Since I’m a points hoarder (explanation found here), I’m a huge fan of transferable points programs. These are programs that allow you to transfer points to multiple loyalty programs at a fair exchange rate (typically 1 to 1). By collecting points in these programs, you have the ability to book travel opportunistically. For example, suppose you’re finally ready to book that dream trip to Australia and you find (gasp) that Delta has the best award availability (via their partner Virgin Australia, of course), but you don’t have a big stash of Delta miles. That’s not a problem if you do have a big stash of Membership Rewards, Diners Club, and/or Starwood points. Further, while individual loyalty programs devalue regularly, transferable points programs provide protection against devaluation since you always have the option to transfer to other programs.
What follows is a resource: the basics needed for collecting, using, and preserving transferable points. Please let me know any details I got wrong!
- Amex Membership Rewards: Amex EveryDay, Amex EveryDay Preferred, Blue, Blue for Business, Business Green Rewards, Centurion, Enhanced Business Gold Rewards, Gold, Green, Mercedes-Benz Credit Card, Platinum (including Personal, Ameriprise, Mercedes-Benz, and Business), Premier Rewards Gold. Note Corporate Green, Gold, and Platinum cards may also earn points if the cardholder pays an extra fee for the privilege (typically $75).
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Ink Cash, Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve. No longer available to new applicants: Ink Bold, Ink Plus, Ink Classic, Sapphire.
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: Prestige, ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier, CitiBusiness ThankYou. No longer available to new applicants: Forward, AT&T Access More.
- Diner’s Club: Personal cards: Diners Club Card Elite, Diners Club Card Premier; Business cards: Diners Club Card, Carte Blanche Card. None of these are currently available to new applicants.
- Starwood Preferred Guest: Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card (both personal and business available). Marriott Rewards (personal and business) cards can also be used to earn SPG points. Points transfer 3 to 1 to SPG.
Other options for earning points
- Amex Membership Rewards: Bonus points through “Offers for You”; bonus points from partners (e.g. Uber), bonus points from miscellaneous Amex offerings.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: Shop with Chase (portal previously known as the Ultimate Rewards Mall)
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: Citi offers bank accounts that offer ThankYou points as rewards and often offers signup bonuses for those accounts; bonus points from banking relationship. NOTE: points earned from banking products are not transferable to loyalty programs.
- Diner’s Club: ?
- Starwood Preferred Guest: Starwood hotel paid stays; partnerships (Delta, Emirates, Uber), SPG timeshare offers. All options for earning Marriott points apply here as well since points now transfer from Marriott to SPG at a 3 to 1 ratio.
Credit cards required to transfer points to loyalty programs
- Amex Membership Rewards: Amex EveryDay, Amex EveryDay Preferred, Enhanced Business Gold Rewards, Platinum (including Personal, Ameriprise, Mercedes-Benz, and Business), Premier Rewards Gold, Centurion
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: Ink Bold, Ink Plus, Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve. Note: cardholders who also have other Ultimate Rewards cards (e.g. Freedom) can transfer points to their premium card then to loyalty programs.
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: Prestige, ThankYou Premier
- Diner’s Club: Any, as long as cardholder is enrolled in the Club Rewards program
- Starwood Preferred Guest: No credit card is required to enable transfers to airline programs
A full list of all transfer options can be found in the Frequent Miler Transfer Partner Master List.
Redeeming points for paid travel at better than 1 cent per point value
- Amex Membership Rewards: Requires Business Platinum to get 2 cents per point value for eligible flights.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 1.5 cents per point value with Sapphire Reserve. 1.25 cents per point value with Ink Bold, Ink Plus, Sapphire Preferred.
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: 1.25 cents per point value towards airfare, hotels, cruises, and car rentals with ThankYou Premier card; 1.33 cents per point value towards airfare with Prestige card (and 1.6 cents per point value with Prestige card when used to purchase airfare on American Airlines or US Airways). The Prestige card switches to 1.25 cents per point value in July 2017.
- Diner’s Club: N/A
- Starwood Preferred Guest: Starwood allows using points to purchase airfare, usually at a value of 1.5 cents per point or less. No credit card required. Pricing can be found here.
Other not-horrible uses for points
- Amex Membership Rewards: Redeem for gift cards when they offer a significant discount on those gift cards
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: Bid on experiences; Redeem for gift cards when they offer a significant discount on those gift cards; Redeem for cash at 1 cent per point value.
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: Redeem for mortgage or student loan payments at value of 1 cent per point.
- Diner’s Club: ?
- Starwood Preferred Guest: Redeem for free SPG nights including: Cash & Points awards, 5th night free awards, and Nights & Flights awards; Bid on unique experiences; Convert points to Marriott 1 to 3! For details see: Marriott SPG Complete Guide to Sweet Opportunities.
Moving points to family/friend account
- Amex Membership Rewards: US cardholders cannot move their Membership Rewards points to other accounts. However, it is possible to transfer points to another person’s frequent flyer program if the recipient is an authorized user on your Membership Rewards credit card account.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: Chase allows cardholders to freely move points from/to their spouse or significant other living at the same address. The recipient must also have a Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points. For more details about moving Chase points around, please see: Chase point transfer rules made simple [Infographic].
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: Citi allows ThankYou members to move points to anyone’s ThankYou account, but points will expire 90 days after transfer. Citi limits you to transfer no more than 100,000 points per calendar year.
- Diner’s Club: “You may not transfer Club Rewards points from your account to an account that does not display your name in full” (found here).
- Starwood Preferred Guest: Starwood allows you to freely move points to others in your same household. Found here.
Keeping points alive
- Amex Membership Rewards: Points do not expire as long as you have an open credit card that earns Membership Rewards points.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: If you cancel a card account that has Ultimate Rewards points, you will lose those points. Move points first to another account held by you or your spouse / significant other. Alternatively, product change to a no-fee Ultimate Rewards card.
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: Points earned from a particular credit card will expire 60 days after cancelling the card. I recommend downgrading to the no fee ThankYou Preferred card instead of cancelling.
- Diner’s Club: Points do not expire as long as your account is open and in good standing.
- Starwood Preferred Guest: Points expire after 1 year of inactivity. Use points, transfer points, or earn new points in order to reset the clock at least once per year.