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If you’re wondering how to transfer flexible points or you’re just nervous because you haven’t done it before, you’re in the right place!
In this guide, you’ll find 10 tips to help you transfer points from flexible points programs like Chase, American Express, Citibank, Capital One, and Marriott and avoid the most common mistakes.
How to Transfer Flexible Points:
10 Things You Need to Know
The foundation of a successful points and miles strategy is all about earning flexible points. Starting with Chase is important because of the bank’s 5/24 rule but diversifying to earn other flexible points as you learn more will help you maximize airline partnerships.
Understanding which airline partners these flexible points can be transferred to is the first step. If you’re not sure, these guides will help you identify them.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
- American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners
- Citibank Transfer Partners
- Capital One Transfer Partners
- Marriott Transfer Partners
Once you know, for example, who to transfer American Express points to or where Chase points transfer, you can work on learning how to put them to good use. But, no matter where you want to travel and which transfer partner is best for your plans, the tips below will help you navigate the essentials you need to know to transfer rewards points like a pro.
1. Never transfer points until you’ve found the award seat space you need.
This is one of the most common beginner points and miles mistakes! Once you transfer your points from a flexible points program like Chase or American Express, you can’t transfer them back or move them to a different transfer partner.
Always search for the award space first. When you see the award seats you need, act quickly to avoid losing the space to someone else. You should also double-check the availability with another alliance partner website to confirm the award seats are showing.
When you see the availability across partner websites, you’re reducing the risk that what you’re seeing is phantom award space, which sometimes shows.
For example, do you see the award space you need on Aeroplan? Check it on United or ANA’s website, two other good Star Alliance search websites. If the availability shows on these sites as well, it’s safe to assume the award space is really there.
If you can’t confirm on another website or you see discrepancies, you may want to call the airline to check the space. Even in this case, you can still book online to avoid a phone booking fee, but you’ll have confirmed the seats are there BEFORE you transfer.
2. Only transfer the number of points you need to book your award flight.
Once you’ve found and double-checked the award space you need, you’ll see how many miles are needed to book the flight. But, only transfer what you need to complete the booking.
Points are safer in the bank’s flexible points ecosystem, compared to an airline frequent flyer account. Flexible points like Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards are protected against individual transfer partner devaluations.
If you transfer points to Airline A and they’re sitting in that airline account, but before you have a chance to use them Airline A devalues their award program, your miles have also devalued.
Flexible point transfers are final so you have no way to move them back. With your transferable bank points, you can choose which partner will give you the best value, and even avoid airlines that have devalued.
3. Know how much time it takes for flexible points to transfer.
These days, luckily, most transfers are instant or nearly instant. This makes it relatively easy to search for the award space you need and transfer points as soon as you’re ready to book.
However, if the points transfer to a specific airline partner isn’t instant, you’re assuming a bit of risk. Remember, there’s no guarantee the award space you found will be there several days later.
To reduce your exposure, call the airline and ask if they’re willing to hold the award space for you. Some will and some won’t. But if they do, this allows you to sleep better until everything is final.
If the airline doesn’t let you hold the award, have a Plan B because it’s always possible award space can disappear while you wait for the transfer.
For example, can you be flexible with your dates? If so, search multiple dates when you’re looking for award space so you have all the information you need to make a quick change.
4. Keep an eye out for transfer bonuses.
Flexible points transfer bonuses have been fairly common from American Express and Citibank. These bonuses can be very lucrative. Sometimes, bonuses can be upwards of 30% on the points you transfer.
So for example, if Amex is offering a 30% transfer bonus for Virgin Atlantic, 1000 Membership Rewards points will become 1,300 Virgin Atlantic miles when transferred.
There’s always debate about whether you should transfer speculatively to take advantage of a transfer bonus. The general advice is not to do this, especially as a points and miles beginner. Personally, I rarely transfer speculatively.
However, some people do, but they also are certain to have a use for them. Perhaps it’s an airline program they regularly use. Or they know there’s a definite trip they’ll be planning soon thereafter and will use that airline program to do it.
5. Don’t transfer flexible points to hotel partners. (With a few exceptions)
Except for Chase’s Hyatt partnership and a couple of other exceptions, it rarely makes sense to transfer points like Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards to hotel transfer partners.
It all comes down to the math. Most flexible points are worth about 2 cents per point, possibly more. Hotel points, on the other hand, are worth less than that. Typically, hotel points are about half a cent per point give or take the program.
This would mean for each Ultimate Rewards point you transfer to IHG, you’d be losing 75% of the value of your Chase points.
In addition to Hyatt being the exception to the rule, there are a few other times it could make sense to transfer points to a hotel program. For example, you might decide to transfer Amex points to Choice Hotels. The budget brand has solid hotel offerings in pricey destinations like Scandinavia or Japan. In these cases, using Membership Rewards points in a cash and points booking scenario can save money.
6. Comparison shop before you transfer.
Double-checking award space helps avoid phantom space. But, it also is smart to make sure you’re booking an award flight for the best value. Remember, partner airlines may offer a better price for that award you want to book.
For example, if you’re looking at a Delta flight, compare award prices for the same flight in partners like Air France (Flying Blue) or Virgin Atlantic to see if they have the same flights for less. Or looking to book a United award flight? Check Aeroplan and Avianca, as well.
Always check the cash price, too. Is it worth it to use 60k miles to fly to Europe when a cheap $300 flight is available to book?
Remember, the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal prices awards based on the cash flight. So, that $300 flight you found could be bookable through the portal for a lot fewer points than had you transferred to an airline in the first place. In this scenario, you’d even earn miles for the flight you booked because it shows as a cash booking to the airline.
7. Be strategic about which points to use.
If you’re just getting started with points and miles, you might only have Chase Ultimate Rewards points. But, as you diversify your flexible points portfolio, it becomes even more important to know which airline partners are connected with which points programs.
For example, Flying Blue, Singapore, and JetBlue are partners with all the flexible point programs. However, ANA, United, and Turkish are only transfer partners with 1 or 2 flexible points programs. You wouldn’t want to transfer Chase points to Flying Blue only to realize you now need to transfer Chase points to United and don’t have enough.
With strategic planning, you could have used another flexible points currency for your Flying Blue transfer and saved your Ultimate Rewards points for United. The more you can map out your upcoming travels, the better you’ll be able to calculate the best way to use these transfer partnerships to your advantage.
Lastly, if there’s a bonus transfer for a particular airline, like British Airways, through Amex, but not with Chase, it makes sense to take advantage of this. Transfer points from American Express to British Airways for that bonus value and save your Chase points for another trip.
8. Not all flexible points can be easily transferred to a spouse.
Chase Ultimate Rewards is the flexible points program most of us begin with. Luckily, Chase allows for spouses and household members to transfer and combine Ultimate Rewards points into one person’s Ultimate Rewards account or airline loyalty program account. This is great when you want to book award travel as a couple or a family and need all your points to be in a single place.
However, not all programs allow the same. American Express does NOT allow you to transfer Membership Rewards points to your spouse’s frequent flyer accounts unless they’re an authorized user on your Membership Rewards earning card for at least 90 days.
There is a workaround with American Express to avoid paying an authorized user fee to add your spouse on a card like the Platinum or Gold card. The American Express Everyday card earns Membership Rewards points but is a no-fee card. If you had this card, you could add your spouse to it as an authorized user, and he/she would have access to your entire balance of Membership Rewards points no matter which card earned them.
Also remember, some airlines do allow you to book flights for family and friends quite easily. You’d be able to transfer points to a frequent flyer account of yours and book a flight for a spouse, relative, or friend just as you would for yourself.
9. Avoid excise fees if you can.
Nearly all flexible points are free to transfer to airline partners. However, when you transfer Amex points Delta, JetBlue, and Hawaiian Airlines, American Express charges a fee of .0006 cents per point up to $99. American Express charges this fee only for its U.S.-based airline transfer partners.
You can transfer Amex points to JetBlue. But, why not be strategic and transfer to JetBlue from other flexible points currencies to avoid this fee. However, with Delta, American Express is your only 1:1 transfer option.
10. Just because an airline is a transfer partner, doesn’t mean you should transfer to them.
In addition to hotel transfer partners, you might want to avoid some airline transfer partners, too.
Airline miles for Southwest and JetBlue are generally valued at 1.5 cents per point, the same value as you’d get for Ultimate Rewards points used in the Chase travel portal. However, when you book through the portal and pay with points, you earn airline miles because the airline sees it as a cash ticket.
Let’s look at Southwest. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are the only ones to transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. If you book a flight by transferring Chase points and booking directly with Southwest, you get all the benefits that come with a Southwest award ticket.
This includes changing or canceling your ticket for no fee. This comes in handy when the cost of the flight goes down and now requires fewer points. You can rebook for less without penalty. However, award flights won’t earn points or miles and the same is true for Southwest award tickets.
But if you book that same Southwest flight through the Chase travel portal, you get roughly the same value for your points and you’ll earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points because it’s considered a revenue ticket, even though you paid with points through Chase. The downside, though, is you can’t cancel and rebook if the price of your flight goes down.
You’ll have to decide in this case which scenario is right for you.
Flexible points programs return the best value when used with the right partners. But no matter which transfer partner you’re using, these tips will help you understand how to transfer points, as well as how to avoid some of the common pitfalls.
What are your questions about how to transfer rewards points?
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