Types of Miles and Points

Types of Miles and Points

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There is a ton of vocabulary and jargon in the frequent flyer world, which can be quite intimidating. You’ll pick up more of the terms as you go along, but at the beginning it’s important to distinguish between a few different types of miles and points.

  • Airline Miles / Hotel Points
  • Fixed-Value Points
  • Flexible / Transferable Points

Airline Miles and Hotel Points

Most of us are familiar with at least the concept of airline miles and hotel points – those are essentially a rebate offered by a specific brand in exchange for loyalty to their company. Those companies set the earnings rates, redemption values, and all the other terms and conditions.

Not only are there airline miles to consider, but you likely have (or have heard of) rewards points with a bank or credit card as well. These typically come in two varieties: fixed-value and transferable.

What are Fixed Value Points?

As the name might suggest, fixed-value points can be redeemed towards a specific dollar amount of travel. The amounts vary by program, but you’ll typically receive 1¢-2¢ per point towards travel.

These include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Citi ThankYou points (with some exceptions)
  • Bank of America Worldpoints
  • US Bank FlexPerks Rewards
  • USAA Rewards
  • Wells Fargo Rewards
  • Capital One No Hassle Rewards (these are somewhat different than Capital One Miles)
  • Barclaycard Arrival Miles

Some programs require you to redeem through the bank portal, while others will issue a statement credit.

In general, however, you are redeeming fixed-value points for tickets that could otherwise be purchased with cash.

So if a given airline ticket was selling for $100, and you had a fixed-value currency that gave you 1¢ per point towards travel, you would need 10,000 points for that ticket.

That’s why these programs advertise as having “no blackout dates” or having the ability to “choose any airline” – your bank is essentially purchasing retail airfare for you, in exchange for points you’ve accumulated with their program. Because these tickets are typically revenue fares, you will typically earn miles when you fly on a ticket procured with a fixed-value currency!

So why even bother with miles? Fixed-value points sound great!

Fixed-value points are fantastic if you want to travel on domestic economy tickets! Domestic tickets (especially in the US) can be surprisingly difficult to redeem airline miles for, so fixed-value currencies are a great alternative.

However, if you’re looking at traveling internationally, particularly in premium cabins, fixed-value points just won’t get you very far. An international business class ticket might require 110,000 airline miles, but since the retail price is likely upwards of $5000, you’d need over 500,000 Bank of America points, for example. And that’s a cheap premium cabin ticket. Some first class tickets would cost as much as a new car if paying cash.

So what are the other options?

What are Flexible / Transferable Points?

One of the major perks to bank points, as opposed to airline miles, is that as a consumer you’re insulated from dramatic changes or unannounced devaluations from a particular airline. So for many people it makes sense to focus on a flexible points currency, with transferable rewards.

These programs typically allow you to transfer points directly to their airline or hotel partners. This gives you lots of options when it’s time to redeem your airline miles, as you have the opportunity to search for award availability across alliances prior to committing to a certain mileage currency.

Credit Card Transfer Partners

One of the reasons I consistently recommend flexible point currencies is the versatility you have when transferring your points. The same significant balance of credit card points can be transferred to a variety of airlines or hotel partners, therefore making them incredibly valuable when used strategically.

Each transferable currency has its strong (and weak) partners, so it’s important to think about where you want your points to take you before stockpiling any specific one. The main flexible points currencies are American Express Membership RewardsChase Ultimate RewardsCapital One Mileage TransferCiti ThankYou, and Marriott Bonvoy.

American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners

No matter where you want to go in the world, there are great ways to redeem Amex rewards points:

Airlines
Hotels
Aer Lingus Aer Club
Choice Privileges
Aeroméxico Club Premier
Hilton Honors
Air Canada Aeroplan
Marriott 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

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

You can learn more about how to earn and redeem Ultimate Rewards points in our guide, but here are the transfer partners:

Airlines
Hotels
Aer Lingus Aer Club
IHG Rewards Club
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Marriott Bonvoy
British Airways Executive Club
World of Hyatt
Emirates Skywards
Iberia Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue
Singapore KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Capital One Mileage Transfer Partners

Capital One’s miles-earning cards can now transfer directly to partners. These include miles earned on the following cards:

And you have over a dozen loyalty programs to choose from:

Capital One Transfer Partner
Transfer Ratio
Transfer Time
Aeromexico Club Premier
1000 : 1000
Instant
Air Canada Aeroplan
1000 : 750
Instant
Air France KLM Flying Blue
1000 : 750
Instant
Alitalia MilleMiglia
1000 : 750
Instant
Avianca LifeMiles
1000 : 1000
Instant
British Airways Executive Club
1000 : 750
Instant
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
1000 : 1000
~ 3 to 5 days
Emirates Skywards
1000 : 500
Instant
Etihad Guest
1000 : 1000
~ 12 to 24 hours
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
1000 : 750
~ 24 to 48 hours
Finnair Plus
1000 : 1000
Instant
JetBlue TrueBlue
1000 : 750
Instant
Qantas Frequent Flyer
1000 : 1000
~ 24 to 48 hours
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
1000 : 500
~ 24 to 48 hours
TAP Miles&Go
1000 : 1000
Instant
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
1000 : 750
~ 12 to 24 hours
Accor Live Limitless (ALL)
1000 : 500
~ 24 to 48 hours
Wyndham Rewards
1000 : 1000
Instant

Premier Citi ThankYou Transfer Partners

Holders of the Citi Premier® Card, Citi Prestige Card, and Citi Chairman Card are also able to transfer their ThankYou Points to airline partners.

Airlines
Hotels
Aeroméxico Club Premier
N/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

Brex Transfer Partners

Brex is a cool product that offers a streamlined and innovative solution for startups and tech companies. Their rewards can be transferred to the following partners:

Airlines
Hotels
Aeromexico Club Premier
N/A, though various hotels are bookable through the rewards portal.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Avianca Lifemiles
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Emirates Skywards
JetBlue TrueBlue
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Marriott Bonvoy Transfer Partners

Earning Marriott points isn’t as easy or lucrative as it used to be, though they do have more transfer partners than any other program:

It is worth noting that while most bank transfers are rather quick (and instant in many cases), Marriott transfers can take a few weeks, depending on the program you’re transferring to.

So which miles or points should I be collecting?

Well, that depends a great deal on your travel goals! There is always a bit of a balance between accruing the most points, or the most valuable points, and the only way to determine the best route for you is to know where and how you want to travel.

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  1. Bobtut

    My question is, since most airlines are making using miles to purchase a flight much harder to do and costing more miles than ever before, which is better Miles or Points?

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Bobtut

My question is, since most airlines are making using miles to purchase a flight much harder to do and costing more miles than ever before, which is better Miles or Points?

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