How Transferring Points and Miles Works

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Have you heard of “transferring points” before but don’t really understand how it works? In the credit card rewards space, there are two major learning curves: earning and redeeming. Most people tend to love one more than the other. Earners love to stack offers and maximize the return on spending. When it comes to redeeming, understanding transfer partners can lead to incredible experiences like luxury hotels or flying first class. Learn how Transferring Points and Miles Work in this basic breakdown!

Transferrable Award Currencies

When it comes to credit card rewards there are typically three different categories.

  • Transferrable Points & Miles
  • Co-Branded Points & Miles
  • Cashback

We are going to focus on transferrable points and miles in this breakdown but it’s important to understand the difference between the three categories. Co-branded points are simply tied to the brand of the credit card, like Hyatt or Southwest. The points earned with co-branded credit cards will likely receive the best value when used for that particular brand. While cash back credit cards earn cashback.

Basic Travel TipDo you love cash back? One option folks don’t realize they have with transferrable points and miles is the option to redeem for cash. This is typically not advised, as the value is better for travel but the earnings are almost always higher than a typical cashback credit card.

Why are Transferrable Award Currencies so valuable?

The ability to transfer points and miles across a variety of programs creates flexibility. For example, I could transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest to book flights and Hyatt to book a hotel. More options is always better versus being locked into only having points that can be used at a specific brand. The other perk of transferrable award currencies is sweet spots and valuation. Essentially, having the ability to move points between programs creates unique opportunities to book flights and hotels for 5-10 times the base cash value of those transferrable points.

Basic Travel Example – For our honeymoon, we transferred 87,000 Citi ThankYou Points to the LifeMiles program in order to book a seat in Lufthansa First Class. The cash rate of an airline ticket was $10,000 versus the base cash rate of 87,000 ThankYou points being $870. That’s over a 10X valuation there!

Lufthansa First Class from Frankfurt to Chicago

Four Major Transferrable Award Currencies

In the Credit Card Award space, there are four major currencies. Each of the four has multiple credit cards that earn the particular currency and have their own unique transfer partners. For more in-depth information about each program, click the bolded program below!

Basic Travel Tip – It’s important to note that some of the programs overlap transfer partners which creates more opportunity for flexibility. If someone is short points and miles, they can transfer from multiple transferrable currencies to a single transfer partner.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program has 14 different transfer partners. There are 11 airline partners and 3 hotel partners to choose from.

Ultimate Rewards Transfer PartnerMinimum TransferTransfer RatioTransfer Time
Aer Lingus1,0001:1Instant
Air Canada Aeroplan1,0001:1Instant
British Airways Executive Club1,0001:1Instant
Emirates Skywards®1,0001:1Instant
Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM1,0001:1Instant
Iberia Plus1,0001:1Instant
JetBlue TrueBlue1,0001:1Instant
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1,0001:11 Day
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®1,0001:1Instant
United MileagePlus®1,0001:1Instant
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1,0001:1Instant
IHG® Rewards Club (Hotel)1,0001:11 Day
Marriott Bonvoy® (Hotel)1,0001:11 Day
World of Hyatt® (Hotel)1,0001:1Instant
Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Ultimate Rewards Points
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Ultimate Rewards Points
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

$550 Annual Fee

American Express Membership Rewards

The American Express Membership Rewards program has 21 different transfer partners. There are 18 airline partners and 3 hotel partners to choose from.

Membership Rewards Transfer Partner Minimum TransferRatioTransfer Time
AeroMexico1,0001:1.62-12 Days
Air Canada1,0001:1Instant
Alitalia 1,0001:1Instant
Aer Lingus1,0001:1Instant
ANA1,0001:13 Days
Avianca LifeMiles1,0001:1Instant
British Airways 1,0001:1Instant
Cathay Pacific 1,0001:1Average 1 Week
Choice Privileges (Hotel)1,0001:1Instant
Delta 1,0001:1Instant
Etihad 1,0001:1Instant
FlyingBlue/AirFrance/KLM 1,0001:1Instant
Hilton (Hotel)1,0001:2Instant
Iberia 1,0001:11-2 Days
Marriott (Hotel)1,0001:1Instant
Qantas 5001:1Instant
Singapore1,0001:11 Day
Virgin 1,0001:11 Day
American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners
Membership Reward Points
After spending $6,000 on your card in the first 6 months
Membership Reward Points
After spending $6,000 on your card in the first 6 months

$695 annual fee (Rates & Fees

Citi ThankYou Points

The Citi ThankYou Points program has 18 different transfer partners. There are 16 airline partners and 2 hotel partners to choose from.

ThankYou Transfer PartnersMinimum TransferRatioTransfer Time
ASIA MILES1,0001:1Instant
ETIHAD GUEST1,0001:1Instant
EVA AIR1,0001:124-48 Hours
FLYING BLUE1,0001:1Instant
QANTAS FREQUENT FLYER1,0001:124-48 Hours
QATAR PRIVILEGE CLUB1,0001:124-48 Hours
SINGAPORE AIRLINES1,0001:1Approx. 24 Hours
THAI ROYAL ORCHID PLUS1,0001:1Up to 6 Days
Citi ThankYou Points Travel Partners
bonus ThankYou® Points
after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
bonus ThankYou® Points
after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

$95 Annual Fee

Capital One Rewards Miles

The Citi ThankYou Points program has 16 different transfer partners. There are 14 airline partners and 2 hotel partners to choose from.

ProgramMinimum TransferConversionTransfer Time
Aeromexico – Club Premier 1,0001:1Instant
Air Canada – Aeroplan 1,0001:1Instant
Air France KLM – Flying Blue 1,0001:1Instant
ALL – Accor Live Limitless (Hotel Partner)1,0001:1/2Instant
Asia Miles1,0001:1Instant
Avianca LifeMiles1,0001:1Instant
British Airways Executive Club1,0001:1Instant
Emirates – Emirates Skywards1,0001:1Instant
Etihad Airways – Etihad Guest1,0001:1Instant
EVA Air – Infinity MileageLands1,0001 : .751-2 Days
Finnair – Finnair Plus1,0001:1Instant
Qantas – Qantas Frequent Flyer1,0001:11-2 Days
Singapore Airlines – KrisFlyer1,0001:11 Day
TAP Miles&Go1,0001:1Instant
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles1,0001:11-2 Days
Wyndham Rewards (Hotel Partner)1,0001:1Instant
Capital One Rewards Miles Transfer Partners
welcome miles
once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
welcome miles
once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

$395 Annual Fee

Transfer Partner Award Booking Strategy

This is where things can get a bit complicated, especially for advanced bookings where award currency is transferred with the intention of booking a flight through an airline alliance. To keep things basic, let’s review some steps to take for booking travel via a transferrable currency partner.

Create an account with the transfer partner

Let’s say I want to book a flight on Southwest Airlines using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. I would first need to create a Southwest frequent flyer account in order to transfer points from one program to another. When researching tentative flights with any airline partner, I’d suggest making an account with that program to search directly on it. This will help with finding availability and the number of points and miles required.

Use Award Search Websites

Full disclosure, the websites are not perfect. In this hobby, things change quickly and the IT on these sites struggle to keep up. Nonetheless, they are still great options for researching potential options with points and miles.

  • Awardhacker.com is a free website that shows the potential lowest number of miles and points required to fly
  • Awardmapper.com is a free website that shows the potental lowest number of miles and points required to stay

Wikipedia and Google Flights

Both websites are great for airline routing. I’ll use both to see which airlines fly where to give me an idea of the transferrable currency needed to book an award flight. Sometimes these sites give you ideas on places to visit that you didn’t think of at first. For example, when I was planning my trip to Egypt I noticed that flights from Cairo to Athens on google flights were super cheap via the live map explore-feature. Just like that, Greece was added to that particular trip’s itinerary which was of my favorite trips to date.

Look for inspiration

Using social media and the internet to research bucket list hotels and premium flights is a fun strategy. I’ve found specific flights that I wanted to experience, like ANA First Class from the United States to Japan. Then working backward, I determine the best transferable award currencies to collect in order to book that particular experience.

Create a Google Doc

Use a google doc or whatever your preferred method of recording information is to track information. When I am planning a trip, I’ll create a new google document and record all of the information pertaining to the trip there. Data points like airline routing, required points, hotel options, and even the day-to-day itinerary. This helps to have somewhere to pick back up from when you take a break from researching a trip.

Transferrable Points Frequently Asked Questions

Can you transfer Points and Miles back after transferring to partner?

Nope! It’s very important to know that once a transferrable currency has been moved to a transfer partner, it can not be moved back. Be sure to cross all of the award booking t’s and dot all of the i’s before initiating a transfer. Double-check the number of points and miles required and the availability of the flight!

Are there better times to transfer points and miles?

Yes, many of the transferrable points and miles programs run regular promotions to earn a bonus on transfers. For example, Chase will often run a promotion with Marriott Rewards earning a 50% bonus on transfers. These promotions are a double-edged sword since you cannot transfer back once you initiate the transfer. I know many folks in this hobby love to pad their LifeMiles and British Airways accounts when these promotions come through though.

Basic Breakdown

The flexibility that transferrable points provide to cardholders can not be understated. The sort of points and miles redemptions made possible from travel partners is what dreams are made of. Flying first class and staying in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives is the ultimate bucket list redemption for many folks in this hobby. While others just want to bring their family to Hawaii or Disney for a week. Whatever your pleasure, transferrable points will provide the best value to make that trip happen!

What’s your favorite transferrable point currency and why?

I’d love to hear in the comments below or over in our 7,800+ Member Basic Travel Facebook Group!

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