Can I transfer points and miles between loyalty programs?
One of the most common questions among individuals new to points and miles is: "Can I transfer miles from one airline, credit card or hotel loyalty program to another?"
For example, can I transfer miles from Air France to Delta? Can I keep my miles in the same program but move them from myself to my spouse? Or, can I convert my American Express Membership Rewards points to Chase Ultimate Rewards?
The answer depends on the miles you have and how you want to transfer them. So, let's take a closer look at which programs allow transfers, which don't, and everything else you need to know about moving points and miles between accounts.
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Transferring miles between loyalty programs
In some — but certainly not all — cases, you can transfer points from one program to another. Here's a look at when this is and isn't possible.
Airline loyalty programs
In nearly all circumstances, transferring miles from one airline to another cannot be done, even if the airlines are alliance or codeshare partners.
Unfortunately, this means you can't transfer your United Airlines miles to Air Canada Aeroplan or Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles, even though both airlines are in Star Alliance. For nearly every airline and other mileage programs, once points are added to an account, they remain in that program and cannot be moved to another program. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Qatar Airways all use the same mileage program: Avios. Each of the respective airlines’ websites offers slightly different results, taxes and fees when booking an award ticket. For example, I have found it easiest to look at Qatar Qsuite availability on Qatar’s search engine, American Airlines mileage availability on the British Airways website and cheap business-class travel to Spain with Iberia.
Unlike Air France and KLM’s Flying Blue, which combines points into one account that can be used on both Air France and KLM’s websites, Avios has separate accounts and frequent flyer numbers for each of its respective airlines. Despite the lack of synchronization, transferring points from one airline in Avios to another is quite easy.
In addition, you can transfer points from some hotel programs to airline partners. Marriott offers a 3:1 transfer ratio (3 Marriott points equal 1 airline point) with more than 40 airline transfer partners, including some airlines that do not have credit card transfer partners, such as Asiana and Korean Airlines.
Hotel loyalty programs
Likewise, Hyatt has more than 20 transfer partners at a 1250:500 ratio (1250 Hyatt points per 500 airline miles), with some exceptions. Hilton allows transfers from Virgin Atlantic to Hilton at a 1:1.5 ratio (1 Virgin point equals 1.5 Hilton points), and from Hilton to more than 20 airline partners, typically at a 10:1 ratio.
Transferring points from hotels to airlines is generally not recommended unless the airline does not have any other transfer partners (such as the Marriott partner airlines stated above) or if you are transferring only a small number of points to top off your airline account for a specific redemption. Typically, travelers lose the value of their points via a hotel-airline transfer.
So if you plan on transferring from a hotel to an airline loyalty program, I recommend calculating the value of points you are transferring from one program and the value of the points you receive in the other program using TPG’s points valuation guide. Of course, even if a transfer is a poor value on paper, it can still make sense if you have no better options.
Transferable points programs
Of course, transferable credit card points like Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards all transfer to a handful of different partners. This is part of what makes these points currencies so powerful, since you have numerous options for booking award travel.
For example, Bilt Rewards points transfer to American AAdvantage, Air Canada Aeroplan and Flying Blue, among others. This gives you coverage across all the major airline alliances and access to various redemption sweet spots. In turn, you can leverage Flying Blue Promo Rewards, add a stopover with Aeroplan or book Qsuites with AAdvantage.
Redeeming airline miles on a partner airline
Speaking of sweet spots, you can use the respective mileage programs to redeem award travel on partner carriers.
At times, using airline A’s points to book tickets on airline B is significantly cheaper than directly redeeming airline B’s miles. For example, Flying Blue can be used to redeem business-class tickets to Europe as well as economy tickets within the United States and to South America at cheaper redemptions and fees than booking with Delta and Virgin Atlantic for flights on their own planes.
One of my favorite sweet spots is using Turkish Airlines miles to book domestic economy tickets in the United States for 7,500 miles, or in first class for 12,500 miles, instead of United miles, which are often more expensive. If you’re looking to book international business-class tickets on American Airlines flights, redeeming Etihad Guest miles for international American Airlines flights is often less expensive than booking the same flights with the AAdvantage program.
Transferring miles between accounts in the same program
Although you cannot transfer points from one mileage program to another, many programs allow members to transfer from one account to another. The points stay within the same system, but the individual that the points are attached to changes.
Among credit card programs, Chase and Citi allow you to move points from one individual’s account to another. Just note that Chase only lets you do this within a household, while you can transfer your Citi points to virtually anyone.
For airlines, JetBlue TrueBlue and Air Canada Aeroplan do not charge fees to pool together points into an account, while Hawaiian removes fees for Hawaiian Airlines credit card holders. American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest, and United charge fees for transferring points depending on the number of points transferred from one account to another. Rather than transferring points from individual A’s account to individual B’s account and incurring fees with these programs, the accountholder could simply book a ticket for the other person to avoid these fees.
Thankfully, hotel points can be transferred from one account to another at Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott, with no fee. While Marriott’s point transfer must be done over the phone and not online, you can transfer points to anyone you'd like.
While you typically cannot transfer miles from one airline program to another, you can transfer between hotels and airlines, although this is not recommended in most scenarios. Most airlines, credit cards, and hotels allow transfers from one account to another, although some airlines charge fees to transfer points.
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