Transferable Points Currencies: Which Are Most Valuable?

Filed Under: American Express, Capital One
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About a year ago I wrote a post sharing my thoughts on the “major” transferable points currencies. A lot has changed since then, though. A new currency has been formed, and partnerships and value propositions of existing programs have also changed.

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.

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 and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

So 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:

Aer Lingus Aer ClubChoice Privileges
AeroMexico 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
El Al Matmid
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

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; you can’t gift points to others, including a spouse or household member

Where I’m seeing value transferring points

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

Where I’m seeing less value transferring points

  • Delta SkyMiles used to be a great program, but with increasing restrictions on redeeming miles and higher costs, I’m seeing less value than ever before in these transfers
Earn Amex points with the following cards:

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Here are the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners:

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)

Things I don’t love

  • Unlike American Express, Capital One, and Citi, Chase almost never has transfer bonuses; while they partner with Air France/KLM Flying Blue, British Airways Executive Club, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, I’d 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, they have nine airline partners, but three of them overlap (Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia), so really I only view them as having seven partners

Where I’m seeing value transferring points

  • World of Hyatt is probably where I see the most value nowadays, and I’d argue the value in transferring Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt has increased lately, given that award nights now count towards status
  • Singapore KrisFlyer continues to be a great program for premium cabin redemptions on Singapore Airlines, and all programs partner with them; there are never transfer bonuses from any of the programs, so transferring from any of the four currencies is roughly comparable

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 and Marriott aren’t valuable transfer partners since their points aren’t worth as much
  • Chase lost Korean Air SkyPass as a transfer partner last year, and this is a huge loss, because in my opinion SkyPass was the single most valuable transfer partner that Chase had
  • United just announced that they’re switching to dynamic award pricing for the MileagePlus program, which is bad news

Earn Chase points with the following cards:

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Here are the Citi ThankYou transfer partners:

Air France/KLM Flying BlueN/A
Avianca Lifemiles
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
Etihad Guest
Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
Jet Airways JetPrivilege
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 more transfer partners than both Amex and Chase in the past couple of years
  • Citi doesn’t charge fees for transferring points to any of their partners
  • 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

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

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 they don’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 longhaul 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 they also partner 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, Jet Airways JetPrivilege, Qatar Privilege Club, and more

Earn Citi points with the following cards:

Capital One

Capital One only created a transferable points currency this past December, so they’re the exciting new entrant into this world. Here are the Capital One transfer partners:

Aeromexico Club PremierN/A
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Avianca LifeMiles
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Emirates Skywards
Etihad Guest
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
Finnair Plus
Hainan Fortune Wings Club
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
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 of their partners
  • 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 only recently introduced mileage transfer partners, and they’ve already offered a transfer bonus, and have said they plan to continue to do that in the future
  • 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 new, they lack unique partners; all of their 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 they 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
  • 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

Earn Capital One miles with the following cards:

How much are transferrable 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.

So, how much do I value these 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, I’d probably say I value Amex and Citi points slightly more than Chase points. Why?

  • Amex and Citi both offer transfer bonuses with some frequency, which really help you maximize your points
  • Chase lost Korean Air as a transfer partner and now United is devaluing, so Hyatt is their only “unique” partner where there’s a lot of value

It’s interesting, because I feel like Ultimate Rewards had the edge for a long time, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore, and it’s time they add some valuable new partners.

Bottom line

If you’re trying to maximize the points you earn through credit card spend, 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.

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

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  1. You completely ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room: long delays and technical glitches in transferring points.

    When you find an available award flight, you generally need to grab it immediately, or else someone else will. Not tomorrow. Not in a few days. Not in a week or 10 days. Not in two months. NOW.

    In a few cases, with some specific partners, transfers are instant. That’s how it should be, and yes that makes transfers to those partners valuable. But for far too many partners, transfers can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, to who-the-hell-knows how long it’ll take because nobody knows and nobody is terribly vested in fixing the issue – this happens a lot more often than you think. This makes those transfers all but useless, because all transfers are one-way, and it’s often the case that the award you wanted vanishes within hours (sometimes in minutes) and then there’s other option for your orphaned points.

    I know you make your income from pushing credit cards. But it’s really dishonest to omit this critical limitation of the transfer process and it does a real disservice to readers who will initiate a transfer of a big bucket of points for a trip, then be stuck with their points in limbo as the seats they wanted are snatched up by someone else. If you wanted to provide a really helpful resource, you would note not only the typical transfer times to your article, but also describe the real-world limitations where points just get stuck and take weeks or months to get where you wanted them.

  2. Interesting analysis, Ben! I wonder, though, whether the ease with which the various transferable “currencies” can be accumulated (through sign-up bonuses, ongoing spend, bonus categories, etc) shouldn’t also be taken into account in your weighting.

  3. Southwest is a ‘unique’ partner of Chase and, for those of us who fly frequently in North America/Hawaii, they offer tremendous value.
    I think that the other thing that pushes Chase UR points to the top is the flexibility to redeem for either $.0125 or $0.015 (with the CSR) through the travel portal for ANY hotel or flight (like the beachfront small hotel on the Cote d’Azur which I just booked for June).

    You also forgot to mention a downside of the Citi points related to transfers, which is that they expire and are lost 90 days after they are transferred. This could be a real problem in situations where the transfer is for a desired award and is not instantaneous, with the award disappearing before the transfer is complete.

  4. I’d propose an edit of the Amex MR list to specifically include Avianca. It is one of Amex’s most valuable partners. To counterbalance the United devaluation, it would be great too if Chase got Avianca on board as well 🙂

  5. The relative lack of transfer bonuses by Chase lowers them a few rungs. I’ve always wondered if transfer bonuses are considered in the value of points. Really makes a huge difference.

  6. I have a hard time deciding which points to earn for my credit card spend.

    Right now I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, AMEX Gold, Alaska Airlines Visa card, a Bank of America Premium Rewards card and a few more cards that I don’t use (and don’t have annual fees).

    I usually fly twice a year to Europe and once a year to someplace sunny.

    It seems like cash back might actually be my best choice, but it’s so so so boring.

    I’ve really enjoyed redeeming Alaska miles for first class travel on Alaska and held their card since 2004, but never have been able to use those miles to redeem for partner flights to Europe except on BA in economy with extra stops in either Chicago or LA.

    I’d really like a points program that transparently earned business class flights to Europe. I did use miles transferred to United to get a business class flight on Lufthansa and Delta SkyMiles to redeem a flight on Virgin Upper Class, but the flight times were inconvenient and required buying one-ways, extra hotel stays and extra stops to make them work.

    I usually spend a bunch of time trying to find space with miles for Europe, but then give up. My go-to after giving up is to book Iceland Air Saga class or BA World Traveller Plus with cash and credit the miles to Alaska.

    The total annual fees I’m paying is $75 for the Alaska card, $150 for the Chase card and I will pay $250 if I keep the AMEX Gold card past this year. $475 a year to keep three points programs going seem like a lot of cash.

  7. I am a little unclear how Chase points are transferable to members of your household if they are not authorized users. Do they need a Chase account of some kind? When I try to transfer them to United, it says only has my own name as an option. Please explain.

  8. Consideration of the ability to earn points in a given currency should be included in this conversation.

    American Express have the most options in terms of cards and offer the ability to self refer (and refer others for all but 3 cards they offer), Chase offer referralsl bonuses for held cards and have a portal allowing extra points earn and a large ecosystem of cards, Citi have multiple cards that earn ThankYou points but the range is limited (and referral options are sparse) and Captial One offer no bonus spend and have a tiny set of cards that earn.

    Captial One should move ahead of Citi if they were to bring the Savor card into their transferable points program and get rid of their 2 card maximum, however their high aversion to perceived risk seemingly makes this unlikely.

  9. I’m not sure I agree with your (and TPG’s) inclusion of hotel transfer rates in a framework for valuation, though I agree that in the end it is highly YMMV.

  10. Citi points expire after 90 days when transferred? How does that work? How can they expire once they are converted to airline points?

  11. I have been searching for flights to India (and back) later this year, and my perception is that Chase is probably the least valuable points. The only program that is worth any salt (against Citi and Amex) is United, and United somehow doesn’t seem to have as much access to award seats as Aeroplan and Lifemile. The only airlines available is China Airlines. Asiana? No (Aeroplan sees it!). EVA? No (both Aeroplan and Lifemiles see it). United? Well, that’s a big no no, of course (same for Delta and Flying Blue; they release none of their goodies). Sometimes, DELTA seems to have better availability than United. With United sucks, Chase point value crashes.

  12. Meehh. This is just a domestic US piece. Amex and Citi non-US do transfer as well but earn rates are about 1/5th on spending and conversion rates are also about 1/5th.

    For this kind of posts it would make sense to highlight in the header that it is US only.

  13. If you pool your Citi points from someone else it will expire 90 after you receive your points. So just redeem/transfer those points in 90 days.

    Many people still value Chase over AMEX or Citi because redeeming CSR $0.015 for ease of use and not trying maximizing is good enough. For simplicity, no one should redeem CSR even at $0.015 if they want to maximize their points.

  14. @qofmiwok,

    Shared points, which are ThankYou points transferred to another person’s ThankYou account, expire 90 days from the date they’re transferred.

  15. @LAX2JFK4EVA:

    Yes, the member of your household needs to have a UR account with Chase as well. Once you both have accounts, go to the UR portal for the account from which you want to transfer, click on “Combine Points” (you may first have to click “See All”), and then click on “Add Household Member.” Transfers are instant, and your partner can then in turn transfer the points to United or wherever else.

  16. How to hold the currencies?

    What are the combination of cards that can hold these transferable currencies while maintaining a good flexibility and minimizing annual fee?

    Ideally, one can just put the annual for all top cards in all major programs, but with overlapping bonus, it may not be the sensible way financially.

    for example, if one has citi prestige, amex plat, amex aspire, chase sapphire reserve… there are so many priority passes that is really overlapping.

    which one should be downgraded to minizmize fee

  17. I wonder if this post is now (possibly) stale? I remember Citi reducing the benefits on (at least some) of their cards and them complaining about the cost of same. The other (potential) issue when valuing points is whether the card generates 1099 tax documents and under what conditions? I’ll have to wade through posts to find examples of this particular one.

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