Can I Transfer Points Both Ways Between Loyalty Programs?
TPG reader Claire sent me an email to ask about transferring points:
“I know I can transfer 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic for 10,000 miles, and I can transfer those miles to Hilton for 15,000 HHonors points. Can I also go the other way and turn 15,000 HHonors points into 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points?"
One great way to maximize your points and miles is by taking advantage of transfer opportunities. Transferable points programs are highly useful because they enable you to redeem with whichever transfer partner suits your travel plans and offers the best value. Many hotel and airline programs offer transfer options as well, though they tend to be less lucrative.
Claire is curious about what might seem like a great opportunity to shift points from one program to another. I list Hilton HHonors at 0.5 cents per point in my latest monthly valuations, while Chase Ultimate Rewards are much more valuable at 2.1 cents. The chance to swap HHonors points for Ultimate Rewards (even at a 3:2 ratio) is the stuff award travel dreams are made of, but unfortunately, transfers don't work that way.
Chase lets you transfer points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, but you can't send miles back in the other direction. Hilton actually does let you transfer HHonors points to many frequent flyer programs, but the exchange rates aren't good. Transferring 10,000 HHonors points will get you just 1,500 Flying Club miles, so even if you could transfer from Virgin Atlantic back to Chase, you'd likely be losing value in the process.
Exchange rates do change from time to time, though it's usually for the worse. For example, Virgin Atlantic used to transfer to Hilton at 1:2 instead of the current 2:3, and Amex Membership Rewards recently dropped the transfer ratio to British Airways Avios. Loyalty programs have a pretty good handle on what rewards are worth, and they can't afford to offer transfers that are highly profitable for customers.
That said, there are a few opportunities to increase the value of your points or miles by transferring from one program to another. One example is Marriott's Hotel + Air packages, which basically allow you to trade Marriott Rewards points for airline miles when you redeem for an extended hotel stay. You can also take advantage of bonuses to make transfers more worthwhile, though they're not as common as they used to be.
HHonors points are best used for hotel stays rather than for flights or other award redemptions. For more info about how to maximize rewards from Hilton, check out these posts:
- The Award Traveler's Guide to Hilton HHonors
- Maximizing Hilton HHonors for Family Travel
- 8 Low-Level Hilton Properties that Make for Awesome Awards