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Or at least not until you have a specific itinerary in mind, know confirmed space is available, and are ready to actually book your tickets!
In the past two days we’ve literally had over a dozen people contact our award booking service with some variation of “I just transferred all my Membership Rewards/Ultimate Rewards points to ____ and I think that was maybe a mistake?”
And while it’s not a mistake, it certainly makes things more complicated.
Be strategic about points transfers to secure the best airline products
Why accrue transferable points to begin with?
As I mentioned the other day, if you’re looking at travel to a particular destination there are often dozens of potential airline programs for you to redeem miles through. And the beauty of a transferable points currency (and why those points are so much more valuable to me) is because of that flexibility.
It’s awesome how interconnected airlines have become over the past 15 (or so) years. Prior to that there were no global airline alliances, and you could redeem your miles for travel on the carrier with which you were banking miles, and in some cases a handful of partners.
Nowadays if you have a transferable points currency you can redeem miles for just about any airline in the world.
The main flexible points currencies are American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Holders of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, Citi Prestige Card, and Citi Chairman Card are also able to transfer their ThankYou Points to airline partners.
Being able to transfer points to different programs is valuable for a few reasons, in my opinion.
Transferable points currencies are valuable for hedging against devaluations
A transferable points currency is akin to investing your money vs. storing it under your mattress. Yes, the value of transferable points currencies can fluctuate. But that’s a good thing.
Sometimes they lose partners or their partner programs devalue, while other times they add more transfer partners or their partner programs open up new redemption opportunities. Most importantly though, if an airline-specific program makes major changes to their award chart you’re insulated a bit by having your points in a flexible currency that you can choose to transfer to another program instead.
Transferable points currencies often have overlapping transfer partners
This is a good thing, because it means you can combine points from multiple flexible points programs into one airline currency when you’re ready to redeem your miles.
Just look at all the potential transfer partners here:
American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners
Earned through The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, American Express EveryDay Credit Card, and American Express EveryDay Preferred Credit Card.
|AeroMexico Club Premier||British Airways Executive Club||Frontier EarlyReturns||Virgin America EleVAte|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
|AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue||Delta SkyMiles||Iberia Plus|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||El Al Matmid||JetBlue TrueBlue|
|ANA Mileage Club||Etihad Guest||Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer|
Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Earned through the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Bold® Business Charge Card, Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, and the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card and Chase Freedom® when carried in conjunction with one of the first three cards.
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||IHG Rewards Club||Singapore KrisFlyer||United MileagePlus|
|British Airways Executive Club||Korean Air SkyPass||Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
|Hyatt Gold Passport||Marriott Rewards||The Ritz-Carlton Rewards|
Starwood Preferred Guest Transfer Partners
|AeroMexico Club Premier||ANA Mileage Club||Emirates Skywards||Qatar Airways Privileges Club|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||American Airlines AAdvantage||Etihad Airways Guest||Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan|
|airberlin Top Bonus||Asiana Airlines Asiana Club||Gol Smiles||Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer|
|Air China Companion||British Airways Executive Club||Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus|
|Air France/KLM FlyingBlue||Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank||United Mileage Plus|
|Air New Zealand Air Points||China Eastern Airlines Eastern Club||Korean Air Skypass||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||China Southern Airlines' Sky Pearl Club||LAN Airlines LANPASS Kms||Virgin Australia Velocity|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||Delta Air Lines SkyMiles||Lufthansa Miles & More|
Premier Citi ThankYou Transfer Partners
|Air France/KLM | Flying Blue||Garuda Indonesia | Frequent Flyer||Qantas | Frequent Flyer||Turkish Airways | Miles & Smiles|
|Cathay Pacific | Asia Miles||Jet Airways | JetPrivilege||Qatar Airways | Privilege Club||Virgin Atlantic | Flying Club|
|EVA Air | Infinity MileageLands||JetBlue | TrueBlue||Singapore Airlines | KrisFlyer||Hilton | HHonors|
|Etihad | Etihad Guest||Malaysia Airlines | Enrich||Thai Airways | Royal Orchid Plus|
Transfers are typically fast
American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers are rather quick, and even instant in many cases. Starwood Preferred Guest and Citi transfers can potentially take a few weeks, depending on the program you’re transferring to, but I still wouldn’t make speculative transfers.
When you do transfer points, have a plan
Even if you are interested in a transfer partner that takes more time (say to Singapore KrisFlyer), you can still be strategic about your transfer:
- Find a route with award space that works for you
- Find a second, back-up option you’re comfortable with in case the first routing is gone by the time the points transfer
- Confirm your understanding of routing rules and fuel surcharges so you’re not surprised at the time of ticketing
- Hold the award, whenever possible
- Pay close attention, so you can book as soon as the miles have posted
Making speculative transfers is risky, and can cause you to miss out on opportunities to redeem your miles. One couple that contacted us this week would have been able to take advantage of perfect space in Singapore Airlines business class — except they’d already transferred all their Membership Rewards points to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.
Anyway, just something on my mind this week, so thought I’d share a reminder!
Non-Affiliate Product Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card has been collected independently by One Mile At A Time. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.