I always recommend doing what you can to earn transferable points currencies for your credit card spending, as this gives you the most flexibility to maximize your points. This also safeguards you from devaluations in any particular frequent flyer program, which is great flexibility to have.
In this post I wanted to talk a bit more about one of the potential challenges with transferable points currencies, which readers ask me about all the time (and which I experience every once in a while as well!).
In this post:
Why I recommend waiting to transfer points
In order to keep your transferable points currencies as flexible as possible, I always recommend only transferring them when you’re ready to redeem (there are limited exceptions, like if there’s a transfer bonus that you think is worth speculatively taking advantage of).
The good news is that with the major transferable points currencies, point transfers to most partners are generally instant. You can see my guides here:
- Amex Membership Rewards transfer times
- Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer times
- Citi ThankYou transfer times
- Capital One transfer times
As you can see, in most cases transfers are supposed to be instant. There’s always the caveat that the transfers might not be instant, though, and I wanted to talk a bit more about that in this post.
Why points sometimes don’t transfer instantly
If you’ve used transferable points currencies with any frequency, odds are that you’ve run into a situation where you were expecting points to transfer instantly, but that didn’t happen. That can be super frustrating, especially if you have a specific airline ticket you’re trying to book, and the frequent flyer program doesn’t allow award ticket holds.
Sometimes there are ways to avoid this, and sometimes there aren’t. For example, I just tried to make a transfer from Capital One to Air France-KLM Flying Blue yesterday, and for whatever reason, the points just didn’t transfer instantly. Even 24 hours later, they still haven’t posted, even though they show as having been debited from my Capital One account.
I had a specific ticket I wanted to book, so at that point I instead transfered Amex Membership Rewards points to Air France-KLM Flying Blue, and those transfered instantly. So now I just have a reserve of Flying Blue miles, which isn’t ideal, but is better than losing the ticket (assuming the miles do eventually transfer).
With that out of the way, I did want to share some tips to minimize your odds of having issues with points transfers.
Transfer to programs you already have linked
Generally speaking, I find that I have the fewest issues with points transfers when my credit card account and loyalty account are already linked. For example, most credit card transfer portals will save your partner loyalty number for transfers you’ve made in the past, and that minimizes the odds of anything going wrong with the transfer. It also seems to minimize the odds of any fraud alerts being triggered.
So if you’re making a critical transfer and you aren’t sure which of your transferable points currencies to transfer from, try to use a program from which you’ve already made a similar transfer in the past, and your account is saved.
Avoid multiple transfers in the same day
People sometimes want to test out if transfers are instant. Say they need 50,000 points in one account. They may think it’s smart to transfer 1,000 points to test things out and see if the points arrive there instantly, and then to transfer another 49,000 points after that first batch of points post.
I’d generally avoid this, if possible. It’s not going to consistently be an issue, but there are situations where transferable points currencies block multiple transfers to the same program in the same day. It’s not always going to be an issue, but it happens, and that can be super frustrating.
Make sure you format your loyalty number correctly
This might sound obvious, but if you’re going to transfer points, make sure you format the loyalty number correctly. This isn’t always as simple as it sounds. In some cases, the credit card portal might require a certain number of digits, and you might have to put a zero or two at the front of your loyalty number for it to transfer correctly.
Some loyalty programs have membership numbers formatted in a variety of ways, so getting that right is important.
Some transfer issues are totally out of our control
Sometimes the “link” between a transferable points currency and a loyalty program are simply down, and there are consistent issues with transfers. Unfortunately there’s just not much that can be done in these situations, and sometimes it can take days or even weeks for this to resolve.
A lot of the behind the scenes tech is pretty fragile, so that’s one of the downsides to the complexity of these programs.
What can do you do if your points don’t transfer?
If you transfer points and they don’t post as you’re expecting, what can you do? Well, unfortunately be prepared for frustration. The unfortunate truth is that there’s not a whole lot you can do to immediately rectify these situations:
- While we anecdotally know that points transfer instantly to many partners, the terms almost always state that it can take multiple days, and there’s not much you can do to expedite this
- Even beyond that waiting period, there’s often not much customer support can do to instantly resolve your issue; the credit card company might show the points as having been transfered on their end, while the airline or hotel partner might not show that on their end, and resolving that isn’t an instant process
Realistically, typically the best you can do is to wait for whatever the published transfer time is, and then once that has passed, reach out to the credit card company, and they can open up a case. Don’t expect that this will be resolved instantly, unfortunately, as this is very much a situation where a “ticket” will be opened, and the communication between the credit card company and travel partner won’t be instant.
I love earning transferable points, and always recommend earning them for the flexibility they offer. When things go as they should, everything is great. The problem is what happens when things don’t go as expected. Sometimes points just don’t transfer the way they should, and getting a resolution can take quite a long time.
The best you can do is take some steps that minimize your odds of having issues. However, when things go wrong, make sure you’re patient, because the problem may not be resolved quickly.
Have you ever had issues with transferable points converting as expected? If so, how did you handle the situation?