alliance.  oneworld (includes American Airlines), SkyTeam (includes Delta), and Star Alliance (includes United Airlines) are the 3 major alliances.

And, you can book award tickets on an airline’s non-alliance partners.

Any time you use an airline’s miles to book an award seat, you’ll have to follow their award chart – even if you book a flight on an airline partner.

Ken and Abby, I hope this helps!  You still have lots of ways to use your miles for award flights, even though you can’t transfer them to another airline.

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Happy to see that this can be done, but HOW?? I’m trying in any way I can think of and they’re not letting it happen. I have a ton of American Airlines miles and I’m trying to book a flight on British Airways site (they show more options than American’s site shows). I want to book the British flight with AA miles (same OneWorld alliance). Can’t figure out exactly how.

It has to be booked through American Airlines site. You can search BA site for availability and if it’s not showing availability on the American site you can call American with the paticulars and see if they can book it for you. There will be a fee of course.

I have found TWO exceptions to the non-transferable points between airline programs, one of which is between Virgin Australia’s Velocity program and Singapore Airlines’s KrisFlyer program.

It is quite useful as Virgin is not part of the Star Alliance and Velocity points can indirectly get Star Alliance flights. It also has another use, KrisFlyer points can be indirectly used, for example, Etihad flights, because Singapore Airlines is not a partner with, but Virgin Australia is.

I have also heard you can transfer between Iberia Plus and British Airways Avios, but I don’t live in Europe or use those programs.

Can they be combined or other awards? Hotel bookings etc?

Hey, I am a new member of the AMEX Plantium in Germany and just starting to discover all the benefits. I realized that we don’t have the option to transfer our points to United Airlines or Aeroplan as you do with an American AMEX. What can I do in order to use miles to fly with Lufthansa or Swiss etc. Can I transfer them to Singapur airlines and then book a Lufthansa or Swiss flight ?

If you have a mileage plan with British, Aerlingus, or Iberia you can “combine” them with your account. Booking from the website may give you better prices than booking with these airlines independently. For instance, in shoulder season there are many days when an Aerlingus flight is priced at off-peak and British flies between the same airports using peak prices. Nice to be able to compare them on one website.

Only one I’ve seen is for Aussies can transfer between Singapore and Virgin Australia at a ~25% discount.

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