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The American Airlines Award Surcharges Mistake Is A Good Reminder Why Transferable Points Are Best

by on August 28, 2013 · 14 comments

in American Express, Chase, Credit Cards, Starwood

Despite the fact that it probably gave more than a few frequent flyers heart failure, today’s American Airlines award surcharge scare is also a good reminder of both the value of transferable points and the fact that you shouldn’t hoard your miles because they’re almost sure to lose value over time in one way or another. After all, most award chart changes tend to be toward devaluation, not better value for flyers! Although this was a false alarm, it just goes to show that it can and does happen at any time, and could still happen in the future.

One of the pillars of any successful frequent flyer mile strategy is to diversify your points portfolio. I’m not saying to be a promiscuous earner racking up a few miles here and a few points there across dozens of programs. Rather, you should think smartly about how and where you’re earning your points and miles, and focus your activity with the programs that give you the most flexibility when it comes time to redeem them.

That’s why I always say that transferable points programs like Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points are the best. These programs accrue your points into a central account, and then when you want to redeem them, you can transfer to any number of their airline or hotel partners. Because you have a choice, if one transfer partner program makes negative changes – like Delta’s future mileage requirement increases on international premium class awards – or if one airline is charging higher fuel surcharges on certain routes you would like to fly, you can transfer your points to another partner with more favorable redemption options.

Here is a list of the travel partners of the three major transferable points program, the ratios at which their points transfer and the credit cards that will earn you each kind of points. Then read on below to find some other helpful posts about each of these points programs and how to maximize their value.

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express Membership Rewards has 16 airline transfer partners and four hotel programs.

The Amex cards that accrue transferable Membership Rewards include cards like the Premier Rewards Gold card and Business Gold Rewards card as well as the business, personal and Mercedes-Benz versions of the Platinum Card.

Membership Rewards has 16 airline partners.

Membership Rewards has 16 airline partners.

Airlines:
Aeromexico              1:1
Aeroplan                   1:1
Air France/KLM     1:1
Alitalia                       1:1
ANA                           1:1
Asia Miles                 1:1
British Airways        1:1
Delta                          1:1
El Al                           50:1
Frontier                     1:1
Hawaiian                   1:1
Iberia                          1:1
JetBlue                       1.25:1
Singapore                  1:1
Virgin America         2:1
Virgin Atlantic          1:1

Hotels:

Best Western            1:1
Choice Privileges     1:1
Hilton HHonors      1:1.5
Starwood                   3:1

For more information, check out these posts:

The Ultimate Guide To American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfers
Analyzing Membership Rewards Star Alliance Partners
Top 10 Lesser Known Amex Membership Rewards Transfer Partners
Transferring Amex Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios Versus Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
ANA Award Taxes and Fees Roundup

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards has ten transfer partners including five airlines, four hotels and Amtrak. The three cards that accrue transferable Ultimate Rewards points (as opposed to those that can be redeemed for cash back or directly for travel through pay with points) are the Sapphire Preferred, the Ink Bold and the Ink Plus.

Ultimate Rewards' airline partners include 5 great carriers.

Ultimate Rewards’ airline partners include 5 great carriers.

Airlines:
British Airways       1:1
Korean Air               1:1
Southwest                1:1
United                       1:1
Virgin Atlantic         1:1

Hotels:
Hyatt                         1:1
Marriott                    1:1
Priority Club            1:1
Ritz-Carlton             1:1

Other:
Amtrak                      1:1

For more information on Chase Ultimate Rewards, check out these posts:

The Ultimate Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfers
Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Ranking the Top Chase Travel Credit Cards
Why I Love Chase Ultimate Rewards

Starwood Preferred Guest

In addition to being a hotel points program, Starwood Preferred Guest also has 31 airline partners, most of which points transfer to at a 1:1 ratio – and when you transfer an increment of 20,000 points, you get a 5,000-point bonus.

The Starwood Amex is a popular card because it has over 30 airline partners.

The Starwood Amex is a popular card because it has over 30 airline partners.

Now through September 3, 2013, both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express are offering limited-time 30,000-point sign-up bonus offers when you spend $5,000 in 6 months.

Airlines:
Aeromexico            1:1
Aeroplan                 1:1
Air Berlin                1:1
Air China                1:1
Air New Zealand   65:1
Alaska Airlines      1:1
Alitalia                    1:1
ANA                        1:1
American               1:1
Asia Miles              1:1
Asiana Airlines     1:1
British Airways     1:1
China Eastern       1:1
China Southern    1:1
Delta                       1:1
Emirates                1:1
Etihad Airways     1:1
Flying Blue            1:1
Gol Smiles             2:1
Hawaiian               1:1
Japan Airlines      1:1
LAN                        1:2
Miles and More    1:1
Qatar Airways       1:1
Saudia                    1:1
Singapore              1:1
Thai Airways         1:1
United                    2:1
US Airways            1:1
Virgin Atlantic      1:1

Other:
Amtrak                   1:1

For more information, check out these posts:

The Ultimate Guide to Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfers
Maximizing Starwood Cash & Points Awards
Starwood “Enhances” Cash & Points Awards
Major Starwood Preferred Guest Elite Enhancements
Maximizing Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfers

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Mal

    Partially helpful as a hedge. You are still stuck with the vagaries of that points scheme, and devaluation if Amex decided to change redemption rates or drop a partner. I think the best advice is to never have too many points stashed anywhere. They are rarely going to improve in value.

  • thepointsguy

    Agreed.. the transferable points programs do lose/add partners from time to time, but you always have other options. Not the case when you double down on one particular loyalty program

  • JIM

    bloggers like you can play helpful role in fighting these injustices
    like devaluation, fuel surcharge and other unfair rip off change fees.
    what is so worst about fuel surcharge is that it makes your miles
    absolutely useless and worthless. why use 80 or 100k miles for coach
    round trip to india and than pay $500 or 800$ in fuel surcharge fee? Your are paying 80% of the full cash fare on top of the miles. if
    that happens, than only good thing about using miles will be booking
    hotels. fuel surcharge is a rip off & fraud. change fees and extreme
    devaluations are also rip offs. FIGHT BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! STAND FOR US PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

  • Joel

    You should grow a full beard. :)

  • LiberaceLikesObama

    For heavy duty manufactured spend, this is a mix bag.
    While airlines may devalue, usually they give some warnings. With program like UR, u also run the risk of point confiscation and account closure if your game is too aggressive. Just have to play by ear.

  • Allen

    sheesh be quiet already. stop trolling travel blogs like this.

  • anon

    points guy, you should note that if someone has sapphire preferred, their freedom card also earns ultimate reward points.

  • AndreLaplume

    I don’t think the 7% year end bonus applies to Freedom earned points.

  • Dan

    Even in a post like this you find a way to shill those credit cards…?

  • Chris

    Also should be noted that AMEX has good transfer promos every now and then (Delta, BA).

  • Bill

    Does transferring Amex points to spg make any sense given the 1/3 point transfer rate? Are there different times to tranfer and get a 1:1?

  • tassojunior

    Terrible advice. Many people have lost every point they left in AmEx, Citi and Chase UR. At the bank’s whim they can close your account at any time and all your points are lost- some have lost millions. Transfer those points out a.s.a.p.

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