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Reader Question: When should I transfer points to airline and hotel partners?

April 26, 2021
6 min read
Fiji Airways Business Class
Reader Question: When should I transfer points to airline and hotel partners?
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Here at TPG, we're constantly talking about transferable points — a.k.a. credit card points that you can transfer to airline and hotel partners. The reason is that they offer incredible versatility — they allow you to book flights on nearly every major airline and stays at many hotels at a terrific value.

However, transferring your points isn't your only redemption option. For instance, you can use these points to book through a bank's travel portal. This can sometimes yield better value than transferring your points or be your only option when there's a lack of award availability. Let’s dive into our latest reader question and evaluate when you should transfer your points.

[pullquote source="TPG Reader Sai"]What's the advantage of transferring Ultimate Rewards points to partners rather than booking through Chase?[/pullquote]

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When to transfer points and when to redeem directly

There are a lot of benefits to redeeming Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal. For starters, it lets you use posts to cover a portion of your total purchase and being run by Expedia, it tends to offer competitive prices. Booking directly can save you time as well as money since you don't have to search for award availability or pay additional taxes and fees. You can also earn award miles and elite credits for travel booked through Ultimate Rewards, even when you pay entirely with points.

The downside is that when you redeem points directly through Chase, the return you get is limited by the redemption rate. That starts at 1 cent per point, but you'll get 1.25 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, and 1.5 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Overall, that's a decent value and can work out in your favor when cash prices are low. It's also useful for booking awards on airlines like Southwest and JetBlue that have relatively fixed rates for their points. By comparison, cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card set the redemption values only at 0.7 to 1 cent per point when redeeming directly.

However, you can do much better than 1.25 or 1.5 cents per point, especially when prices are high — hence why TPG and Chase value Ultimate Rewards points differently.

Related: A guide to earning transferable points and why they’re so valuable

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Premium economy on American Airlines. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The advantage of transferring points is that many award charts are relatively fixed, so the cost of your flight or hotel room remains fairly consistent regardless of how the cash price fluctuates. For example, a Category 6 World Hyatt property (like the Andaz 5th Avenue) costs 25,000 points per night for a standard room.

Those rooms start around $475 per night and often exceed $600, which yields a redemption value of around 1.9 to 2.4 cents per point. You won't get that same value by booking directly, since 25,000 points will only cover up to $375 at the highest rate.

The same goes for airfare. Your best option is to book directly when prices are low, and transfer when prices are high. For example, United charges around 25,000 miles round-trip for most domestic economy awards at the saver level. If you're able to find a cheap flight, then it makes sense to book through Ultimate Rewards. Once the cash price gets to be more than $375 or $400, however, you'll be better off transferring to United MileagePlus (provided you can find low-level availability).

Typically, the closer to departure you book, the higher the cash rate, so transferring points is especially valuable when you need to book a last-minute flight, such as for a family emergency. Similarly, you'll almost always be better off transferring your points when booking business and first-class flights, especially internationally. You’ll ultimately need to run the numbers for yourself and see which avenue costs the least amount of points.

Related: How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Bottom line

While both redemption options have the same end goal — to book a flight using your points — the costs can vary widely. When the cash prices are low, it can be cheaper to book through the Chase travel portal than transferring your points. It can also make sense to redeem directly if you're chasing status and need the elite-qualifying credit. Meanwhile, you're usually better off transferring your points for premium cabin flights and last-minute bookings.

Chase is unique for allowing cardholders to redeem points directly for up to 1.5 cents apiece. The same general strategy doesn't apply to the Citi ThankYou Rewards Travel Center, Capital One travel portal or Amex Travel since you'll only get a redemption value of 1 cent per point at best — unless you have a business Amex card that offers a rebate on flights purchased with points. At that rate, you're better off just paying cash and saving the points for a more rewarding opportunity.

Thanks for the question, Sai, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us.

Featured image by Fiji Airways business class (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023