Pooling Points for Last-Minute Awards — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Tony, who helped his parents book a trip to Tampa:
My parents recently needed to make an unexpected trip from Chicago to Tampa on about a week’s notice. Airfare was expensive that close to departure, so they asked me if there was any way to use their Chase Ultimate Rewards points to get them there. They had about 40,000 points from a combination of daily spending and the sign-up bonus from their Sapphire card (a no-fee variant of the Sapphire Preferred/Reserve that is no longer available).
Although they could use the points through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a value of one cent per point, they would still have to cover a bit more than half of the cost out of pocket. However, I found award availability for two seats on American Airlines’ nonstop flights in economy one way and business class the other way. Thanks to the [now expired] 30% transfer bonus from Chase to British Airways (one of American’s alliance partners), that itinerary was just within reach.
But when I tried to walk my dad through the process of transferring points to Chase’s airline partners, I was surprised to learn that the classic Sapphire card was not eligible for transfers to airlines or hotels at all. I began explaining to my parents that their points might not help them after all, but then it occurred to me that unlike American Express, Chase allows cardholders to transfer points between members of the same household.
I wasn’t sure whether the old Sapphire card was eligible for this benefit, and indeed, when I tried to transfer the required 35,000 points to my own Chase Sapphire Reserve account, the system repeatedly encountered an unspecified error. On a whim I tried transferring the points to my Chase Freedom Unlimited card instead, and much to my surprise, the transfer completed successfully! From there, I moved the points to my Sapphire Reserve account and onward to my British Airways account, and then booked the tickets.
My parents were excited to avoid paying steep, last-minute fares for their trip, and happy to fly business class in at least one direction. We are now working on a strategy to replenish their Ultimate Rewards balance. The moral of the story is that while the points and miles game can seem frustrating when unexpected roadblocks arise, a little creativity and a healthy knowledge of each program’s rules can go a long way toward overcoming those challenges.
All the major transferable points programs allow you to share rewards to some degree. As Tony indicates, Chase Ultimate Rewards permits transfers from a personal account only to a member of your household (effectively, someone who shares your address). You can also transfer from a business account to other owners of your business who are listed as authorized users. Amex’s policy may seem restrictive by comparison, since you can’t transfer between Membership Rewards accounts. However, Amex lets you transfer points from your account directly to anyone else’s airline or hotel account so long as they’re an authorized user.
When you’re approaching award travel as a multi-player game, the option to pool points and miles can help you use them more efficiently. Transferability between accounts means you’re less likely to be stuck with balances too small to be functional and gives you more flexibility to diversify your rewards, since no single member of your team has to earn all the points you need. You may also gain mutual access to some elite benefits and credit card perks. Tony’s story offers a good example: his parents couldn’t normally transfer points to airline and hotel partners, but the connection to Tony’s Sapphire Reserve card made it possible.
Related: Which Flexible Points Programs Let You Transfer Points to Others?
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Tony a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to email@example.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Featured photo by Alex Baxter / Getty Images.
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