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Transferable points have quickly gained traction as the most valuable type of currency to earn in the points and miles world. This is entirely due to their versatility. Chase, American Express, Capital One and Citi all have their respective programs with points that can be transferred to a wide variety of flight and hotel partners.

However, it can be a bit vague on how to earn and burn these points and when it makes sense to transfer the points.

Here is a guide on which cards earn transferable points, when you should transfer points and where you can transfer each type of point currency.

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When Should You Transfer Points?

There are a seemingly infinite amount of ways to use your points — from magazines, flights, hotels, gift cards and more. It can be quite complex. While you shouldn’t think of your loyalty program account balances as long-term investments, you should ensure that you spend your points just like hard earned money: with strategy and efficiency. This is when it becomes critical to determine when you should transfer points to partners vs. redeem them in other ways.

In regards to redeeming your transferable points on flights, there are a couple of different ways to spend your points when booking flights. You can purchase them through the travel site specific to the bank (like the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or Amex Travel), or you can transfer your points to a frequent flyer program and book flights based on that program’s award rates. While your end goal is the same — book a flight using your points — the costs can vary widely. Here are a few examples of when you should transfer your points to get an even better value.

Let’s say you wanted to book a flight from New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) for next year. If you needed to travel Friday February 21-25, you could book nonstop flights on American Airlines for $567.10 (assuming you wanted to avoid the carrier’s basic economy restrictions). If you had the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, your Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents apiece toward travel, so you could redeem 37,806 points for the following itinerary:

However, since these flights are available as saver-level award tickets with American, you could instead transfer 26,000 points to your British Airways Executive Club account (or just 20,000 with the current 30% transfer bonus though June 15) to book the exact same itinerary:

The savings are even more significant if you only have American Express Membership Rewards points. Since points earned from cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card are worth 1 cent each when redeemed directly for travel, you’d need to fork over 56,711 points:

However, Amex points also transfer to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio, so even without one of the program’s frequent transfer bonuses, you could transfer 26,000 Membership Rewards points to Avios and book the exact same ticket for less than half the points you’d use buying the flight directly.

Now, it’s worth noting that these particular flights are currently available as Economy Web Specials if booked through American’s own AAdvantage program, requiring just 17,000 miles round-trip. The above calculations also ignore the fact that you’d generally earn miles on this flight if you booked directly using points rather than transferring them. However, if you don’t have any American miles or don’t care about the few thousand AAdvantage miles you’d earn, transferring points from Chase or Amex to British Airways would minimize the points you’re spending.

This is just one of many examples out there of the advantages of transferring your points to the right frequent flyer program. As I always say, “earning is only one part of the equation”.

So what kind of points can you earn to eventually transfer to your favorite airline program? Let’s dive into the four most well-known credit card rewards currencies so you know exactly what your options are.

American Express Membership Rewards

(Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)
The Amex Gold card is just one option for earning Membership Rewards points. (Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)

My personal favorite transferable point currency is American Express Membership Rewards. With a value of roughly 2 cents per point according to TPG’s latest valuations, these points can get you some incredible awards. Here are the various partners to which you can transfer your points, with all ratios at 1:1 unless otherwise noted:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1.6)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan, though it has offered occasional transfer bonuses in the past
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Alitalia Millemiglia
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Asia Miles (loyalty program for Cathay Pacific)
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
  • El Al Matmid (1000:20)
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Miles
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (250:200)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Amex also has three hotel programs as 1:1 transfer partners:

It’s also worth noting that American Express offers frequent transfer bonuses to these partners; the last 12 months alone have seen offers from Aeroplan, Avianca, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, so keep your eye on your online account for these offers to pop up.

With the large variety of options to use these points, it can be simple to maximize Membership Rewards for incredible travel, though you’d first need to earn them. Here are the most popular cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points:

While many of these have lucrative welcome offers, you could be targeted for an even higher bonus through the CardMatch Tool. If you are wanting to earn the maximum amount of points, consider the Amex Trifecta, and once you have one (or more) of these cards set-up for online account management, don’t forget that the Amex Offers program can earn you thousands of additional bonus points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

These four cards can unlock some incredible awards.

While Chase doesn’t have as many cards nor as many transfer partners as American Express, Ultimate Rewards points are still quite valuable. While many travelers can’t open new Chase cards due to the issuer’s 5/24 rule, many feel that Ultimate Rewards is arguably the best transferable program out there. You can transfer these points to nine airline partners, all at a 1:1 ratio:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • British Airway Executive Club
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United Airlines MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

You also have three hotel loyalty programs from which to choose:

  • World of Hyatt
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy

While this list may not be as lengthy as American Express, the power of Chase Ultimate Rewards is undebatable, and the program recently launched its first-even transfer bonus (30% for transfers to British Airways through June 16, 2019). Let’s hope that this is a sign of what’s to come with future bonuses for additional partners listed above.

Here are the cards that earn fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points:

However, it’s worth noting that there are two additional personal cards (the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited) along with two small business cards (the Ink Business Cash Credit Card and Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card) that participate in the Ultimate Rewards program. However, in order for those points to transfer to partners, you must have one of the three “premium” cards linked above and then combine your Ultimate Rewards points into that account.

If you’re looking to earn as many Ultimate Rewards points as possible, consider TPG Editor Nick Ewen’s perfect quartet of Chase cards.

Citi Thank You Points

The Citi Premier Card allows points to be transferred to over a dozen airline partners.

 

Citi also has a transferable currency with its ThankYou Rewards program. If you are an international traveler, you can find great value in these points, as they transfer to various international airlines. Here’s a list of the program’s airline transfer partners, all with a 1:1 transfer ratio.

  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Like Amex, Citi has offered transfer bonuses for a handful of the above programs, including Avianca and the current 30% bonus for Virgin Atlantic. Unfortunately, there are only two cards currently available to new applicants that allow these transfers:

That being said, like Ultimate Rewards, you do have the ability to combine your ThankYou Rewards points into a single account, allowing you to effectively “convert” your fixed-value earnings on the Citi Rewards+ Card or the Citi Rewards+ Student Card into fully transferable ThankYou points.

Capital One

The Capital One Venture card jumped in value significantly with the 2018 additional of transfer partners.

The final program on this list just got into the transferable points arena in late 2018. While Capital One cards had long been known for their simple, fixed-value award options, the issuer upped its game with the addition of over a dozen transfer partners to some of its most popular cards. Here’s a list of the airlines that are currently available as transfer partners, with all transfers at a 2:1.5 ratio unless otherwise noted:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Alitalia Millemiglia
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Emirates Skywards (2:1)
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Finnair Plus
  • Hainan Fortune Wings Club
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (2:1)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (2:1)

Even though the transfer option has only been available for roughly six months, we’ve already seen bonuses for transfers to Emirates, JetBlue and Flying Blue, which is hopefully a sign of Capital One’s commitment to offering even more value in its program in the future.

Here are the cards that currently earn transferable Capital One miles:

If you’re sitting on a stash of Capital One miles, transferring them to airline partners can unlock some fantastic awards. For full details on these options, be sure to check out our guides on how to transfer Capital One miles and when it makes sense to transfer instead of redeeming at a fixed value.

Bottom Line

Earning and burning points can prove to be a bit of effort, and that’s certainly the case with transferable point currencies from Amex, Chase, Citi and Capital One. However, making the shift from using your points directly for travel to transferring them to airline or hotel partners is one of the most important steps to take when you want to extend the value of your rewards.

It may take some time to do so, but when you are able to take trips on Singapore Airlines new A380 suite, or British Airways 777 first class, it makes all of the effort worth it!

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

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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.