Reader Question: Why are transferable points worth more than other rewards?

Apr 5, 2021

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Editor’s note: This article is part of a column to answer your toughest credit card questions. If you would like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com

TPG reader Khant sent us a Facebook message to ask about point valuations:

“I noticed that you value Ultimate Rewards more than points or miles from any of Chase’s transfer partners. Why is that the case, and how do I get the higher value out of Ultimate Rewards points?”

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Here at TPG, we tend to put a premium on Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards compared to their airline and hotel transfer partners. For example, we list Ultimate Rewards points at 2.0 cents apiece in our most recent valuations, while the highest transfer partner (World of Hyatt) is listed at 1.8 cents apiece.

We’re frequently asked how we account for that difference: The answer is that we value the added flexibility of having more redemption options, but it’s also a result of our methodology.

TPG’s valuations are based partly on the value we can get by redeeming points, as well as how much we’d pay to buy them outright. They don’t necessarily represent the absolute best redemption value possible — you can certainly get more (or less) than 1.4 cents per AAdvantage mile or 0.5 cents per Hilton Honors point. These numbers are meant to help you decide whether an award redemption is worthwhile, and on the earning side, to guide you toward getting the best return for each transaction. That said, it makes sense that transferable points would be worth more than any of their transfer partners.

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

Deciding which points to redeem

Imagine you’re booking a trip that involves a flight and hotel stay. When airfare is cheap and hotel rates are high, you should pay cash for your ticket and use points to cover your room. Conversely, when hotel rates are low and airfare is high, then you should pay cash for your room and redeem miles for your flight. Hotel points and airline miles each offer good value in only one of those two scenarios, but transferable points cover you in either case.

Programs like Ultimate Rewards have multiple airline and hotel partners, so the same principle applies when you’re comparing different flight or hotel options. For example, you might transfer to United MileagePlus for an economy award from San Francisco to Europe. However, you could transfer to British Airways for a short-haul award from Miami to New York.

The virtue of transferable points is that they allow you to access the sweet spots in each partner program and ultimately give you more opportunities to redeem points efficiently. You don’t have to do anything special to get that higher value; just try to target awards that give you a good return and stay away from ones that don’t.

Related: The best travel credit cards of 2021

United Boeing 737 at the gate at Chicago O'Hare International Airport
(Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock)

Related: Should I earn airline miles or transferable points?

Deciding which points to earn

Of course, the other thing to remember about TPG’s valuations is they don’t necessarily have to be yours. You might value SkyMiles higher if you live in a Delta hub, or you might value ThankYou points less if you’re not interested in Citi’s transfer partners. There’s plenty of room for debate, and we always welcome a healthy discussion about the relative values of all these rewards!

If you’re in the market for a transferable points credit card, check out these Chase offers. Cards in Chase’s Sapphire family earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points which are super valuable when transferred to partners. The TPG team has redeemed Chase points for everything from high-end Hyatt hotel stays to Lufthansa first-class tickets.

Here’s a look at current offers:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Earns 3x points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases.

Feature photo by Soos Jozsef/Shutterstock

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
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  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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