When Transferable Points Don’t Transfer As Expected…

When Transferable Points Don’t Transfer As Expected…

26

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!).

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:

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.

Points transfers are typically instant

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.

Transfer points to an account that’s already linked

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.

Avoid multiple transfers to the same partner in a day

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.

Format your loyalty numbers correctly

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.

Sometimes the ability to transfer is down

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.

You’ll have to be patient when things go wrong

Bottom line

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?

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  1. JimR Guest

    I just tried to Link my Capital One Venture X card to any of my frequent flyer accounts and with that card there is no way to do it like American Express unless someone can tell me how Capital one can be done.

  2. Cindi Guest

    Happened to me recently with Chase to Aeroplan. Usually instant but they ended up taking 5 days. I instead transferred from Capital One to Turkish, and now I have 180,000 trapped points at Aeroplan to figure out how to use.
    Of course days later there was a transfer bonus from Chase to Aeroplan. I asked, since their transfer took so long, if they would give me the bonus points. And they said "We can...

    Happened to me recently with Chase to Aeroplan. Usually instant but they ended up taking 5 days. I instead transferred from Capital One to Turkish, and now I have 180,000 trapped points at Aeroplan to figure out how to use.
    Of course days later there was a transfer bonus from Chase to Aeroplan. I asked, since their transfer took so long, if they would give me the bonus points. And they said "We can take 5 days." The whole system is kind of ridiculous when you think about it, since you rarely can put tickets on hold and the credit card companies don't guarantee a turn around time.

  3. Smriti Guest

    I just transferred UR to flying blue,transferred instantly, booking complete and received email from chase that they have redeposited the miles. Opened ticket with chase since the agent didn't know what caused it. Has this happened to anyone?

  4. airflier Guest

    Indeed, extremely annoying when you wanna book specific dates for award trips, especially with airlines ypu probably would only use for specific long haul trips like Singapore Airlines, which also can go to wait-list option soon

    1. Srini Anne Guest

      I've had points trapped with Singapore airlines which ended up expiring because it's very hard you find a award that's not waitlisted

  5. Wigand Weirich Guest

    Thus, it would be best at least to a certain extent, to do just right now a minimum transfer from any of the flexible currencies to any of the possible frequent flyer programs!?

  6. Robert Herrington Guest

    Be sure to use the same exact name on both accounts - including middle initial. I recently had an issue trying to transfer points from Chase to my Southwest account. It didn't work! The problem? I had used my middle initial when setting up my Chase account but not when I established my SW account. it didn't get resolved until I added my middle initial to SW. That in itself was a major hastle. I...

    Be sure to use the same exact name on both accounts - including middle initial. I recently had an issue trying to transfer points from Chase to my Southwest account. It didn't work! The problem? I had used my middle initial when setting up my Chase account but not when I established my SW account. it didn't get resolved until I added my middle initial to SW. That in itself was a major hastle. I had to scan several forms of id. and send to SW. Finally, after 3 weeks, I got the points transfered --- all because of a middle initial!

  7. rbaSFO Guest

    Lucky - Thank you for this post. Going to echo others and state that this is primarily a Captial One problem. Made a 2nd same-day transfer to top off miles with AF Flying Blue a month ago and waited 3 business days (!!) to receive the points. Needless to say, the award I was hoping to book disappeared during that time. I suspect this is a Captial One issue, as AF Flying Blue is more...

    Lucky - Thank you for this post. Going to echo others and state that this is primarily a Captial One problem. Made a 2nd same-day transfer to top off miles with AF Flying Blue a month ago and waited 3 business days (!!) to receive the points. Needless to say, the award I was hoping to book disappeared during that time. I suspect this is a Captial One issue, as AF Flying Blue is more than willing to accept points transfers from US credit card holders. Their customer service people were nice enough but pleaded ignorance and claimed everything should have gone through instantaneously. Clearly, this is happening to a great many Rewards Miles holders. Be warned when relying on Captial Point points!

  8. Ramon Ymalay Guest

    Finally a blog that acknowledges this. I’ve emailed several blogs and posted in comments sections trying to get someone’s attention. The points blogosphere seems to until now turned a blind eye to these delayed transfers always stating “instant” or some other pretty short timespan, when there have been many instances at this point of peoples points being held up for days to weeks at a time, but since no one blogs about it unless it...

    Finally a blog that acknowledges this. I’ve emailed several blogs and posted in comments sections trying to get someone’s attention. The points blogosphere seems to until now turned a blind eye to these delayed transfers always stating “instant” or some other pretty short timespan, when there have been many instances at this point of peoples points being held up for days to weeks at a time, but since no one blogs about it unless it happens to you, you just assume it’s gonna be instant or in 24 hours.

    Took Ben finally having it happen to him to get an article posted. Was beginning to think all the points blogs had been informed by the CCs NOT to write an article hurting their image. Thank you Ben for the article!!

  9. brianna hoffner Gold

    Definitely seconding the commenter who said “sign out of your airline account and sign back in” – that step is essential!

    Also, most of us don’t have another whole vacation’s worth of points in another account to go make a second transfer like you did. The advice here is that the flights are the head of the river - don’t book hotels and event tickets until your flights are set.

    (Side note: “link” and “ticket” do not need quotes)

  10. Grant Guest

    I had an issue two days ago with a transfer from chase to British Airways. I did a sample transfer of 1000 that went through immediately. Then I did a larger transfer of 159,000 that got hung up. Took 3 days for it go through. To Lucky's point, I shouldn't have done the test transaction. I did do some subsequent transfers of 20,000 and those each went through in 10 minutes or so. Thankfully I...

    I had an issue two days ago with a transfer from chase to British Airways. I did a sample transfer of 1000 that went through immediately. Then I did a larger transfer of 159,000 that got hung up. Took 3 days for it go through. To Lucky's point, I shouldn't have done the test transaction. I did do some subsequent transfers of 20,000 and those each went through in 10 minutes or so. Thankfully I had some Capitol one miles that transferred immediately (80K). I still have one transaction of 40K that has been hung up for 3 days now... (chase to BA). Fun stuff... ha

  11. pstm91 Diamond

    Ben, you're missing a very key aspect of this (unless I missed it, in which case I apologize and blame it on reading on a phone), which is that "instant" is from the card issues side, but not the airlines side. My points from Amex transfer "instantly" to Lifemiles, but Lifemiles takes up to 24 hours to actually process them in my account there. That can be incredibly frustrating, and I have lost out on a ticket because of that delay.

  12. Lee Guest

    Do an initial handshake transfer of 1000 points when you first link a loyalty program to your bank to confirm that the connection is properly established. Well before your needed transfer.

  13. snic Diamond

    I've seen this several times with Chase transfers to United. I've done these for years, so it's not an issue of transferring to a "new" partner for me. Super annoying.

    There are also other credit card-airline transfers where the transfer is never instant; it always takes a few days. The way I deal with those is generally to spend a few weeks keeping an eye on how the airline releases award tickets - how many...

    I've seen this several times with Chase transfers to United. I've done these for years, so it's not an issue of transferring to a "new" partner for me. Super annoying.

    There are also other credit card-airline transfers where the transfer is never instant; it always takes a few days. The way I deal with those is generally to spend a few weeks keeping an eye on how the airline releases award tickets - how many tickets, when they release them, what days of the week, etc. When I have an idea of how they operate, it's safer to transfer miles a week or two before I want to use them. And when the ticket I want pops up on the day I want, I can pounce on it without waiting.

    This strategy requires some flexibility in travel dates, of course, but it works pretty well, especially for those airlines that reliably release award seats a year in advance. When planning that far in advance, usually my family has enough flexibility that we don't need to travel on specific dates, making award bookings much easier.

  14. Esaphire3 Guest

    Two transfers a day is fine with most programs

  15. Bgriff Guest

    Kind of a "duh" but I would put the first tip here -- sign out of your loyalty account and sign back in. With some programs that's necessary to see the points post.

  16. DWT Guest

    Ben you should write a post specifically about issues with CapOne. Many have reported issues with authentication issues via their cell phone numbers which have restricted transfers for them for weeks at a time.

  17. DenB Diamond

    Best strategy is what Ben described early in this post: have lots of points, in multiple programs. When the "instant" transfer doesn't, transfer from a different program and don't lose your stride. Ben didn't mention this, but in my experience, when a transfer hiccups, the most likely outcome is that it self-heals on a subsequent day. Ignore the hiccup and carry on with another transfer source.

    1. DenB Diamond

      In loyalty points, yes, that's my sincere advice. In this game, much more than in life, one has a choice to be working poor, middle class, or rich. I advise the latter and not in just one currency.

  18. tom Guest

    I recently had issues with transferring points from Citi Card to Eva Air. Citi sent a message advising the transfer is cancelled due to "system operational issues". That said, EVA Air frequently has low Business Class fares. The BC fare for a routing DPS/ TPE/ SEA in high season was around $2,200 one way.

  19. jhwptp New Member

    I've had delays with VS showing in my account, but a phone agent was able to see the points and book the ticket. Recognize most programs don't have representatives as helpful as them, but wonder if there are other programs where this might also apply.

  20. Eli Guest

    Happens to be that with Capital one I had better luck getting the points instantly with 2 transfers rather than 1 big amount

  21. Eli Guest

    Was it a big transfer that you made?

  22. Santos Guest

    I’m curious if others see this issue with Capital One with any frequency. Capital One seems to have recurring issues on the backend with points transfers and thus I’ve really slowed down spend on my Venture card. Is this an unfair characterization?

    1. gsd101 Member

      Not unfair at all Santos. In my opinion, Capital One is the worse when transferring points (and customer service, but that's another conversation). My experience is that Amex is the best, followed by Chase, and then Citi...with Capital One a distant fourth. The challenge is that Capital gives two points/$, which makes it a challenging value proposition. Unfortunately, because of Capital's frequent transfer delays, I have transferred Capital points sitting with many airlines waiting to...

      Not unfair at all Santos. In my opinion, Capital One is the worse when transferring points (and customer service, but that's another conversation). My experience is that Amex is the best, followed by Chase, and then Citi...with Capital One a distant fourth. The challenge is that Capital gives two points/$, which makes it a challenging value proposition. Unfortunately, because of Capital's frequent transfer delays, I have transferred Capital points sitting with many airlines waiting to be used (Air France, Air Canada, Cathay, and British). Thank you Amex and Chase for saving the tickets...but now I have to wait for another opportunity to use those points with only those airlines.

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Ramon Ymalay Guest

Finally a blog that acknowledges this. I’ve emailed several blogs and posted in comments sections trying to get someone’s attention. The points blogosphere seems to until now turned a blind eye to these delayed transfers always stating “instant” or some other pretty short timespan, when there have been many instances at this point of peoples points being held up for days to weeks at a time, but since no one blogs about it unless it happens to you, you just assume it’s gonna be instant or in 24 hours. Took Ben finally having it happen to him to get an article posted. Was beginning to think all the points blogs had been informed by the CCs NOT to write an article hurting their image. Thank you Ben for the article!!

3
Hodor Gold

"Be rich"

2
DenB Diamond

In loyalty points, yes, that's my sincere advice. In this game, much more than in life, one has a choice to be working poor, middle class, or rich. I advise the latter and not in just one currency.

1
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