Travel

Which Transferable Credit Card Points Are The Best?

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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.

In this post I wanted to share my general thoughts on the four major transferable points currencies — Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One. This includes sharing what I like, what I don’t like, and how I generally redeem 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, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Three programs partner with Air Canada Aeroplan, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and Etihad Guest

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 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, let me share how I’m feeling about these programs.

American Express Membership Rewards

Here are the 20 Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners, including 17 airline partners and three hotel partners:

Airline Partners

Hotel Partners

Aer Lingus AerClub

Choice Privileges

Aeromexico Club Premier

Hilton Honors

Air Canada Aeroplan

Marriott Bonvoy

Air France-KLM Flying Blue

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

American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners

Things I love about Amex points

  • Amex Membership Rewards continues to have the most transfer partners of these four programs
  • Amex offers transfer bonuses the most often of the four programs, which can really help you maximize the value of your points

Things I don’t love about Amex points

  • Amex is the only one of these programs that passes on a federal excise tax when transferring points to 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 Amex points

  • All Nippon Airways Mileage Club is a unique transfer partner that has some incredibly low redemption rates; the catch is that transfers sometimes aren’t instant, you can’t book one-way awards, and the process of booking can be cumbersome
  • Air Canada Aeroplan is a valuable transfer partner, especially for award tickets on partner airlines with stopovers, and this used to be exclusive to Amex; however, now Aeroplan is also partners with Capital One and Chase, so that’s no longer a competitive advantage
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue can be useful, given business class transatlantic award pricing and availability
  • 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
  • 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 Amex 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 14 Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, including 11 airline partners and three hotel partners:

Airline Partners

Hotel Partner

Aer Lingus AerClub

IHG Rewards

Air Canada Aeroplan

Marriott Bonvoy

Air France-KLM Flying Blue

World of Hyatt

British Airways Executive Club

Emirates Skywards

Iberia Plus

JetBlue TrueBlue

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Southwest Rapid Rewards

United MileagePlus

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners

Things I love about Chase points

  • 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 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 about Chase points

  • Unlike American Express, Capital One, and Citi, Chase historically hasn’t had many transfer bonuses, though this is something that has improved in the past couple of years, as we’ve started to see bonuses
  • Chase doesn’t have as many transfer partners as some of the other programs; for example, Chase has 11 airline partners, but three of them overlap (Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia), so really I only view Chase as having nine airline partners

Where I’m seeing value transferring Chase points

Transfer Chase points to Hyatt for stays at some great hotels

Where I’m seeing less value transferring Chase points

  • Given the 1:1 transfer ratio, IHG Rewards 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 (then again, with most of Asia continuing to remain closed, that’s not much of a loss right now)
  • 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 16 Citi ThankYou transfer partners, including 14 airline partners and two hotel partners:

Airline Partners

Hotel Partners

Aeromexico Club Premier

Choice Hotels

Air France-KLM Flying Blue

Wyndham Rewards

Avianca LifeMiles

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Emirates Skywards

Etihad Guest

EVA Air Infinity MileageLands

Malaysia Airlines Enrich

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Qatar Airways Privilege Club

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Citi ThankYou transfer partners

Things I love about Citi points

  • 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

Things I don’t love about Citi points

Where I’m seeing value transferring Citi 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 offers great value 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
  • Turkish Miles&Smiles is an underrated program in terms of redemption value, both for domestic redemptions on United, and for transatlantic redemptions on Turkish; the catch is that the process of booking through Turkish can be a pain
  • 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, one of the best ways 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 Citi points

  • A lot of Citi’s partners programs are those belonging to great airlines, but where the award redemption value is 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 16 Capital One transfer partners, including 14 airline partners and two hotel partners:

Airline Partners

Hotel Partners

Aeromexico Club Premier

Accor Live Limitless (ALL)

Air Canada Aeroplan

Wyndham Rewards

Air France-KLM Flying Blue

Avianca LifeMiles

British Airways Executive Club

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Emirates Skywards

Etihad Guest

EVA Air Infinity MileageLands

Finnair Plus

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles

Capital One transfer partners

Things I love about Capital One miles

  • 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 has massively improved the value proposition of its mileage transfer program, both by adding new partners, and by improving the transfer ratio, with a vast majority of partners now offering 1:1 transfers

Things I don’t love about Capital One miles

  • Capital One’s transfer program lacks unique partners; all of Capital One’s valuable partners are ones that at least one other program has as well
  • While Capital One’s cards are great for everyday spending, I wish Capital One had more cards that offered bonus points in certain spending categories

Where I’m seeing value transferring Capital One miles

  • Capital One is awesome for transfers to programs like Air Canada Aeroplan, Air France-KLM Flying Blue, Avianca LifeMiles, Emirates Skywards, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and more
Transfer Capital One miles to Flying Blue for redemptions in KLM business class

Where I’m seeing less value transferring Capital One miles

  • I used to think that redeeming Capital One miles for one cent each towards the cost of a travel purchase was a good value, but with mileage transfers now being 1:1 to a vast majority of programs, I have a strong preference for converting Capital One miles into airline miles

Best cards for earning Capital One miles

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 Chase Ultimate Rewards points a lot, since you can transfer points 1:1.

How much do I value transferable points? At this point I value all four of them at 1.7 cents each. In the past I valued Capital One miles at significantly less, but with transfers now being 1:1 to a vast majority of partners, that’s no longer the case.

If I had to prioritize Amex, Chase, Citi, and Capital One 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 based on their unique transfer partners, history of offering transfer bonuses, etc.

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, since that’s a unique partner that can be incredibly valuable, and I can never have enough Hyatt points
  • I’d say my second favorite currency is Amex points, thanks to the variety of partners, and the number of transfer bonuses we see
Transferable points are the key to traveling in comfort

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 Capital One Venture X Card, Citi® Double Cash Card, Amex Blue Business Plus Card, 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!

Earn up to 2x transferable points on everyday spending

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, as the points hold their value extremely well.

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

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