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Travel rewards credit cards offer some great ways to earn points or miles that can be redeemed for your next big trip. However, cashing in those points through statement credits or direct travel bookings doesn’t always get you the most bang for your buck. Most of the time, transferring those credit card points to your favorite frequent flyer program makes all those miles go even further. Here are a few ways the top travel rewards credit cards make it possible and when (and when not) to transfer credit card points.
Why Transfer Credit Card Points?
With credit cards like the Capital One Venture and Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s easy to redeem accumulated miles for travel. Each card has a system for essentially erasing travel-related purchases from your monthly statement. So why would you want to transfer credit card points to your airline miles account?
The short answer is that doing so can often make your points go further by requiring fewer points to book a flight. Obviously, if you would rather erase tour packages or Airbnb bookings, points and miles aren’t going to be very helpful on a frequent flyer account. Whether to transfer or not depends on what you want to do with the points you have.
When Should I Transfer?
You should opt to transfer credit card points to a participating air miles partner when the flight you want to book costs fewer miles when paid for with frequent flyer points than credit card points. Or when the credit card company offers additional miles when you transfer, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Often, credit card points or miles are worth 1 cent a piece. However, when transferred they sometimes get a boost if airlines value miles at something closer to 1.5 or 2 cents per mile. The deciding factor should be how many miles the flight costs with each method. If a domestic round-trip flight requires 25,000 Delta SkyMiles but would only cost $150 (or 15,000 credit card points), you would be wasting miles if you transferred them first. On the flipside, if that same flight costs a whopping $395 (or 39,500 credit card points), you’d be silly not to transfer and book through the airline.
It is important to keep in mind, however, each credit card’s offers and bonuses to make sure you’re not cheating yourself out of earning additional points or miles.
Some Credit Card Programs Examples:
The Capital One Venture and VentureOne cards are a popular choice for many travelers. Their ease of use, uncomplicated earnings potential and simple redemption method, not to mention the 10x points on bookings at Hotels.com/venture, make them attractive options. These cards do not, however, allow cardholders to transfer credit card points to airline frequent flyer programs. Instead, you’ll have to use the Capital One Purchase Eraser to remove travel-related charges made with your credit card. So no matter how you spend or redeem, points will always be worth 1 cent.
Similarly, the Barclays Arrival Plus does not allow cardholders to transfer miles to airline partners, though it does offer a cash back option.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is often touted as the best premium travel card on the market. One reason is that Chase allows you to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to nine participating frequent flyer programs. Those programs include Aer Lingus AerClub, British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Iberia Plus, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. You can also transfer to four hotel partners, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and World of Hyatt.
Points transferred are on a 1:1 ratio, meaning however many credit card points you have, that’s how many frequent flyer miles you’ll get. Do keep in mind, though, that when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal you’ll earn 25% more points than booking elsewhere with the Sapphire Preferred. That means in order to make a transfer of miles to an airline program worth it, the flight would have to cost at least 25% more through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Keep in mind that once you transfer the points you can’t reverse the action to get them back into your Chase account. So make sure of your decision before you click!
To redeem points or transfer them, start on your Ultimate Rewards Dashboard. Book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards by selecting “Redeem for travel” and you will be taken to a booking portal. But to transfer to Chase’s travel partners, select “Transfer your points” and choose from their list of airline and hotel partners. You’ll type in your frequent traveler account info and select how many points you want to transfer. It’s that easy.
American Express credit cards have a larger pool of airline partnerships to choose from. There are more like 20 airline partners and three hotels to choose from. However, check carefully before transferring. While most programs offer a 1:1 rate, one or two, like JetBlue, offer fewer miles per credit card point. On the flipside, others, like Aeromexico, offer quite a few more, which makes transferring even more attractive.
It’s often worth it to transfer points because Membership Rewards purchases only offer a value of 1 center per point maximum. Even less if you’re redeeming for any travel-related purchases other than airlines (like hotels or cruises).
To transfer American Express points, log in to your American Express account and go to the Transfer Points page. You’ll have to connect your existing frequent customer program account to your American Express account, just like with Chase. Choose the preferred frequent customer program to which you’d like to transfer points, then follow step-by-step instructions to finish your transfer. Transfers are usually immediate, though a few airlines can take up to a week to update your points total. The cost to transfer is negligible, but American Express does charge .06 cents per point for transfers (or 60 cents per 1,000 points).
AmEx also doesn’t offer an even redemption value across the board or one simple way to redeem points for travel purchases. Depending on the airline and whether you’re spending on hotels, taxis or other travel-related purchases, points can be worth as little as 5 cents per dollar. Make sure to do your homework before redeeming those miles, but it’s almost always worth it to transfer to airline partners if redeeming with AmEx.
The long and short of it: Before booking a flight through traditional channels and redeeming miles through statement credits, check to see how many airline miles would be required to purchase the flight in question through your frequent flyer account. You may be surprised at how many points you can save.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.