When it comes to earning credit card rewards, I’ve long recommended earning transferable points. The benefit of this is that you get tons of flexibility with your points, as you can redeem them for all kinds of flights. This also safeguards you from devaluations in any particular frequent flyer program.
Why I recommend waiting to transfer points
My recommendation with transferable points is to keep them flexible until you’re ready to redeem, and then you can transfer your points.
As you can see, in most cases transfers are supposed to be instant. When that’s the case, there’s always the caveat that the transfers might not be instant, though.
Since I’m against speculatively transferring points, my strategy in general is to keep the points in my Amex/Chase/Citi/Capital One account until I’m ready to redeem, and once I find the itinerary I want I transfer the points and make the booking. At least that’s my strategy for points that transfer to partners instantly.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned
It’s worth acknowledging that sometimes this backfires, and when that happens, it can be really frustrating. Let me give an example I’m facing right now, which is along the lines of something I hear from readers every so often.
On Friday I tried to transfer points to Etihad Guest. Etihad Guest is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One. I decided to transfer Amex Membership Rewards points, since I had the most of those. Points from all those currencies are supposed to transfer instantly to Etihad.
I transferred 88,000 points from Amex while on hold with the Etihad Guest representative, figuring the points would transfer instantly, as they have in the past… except they didn’t.
I waited a couple of hours, figuring that maybe there was some sort of slight delay. They still didn’t post.
I phoned up Amex, explained that they’ve always transferred instantly for me, and asked if they knew of any issues. Nope, but the representative said it could take up to 48 hours.
I wondered if maybe the problem was with my Amex account, so Ford transferred points from his Amex account to my Etihad Guest account (I’m an authorized user on some of his cards, which is why that’s possible). I hate double transferring, but I also have a feeling the original transfer won’t go through, and it’s for a last minute ticket. So we transferred points from his account, and nothing happened.
So then I figured I’d try to transfer Citi ThankYou points. When I entered Etihad Guest as a transfer partner and selected the mileage amount, I received a message saying “When we tried to complete your Points Transfer, we encountered a system error. Please try again or contact Customer Service for help.”
I phoned up Citi customer service, and the representative said they were having some sort of a problem, and didn’t know when it would be resolved. I asked when it would be resolved, and she said maybe Monday. I asked if this just impacted Etihad or also other transfer partners, and the answer was “yes.”
In the meantime it has been 48 hours since the Amex transfer, which is the upper time limit, according to them. The problem is that when a points transfer doesn’t go through directly, it sort of disappears into thin air — Amex says they sent the points, and Etihad says they haven’t received the points.
They can open a file regarding this, but it’s something that could take days or weeks to resolve, rather than hours. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ll either get my Amex points back or my Etihad miles eventually, but it could be a really long time.
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:
- The credit card companies seem to have very limited capacity to resolve these issues in a timely manner
- You’re pushed back and forth between the credit card company and the airline partner, with neither party acknowledging anything is wrong
- The process can take weeks to resolve
Fortunately this is fairly rare, but it does happen, and it’s feedback I get from readers fairly often. So I do think it’s something that’s worth keeping in mind, should you be in a situation where you feel you need a particular points currency.
In this case I’m not sure what exactly is going on. It’s weird that both Amex and Citi are having issues with Etihad points transfers. This leads me to believe the issue might be on Etihad’s side, but nobody at Etihad seems to think so. Maybe they’re just not aware?
It also makes me wonder if there might be a problem specifically with my Etihad account that’s linked to both programs, rather than the program on the whole.
Regardless, this sure can be a frustrating runaround.
Has anyone found themselves frustrated when transferable points transfers don’t go as planned?