Which Transferable Points Are Most Valuable?

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One of the keys to avoiding disappointment with points as much as possible is to collect transferable points currencies. These are currencies like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou.

Why transferable points are valuable

The reason these points are so valuable is because you can transfer them to many partner programs when you’re ready to redeem, which is a great way to protect your points from devaluations. In my case, I take it a step further and collect all the major transferable points currencies, which protects me even further from devaluations, as it diversifies my points as much as possible.

What you generally want to avoid is collecting points in a single non-transferable currency, because when the program devalues your points could be worth significantly less overnight. I know that’s the situation a lot of us were in a few weeks back, when American AAdvantage devalued their award chart. The costs of some of my favorite redemptions increased by as much as ~67%. The same was true when Alaska doubled the cost of some Emirates first class redemptions overnight.

I have cards which accrue each of these transferable points currencies in my card portfolio.

I use the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card and Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express to maximize my earning of Amex Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to the following partners:

AeroMexico Club PremierBritish Airways Executive ClubFrontier EarlyReturnsVirgin America EleVAte
Air Canada AeroplanCathay Pacific Asia MilesHawaiian Airlines HawaiianMilesVirgin Atlantic Flying Club
AirFrance/KLM Flying BlueDelta SkyMilesIberia Plus
Alitalia MilleMigliaEl Al MatmidJetBlue TrueBlue
ANA Mileage ClubEtihad GuestSingapore Airlines KrisFlyer

I use the Citi Prestige® Card to maximize my earning of Citi ThankYou points, which can be transferred to the following partners:

Air France/KLM | Flying BlueGaruda Indonesia | Frequent FlyerQantas | Frequent FlyerTurkish Airways | Miles & Smiles
Cathay Pacific | Asia MilesJet Airways | JetPrivilegeQatar Airways | Privilege ClubVirgin Atlantic | Flying Club
EVA Air | Infinity MileageLandsJetBlue | TrueBlueSingapore Airlines | KrisFlyerHilton | HHonors
Etihad | Etihad GuestMalaysia Airlines | EnrichThai Airways | Royal Orchid Plus

And I use the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card and Chase Freedom® Card in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to maximize my earning of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to the following partners:

Air France KLM Flying BlueIHG Rewards ClubSingapore KrisFlyerUnited MileagePlus
British Airways Executive ClubKorean Air SkyPassSouthwest Airlines Rapid RewardsVirgin Atlantic Flying Club
Hyatt Gold PassportMarriott RewardsThe Ritz-Carlton Rewards

How much are all these points actually worth?

I’m working on a post with my updated valuation of miles & points, which I haven’t done in a while. As I explain all the time, there’s not any science to valuing a non-revenue based points programs. Everyone values redemptions differently. So if I say a mileage currency is worth 1.6 cents, and someone else says they’re worth 1.9 cents, I can’t really prove them wrong, other than providing an explanation of where my valuation come from.

A while back Travis wrote an excellent series about how to go about valuing points:

The idea is that points are worth somewhere between your acquisition cost and the redemption value you’re getting out of them. That of course doesn’t really narrow it down, but at least it creates a framework by which everyone can value these points on their own.

As I set out to value points, I had no problem assigning my values to various currencies. For example, American AAdvantage miles are worth 1.5 cents to me, Hyatt points are worth 1.5 cents to me, and Starwood points are worth 2.2 cents to me.

But then it came time to value the transferable points currencies.

Amex Membership Rewards points are worth 1.8 cents to me… hmmm, maybe they should be worth a bit less, since they can’t be transferred to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio anymore.

Singapore-A380
Transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Singapore KrisFlyer

What about Citi ThankYou points? Assuming you have the Citi Prestige® Card, they can be redeemed for travel on any airline. Or you can transfer them to Air France FlyingBlue, Singapore KrisFlyer, etc. Maybe they should be worth 1.6 cents each then, or slightly more to account for the transferability of the points?

American-787-Business-Class - 2
Redeem Citi ThankYou points for 1.6 cents each towards the cost of a ticket on American

And that brings us to Chase points. They can be transferred to Hyatt, Korean Air, and United. United devalued a couple of years back and Korean miles are great, though are also limiting, since you can only redeem them for family members. I value Hyatt points at 1.5 cents each, United miles at 1.4 cents each, and Korean Air miles at 1.5 cents each, so maybe Ultimate Rewards points should be worth 1.6.1-7 cents each?

Korean-Air-A380
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Air SkyPass

Here’s what I decided

Call me crazy, but after pulling out a bunch of hair I’ve simply decided that the three major transferable points currencies are all worth (roughly) the same. That’s not to say that they’ll all be worth the same to everyone, but rather that they all have their relative advantages, so I can’t make a general suggestion and say “this currency should be worth more to you than that one.”

I value points very conservatively nowadays, so let’s just call it an even 1.7 cents per point. Going back and forth over 0.1 cents per point when everyone uses points for different things seemed sort of stupid. Given that all of these issuers have cards with great bonus categories, I think it’s easier to compare the bonus categories rather than go back and forth about very minor differences in points valuations.

What are the relative pros of each of these currencies?

  • American Express Membership Rewards has the most transfer partners, the most valuable of which I consider to be Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA Mileage Club, Delta SkyMiles, and Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards has some especially unique transfer partners, including British Airways Executive Club, Hyatt Gold Passport, Korean Air SkyPass, and United MileagePlus
  • Citi ThankYou is the only transferable points currency which can efficiently be redeemed for revenue travel on an airline, given that you’re getting 1.6 cents per point; on top of that points can best be transferfed to Air France FlyingBlue and Singapore KrisFlyer

Bottom line

Ultimately valuing points is never a science, but instead I do it to give people a general sense of direction in deciding which points currency to accrue, or whether to accrue points at all.

While I can fairly easily choose a value for individual points currencies, I really struggle with valuing transferrable points currencies.

Am I wrong to come to the conclusion that they’re all worth roughly the same, at least in the big picture? Of course it depends on everyone’s individual redemption preferences, but “big picture” about 1.7 cents per transferrable point just sounds right to me.

Which transferable points currency do you think is most valuable? Vote in the below poll, and let me know in the comments section!

Which transferable points currency is most valuable?

View Results

I’ll be out with my full valuation of points later this week.


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Comments

  1. it really depends on needs. for me, i would say membership rewards because i fly cross-country a lot, so it’s very valuable having jetblue and virgin america, plus hawaiian is nice too. yes, chase ultimate rewards has southwest, but they don’t do many nonstop coast-to-coast flights, and i always have more than enough from all their credit cards.

    united is nice but aeroplan (and singapore) are usually almost as good if you can avoid the fees, not to mention delta is a far better choice for booking skyteam awards than korean air. but then again, i also don’t get much use from hotel points, but i can see why being able to transfer to hyatt is so valuable for some.

  2. Personally I find UR points particularly appealing because while all three offer decent options to transfer to airlines, UR->Hyatt is the only truly compelling option to use these currencies for hotel stays, which is also a nice option to have. But then, I collected mainly MR points for a long time and only recently started collecting Chase points, so maybe it’s just the novelty of that option that impresses me.

  3. It all depends on what you’re redeeming them for. I pooled some leftover points from each of the programs for a SQ suite, so they’re all worth the same to me.

  4. I’m in the camp that Citi TY points are worth less than MR and UR points. SPG points are probably still the most valuable (albeit not a contender for this post).

  5. I still think that there’s an extra liability with transferable points. If you earn directly, there’s one place where your points can be devalued, but with transferable points, there are two places where they can be devalued (if the transfer ratio changes).

    But I guess this might be more of an issue for those who rack up points slowly, not so much the earn-and-burn types.

  6. Maybe you should look at this in a different way. If all 3 are worth the same, which one is easier to get based on their credit card offers for spending? I find it difficult to earn Amex MR points at more than 1 point per dollar unless you have the Amex Everyday Preferred which still has a cap on how much bonus you can get. I find UR way easier to get with the category bonus on some of Chase cards.

  7. Hey Lucky, big fan here.

    Great article, just one question: Under where you break down the pros are f,each program, you state that UR has some unique transfer opportunities, but the first thing you list in support of that is BA EC. You already mentioned MR points also transfer to BA (albeit at a less favorable rate). Still, maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but to me BA EC is not a “unique” transfer partner in the dictionary definition sense of the word. Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for consistently providing awesome info!

  8. @santastico you also need to consider the amount of cards that offer these points and their bonuses.

    if someone is starting out new to this game but will soon fall under the 5/24 rule, they can get chase ink, chase sapphire preferred, chase freedom unlimited, and chase freedom regular, which is around 150,000 UR from bonuses alone. and then they’re basically done.

    they can also get amex platinum regular, amex platinum business, amex platinum ameriprise, amex platinum mercedes, amex platinum schwab, premier rewards gold, business rewards gold, amex everyday preferred, amex everyday, blue for business, business green. if signups are timed correctly, that’s up to 625,000 MR.

    it would take a very very long time to make up that difference using the UR bonus categories; and even if chase scraps the 5/24 rule (highly unlikely), you still need to churn each of them three times.

  9. Why are Starwood points not being considered a transferable currency in this post? In many cases, they are the only points that an be transferred to programs like American, Miles and More, Aegean, etc.

  10. I’ve only dabbled in MR last year off a corporate card, which cost me $90 for MR privileges and I dropped them all in my growing Honors Scrooge McDuck Points bin (400k+). I didn’t value them much due to travel partners that didn’t fit my travel style or airport that I live nearby (Dulles).

    However, since I have a child on the way my main goal is…everything! Travel as efficiently as possible, as cheaply as possible and toss a little bit of luxury in for good measure. Without taking into account my annual fees across my UR and co-branded cards, we are going to fly a family of three (lap infant) from IAD > SFO for thanksgiving for 4 nights. With flight, hotel, and car, we’re looking at 125,000 UR points used, at a value of 2.1 cents/point on this trip. The value probably increases when you consider how many of those points came in as bonuses and through everyday spend.

  11. So the point of valuation of these points has to really be to decide that they’re worth transferring rather than redeeming as cash. Meaning UR points are worth more to me to transfer and redeem rather than claiming $.01 per point as a statement credit. It’d seem that if you can prove that to people then it just becomes a case for the rest of us to decide how we want to redeem those points. And that might depend wholly on where we want to go. If my aspiration is to use these on a trip to Europe then I’ll look at how to redeem those points to fly there and to get a hotel room there. The transfer partners to get to Europe might look very different than to get to South America. It seems this is the point of all this, since most of us travel to visit places and not just to try out different airline products. If my goal is to see Europe then it might not matter to me how awesome Singapore Air is, my options to fly them are more limited than some other airlines. If I’m more flexible on my aspirations then it starts to get cloudier. At least this is how I approach miles and points. Where do I want to go and what is the best way to earn the points needed to get there.

  12. Value of points is so relative it’s crazy to even give it a dollar amount.

    If a flight costs $300 dollars on Delta and $250 dollars on United, but they both would use 25k points for the flight, by math you would say “Delta has more value” But in reality you would pay for the flight that was fifty dollars less. (Assuming you did the normal way of finding “value” which is cost of ticket divided by points needed). There is absolutely no real way to say, “AA miles are worth 1.6 cents per point.” (or whatever you want to say it is worth) because AA flights might be crazy expensive by me, but cheap by you but use the same amount of points for each of our locations and destinations.

    You can pick a favorite by how useful those currency points are to you and how easy you can obtain them, but that’s it. All bloggers try to put a money value to points and I don’t understand it since there is no mathematical way you can.

  13. @mark; I was not assuming one will get all new cards. My assumption was based on how easy is to get points after the bonus. I find it way easier to get UR points using my Chase cards than getting MR points using my Amex cards.

  14. While I agree all valuations are personal, I think you are to value them the same.

    Most of us in the game a while have many more airline miles than hotel miles. If one card doesn’t have any valuable hotel partners at decent ratios, how can that be worth the same as a card that has comparable airline transfers AND great hotel partners, UR is much more valuable to me than MR, and SPG is still king (hotels and 25% bonus on airline transfers)

  15. I’ll make an argument that Thankyou points are the most valuable. Do the other 2 transferable currencies allow you to purchase a ticket with the world largest airline at a 1.6 cents per point rate? I think the max with either of the other 2 is 1.25 cents per point.

  16. @buddy M Assuming you mean AA you know they are not the World’s largest airline right? Delta is.

  17. It depends, but UR points are more valuable to me given that I can transfer 1:1 with Hyatt which is my preferred hotel. In addition, 1:1 transfer with BA, UA…. simply the options are much better. MR are restrictive and the BA transfer points have been devalued. I have 56,000 points I don’t know what to do with.

  18. What about the Citi ThankYou Preferred card? I received an offer for this card, which I believe is the no annual fee version, but there is precious little information about this card online. Are these the same ThankYou points that are earned on the Premier card….in other words, are they transferable to frequent flyer programs? It seems that they may not be but I can’t find this addressed anywhere, not even on Citi’s own website. If the points are not transferable, then isn’t the Preferred card just another version of cash-back card?

  19. I really don’t get this argument. If I had traded in 40,000 SPG points for 50,000 miles on AA before they “devalued” I could get one business class ticket to Europe. Now, after the change in points/prices, it takes an additional 7500 miles. I would still get 50,000 AA miles for the 40,000 SPG points but would be short the 7500. Keeping it in SPG saved me nothing.

    To me, it’s not so much a devalue in the value of the miles as it is an inflation in the ticket prices (in points). Since the exchange rate in SPG to AA didn’t get better, then the inflation in ticket price hit just the same.

  20. @ J — Except you can transfer to other programs which might have better values and not devalue. For example, you could have transferred those Starpoints to Alaska instead of American, where the redemption rates didn’t change.

  21. One of the best posts Ben! And, looking forward to your updated valuation of miles and points post.

    Starwood needs to be included in this list, and was a bit surprised you didn’t include them. Valuing points across the transferrable currencies should consider the user’s country/primary airport and travel patterns. For example, someone who lives on the East Coast and flies JetBlue all the time probably will value MR much more since they’re the only transferable current to JetBlue (unless Starwood does also, then there’s some math to do), which naturally adds to their point totals.

    For casual folks who don’t have the spend capability to spread their spending across three currencies, most will likely be able to focus on one. Unless they can churn cards (which is becoming harder to do), bonuses are a one-time boost. Not sustainable, unless one is a travel blogger. ;^) Said another way, it may take someone 3x longer to redeem, if they’re spreading across 3 currencies, rather than one. Of course, they take the risk of devaluation among those transfer partners, but those odds are still better than one airline.

    Think you should add Starwood to this discussion. I value them very highly.

  22. Like any financial option, the value of these transferable points consists of two parts: 1) the intrinsic value, which is the value you get if you were to exercise the option (i.e. transfer and redeem now); and 2) the time value, the value that you have the flexibility to exercise at any time (i.e. transfer later), In terms of intrinsic value, I rank SPG > MR = UR > TY. In terms of the time value, I rank SPG > UR > MR > TY because SPG has the most useful (and valuable) partners to transfer to and TY has the least.

  23. Chase UR of course especially with the new chase 5/24 rule, those points are very valuable. Earn-ability of the points plays a big role in my valuations along with redeem-ability. if Korean Air is added as Citi Partner then they are all the same just like you valued.

  24. As TYP is the only points that require you to have the same card you earned them in active (or within 60 days of closing), they are the least valuable to me.

  25. Since my alternate to mfg, churn and spend Credit Card points is to buy miles. I value them all these points at 2.1 cpm, cuz that’s usually the average cost of buying AA or UA miles and using them to redeem for a J class partner ticket to India which is where I travel every year. At this rate its usually a break even with the revenue ticket when including miles earned from the revenue. Example 140,000 miles at 2.1 cpm = $2940 which is close to the avg J class ticket on Qatar/Etihad/Air India…etc

  26. I’ve got an offer for Amex Platinum with 100,000 points bonus. There’s a $450 annual fee. What I really want is a Southwest companion pass. Can you see a path to that result using those bonus points?

  27. Lucky, I thought Turkish Air was a transfer partner with Citi but I did not see that in your post?

  28. I value Wells Fargo rewards higher than all three. I can use them on any flight in the world as a revenue ticket. I value at 1.9.

  29. For those of us who are DL hub captives, MRs are a good bit more useful than TY points. I need DL miles and have no real use for AA miles (at least not on their metal).

    Has someone finally killed DCS? Where is his constant, inane drivel on this, his 2nd favorite topic?!

  30. How do Hyatt points equal the value of Advantage points ? Hyatt points are way easier to earn and worth only 40% of an Advantage point in the transfer process.

  31. The relative value across these cards is very specific to the individual. What is great is that you write abouth using all of them so each of us can do our own planning and lear a thing or two along the way. To really get a sense of which card is best for the population of users would require statistical analysis and data collection.

  32. After getting burned once with an unfavorable Amex transfer ratio, I now cocentrate on UR. I think the transfers to Hyatt make them especially valuable, since hotels are usually a bigger expense for me than airfare, and airfare redemptions are far more complicated. I am mostly a leisure traveler, with 5-8 short-haul business trips per year.

  33. @mbh – “Has someone finally killed DCS? Where is his constant, inane drivel on this, his 2nd favorite topic?!”

    Sadly, no. Just saw one of his comments on the Carlson post.

  34. Hey Lucky, when you do an updated valuation of miles and points, could you also include Asia Miles? Although they’re mentioned from time to time, there seems to be no forum which values them!

  35. Although I agree that UR might be worth a shade more than the others, I’m doing my spend on Citi Premier and Prestige. Over the last few months, I have been averaging in excess of 2 points per dollar, and plan on keeping that up. Although the airline/hotel choices are not as great as others, the 1.6 cents per dollar to AA means that I’m getting about a 3.5% return on my spend. I could maximize this even more by putting non-bonused everyday spend on other cards, but it’s not worth it to me.

    Between Priority Club, AA lounge access, $250 back per year, and 4th night free (which I haven’t used yet), it’s a great card.

  36. @Harold – The Prestige is THE most valuable card you can own and use for travel. Just for our upcoming trip next week to Dubai, Zurich, Rome & Sorrento the Citi Prestige 4th Night FREE will save us $500. With three more international trips this year Citi is paying us to have their card. I know Lucky has explained this before but it never hurts to repeat. Both of our hotels, Rome & Sorrento, the 4th Night FREE happens to be more expensive than the previous three nights and that is what Citi reimburses including all taxes. It is also nice that because of the way Citi has put this together the hotel is NOT aware of the 4th Night FREE as Citi just credits your account with the FREE Night dollars. Also, any hotel brand status you have will still be honored as this is not like booking through a third party. So you will get points and status.

  37. I think the minimum value of any transferable currency should be at least equal to the highest value airline point that it transfers too (assuming a 1:1 transfer ratio). So in other words, I hope you don’t value Singapore Airlines miles at more than 1.7 cents per mile, if so then the value of all those currencies that can transfer to SA should increase.

  38. One thing not addressed in this post is the combinability of points across accounts. All three allow you to combine but in different ways. Amex is the best – the points from all your accounts go into one “pool” and as long as you maintain at least one card (the no-fee Everyday card is good for this) they’ll remain good. Next is Chase, which allows you to easily and quickly move points between accounts. Citi is the least flexible and by far the most ocnfusing: they allow you to pool like Amex, but the points are still tracked for which account they came from. If you cancel that account then the points expire in 60 days, if I’m not mistaken.

  39. Lucky, love the Blog. Have a question. I already have Citi Advantage executive and Platinum cards. What is my next best option to get more advantage miles.

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