Should You Exchange Points On Points.com?

Reader Zed asked the following question on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog:

Hi Lucky,

I just got an email from Points.com highlighting their points exchange service. They are touting that “there is no additional fee to Exchange!”

I presume that this is not a good deal generally, but are there any circumstances where it might make sense to use this service (i.e. points set to expire, etc)?

Thanks!

Points.com has somewhat of a unique position in the loyalty program industry. They kind of dabble in a lot of different areas, including:

Mileage purchases facilitated by points.com

Obviously it can make sense to use points.com to purchase points when an airline or hotel is running a promotion. For example, when US Airways ran their 100% bonus on shared miles it was facilitated by points.com, so whether you knew it or not, the purchase was processed by points.com (even though you did it on usairways.com).

US Airways Buy Miles Promo

Trade points on points.com

Points.com also allows members to trade points with one another. This is the only place to legitimately “trade” points as sanctioned by most loyalty programs. Of course it comes at a huge cost. For example, someone posted a trade looking for 4,000 Aeroplan miles, and they have 4,000 IHG Rewards Club points to offer, which is a horrible value to begin with. On top of that there’s an $80 fee.

I’ve never seen a trade points scenario on points.com that’s worth it, so I would ignore this option.

Points-Exchange-Points-Com-1

Exchange points on points.com

The other major thing you can do on points.com is exchange points, where you’re not trading with an actual program, but rather directly with points.com. This is the option where no cash trade fee is involved.

There are a couple of circumstances under which it could make sense to take advantage of this.

If you have an orphan account/expiring miles

Back in 2011, Frontier offered 1,000 miles if you signed up for their EarlyReturns frequent flyer program. I’d never collect enough Frontier miles to do anything useful with them, but I could use points.com to exchange them.

The exchange rates sucked — we’re talking 150-200 miles in exchange for 1,000 Frontier miles. But at the same time those 150-200 miles are worth more to me than 1,000 Frontier miles that I’d never use, so it seemed like the best option at the time.

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Some of the transfer ratios don’t totally suck

Most of the ratios are horrible, though there are some that don’t totally suck. For example, you can exchange 1,000 Aeroplan miles for 840 US Airways miles. That’s not a horrible exchange rate, especially if you have American Express Membership Rewards points and want to convert them into US Airways miles (given that they’re not direct transfer partners).

So with a specific use in mind it could make sense, but as a general rule of thumb I wouldn’t exchange miles through points.com.

Points-Exchange-Points-Com

Bottom line on points.com

The most useful thing that points.com does is facilitating mileage transfers, which you still do directly through loyalty programs’ websites. The trade miles option is an absolute ripoff, and the exchange miles option can make sense under specific scenarios, either when you have an orphan or expiring mileage account, or have a very specific points use in mind.

Comments

  1. Points.com lets you exchange 4 American miles for 1 Usairways mile which extends your Usairways mileage expiration by 18 months. That can come in handy at an extremely minimal cost.

  2. sweet thanks. I have 5k aeroplan miles that expire in 2 months. I have no intention of transferring to get more, but I could transfer to US Airways. I was actually looking into the options last week (didn’t see this one).

  3. It’s can be good for orphan accounts or when you need to keep a program alive. Last time I checked Frontier requires at least 1,001 miles to exchange to many programs so you can buy 1 mile on points.com. Old grand slam trick 🙂

  4. I used to use these guys all the time. It was worth it flipping a few miles here and there to top up accounts… but then it got really expensive. Haven’t really looked at the site ince 2004. Was surprised to see it was still around!

  5. I have a bucket of orphan Melia hotel points from various bonus opportunities. It appears they make a distinction between bonus and other points, with bonus points not being transferable.

  6. @ Lucky – I have 9,000 Aeroplan miles from an SPG promo. It’s below 15,000 mile minimum for exchange but I believe I can reset expiration date if I transfer some miles from SPG, right? SPG Plat doesn’t have min. transfer requirement so I was thinking of doing 100 points.

    @ HeavenlyJane – have 2,000 Melia points from a bonus and also don’t know what to do with them *sigh*

  7. Hi, is there any way to transfer miles between different programs? I have leftover miles in some program I’d prefer to have in my main account. Thanks for any help!

  8. now that Amtrak has devalued their reward points, what is best way to get rid of them for say a good value exchange?

  9. Can I exchange Hawaiian miles for Alaskan air at a fair exchange. I am completely new to this concept. Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. Can I exchange 65000 AA miles for Amazon gift cards in points.com? How much amount in Amazon gift cards can I obtain with 65000 Aadvantage miles?

  11. I have been trying to reach 866-340-3717 to ask about how to redeem my points. All I get is a busy signal. Is the phone really working? I have tried off and on for 3 hours. I need help.

    I want to know the value of my miles so I can cash them in for gift cards.

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