Points and Miles: The Best Transferable Options

ocean- caribbean where we goingWith all of the different types of credit card rewards to choose from, it truly becomes overwhelming at times.  That’s because there are literally dozens of co-branded credit cards that offer hotel loyalty points, airline miles, and even cash-back. However, most travel rewards enthusiasts will agree that the most valuable points are ones that can be transferred. This post will explain a few of the most popular rewards programs with transferable points, and some of the best ways to use them. Let’s start with my favorite transferable points: Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Ultimate rewards points are my favorite points to earn. Why? Because there are so many options they can be almost anything you want them to be! For starters, you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash back at .01 cent apiece. What that means is that 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points can become a $400 statement credit if that’s what you want. Not bad. However, there are far more lucrative ways to use your Ultimate Rewards points, and most of them involve transferring your points to another loyalty program. For example, Ultimate Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to these airlines:

  • British Airways
  • United
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Southwest
  • Korean Air

Ultimate Rewards points can also become hotel loyalty points by transferring 1:1 to the following programs:

  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards

The fact that Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to so many partners is good news for several reasons. First, the added flexibility means that you aren’t tied down to using them in any particular way. Second, you can typically transfer points in increments as small as 1,000 points, which means that you can use your Ultimate Rewards balance to top off other balances as needed.

For example, if I were running 2,000 Avios short of a redemption I wanted, I could simply transfer 2,000 UR points to British Airways.

Our favorite transfer partners for the best values are: United, British Airways, Southwest and Hyatt.

The two main cards to open to earn Ultimate Rewards points are: Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus.

Note: Also, keep in mind that you can book travel directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards website which can be a great (or terrible) value depending on what you’re booking.  This gets you 1.25 cents per point, so this is definitely a better option than just getting the 1 cent per point statement credit, but still not nearly as good (in most cases) as transferring the points to a partner hotel/airline.

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express offers a transferable program for its participants called Membership Rewards. Just like Ultimate Rewards points, Membership Rewards points transfer out to a wide range of airlines and hotel loyalty programs. For example, Membership Rewards points transfer out to some of the most popular airline programs, including:

  • Delta Skymiles
  • Aeromexico
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Jetblue
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America
  • British Airways
  • Air Canada
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
  • Iberia
  • Asia Miles

Membership Rewards points also transfer to the following hotel loyalty programs:

  • Best Western Rewards
  • Hilton HHonors
  • Starwood Preferred Guest (you need 3 MR points per 1 Starpoint)
  • Choice Privileges

Just like with Ultimate Rewards points, you don’t have to transfer your entire balance out either. You can simply rack up as many Membership Rewards points as you can, then use them to top off balances as it suits you. Keep in mind, you can also book your travel directly through the American Express Membership Rewards website and use your points that way instead, but again, the transfer option is usually best.

The main cards that award Membership Rewards points are: the personal and business Platinum and the person and business Gold cards.

Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood Preferred Guest points are certainly different than Ultimate Rewards points or Membership rewards since they are hotel loyalty points themselves. However, I thought it would be wise to include them on this list since they transfer out to so many airline partners.

Transferring SPG points to airlines also comes with an added bonus. For every 20,000 SPG points you transfer to an airline, you get a 5,000 bonus. So, transferring 40,000 SPG points, for example, would net you 50,000 airline miles. I like it. Keep in mind, the 5,000 bonus is only good for airlines that allow you to transfer points at a 1:1 ratio. For airlines that do not, the bonus is adjusted accordingly. For now, you can transfer your SPG points to the following airlines. Brace yourself, there are quite a few!

Frequent Flyer Program Exchange Ratio (Starpoints : Miles)
Aeromexico Club Premier 1:1
Aeroplan/Air Canada 1:1
Air Berlin 1:1
Air China Companion 1:1
Air New Zealand & Air Points 65:1
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1:1
All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club 1:1
American Airlines AAdvantage 1:1
Asia Miles 1:1
Asiana Airlines 1:1
British Airways Executive Club 1:1
China Eastern Airlines 1:1
China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club 1:1
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles 1:1
Emirates Skywards 1:1
Etihad Airways 1:1
Flying Blue 1:1
Gol Smiles 2:1
Hainan Airlines 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines 1:1
Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank 1:1
LAN Airlines LANPASS Kms 1:1.5
Miles and More 1:1
Qatar Airways 1:1
Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan 1:1
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 1:1
Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus 1:1
US Airways Dividend Miles 1:1
United Mileage Plus 2:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1
Virgin Australia 1:1

Transferable Points Rule the Game

When it comes to earning points and miles, transferable options rule the game. That’s because they don’t tie you down to using a specific program, airline, or hotel. Instead, they allow you to use the points and miles you’ve accrued to design the type of vacation you want. And to me, that’s what this hobby is all about in the first place.

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About the Author: Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report’s “My Money Blog.” Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great summary. I really like Chase UR points as well since they have the cash back option that the other programs don’t have. Even though I may get better value transferring points to a certain program, getting a $500 check and using it towards my student loans just for signing up for a card is an amazing value for me.

  2. says

    Hey Holly, this is exactly what I needed. I have the SPG card and the Gold Amex card and soon will be churning the Chase Sapphire so it can get confusing to keep up with all the options available. I’ll be book marking this post. Thanks for laying it out like this.

  3. says

    This is actually pretty helpful! We’re still fumbling our way through the points game, although we just purchased next year’s trip to Hawaii. Total cost for the three of us was around $100. That included some point transfer fees and we bought the insurance on one flight when we weren’t sure that might need to change it. Lodging is our next biggest expense, but since we usually stay in condo rentals, we have some ways to go there still.

  4. Susan Casper says

    We have Frontier miles and would like to go to England. Anyway to trade to a carrier with a British route?

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