10 Most Valuable Credit Card Transfer Partners for Flights and Hotels

Jun 13, 2017

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TPG recommends earning transferable points before building a large balance within any single airline or hotel currency. The flexibility to redeem these points via transfer partners or toward revenue flight fares and hotel nights makes them extremely valuable. The wonderful amount of flexibility can turn from fantastic to overwhelming given the sheer amount of transfer partner possibilities. When you look at all the transfer options from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate RewardsCiti ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, you end up with 45 airline and seven hotel transfer partners. Today, I’ll narrow these options down to the top 10 transfer partners for flights and hotels.

1. Singapore KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines makes it relatively easy to redeem your miles for premium-cabin travel.
Singapore Airlines makes it relatively easy to redeem your miles for premium-cabin travel.

Transfer from: American Express, Chase, Citi and SPG, all at a 1:1 ratio (5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred)
Earn with: Any Amex, Chase or Citi points-earning product, such as the Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi Prestige Card; the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

The only way to book Singapore Suites, arguably the best premium cabin in the sky, with miles is via Singapore’s own KrisFlyer program. Even post-devaluation (which some have argued could be a re-valuation given the removal of fuel surcharges), the program remains a great destination for your transferable points. Because it’s one of the three programs that is a transfer program of all four transferable currency programs, it’s much easier than you think to find yourself aboard a Singapore Airlines flight in business or first class.

The Star Alliance partner award chart is reasonably priced, and award availability on Singapore flights for KrisFlyer members is above average (though first class can be sparse at times). When people ask which program I recommend parking their miles in from transferable programs because they’re closing a card, I often put KrisFlyer near or at the top of the list depending on their travel goals.

2. United Airlines

United 777-300ER 77W Polaris Business Class Preview
If you’re going to book United flights, try and catch the new 777W.

Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards (1:1 ratio) or Starwood Preferred Guest (not recommended due to a 2:1 ratio)
Earn with: Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants), Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, United MileagePlus Explorer Card

Despite the fact that United has continually devalued its program by increasing award flight costs and eliminating generous award routing rules, the MileagePlus program remains a convenient and easy way to get good value for your Chase points. The online award search function is one of the easiest for people to learn to utilize, and Star Alliance award availability far outpaces the other alliances and non-alliance member programs. There are a few partners that make it difficult to find award space, but plenty more with consistent award seats available for booking.

With 40,000 Chase points transferred to United, you can fly 9 hours on Thai Airways first class from Bangkok to Sydney. Other intra-Asia and Asia-South Pacific routes on partners like ANA, Asiana, Air China, and Singapore Airlines can yield significant value. Here in the states, I find last-minute availability on short and mid-haul flights for 10,000 miles routinely available, saving me a bundle in airfare.

3. Flying Blue

Fly nonstop on Air France from Paris to Mauritius using Flying Blue. Image courtesy of Getty Images.
Fly nonstop on Air France from Paris to Mauritius using the Flying Blue program. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Transfer from: American Express, Chase, Citi and SPG, all at a 1:1 ratio (5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred)
Earn with: Any Amex, Chase or Citi points-earning product, such as the Business Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Citi Premier® Card; the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card

We’ve often written about the great value lying within the Flying Blue program. Because you can move any transferable points currency to the program at a 1:1 ratio, it’s easy to have a large balance. With the Flying Blue search engine, you have access to online award booking for SkyTeam members and non-alliance partners like Aircalin, the national airline of New Caledonia. Flying Blue opens the far corners of the planet up to award flights.

Fly from the East Coast to Hawaii for 15,000 miles one-way, fly from Hawaii to the Caribbean for 15,000 miles (with a stopover in the continental US on a round-trip itinerary) or take advantage of Flying Blue Promo Awards for great award ticket prices to Europe in both business and economy.

4. Japan Airlines

Emirates A380
Enjoy over 30 hours of Emirates business class for 100,000 JAL miles.

Transfer from: Starwood Preferred Guest at a 1:1 ratio
Earn with: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card

In our opinion, the best way to book Emirates award flights is via the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program. Taking into account the two stopovers Mileage Bank allows on partner redemptions, you could fly the following itinerary on partner Emirates via its fifth-freedom route to Europe: New York – Milan (stopover) – Dubai – Bangkok (destination) – Dubai (second stopover) – Milan – New York all for only 60,000, 100,000 or 155,000 miles in economy, business or first, respectively.

When Japan Airlines announced award chart changes that will be effective October 1 this year, I was very nervous that the sweet spot would be devalued. Thankfully the changes were very minimal, perhaps so subtle it wasn’t even worth making an announcement. There are many other ways to maximize JAL’s program and, while tedious to study, it’s well worth your time.

5. Hyatt

A night at the Park Hyatt Maldives will only set you back 25,000 Chase points transferred to Hyatt.

Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio
Earn with: Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Hyatt Credit Card

You can continually get higher than 2 cents per point toward free or subsidized hotel stays with the World of Hyatt program. Hyatt’s award chart is very reasonable compared to Hilton, IHG and Marriott’s, and free nights require relatively few points. Points + Cash bookings can yield even higher value when you’re subsidizing otherwise expensive hotel stays. Even with Category 1 properties, there’s value to be had. Plus, for only 10,000 Chase points transferred to Hyatt and $125 out of pocket, you can stay in a Category 5 property, which can go for over $400 a night.

Just recently, I redeemed 5,000 points for the Hyatt Place Orlando Airport, going for $142 per night after taxes. That gives me a redemption value of 2.8 cents per point and keeps $150 in my pocket.

Once you get into the higher-category properties, great value for your points is only easier to come by. The reason Hyatt isn’t higher on the list is because of the chain’s relatively small footprint; the properties just aren’t everywhere we want to travel.

6. Asia Miles

The Cathay aircraft just after landing in Hong Kong.
Asia Miles is often overlooked as many do not recognize it as the program of Cathay Pacific.

Transfer from: American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, all at a 1:1 ratio
Earn with: Membership Rewards-earning cards like the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, Citi ThankYou points-earning cards with transfer ability like the Citi Prestige, Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card

There are lots of opportunities to get tremendous value from Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program. It’s also easy to quickly earn Asia Miles, with Amex, Citi and SPG as transfer partners. Study several of the ways to maximize the program with partners and Cathay’s own flights in our guide to the program.

Some of the program’s highlights include the ability to add two stopovers and an open jaw on standard award tickets (single carrier) and a whopping five stopovers and two open jaws on Oneworld multi-carrier awards. You can also do a stopover on a one-way award.

Fly Cathay Pacific first class for only 40,000 miles one-way from Tokyo (Haneda) to Hong Kong. You can stop over in Hong Kong enroute to another Southeast Asia destination on a one-way award ticket and pay no more miles to complete the trip in business class if the entire routing is under 5,000 miles in length. The complicated routing rules, multiple award charts, and not-instant transfer times from Amex, Citi and SPG make it number six on the list.

7. Alaska Airlines

Korean Air 787-9 Dreamliner Tour Business First Economy
Book a seat on Korean’s 787-9 Dreamliner with Alaska miles.

Transfer from: SPG (1:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred)
Earn with: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

There are sweet spots in the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan distance-based chart that can make a few miles go a long way. You can also book awards on a variety of airlines with the currency, making it truly a free agent amongst alliance cornerstones. Book Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Condor, Emirates, Hainan Airlines, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Virgin America and more with Alaska miles.

On top of a large partner base and reasonable award ticket costs, Mileage Plan also allows stopovers on one-way awards. This practically gives you two trips for the small price of a one-way award ticket. If you don’t have a stash of Alaska miles in your portfolio, now’s the time to begin collecting.

8. Asiana Airlines

Lufthansa A380 Featured
Use Asiana miles to fly Lufthansa to Europe for just 40,000 miles one-way in business.

Transfer from: SPG at a 1:1 ratio
Earn with: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, Bank of America Asiana Visa Signature Card

Star Alliance partner Asiana has a very favorable award chart for partner flights. Fly Lufthansa business class for 40,000 miles one-way from the US to Europe or first class for only 50,000 miles from the US to Europe. There are significant fuel surcharges, but at such a minimal mileage cost for transatlantic premium products, it could be well worth it. You can also fly Etihad from the US to Abu Dhabi one-way for 60,000 miles in business or 80,000 miles in first. The fact that SPG is the only transferrable-currency partner keeps Asiana from a place further up the list.

9. Marriott

Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be very useful, especially if you earn the Companion Pass.
I earned 120,000 Southwest points and seven nights at the Grand Cayman Marriott thanks to topping off my Marriott account from Chase.

Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio
Earn with: Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Sapphire Preferred,Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

You may be surprised Marriott made the list given how many points a free night requires. And indeed, using Marriott points for free nights alone is not an optimal redemption and should be avoided. What makes Marriott a lucrative transfer partner are the Hotel + Air packages, which give you up to 120,000 airline miles and seven free nights in a Marriott. Being able to transfer Chase points to top off your account so you can reach the required points (and until March you could have earned the Southwest Companion Pass) makes Marriott a great potential option for your Chase points.

Additionally, with the SPG and Marriott merger, you can indirectly move Chase points to SPG. If you’re just short enough Starpoints for a free stay or just short of 20,000 points to transfer and trigger the 5,000-mile bonus, the ability to move Chase to Marriott and then to SPG — at a 3:1 ratio — can make a lot of sense. The flexibility in this transfer and the 5,000-mile SPG transfer bonus mean you can transfer Chase to over 25 different SPG airline partner programs at a 2.4:1 ratio.

10. Virgin Atlantic

A first-class window seat on ANA's 777-300ER.
A first-class window seat on ANA’s 777-300ER.

Transfer from: American Express, Chase, Citi and SPG, all at 1:1 ratio (5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred)
Earn with: Chase Ultimate Rewards points-earning cards like the Ink Business Preferred Card, Citi ThankYou Rewards points-earning cards like the Citi Premier; Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club doesn’t offer a good use of transferable points the majority of the time. High fuel surcharges and many miles required leave it off most people’s award lists. The exception — noteworthy enough to make the top 10 list — is the minimal amount of miles required to fly ANA premium-cabin round-trip itineraries. Fly from the East Coast to Tokyo in first class for only 120,000 miles, or fly business from the West Coast to Tokyo for 90,000 miles.

What makes Virgin Atlantic firmly in the top 10 is the ability to quickly rack up miles, as you can move over points from all four transferable programs and earn miles via the airline’s own co-branded card from Bank of America, the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard.

Honorable Mentions

At the top of the honorable mentions is British Airways Executive Club. It was difficult to not include it in the top 10 list given how much value you can still get out of the Avios currency when it comes to short-haul Oneworld flights. Last month I redeemed 13,500 Avios for Sydney-Melbourne round-trip on Qantas, with one way in business. The redemption gave me close to 11 cents per point when compared to the revenue cost Qantas was quoting. The lack of American Airlines SAAver availability, resulting in losing the chance to use Avios here in the US, in addition to the absurd surcharges British Airways puts on its own award flights, force Avios off the top 10 list. Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Starpoints to BA at a 1:1 ratio, or Amex Membership Rewards points at a 5:4 ratio.

I flew an incredible Qantas domestic business flight for 9,000 Avios.
I flew an incredible Qantas domestic business flight for 9,000 Avios on the new A330.

The second honorable mention is Korean Air SkyPass. There are great award prices from the US to Europe for round-trip bookings on SkyTeam flights and deals of similar value from the lower 48 states to Hawaii (though Delta availability is sub-par). You can now search SkyTeam partner awards online — albeit on a clunky search engine — and SkyPass award costs for Korean-operated flights are reasonable and award availability fantastic.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points and SPG Starpoints to SkyPass, both at a 1:1 ratio. Remember to add your family members to your account now so you can redeem tickets for them with your miles in the future. You have to fax in proof of bloodline/marriage.

Korean Air 787-9 Dreamliner Tour Business First Economy
Korean Skypass continues to become more useful as a transfer partner.

Fellow Asian frequent flyer program ANA Mileage Club is also an option to consider.  You can get great value during the program’s designated off-peak award travel dates and with around-the-world award tickets. With a bit of study you can easily fly business around the world with five stops for less than 90,000 ANA miles. Transfer Amex points or Starpoints to ANA Mileage Club, both at a 1:1 ratio.

Bottom Line

A few of the programs above may surprise you at making the top 10. Remember this isn’t a list of the only transfer partners that can be valuable to you, just the ones that can consistently outperform their peers. When you scan the list of transfer partners from your transferable miles program, spend your time on the ones you are least familiar with. Search for TPG articles covering them and then head to the program website to study partner charts and award routing rules. You’ll be surprised with what you find in often-ignored programs.

Which programs do you consider in the top 10 transfer partners for airlines and hotels?

Featured image of the Park Hyatt Maldives.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points


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.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 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.
  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
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15.99%-22.99% Variable
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Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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