Your ultimate guide to family points pooling
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Let’s face it: Families are at a disadvantage when it comes to award travel. They have to earn more points for more people and struggle to find multiple award seats on the same flight. When it comes to hotels, things aren’t always better as you need to search for hotel awards that can house enough people in enough beds.
However, families (and even couples) can leverage “two-player mode” to apply for twice as many rewards credit card bonuses and promotions — and perhaps earn some referral bonuses along the way. Of course, having points spread out across multiple accounts makes them harder to use, so the ideal scenario is one where two people can earn rewards and then combine them into a single account for the family.
The policies on points pooling vary widely by loyalty program. Some offer generous, family-friendly pooling terms and others nickel and dime you on the transfer so much that it probably isn’t worth moving the miles around.
Today we’ll review the different points pooling policies and which ones are best for families.
For each of these programs, we’ll address three critical points:
- Whether points pooling is allowed at all.
- What, if any, costs are associated with the programs
- Who is allowed to combine points
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Chase Ultimate Rewards
There are two ways to share Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can move them into someone’s Ultimate Rewards account or transfer them directly to their hotel/airline loyalty account (with lots of caveats to both).
To combine points into a household member’s Ultimate Rewards account, look at the bottom left side of the Chase Ultimate Rewards menu, and you’ll see an option to combine points. Click there to transfer points between your own Ultimate Rewards accounts or to someone else.
Chase lets you transfer points to one “member of your household,” although that isn’t clearly defined. You will need his or her last name and credit card number. As with most Ultimate Rewards transfers, transfers should process instantly. There are no fees associated with pooling Ultimate Rewards points. While this generous policy sounds like it’s very easy to abuse, Chase includes a warning (emphasis mine):
“You can move your points, but only to another Chase card with Ultimate Rewards belonging to you, or one member of your household. If we suspect that you’ve engaged in fraudulent activity related to your credit card account or Ultimate Rewards, or that you’ve misused Ultimate Rewards in any way (for example by buying or selling points, moving or transferring points with or to an ineligible third party or account, or repeatedly opening or otherwise maintaining credit card accounts for the sole purpose of generating rewards) we may temporarily prohibit you from earning points or using points you’ve already earned. If we believe you’ve engaged in any of these acts, we’ll close your credit card account and you’ll lose all your points.”
You can also transfer points directly to a household member’s hotel or airline account, provided they are an authorized user on your Chase card account.
Chase Ultimate Rewards business cards
The terms for points transfers from a Chase Ink Business card are slightly different. You are allowed to transfer points to other owners of the business. Chase has been known to shut down accounts for offenses less serious than gaming the points transfer system, so I would tread carefully here and follow the rules to the letter.
What if you’re in a questionable situation, such as transferring points to someone with a different last name (whom you aren’t legally married to) or someone with a different billing address than yours? In this case, you should call Chase first and double-check that the transfer you’re making is within the program’s terms.
American Express Membership Rewards
Amex is one of the more restrictive issuers because it doesn’t permit the transfer of Membership Rewards points between accounts. However, you can still share Membership Rewards points by transferring them to airline or hotel partner programs.
If you add your spouse or family member as an authorized user on your Amex Membership Rewards-earning card, you can transfer your points to their frequent-flyer accounts 90 days after you add them as an authorized user.
Note that this option isn’t limited to families; you can do it for any authorized user you add on your card. Just remember that if you give them the physical card, you will be held responsible for any charges they make.
Citi ThankYou Rewards
In some ways, Citi has the most generous rules when it comes to pooling ThankYou points, though there are a few significant restrictions to be aware of. If you have a card such as the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card, the process is straightforward. But if you need a few pointers, check out the TPG guide to sharing ThankYou points.
Citi doesn’t limit you to only sharing points with family members. You can share with anyone you’d like as long as they have a Citi ThankYou account and you can provide their information (name and account number).
Before you begin sharing ThankYou Points, it’s important to know that you can only share a maximum of 100,000 points a year. You can also only receive up to 100,000 points a year from others.
Even more important, points are only valid for 90 days after they are received. This has a few important implications. First of all, if you’re trying to fly long-haul first class with your special someone, the 100,000-point limit might make it hard to do so. Secondly, you should only combine points once you’ve already found award space and are ready to book your trip.
That 90-day expiration window is restrictive and it would be a real shame to lose your points just because you transferred them too soon.
Capital One Miles
Gone are the days when Capital One miles weren’t really miles. Now you can redeem Capital One miles at a fixed value to cover travel charges or transfer them to airline partners such as Avianca LifeMiles, Air Canada Aeroplan, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and more.
Capital One makes it free and easy to share miles with other Capital One cardholders so that your family can book those award travel sweet spots as quickly as possible. To share Capital One Venture or Spark miles, log in to your Capital One online account, navigate to Use My Miles and select Share Rewards.
You’ll then be able to transfer points online without a transfer fee between your own Capital One cards (for example, from a Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card to the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card). Alternatively, you can opt to transfer to someone else’s Capital One account. You currently need to call in to complete the transfer, but it appears that it will be available online in the future.
Pooling hotel points
Families might be interested in pooling hotel points for several reasons. Perhaps only one parent has elite status with the hotel, but the entire family wants to enjoy a room upgrade and free breakfast benefit. Or maybe you are trying to take advantage of a fourth or fifth award-night-free benefit and need to book all the nights from one central account.
Suppose you’ve recently opened a new Marriott Bonvoy credit card. In that case, you might be especially interested in pooling your welcome bonus points with a family member to book a longer or more luxurious trip. The good news is you can transfer Marriott points between accounts without a fee.
Every Marriott Bonvoy member is allowed to transfer up to 100,000 points per year, but you have to call customer service. Reports suggest that points transfer instantly.
Right now, you can earn Marriott points with these excellent offers:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of card membership. Offer ends 1/13/2021. Terms Apply.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Earn 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of account opening. Offer ends 1/13/21. Terms Apply.
World of Hyatt
Hyatt goes a step above the competition, allowing members to share not just points but also perks. You can share points at no cost with any World of Hyatt member, not just someone in your family. If you want to share points, you’ll need to have both the sender and receiver fill out this form (link to PDF). When TPG Editor Nick Ewen did this in August 2019, the points posted within 48 hours.
The fine print says that you are allowed to combine “a sufficient number of points to redeem a particular award,” though the form doesn’t ask you to disclose how you intend to redeem the points. You are only allowed to participate in a points-sharing transaction once every 30 days. However, there doesn’t appear to be an annual limit on the total number of points combined.
Those with Hyatt Globalist status can even book awards for others, who will then receive valuable Globalist perks (like free breakfast) via Hyatt’s “Guest of Honor” program.
While many programs seem to offer points pooling as an accommodation or one-off, Hilton’s points pooling feature is designed to make your booking experience easier. You can start a “pool” with up to ten other members (for a maximum of 11 people in the group). Members can contribute up to 500,000 points into the pool.
If you need more Hilton points, here are the best Hilton credit cards for families looking for their next big Hilton redemption:
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 80,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 bonus points after you use your card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
IHG Rewards Club
IHG Rewards Club is dead last among the major hotel chains when it comes to sharing and pooling points. Members can send and receive an unlimited number of points each year, but you’ll be charged $5 for every 1,000 points you send. This can add an unexpected expense to planning your trip.
For example, if you want to send someone 70,000 points to book a night at InterContinental The Willard Washington, D.C., you’d have to pay $350 to do so. With room rates starting at just $80 more than that, you might as well save your points and book the entire thing with cash. During points sales, you can often buy IHG points for around the same cost as sharing them.
Pooling airline miles
TPG has previously covered 22 airlines with the most generous family points pooling programs. While JetBlue is an excellent option for many families with its free pooling for families of up to seven people, the only other U.S. airlines that made the points pooling list were Frontier, Hawaiian and Sun Country.
Noticeably absent were the three U.S. legacy carriers — American Airlines, Delta and United — and the family favorite, Southwest. Unfortunately, none of these carriers have a family points pooling program, but do allow transfers for a fee.
Each of these major U.S. airlines uses a tiered pricing chart for points transfers. Let’s look at a few examples just to compare:
|Cost to transfer 1,000 miles||Cost to transfer 10,000 miles||Cost to transfer 30,000 miles||Minimum / maximum transfer amount||Processing fee|
Per year: can’t send or receive more than 200,000 miles total
Per year: 100,000 maximum miles received, 100,000 maximum miles transferred
Per transaction: 1,000/30,000
Per year: maximum 300,000 miles received, maximum 150,000 miles transferred
|Southwest||$20 for a minimum of 2,000 points||$100||$300||
Maximum of 60,000 per day, but no annual cap.
While there’s something to be said for a rapid transfer to book the award you want, paying several hundred dollars to get it might entirely wipe out the value of your award. If you’re not in a rush, you should look into buying miles instead, or seeing if you have time to sign up for a new credit card and earn the welcome bonus.
Alternatively, you could potentially book the award you want from the account that has sufficient miles. With the major U.S. airline programs, you can book award tickets for anyone, including family members and friends.
Once you look outside the U.S., the options for pooling miles grow fairly quickly. International airlines with family pooling include British Airways, Etihad, Emirates and Turkish Airlines. Air Canada’s Aeroplan will soon join that list once the new program rolls out in November.
Playing in two- or even three-player mode, where multiple family members apply for travel rewards credit cards to maximize perks and points, can be a great strategy to fast-track your next family vacation. However, if the points are stuck in separate accounts, the actual booking process can turn into a bit of a nightmare. Targeting programs that allow family pooling and free sharing can be an easy way to overcome this obstacle and get your whole crew on the road with less hassle.
Read on for more miles and points resources for families:
- Best credit cards for families
- Beginners guide to miles and points
- Plan a points and miles trip for a (very) large family
- Redeeming miles and points for family members
- How families can afford to travel
Additional reporting by Benji Stawski
Featured photo by chuanpis/Shutterstock
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