The biggest advantage of earning transferrable credit card points is the flexibility when you need to redeem them for travel. You can never know in advance which airline program will have availability on the flights you want to take. It’s impossible to put a value on being able to move points into whichever program you need at the exact moment you need them.
As a reminder, here are the transferrable point currencies from the major banks:
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Capital One Venture Rewards or Spark Miles
- Citi ThankYou points
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
You can also transfer points from the Marriott Bonvoy program to airline programs.
Occasionally, banks will offer bonuses to transfer points into a specific program. Most of these offers last for 1 to 2 months, so there’s not usually a need to jump into them right away.
While these promotions offer great value if you were planning on transferring points anyway, speculative usage of transfer bonuses isn’t a good idea for the average traveler.
You’ll always find a use for these miles
I hate it when I read a statement like that online. No, not everyone will always find a use for miles in any program, regardless of how good of a deal it is. Stop telling people that they will.
The reason to earn points with a transferrable card is because of the flexibility those points have. You can transfer points to ANA to book a trip to Indonesia, or to Hyatt for a hotel in Sedona or to JetBlue for a flight to New York City. Maybe you need to combine points from three different programs to book tickets on Singapore Airlines to Germany.
Once you transfer points from your bank card account to another program, they’re locked in that program. Is a 10% to 33% transfer bonus worth losing the flexibility you worked to earn?
Don’t get me wrong, I love transfer bonuses. I wish there were more of them. It’s just that for the majority of travelers, they are a happy coincidence instead of something to plan trips around.
For example, there’s currently a bonus between American Express Membership Rewards and Virgin Atlantic.
Now, if you’re sure that you can use those Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, this is a good deal for you. I wouldn’t suggest transferring points to Virgin Atlantic unless you use their program often or already have a redemption in mind. Preferably you already have researched a booking and know the award space you are looking for is available.
I wouldn’t suggest making a transfer just because there’s a bonus available. That might lead to you having points trapped in a program for years before you’re ever able to use them.
It’s hard to keep track of all of the bonuses available. I find this page on Frequent Miler to be an excellent reference for current offers. Here’s an example from their website.
If you need to transfer points to a program for a booking, might as well transfer points from a bank offering a bonus, if one is available. This is how I use bonus offers.
We don’t travel enough, so I can never say that I’m sure I’ll be able to use points in X program. The closest I’d ever be able to say is transferring points to JetBlue or Southwest since they are fixed value programs and we fly both airlines regularly.
Since I’m earning points to upgrade our travel, I don’t want to burn points with those airlines. That means I’ll take advantage of transfer bonuses if they work with a redemption I’m actively working on, but prospectively transferring points is something I just won’t do.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary