Which Transferable Points Are Most Valuable? (2021)

Filed Under: American Express, Capital One
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The best way to maximize your credit card rewards for travel is to earn transferable points currencies. However, the value propositions and specifics of the currencies are constantly changing. Every so often I like to take a big-picture look at the state of transferable points currencies.

Admittedly a lot of people aren’t thinking about traveling right now, but regardless, there’s still big value in collecting these points currencies for future adventures.

In this post I wanted to share my general thoughts on the four major transferable points currencies — Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards.

This includes sharing what I like, what I don’t like, and how I generally like redeeming each of these points currencies.

Let me start by mentioning that all four programs have a bit of overlap, so often the differences are nuanced. For example, all four programs partner with Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Emirates Skywards, JetBlue TrueBlue, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

We’re seeing more and more overlapping transfer partners, and that’s both a blessing and a curse — it’s bad because the programs have very few unique transfer partners nowadays, but it’s good because it means you can pool points from different transferable points currencies towards the same redemption.

With that out of the way, here’s how I’m feeling about these programs:

American Express Membership Rewards

Here are the Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners, including 18 airline partners and three hotel partners:

AirlinesHotels
Aer Lingus Aer ClubChoice Privileges
Aeroméxico Club PremierHilton Honors
Air Canada AeroplanMarriott Bonvoy
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Alitalia MilleMiglia
ANA Mileage Club
Avianca LifeMiles
British Airways Executive Club
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Delta SkyMiles
Emirates Skywards
Etihad Guest
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
Iberia Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Things I Love

  • Amex Membership Rewards continues to have the most transfer partners of these four programs
  • Amex offers transfer bonuses with some frequency, which can really help you maximize the value of your points (we’ve seen fewer of these during the pandemic, though I suspect they’ll resume)

Things I Don’t Love

  • Amex is the only one of these programs that passes on a federal excise tax when transferring points for a US-based frequent flyer program; this isn’t a huge deal, but it’s something that other programs don’t pass on
  • Amex only lets you transfer points to a frequent flyer account in the name of the primary cardmember or authorized user (and the authorized user needs to be on your account for at least 90 days); you can’t gift points to others, including a spouse or household member

Where I’m Seeing Value Transferring Points

  • Air Canada Aeroplan is a valuable transfer partner, especially for award tickets on partner airlines with stopovers
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue can be useful, and I ideally like to transfer points with a transfer bonus
  • British Airways Executive Club is valuable for short haul awards, especially when there are transfer bonuses
  • Etihad Guest has some great niche redemptions
  • Singapore KrisFlyer continues to be a great program for premium cabin redemptions on Singapore Airlines, and all four programs partner with the program; there are almost never transfer bonuses from any of the programs, so transferring from any of the four programs is roughly comparable
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has some phenomenal niche redemptions, especially in conjunction with a transfer bonus


Transfer Amex points to Virgin Atlantic for travel in ANA first class

Where I’m Seeing Less Value Transferring Points

  • Delta SkyMiles was a valuable program back in the day, but nowadays is almost useless for transfers

Best Cards For Earning Amex Points

American Express has lots of great cards, though I’d say the best for earning Membership Rewards points include the following:

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Here are the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, including 10 airline partners and three hotel partners:

AirlinesHotels
Aer Lingus Aer ClubIHG Rewards Club
Air France/KLM Flying BlueMarriott Bonvoy
British Airways Executive ClubWorld of Hyatt
Emirates Skywards
Iberia Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue
Singapore KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Things I Love

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards has the only useful hotel transfer partner of any of the transferable points currencies (that’s to say that transferring points to World of Hyatt is actually a good deal, unlike any of the other hotel transfer options out there)
  • Chase doesn’t charge fees for transferring points to any of their partners
  • Chase lets you transfer points to a member of your household, even if they’re not an authorized user on any of your cards
  • Chase lets you redeem Ultimate Rewards points at an efficient ratio towards a travel purchase (if you have the Sapphire Reserve, points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase); in light of current circumstances, the “Pay Yourself Back” feature even lets you redeem points at the same rate towards everyday expenses

Things I Don’t Love

  • Unlike American Express, Capital One, and Citi, Chase historically hasn’t had many transfer bonuses, though we have seen a few in the past year, for the first time; while Chase partners with Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, etc., I would shy away from transferring those points, since historically we’ve sometimes seen transfer bonuses from Amex and Citi to those programs
  • Chase doesn’t have as many transfer partners as some of the other programs; for example, Chase has 10 airline partners, but three of them overlap (Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia), so really I only view Chase as having eight airline partners

Where I’m Seeing Value Transferring Points

  • World of Hyatt is probably where I see the most value; World of Hyatt has become so incredibly lucrative, and having easy access to points that you can redeem for Hyatt stays is fantastic
  • Singapore KrisFlyer continues to be a great program for premium cabin redemptions on Singapore Airlines, and all programs partner with KrisFlyer; there are almost never transfer bonuses from any of the programs, so transferring from any of the four currencies is roughly comparable
  • I’m excited about the fact that Air Canada Aeroplan will be added as an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner as of late 2021

Transfer Chase points to Hyatt for stays at some great hotels

Where I’m Seeing Less Value Transferring Points

  • Given the 1:1 transfer ratio, IHG Rewards Club and Marriott Bonvoy aren’t valuable transfer partners since their points aren’t worth as much
  • Chase lost Korean Air SkyPass as a transfer partner in 2018, and this was a huge loss, because in my opinion SkyPass was the single most valuable transfer partner that Chase had
  • United MileagePlus has been devalued so heavily in recent years that there aren’t many circumstances where it makes sense to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to MileagePlus

Best Cards For Earning Chase Points

Chase has lots of great cards, though I’d say the best for earning Ultimate Rewards points include the following:

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Here are the Citi ThankYou transfer partners, which include 15 airline partners:

AirlinesHotels
Aeroméxico Club PremierN/A
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Avianca Lifemiles
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Emirates Skywards
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
Etihad Guest
JetBlue TrueBlue
Malaysia Airlines Enrich
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
Turkish Airways Miles & Smiles
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Things I Love

  • Citi has added several transfer partners in recent years
  • Citi doesn’t charge fees for transferring points to any partner programs
  • Citi lets you transfer up to 100,000 points per year to any ThankYou member; it doesn’t even have to a member of your household
  • Citi offers transfer bonuses with some frequency, which can really help you maximize the value of your points (however, we haven’t seen many of these during the pandemic)

Things I Don’t Love

  • Citi doesn’t partner with one of the “big three” US airlines; while Citi issues co-brand American Airlines credit cards, you can’t actually convert ThankYou points into American miles
  • Citi doesn’t have any hotel partners

Where I’m Seeing Value Transferring Points

  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue can be useful, and I ideally like to transfer points with a transfer bonus
  • Avianca LifeMiles is a program that has great values for redeeming on Star Alliance carriers; while LifeMiles doesn’t always have access to all Star Alliance award space, more often than not I find a lot of value with this program
  • While Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is far from my favorite program, it is the best value program for booking long haul Cathay Pacific first class awards of any of the partners of the four transfer programs
  • Etihad Guest has some great niche redemptions, and we’ve seen some transfer bonuses in the past
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer is a surprisingly useful program, especially for redemptions on some non-alliance airlines; for example, the best way to book EL AL awards is through Qantas, and the program also partners with some airlines that really interest me, like Air Niugini
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has some phenomenal niche redemptions, especially in conjunction with a transfer bonus


Transfer Citi points to LifeMiles for travel in Lufthansa first class

Where I’m Seeing Less Value Transferring Points

  • A lot of Citi’s partners programs are those belonging to great airlines, but where the award redemption value is really limited, like EVA Air Infinity MileageLands, Qatar Privilege Club, and more

Best Cards For Earning Citi Points

Citi has lots of great cards, though I’d say the best for earning ThankYou points include the following:

Capital One

Here are the Capital One transfer partners, which includes 13 airline and two hotel partners:

AirlinesHotels
Aeromexico Club PremierAccor Live Limitless (ALL)
Air Canada AeroplanWyndham Rewards
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Alitalia MilleMiglia
Avianca LifeMiles
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Emirates Skywards
Etihad Guest
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
Finnair Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Things I Love

  • While perhaps minor, Capital One miles post to your account as soon as your purchase posts, rather than when the statement closes (or when the second statement closes)
  • Capital One doesn’t charge fees for transferring points to any partner programs
  • Capital One lets you transfer your Spark or Venture miles to any other cardmember with the same card, making these points easily transferrable
  • Capital One consistently offered transfer bonuses pre-pandemic, though we haven’t seen in any in a while
  • Capital One miles can also efficiently be redeemed towards the cost of a travel purchase, giving you a lot of flexibility

Things I Don’t Love

  • While Capital One’s transfer program is still fairly new, the program lacks unique partners; all of Capital One’s valuable partners are ones that at least one other program have as well
  • Transfers aren’t 1:1, which can make things confusing, but that’s because some of their cards offer 2x miles per dollar spent
  • While their cards are great for everyday spending, I wish Capital One had cards that offered bonus points in certain spending categories

Where I’m Seeing Value Transferring Points

  • I’m happy to see a second program partner with Air Canada Aeroplan, which I consider to be a great program for Star Alliance redemptions (though Chase will be a partner as of later this year)
  • Otherwise I’m a fan of Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Avianca LifeMiles, and Etihad Guest; I hope that we see some transfer bonuses for one of these programs
  • Redeeming Venture and Spark miles for one cent each towards the cost of a purchase can make a lot of sense as well

Transfer Capital One miles to Flying Blue for redemptions in KLM business class

Where I’m Seeing Less Value Transferring Points

  • While many Capital One partners have a 2:1.5 transfer ratio, programs like Emirates Skywards and Singapore KrisFlyer have a 2:1 transfer ratio, which isn’t nearly as good

Best Cards For Earning Capital One Points

Capital One has several good cards, though I’d say the best for earning Capital One miles include the following:

How Much Are Transferable Points Worth?

The above is my take on the pros and cons of transferable points, but how much is each point actually worth? People often disagree about which transferable points currency is most valuable, and that makes sense, given that we all have different redemption goals.

For example, if you’re a Hyatt loyalist then you’ll no doubt value Ultimate Rewards points a lot, since you can transfer points 1:1.

How much do I value transferable points?

  • I value Amex, Chase, and Citi points at ~1.7 cents each
  • I value Capital One miles at ~1.1 cents each (you earn two Venture/Spark miles per dollar spent, and redemptions aren’t 1:1, which is why the valuation is different)

If I had to prioritize Amex, Chase, and Citi points based on my personal redemption patterns, how would I do so? The truth is that my prioritization of these currencies depends on several factors. I always try to earn as many points per dollar as possible, but what’s the tiebreaker?

  • I look at which points currency I have the lowest balance of, so I can rebuild that
  • I look at at what my future travel plans are, and which currency would come most in handy

My general thoughts are as follows:

  • Chase points put me most at ease, because I can redeem them for 1.5 cents each towards expenses; I love that World of Hyatt is a transfer partner, but that’s the only partner I truly value
  • Amex and Citi have the edge for offering transfer bonuses with some frequency, which can help you earn even more points

Am I Overvaluing Transferable Points?

Historically I’ve thought that I’ve taken a conservative approach to valuing points. Others value transferable points at two or more cents each, and personally I think that’s aggressive. At the same time, I haven’t lowered my valuation of transferable points in years, and I’m wondering if it’s time?

On the one hand, I feel pretty comfortable with my valuations. While some points currencies have been devalued, we also see quite a few transfer bonuses, which make up for many of those devaluations.

At the same time, we’re now at a point where you can earn 2x transferable points per dollar spent with cards like the Citi® Double Cash Card and Amex Blue Business Plus, so it does make me wonder if suggesting you’re getting a 3.4% return isn’t steep?

I guess it depends if you look at points valuation from the perspective of acquisition cost, or from the perspective of realistic redemption value. I’d certainly welcome some opinions on this!

Bottom Line

If you’re trying to maximize the points you earn through credit card spending, I highly recommend accruing transferable points currencies. In addition to these cards often having great bonus categories, having transferable points gives you a lot of flexibility with how you redeem points.

Even if you’re not traveling much right now, the beauty of transferable points is how well they hold their value. This is a reason to keep earning points with these programs, even if you don’t have any immediate travel plans.

How do you view the relative value of the four transferable points currencies?

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Comments
  1. @Lucky

    No love for ANA on Amex? I think they might be the most valuable transfer partner. You can get around the world Business class for 125k or round trips to Europe or South America for 88k. Sure there are taxes and fees, but you can avoid and minimize them pretty easily.

  2. @ Ben — I agree with you valuation. Specifically, I would value them at 1.6-1.7. Most of the individual redemption partners are worth 0.9-1.6. Choosing the more valuable redemptions, plus having the flexibility to transfer as needed makes them worth a minimum of 1.5-1.6 and likely a bit more.

  3. Same +Andrew, but ANA is pretty quirky and requires some study.
    More things I don’t love about UR: They don’t have grocery category, it’s especially annoying for home cookers during pandemic, and they’re hardest to earn, which also makes the most valuable, IMO.

    I’d put the value squarely at UR > MR > TYP.

  4. @Lucky

    Any theories as to why American has virtually no transferable currency partners? (Other than Marriott?).

    I would reapply for the Citi cards in a heartbeat if they sign them up but alas this doesn’t seem likely.

  5. ANA is amazing on paper, but I think one factor that needs to be taken into account when assigning “value” to points/partners is whether transfers are instant. To me, that’s enormously important. At least in pre-covid environment, rolling the dice on whether biz seats (especially on difficult routes) will still be available 2-3 days later has deterred me from transferring to ANA and I went with Aeroplan instead. This is especially true for people with smaller points balances… if you only have 150k amex points, it could really hinder your plans to dump 90k into ANA, the seats disappear while you’re waiting for the points to show up, and now you’re locked to that program when you could’ve moved the points somewhere else.

  6. I strongly disagree that United and Delta programs are always/usually useless!

    I am currently planning a trip to India. On United, it’s 75k biz direct. On Turkish, it’s 93k biz with 1 stop. In comparison, Aeroplan asks for 100k minimum for the same. If you prefer Skyteam, Delta offers 102.5k plus $70 for virgin Atlantic, the exactly same flights that Flying Blue wants 115k plus $475 for. If you are really really lucky, Flying Blue has 110k plus $490 for either KLM or Air France, which still pale in comparison with Delta.

    Remind me again why United and Delta are bad?

  7. @Matt

    ANA has been instant when I transfer. I know it’s different for everyone. It might depend if you’ve transferred before.

    @magice

    It would be cheaper with ANA booking a round trip on United. It would be 136k or 68k points minimal taxes and fees).

  8. Chase had temporary grocery category during summer at 5X on the CSR (Instacart) and currently has 3X grocery category on CSR until April 2021.

  9. I’m surprised Ben didn’t list in his “don’t love” column the fact that if you transfer TY points to someone else, they have a hard expiration of 60 days.

  10. @ben How can you not mention Turkish Airlines being extremely valuable with Citi Thank You Points. Especially since it is only available as a transfer partner with Citi. You can get incredible value with 7,500 points to Hawaii from the US in coach or 12,500 in Business Class or 45,000 Business Class to Europe.

  11. ANA is my favorite Amex Partner

    While ANA does have some great deals be advised not all flights show up on ANA search engine.

    If you can find award it on any Star Alliance you may or may not be able to book it over phone.

    The LA call center is good but calling outside of Monday to Friday 9-4 Pacific is a complete waste of time as you will be routed overseas and they simply lack English skills

    Also important to note that once travel commences you can make changes but (minor) change fee is payable only points which take a few days to come across from Amex.
    The biggest problem is while ANA will allow partner changes once travel commences no route changes are permitted. I have been pretty lucky booking mixed class itineraries. If the airline your flying releases partner Business seats on exact flight your booked on ANA will move you without charge. This often happens just before airline starts upgrading their elite members

  12. Amex to ANA is a massively underrated transfer. You can book open jaws or roundtrip at a fraction (typically 50% less) than other programs. Example: I booked IAH-HND-HKG roundtrip with a stopover in Tokyo (on the departure segment from US) 85k Amex points roundtrip…not one way but roundtrip. That’s literally unbeatable. No other program can offer a seat in J for so few miles roundtrip. For me Amex to ANA is hands down the best option. Not traveling to Asia? I visited family in Munich roundtrip 3 tickets in business on UA from IAH for 85k a piece.

  13. Delta can be pretty brutal for transatlantic premium cabin redemptions. As someone who lives in an expensive airfare market, I do often find good value domestic redemptions from them. (Sometimes you just want a nice National Park trip, especially now with uncertain borders for a while) As someone who has to connect to get anywhere truly interesting, I’ll admit to frustration with both United- poor saver availability on that first hop to Houston makes the long haul price as a standard redemption too even if there’s saver inventory on that flight leg- and BA for their segment-based pricing that makes them far less of a value if you do have to connect.

  14. United MileagePlus has been devalued so heavily in recent years that there aren’t many circumstances where it makes sense to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to MileagePlus

    Yet more one-dimensional thinking that passes for wisdom in travel blogosphere. There is no reason to “park” ones transferable points in the miles or points of any loyalty program. The time to move transferable points to a specific loyalty program’s points currency is when one is about to redeem. With that in mind and considering how many *A partners United has, it is simply one-dimensional to think that transferring UR points to UA means using the points to book UA awards. What one can do, and I have done this for years, is to transfer points to UA to book award flights on any of their 25 *A partners, for which there is generally good value because *A awards usually cost about the same as UA’s saver awards but are general more available. Some may claim that UA has also ‘devalued’ partners awards, but that could be said pretty much much about the other major FF programs!

    World of Hyatt is probably where I see the most value; World of Hyatt has become so incredibly lucrative, and having easy access to points that you can redeem for Hyatt stays is fantastic.

    That statement is meaningful only because WoH points, like the now defunct starpoints but unlikethe points of some of their competitors, are relatively more expensive to earn. As one who patronizes Hilton Honors, whose points are among the easiest to earn loads of, I cringe at the thought using my hard-earned transferable points currencies to book hotel award stays.

    The point: much of the “wisdom” that’s offered here and elsewhere, sometimes dogmatically, should generally be viewed as..YMMV!

    G’day! 😉

  15. @DCS, I completely agree. The value of these programs (not specific to any travel vendor) is their flexibility. I don’t want to fly/stay somewhere simply because it is free. I go where and when and how I want to, and seek to use miles to both elevate the experience and lower the cost. To wit, the United program continues to be a very valuable transfer partner for me. I am going to Switzerland in early fall from Miami. I am only interesting in the most efficient routing, which in my case means flying Swiss nonstop to Zurich. I am departing out of Geneva to return home and United has the perfect flight option for me. This cost 137k UR points r/t pp for a ticket that would otherwise cost about $3700 USD. Decent savings but more importantly exactly meets my itinerary needs. I won’t wax lyrical about my ride home on United (old Polaris no less) but the timing/connection is perfect. That generates the highest value to me.

    While I am not particularly familiar with the Hyatt program, I do know their selection of higher end properties in markets I want to go is very very thin. Most standard Hyatts are the rough equivalent to Marriott properties and I have loads of those points via stays (from the now quaint days of business travel). So, if Hyatt happens to have a very high end property in a market where I want to go and the local location is desirable, then I might consider the transfer. But since the likelihood is very low I don’t consider Hyatt a valuable transfer partner—a perfect example of YMMV and why listening to bloggers such as OMAAT are fine and can provide useful advice, it is really up to each individual to determine value.

  16. You make a very brief reference to cashing out points at the end, but I’d love to see more of a focus on that. Or rather, what are the values one gets from redeeming points at easy, medium and hard levels of difficulty?
    While it makes me cringe, a lot of my friends do redeem their points at just 1 cent per point, so it’s a lot easier to recommend to them to cash out Chase UR points at 1.5 cents easily, and maybe put more of an effort into redeeming their other points for travel – or not bother earning points that are too difficult to redeem at worthwhile values.

  17. @MichaelB — Great corroboration of my points, thank you!

    There are other advantages of booking *A awards with UR through UA that are significant but are ignored in the rush to declare MileagePlus “too devalued”:

    — The transfer of UR points to UA miles is instantaneous, which means that one can snatch great *A award deals when they are still hot and available, rather than having to wait at least 24h , as transfers of UR points to SQ require, by which time the hot deals might have gone cold and away.

    — Also, purchasing *A awards through UA can minimize out of pocket cash on award tickets because UA does not tack on fuel surcharges, which can be huge, on *A awards even for partners like SQ or AC that tack on such surcharges if one books through them.

    — Searching for *A award on the UA website is much better (ease of use, and *A award availability) than searching on the SQ website, the other option for booking *A awards with UR points.

    — Given (a) that when one has status with *A one would want to fly with *A carriers to take advantage of that status and (b) that the only way to book *A awards using UR points (other than booking through Chase, which is quite limiting) is by transferring UR points to either UA or SQ for which IMHO UA has an edge, the notion that “there aren’t many circumstances where it makes sense to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to MileagePlus” is truly baffling to me.

    Playing the game with a “full deck” means doing multi-dimension thinking to try to get the most out of one’s miles and points…

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