How Quickly Should I Transfer My Flexible Bank Points to Another Program?

Feb 27, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

Today’s question comes from Sean via Facebook message, who wonders when’s the best time to transfer credit card points to travel partners…

Would it be advantageous to immediately transfer points from a credit card to an airline plan after receiving a welcome bonus?

TPG Reader Sean

The biggest advantage of a flexible points program such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards is just that — they’re flexible points. You have a lot of travel partners to choose from and a lot of options, or in some cases you can even redeem your points directly for airfare or hotel rooms and get good value.

But as soon as you transfer those points, they lose their flexibility. It’s a one-way street — once you’ve transferred them out, you can never convert them back. So you definitely don’t want to transfer them until you’re ready to use them for a redemption and you’ve confirmed award space is available. That way you’ll maintain the flexibility of those points as long as possible, because you never know when you might spot a fantastic redemption in a different program and want to transfer your points to that program instead of the one you originally planned.

That being said, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to transfer points, because in some cases it can take a little while for the points to actually move. While many point transfers are instant, some can take up to a week, and SPG transfers always take at least a day or two, if not longer. So if you have a redemption coming up soon and you feel good about the potential award space, it may make sense to transfer the points you need a few days in advance.

The only time you’ll want to transfer all your remaining points to a travel partner is if you’re preparing to close a flexible points card. Your points will disappear when you close the card unless you’ve previously transferred them out or have another card linked to that same rewards account — such as if you’re closing a Chase Freedom card but are still keeping a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Note that this is not the case with airline and hotel credit cards. For instance, if you’ve been earning miles on a Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, those miles are deposited into your American frequent flyer account on a monthly basis and will stick around on a standard expiration schedule even after you’ve closed the related credit card. The same is true of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express — even though Starpoints are flexible and can be transferred to many partners, they’re still technically Starwood hotel points, not bank points. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

But either way, you definitely don’t want to close a credit card you just opened and received the bonus for, as banks don’t look too kindly on that maneuver and you want to remain a good customer. The first time you should consider whether to keep a card is after the first year — at that point you can ask yourself if the annual fee is worth the benefits you get on that particular card.

So, Sean, keep your welcome bonus points exactly where they are for now, and only transfer them when you’re ready to use them. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or send an email to info@thepointsguy.com.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.