Home Points & Miles How To Decide Which Transferrable Points To Use For An Award

How To Decide Which Transferrable Points To Use For An Award

by joeheg

If you’ve been listening, you know how it makes sense to spread your points over several different programs, as long as you don’t end up collecting a few points here and a few points there. If you’ve been at this for a while, you hopefully have points with most or maybe all of the banks’ transferrable reward programs.

That would mean you have points with:

  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Capital One
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou

I know Marriott Bonvoy allows transfers to many different airlines, some of which aren’t accessible through any other program, but I’m leaving them out of this discussion.

Many airlines have multiple banks as transfer partners. Some even partner with all four programs. If you have points in every program, how do you decide which points to transfer when you have an award ticket to book? You could be like me and transfer some points from Citi, Chase, and AMEX to book a flight with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. I did that mainly to see how long it would take each bank to credit the points to my Singapore account.

I’ll use an example from when I needed to transfer points to British Airways Executive Club to book an American Airlines ticket. While American wanted 12.5K AAdvantage miles, booking with BA only required 9K Avios.

The two tickets cost 18,000 Avios but I had just over 9,000 in my account. I needed to transfer points from one of the banks to British Airways. Thankfully, BA partners with three banks (American Express, Capital One, and Chase). But which program’s points should I use?

As with most questions regarding points and miles, the answer is “it depends.” Here are some things to consider when deciding which points to use:

What accounts have the highest balances?

I often have one bank where we have an outsized number of points. If you have more points than you have a use for, that’s a prime candidate for transferring points. However, that’s not the only thing to consider.

Does a program have unique transfer partners?

You may have the most points with American Express but Membership Rewards has some transfer partners exclusive to their program. If you’re keeping track of which banks partner with every program, here’s a way to keep things organized. Some programs have just a single partner and here’s a breakdown:

American Express Membership Rewards

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  • Hilton Honors

Capital One

  • TAP Portugal Miles&Go
  • Finnair Plus
  • Accor Live Limitless

Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • United Airlines MileagePlus
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • World of Hyatt

Citi ThankYou

  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus

So while I have a bunch of AMEX points, I might want to save them for an award with ANA, Delta or Hawaiian. I try to save all of my Chase points for Hyatt rewards. However, I don’t plan on making a reservation with TAP, Finnair or Accor so using Capital One points makes more sense.

Is there a current transfer bonus?

While I might want to pick a program because of the two things previously mentioned, I also consider if there’s a program offering a transfer bonus. Programs occasionally offer 25% discounts when moving points between programs. It’s nice to use 9,000 miles for a ticket but it’s even better to use 7,200 points for the same award.

If the transfer bonus is good enough to make up for the difference, it can even make sense to book with a program that charges more points for the same ticket.

How easy is replacing the points (AKA: How many sign-up bonuses do you have left)?

Some points are easy to replace. If I stay on AMEX’s good side, there are seemingly unlimited Membership Rewards bonuses available. However, Chase can be stingy, only allowing one Sapphire bonus every 48 months. It would help if you considered the ability to recharge points when picking which ones to transfer for an award.

What points did I transfer to British Airways?

I quickly decided that I wanted to transfer my Capital One points to British Airways Executive Club. While the Capital One website claimed it could take up to 24 hours for the transfer, it was instant.

Considering that I earned 100K Capital One points with the Venture X sign-up bonus and Sharon’s on the way to earning 100K of her own points, that’s a bunch of 9K flights from MCO-AUS on American Airlines.

I’ll save my AMEX points for Delta flights and Chase points for Hyatt stays.

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