I’ve always been a big proponent of points programs that let members transfer points to their choice of multiple airline loyalty programs. The best of these are Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), Amex Membership Rewards (MR), and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG). Recently, Chase added Singapore Airlines as a transfer partner to the UR program. Singapore was already a transfer partner with MR and SPG, so it has now joined the tiny club of airlines available from all three transferable points programs. The other two are British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
The following chart shows all of the airline programs that are available for transfer from two or three of the transferable points programs:
|British Airways Executive Club||Y||Y||Y|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||Y||Y||Y|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Y||Y||Y|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Y||N||Y|
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||Y||N||Y|
|All Nippon Airways||Y||N||Y|
|Delta Air Lines SkyMiles||Y||N||Y|
* United is not listed above despite being a partner with both UR and SPG since SPG transfers to United at a horrible 2 to 1 ratio.
The great thing about airline programs being available from multiple transfer partners is that it is then easier to collect the miles needed for specific awards. And, since there are quite a few airlines in the table above, its possible to pick and choose the airline to transfer to based on which one offers the best availability and value for your specific needs.
Top features of each program (off the top of my head)
Most of the airline programs listed above have sweet spots in their award charts or routing rules that make them great options for certain situations. Here’s when to consider each program:
- Relatively short non-stop flights on OneWorld alliance members and BA partners can be dirt cheap. Great value can be had thanks to their distance based award chart that starts at only 4500 points for one-way travel. Watch out for ridiculously high fuel surcharges, especially on British Airways’ own flights.
- Very low cancellation fees when awards are cancelled online and when no taxes and fees are involved.
- Example use: Fly American Airlines from Los Angeles to Honolulu for only 12,500 points one-way (in economy)
- Use points to book Singapore first class or even Singapore Suites. When booking online, get an automatic 15% discount. Singapore does include fuel surcharges, unfortunately.
- Book Star Alliance and partner awards. Jason Steele does a good job of outlining many of the best options here.
- Very low change and cancellation fees (see the fee schedule here)
- Despite fuel surcharges, one way awards from the US to the UK can be a good deal, and award availability is usually excellent.
- Allows booking Premium Economy awards (which look very nice)
- Frequently offer sales between the US to UK for economy and premium economy awards (see, for example, this post from Just Another Points Traveler)
- View from the Wing suggests a number of other decent uses here.
- Book Star Alliance North America to Europe business class for only 90,000 miles round trip. Make sure to pick carriers that charge no (or low) fuel surcharges.
- According to One Mile at a Time, “Aeroplan does not impose fuel surcharges for travel on Air China, Brussels, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, EVA Air, Scandinavian, Singapore, Swiss, Turkish, United, and US Airways, and the fuel surcharges on LOT are really low.”
- Take advantage of their occasional 50% off Promo Awards (for example, see this post)
- Book awards to Israel with Air France miles since Air France thinks Israel is in Europe
- Use Air France miles to book Delta one-way awards for half the price of round trip (Delta claims they will offer this ability themselves starting Jan 1 2015, but for now, Air France is the only option).
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
- Include 3 stopovers in one award in addition to your destination (see this post by Travel is Free)
- Fly round trip from North America to Europe in business class for 68,000 miles or less when starting in or near the east coast. Make sure to pick Star Alliance carriers that pass along modest or no fuel surcharges to ANA. This Points Guy post lists sample fees by carrier.
- Take advantage of a free stopover and open jaw on all awards (even domestic awards). See “Delta SkyMiles: Value from domestic flights”.
- Use Delta SkyMiles to book Virgin Australia business class, which often has great availability.