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 Citi ThankYou® points.
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
Aeromexico Club Premier
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Aer Lingus AerClub
IHG One Rewards
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
World of Hyatt
British Airways Executive Club
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Premier Citi ThankYou Transfer Partners
Aeromexico Club Premier
Transfers are typically fast
American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers are rather quick, and even instant in many cases. 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!