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LESSON 05

Everything You Need To Know About Travel Reward Currencies

 

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Updated, September 17, 2020

What You’ll Learn In This Lesson

How to get the maximum value from each of the transferable travel reward currencies

In our previous lesson, we discussed two of the three types of travel reward currencies:

  • Flexible points that can be transferred to airlines, hotels, and cash back, such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards® (UR) and American Express® Member Rewards® (MR)
  • Co-branded currencies that go directly to the partner airline or hotel

Now that we know what reward currencies are out there, let’s dive into the five primary award travel programs with transferable currencies.

Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Top cards:


All the above Chase premium cards allow transfers of UR points to certain airline & hotel partners, starting at blocks of 1,000 URs.

Chase Airline Transfer Partners:

Potential For Good Value:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • British Airway Avios
  • Iberia Avios
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United Airlines MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Potential For Decent Value:

  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • JetBlue TrueBlue

Chase Hotel Transfer Partners:

  • World of Hyatt (Best value!)
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards

How To Transfer:

Important Note: The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card , Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card , and Chase Freedom Unlimited® all earn UR points as well.

While UR points from these cards cannot be transferred directly to an airline/hotel transfer partner, there is a workaround if you have one of the three “premium Chase cards”:


You would first transfer your URs to one of the premium cards, then from there, move those points to the transfer partners.

You will also be able to transfer points between other Chase cardholders in the same household, so you’ll be able to easily pool points before sending those points to a transfer partner.

Reminder: Although you can reverse the transfer of Chase URs among your Chase card accounts and with a member of your household, transfers to a partner airline or hotel are permanent and irreversible. In most cases, it is immediate.

The information related to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.

A Word On The Chase Travel Portal

You’ll get a bonus if you book travel directly through the Chase Travel Portal. This bonus is 50% for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and 25% for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card .

If a flight is listed at $240, you would normally need 24,000 URs to pay for it with points.

But with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® 50% bonus, you would only need 16,000 URs. Similarly, you would only need 19,200 URs with the 25% bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.

Although these usually represent poorer redemption values than transferring to airlines, using the Chase portal is like booking trips with cash.

That means far greater flight availability, even during peak travel periods, as well as the ability to earn miles since it’s usually considered a revenue flight.

You can also use the portal to book hotels, car rentals, excursions, and even cruises, although those might not be the best use of your Chase URs.

American Express® Membership Rewards®


American Express is a CardRatings advertiser. 

Top cards:


All your American Express® Membership Rewards® (MR) points are pooled and deposited into a single rewards account, so unlike Chase, there is no need to transfer them between different cards. Also unlike Chase, you cannot transfer your MRs to another person in the same household.

There is a limited workaround, though, if you want to transfer your MR points to a person who is an authorized user on one of your American Express cards. First link the loyalty programs of your authorized user to your MR account, and transfer away.

Transfers are at 1,000 MR increments and may take from two days to over a week.

How To Transfer:

Periodically, Amex gives a transfer bonus to select partners, like with Air France KLM when this course was written in March 2019. I would not transfer these points unless you are sure it will be redeemed it in the coming months, or you might lose them if you don’t use them.

When I was new to travel rewards, I saw a good transfer bonus to British Airways Avios, and transferred ALL my points. I ended up not being able to use the Avios for more than three years, and if I hadn’t been paying attention, would have lost them all since Avios expire after 36 months. I was able to reset the counter by transferring a token 1,000 MRs to give the Avios a new lease on life. 

Don’t be like me!

A Word On The American Express Travel Site

American Express also has a travel portal where you can book flights. I would not bother with hotels, car rentals, and cruises because you lose 30% of your point value right off the bat.

Using your Membership Rewards® points to book a revenue flight on Amex Travel might be worth it if you have one of the Amex Platinum cards that earn you a 35% rebate. This benefit only kicks in if you fly business class, or if on your designated airline in economy.

The times to do this would be when an award flight is eluding you, and you have given up trying to find an award redemption and just want to get the flight booked. You would pay for the flight in full using your MR points at 1 cent per MR, and a few days later, you will get the 35% point rebate. 

Amex Hotel Transfer Partners:

  • Choice Privileges Rewards
  • Hilton Honors

Citi ThankYou® Points

Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.

Top Cards:


The Citi Prestige® Card and Citi Premier Card are the only two cards from Citibank that allow transfer of Citi ThankYou® points to partners.

The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card (This card is not currently available on CardRatings), Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students (This card is not currently available on CardRatings), and (This card is not currently available on CardRatings) earn you ThankYou® Points, but can only be transferred to airline loyalty programs if combined with either the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier Card.

How To Transfer:

Transferring Citi points is fairly easy. They have the step-by-step process online, but I’ll summarize it here:

You can either transfer your points through Thankyou.com or by calling the service center. If you choose to transfer points online, you’ll need to be enrolled in an airline loyalty program. So choose which airline you want to fly with and then enroll on their site.

Then all you’ll need to do is choose how many points you want to transfer, select the airline and Citi will process your request. 

Note: you’ll need at least 1,000 points to start transferring.

Citi Hotel Transfer Partners

No direct transfer partners.

Capital One® Miles

Top Cards:


Note that transfers to airline partners is not a 1:1 transfer. Instead, for most partners, it is 0.75 airline miles for each Capital One® mile and 0.5 airline miles for Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

So this might not be the best value for your bonus miles. 

How To Transfer:

As you’ll see below, Capital One® makes it easy to transfer your points. On your Capital One® dashboard, select “Transfer Your Rewards”.

You’ll be led to the screen below where you’ll need to confirm your membership number and your name.

Then all you’ll need to do is select how many points you want transferred and hit complete!

Capital One® Airline Transfer Partners:

Potential For Good Value:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Etihad Guest (Mostly on alliance partner metal)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Potential For Decent Value:

  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer

Poor Value:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • EVA Infinity MileageLands
  • Finnair Plus
  • Hainan Fortune Wings Club
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club

Capital One® Hotel Transfer Partners:

None.

Marriott Bonvoy Points

The exchange ratio is generally an unfavorable 3:1 with some exceptions, with a 5,000 bonus if you transfer 60,000 Marriott points. If you transfer 60,000 Marriott points to your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account, you’ll get 20,000 + 5,000 = 25,000 Alaska miles.

Top Cards:


How To Transfer:

With the completion of the acquisition with Starwood and Ritz-Carlton, you can now transfer your Marriott Bonvoy miles online, which is a welcome change.

Like Capital One®, Marriott makes it simple to transfer your points.

If you found this course on travel rewards helpful, you may also enjoy this free illustrated guide, packed with many other ways to get more for your buck and win back your financial independence.

Course content originally produced by ChooseFI was edited/updated by CardRatings for this lesson.