When Transferable Points Don’t Transfer

Filed Under: Credit Cards

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.

I’ve written about the transfer times for points with Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One.

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.

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:

  • 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?

  1. I recently transferred points to Singapore KrisFlyer. Both Chase and Citi went through within 24hr, but Amex took five days only to have the transfer cancelled without notice. I called and was informed that Singapore refused to receive the points. So I called Singapore and was told they never saw the transfer request in their system…so I called Amex back to investigate further and they could not provide any error code or explanation, just “unknown error” and “we’re sorry but never saw this happen before…”. With my awards on hold I have some time to wait. I tried again with Amex, only this time I performed the transfer on a desktop (compared to the previous attempt which was through their phone app). This time it went through in 48hr.

  2. I have points missing from a transfer from Etisalat Smiles to Etihad Guest going back as far as 2014. I pursued it for 2 years but then gave up and wrote the transfer off.

    I also had a mileage claim for a Jet Airways flight take nearly 24 months to be credited to Etihad Guest, and when they credited it they gave it retroactive validity so the points actually expired just 3 days after they were finally credited to the account.

    Etihad Guest customer service is a joke.

  3. Same on AMEX to Emirates Skywards. Lost me an Upgrade-Opportunity. Got 1000 Points as an excuse for days on the phone and countless, fruitless emails to both sides. In the end, they reappeared on the Amex side and were transferred days later manually by their back-office support.

  4. Wow, what are the odds. I am in the exact same situation as you Ben.

    Wednesday 3/27 – Initiated transfer from MR. Was expecting the transfer to be instant but no dice.

    Friday 3/29 – points still missing so I call amex and their rep tells me the transfer was cancelled due to a “system outage” on EY’s side. I called EY for an explanation and they claim no system outage whatsoever but that the billing address of the amex account need to match the address on file in my EY account. Well as luck would have it my EY account does indeed have an old address so I figured that must be what was going on, the crappy EY website won’t allow me to change my address so I have to email him a photocopy of my passport and he does the change over the phone.

    Sat 3/30 – I then re-process the transfer saturday morning from MR –> EY and again the points do NOT show up instantly. The phone rep says it may take 24 hours but he is willing to open a case and escalate it at this point…he was supposed to call me back sat afternoon but i never heard from him

    Now it is Sun 3/31 and it has been 24 hours and the points are still MIA. I am not optimistic. I was actually just researching TYP –> EY transfer times and came across an article of yours and an article from TPG saying 3-7 days. I was gonna try it anyways but the fact that you and I both happen to be having the exact same problem indicates this is some sort of tech issue and I would agree with your conclusion that it is likely on EY’s side…

    Can you throw around some of your blogger weight and get this escalated with EY so they realize there is indeed a problem and start working to fix it?

  5. Ditto @ Ruizhi Liu. Have had an Amex MR transfer to KrisFlyer ‘fall off the face of the map’ once before.

  6. Is it surprising that a company in financial duress is having difficulties in both its IT infrastructure and its customer support?

  7. About a month ago I tried to transfer points to Etihad from Citi for a redemption on Bangkok Airways; Citi was having trouble with transfer as far back as then, so this seems to be a recurring issue for them.

    After 3-4 days of trying to transfer, calling Citi, calling Etihad, etc. I gave up and transferred Amex MR. That worked just fine back then, but as I said, that was about a month ago.

  8. Do you know if the Marriott(SPG) points transfer issues have been ironed out? Initially, I read a lot of people getting their points hung up in limbo. Thanks.

  9. Update, I got a response from an agent I’ve been emailing with:

    “Dear Mr. HoKo,

    It seems that issue with points transfer from AMEX is from our side. I cannot advise any details because we don’t know what is causing this issue.

    IT team is currently resolving this and I sincerely hope that solution will come soon enough.

    Will update you as we get some information about this.”

  10. I am having the same problem transferring TU points from Citi to Etihad for weeks now. Got the same message as Ben when trying to transfer online. Called Citi to do. They had same problem and told me it has been going on for months. Of course Etihad says no problem at their end! So frustrated don’t know what to do next.

  11. Actually, this problem seems to be Etihad’s. I’ve been having the same issue trying to transfer MR points to Etihad 3 times in the past weeks. In all 3 cases, my points were returned to me after 48 hrs.
    The AMEX rep I talked to (the 3rd one) told me that the AMEX system on her side was showing my 3 transfer attempts as cancelled due to system errors. We first thought this was an AMEX issue but decided to call Etihad to find out if there were any issues on their end. So, the AMEX rep called the Etihad Guest customer service while I was still on the line with her. The Etihad representative confirmed that they’ve been having system issues and that all 3 of my transfer transactions did not go through due to this reason. She said she has escalated the matter to the next level and asked me to try again. I tried for the 4th time and yet again the transaction was cancelled and the points were returned to me.

  12. About a month ago my wife transferred 165,000 Amex MR points to ANA for award flights to and from Japan/Thailand. The points arrived in her account 48 hours later. The next day, they were gone. We contacted ANA who told us that the points were sent back to AMEX for “security reasons”, and of course AMEX said that this was not true and her points should still be with ANA. After about 2 weeks of investigation, AMEX eventually reinstated her MR points, but of course the award space we had our eye on was now gone. Never got a explanation of how/why this had happened.

  13. Lucky, did a transfer for 88,000 amex points to Etihad Friday, same day as you. Points still haven’t transferered. Need a flight for a partner of theres (royal air Maroc) which was available. What do we do? Just wait now?? Let’s do something about this Haha.

  14. I had a problem with Chase UR not transferring instantly to United for miles I needed to complete a two-person booking. I got lucky. I called United and while the agent couldn’t see the points, he agreed to give me a 5-day hold on the tickets since that’s what the Chase folks said could be the maximum time. Nearly 5 days came and went and I was pretty panicky since this was for a once in a lifetime trip. I was talking with a Chase CR rep and I asked if I could make a second transfer work, could she cancel the first one? She said she could, and suggested trying to transfer just 1000 points and see if went through instantly. It did, then so did the rest of the points I needed. She canceled my first transfer, I booked my tickets, and am heading to the Galapagos this summer.

  15. I am saying goodbye to Amex MM transfers into Etihad as a result of a hassle that took Etihad customer service 5 weeks to unwind.

    Last month after unsuccessful attempts at booking Etihad reward seats online at their website and receiving error messages, I called an agent. The customer service rep informed: “ Your Etihad Account is Frozen”.

    The Etihad rep could not tell me why, only to refer me to contact + email the security department. After a few days the security unit emailed to inform that a substantial number of Etihad Guest accounts were hacked.

    I will save you all the frustrating back and forth, including Etihad’s request of a scanned image of my passport with photo, a local drivers license showing my address, and a screenshot of the Amex Membership Miles Transfer reflecting the original amount of miles transferred in “To Prove” where the miles came from (All these electronic miles transfers have a footprint, and they could not see the coding where my miles originated from ??).

    Oh and get this, the security dept is either located in Serbia or routes their calls and correspondence thru Serbia (they called me) How comfortable do you think I felt sending this confidential personal information to a voice in Serbia knowing my account was already hacked ??! I never could get through to a supervisor, nor could be transferred in. It was only when the security dept. reached out to me was when I could communicate live time.

    Net/Net account was unfrozen. Miles intact. I booked a reward seat using up all but 1,000 miles. You have to question the cyber security firewall Etihad has in place to protect its Guest Accounts. 5 weeks to unwind this mess. I am done with it.

  16. 2 years ago it took over 30 days for my Thank You points to find my Etihad account. I lost cheap point flights due to this. We finally did book flights on AA for 50K miles each way. However, due to a hurricane, my wife, a teacher, had to work longer in the year and we had to reschedule the flight. It took another month to get the points back showing in my Etihad account. They also took 10% away, which was 20K. Unless there is some special deal with Etihad, I will never transfer points there again.

  17. I can never transfer my Amex MR to British Airways because my account on BA has my first middle and last name like it is on my passport. Amex only has first name, middle initial, and last name. So Amex always errors out and says my name doesn’t match the airline account name

    Super frustrating.

  18. Found some Etihad Guest space and wanted to book it asap. Sent Amex MR points to Etihad, but the transfer did not go through. Exactly the same story as for you, Lucky, and few other readers.

    Frustrating – appears to be a systematic issue, not just my account.

  19. I’m having the same issue. Transferred AMEX points to Etihad on 3/28; still not showing up in Etihad account. Citi Thank you points gives me an error and folks on flyertalk say this have been an issue dating back to January. I need to book a flight on Air Seychelles and Etihad is the only way to book an award. 🙁

  20. Transferred IHG point to United Airlines. 3 months and 12 phone calls were required ultimately. Not ideal.

  21. Considering this post I though it was amusing that I got this email from them today:
    “Bring them all together and boost your balance by transferring your everyday loyalty points into Etihad Guest Miles this April.

    With 20% bonus miles, there’s never been a better time to put those points to good use.”

    They were referring to hotel programs.

  22. @lucky, are the points back in your account? My points were back in my account within 72 hours.

  23. EY told me to try again yesterday, and now i’m in the same cycle I think. Amex opened a “inquiry” and said 5-7 days or 7-10 business days depending on who I ask.

  24. @Michael Same here, transfer from last week canceled and points returned. I tried again yesterday and waiting again. Only thing Etihad agent mentioned is that it has been happening alot lately and Amex checks for “details” of Etihad account to make sure it is right account. Does not make sense but I updated my profile to make sure address and phone info was correct. I expect it to fail again but definitely don’t want multiple failed transfers lock out my Etihad account like Tomas in the comments.

  25. Last week I was actually trying to transfer points but my account was on hold per EY so i never made the transfer…then they resolved my hold but now I can’t transfer points.

  26. Same history with me, but this time is MR with Emirates. What a mess to transfer points to Skywards! Not solved yet!

  27. Very timely because I had a slightly different issue this week. I saw a flight on Fiji Airlines to Australia for 2 pax available on Qantas website. I checked the blogs, including this one, that said Citi TY point transfers to Qantas took 1-2 days. Went and transferred almost 200,000 points. Flight was still available 3 days later, but points had not transferred. Flight disappeared the next day and miles finally transferred on the 7th day. Now I’m out almost 200,000 TY points. When I called Citi on Day 3 to inquire about the status of the transfer, they said the “terms” with Qantas is that a transfer takes 7-14 days. Yet when they give the disclaimer at the time of transfer, they only said it may take “up to 14 days,” which I interpreted as just CYA language in case something went wrong. If they had actually told me the transfer was supposed to take 7-14 days, I would never have done it and wouldn’t now be out those TY points.

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