Transferable Points Report Card: Amex vs Chase vs Citi vs Capital One [2020 Edition]

43

Amex Transfer Partners

This is an update to a post previously published in January 2019.  It was time to refresh this post anyway, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I realized the need to make the award redemption ratings more nuanced. These days, I suspect that people are more interested in hotels than flights, and more interested in domestic flights rather than international. So, I broke these out into separate ratings.

In my opinion, transferable points programs are the most valuable points to accumulate.  In many cases, points can be used at better than 1 cent per point value to book travel.  Even better, points can be strategically transferred to airline and hotel programs when valuable awards are available.  If you’re at all interested in free travel or luxury travel with points & miles, then you need to understand the basics of each of these programs.

In this post, we’ll compare the following transferable points programs (click each link for a guide to that particular program):

What are transferable points programs?

Each of the credit card issuers covered here offer their own rewards programs.  With each program, you can earn rewards points (which Capital One confusingly refers to as “miles”) through credit card sign up bonuses, credit card spend, and more.  All four rewards programs share common traits:

  • Points can be redeemed directly for travel, merchandise, or (sometimes) cash back.  Points are usually worth most when redeemed for travel.
  • Points can be transferred to airline and (sometimes) hotel loyalty programs. For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to United MileagePlus miles.
  • Points never expire unless you close your associated credit card accounts

Even though the programs are similar at a very high level, they are very different when you drill down.

Transferable Points Programs, Graded by Greg

Amex Capital One Chase Citi
Earn Points
Redeem for Cash
Redeem for Travel
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners
Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners
Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners
Share Points
Keep Points Alive
Amex Capital One Chase Citi
Summary Grade

Details about all of the individual grades follow…

Amex Membership Rewards

Amex Grade Details
Earn Points Amex offers a slew of options for earning points:

I particularly love that the no-fee Blue Business Plus card offers 2X everywhere on up to $50K spend per year (then 1X), and points earned with the card are fully functional (i.e. they can be transferred to airline and hotel partners).  Amex also has the best food-related earnings with the Amex Gold Card, which earns 4X points at US Supermarkets (up to $25K in purchases, then 1X) and 4X at restaurants worldwide.

Redeem for Cash The only good way to redeem points for cash is with a Charles Schwab branded Amex card.  That said, this is the only program in the roundup where it’s possible to get 1.25 cents per point in cash. Details here.
Redeem for Travel The only options to redeem for travel and get better than 1 cent per point value is to hold specific high-end cards. Even then, you only get high value for your selected airline or for premium cabin fares.
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners

Amex is the only program that supports point transfers to Choice Privileges (1 to 1) and Hilton (1 to 2).  Like Chase, they also support transfers to Marriott (1 to 1).

Unfortunately, none of the supported hotel programs reliably offer better than 1 cent per point value (or half a cent per point value with Hilton), so it’s rare for these transfers to make sense.

Details about Amex transfer partners can be found here.

Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Amex is the only program that supports transfers to Delta SkyMiles and Hawaiian Airlines.  Often Delta runs award sales that offer very good value for domestic economy flights.  Hawaiian Airlines rarely has good award prices, but it’s good to at least have that option.  Unfortunately, Amex charges a small fee to transfer points to any US based airline.

Via airline partnerships, Membership Rewards points can be transferred to a number of foreign airlines in order to get excellent award prices for flying domestic.  Examples include Avianca LifeMiles or Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flying United; British Airways or Iberia Avios for flying American; Virgin Atlantic or Air France for flying Delta; and Singapore KrisFlyer miles or British Airways Avios for flying Alaska.

Details about Amex transfer partners can be found here.

Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Amex offers quite a few partners that make it possible to redeem miles for very high value international awards. These include Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA, Avianca, and more. Best of all, Amex frequently offers transfer bonuses that can great increase the value of your points.

For details on using miles for luxury flight awards, see our “Best ways to get to…” series.

Share Points

Amex doesn’t allow point sharing with other people. You can indirectly share points, though: you can transfer your points to another person’s loyalty program as long as that person is an authorized user on one of your Amex Membership Rewards cards.

More details can be found here.

Keep Points Alive

All you need is one Membership Rewards card open in order to keep all of your points intact. Even better, Amex has a couple of no-fee cards that give you full power to transfer points as needed.

Details here.

Capital One “Miles”

Capital One
Grade Details
Earn Points Capital One points can be earned through credit card signup bonuses and through spend.  Unlike their competitors, Capital One doesn’t offer category bonuses for earning increased rewards. They do offer 2 “miles” per dollar with some of their cards, but this translates to only 1.5 airline miles per dollar, at best.
Redeem for Cash Whereas points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for travel, they’re worth only half a cent each for cash back.
Redeem for Travel Even though Capital One only offers 1 cent per point value for travel, the way they do so is great.  With competing transferable points programs, you must book travel through the bank’s portal in order to use your points for travel.  With Capital One you can purchase any travel with your credit card and then use their “purchase eraser” feature to redeem points for those purchases. This is great because you actually earn points on these purchases as well.  Even better, you can take advantage of sales, promo codes, portal rewards, members-only deals, etc.
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners Capital One supports point transfers to Accor Live Limitless (1000 to 500 transfer ratio) and Wyndham Rewards (1000 to 750 transfer ratio).  Neither offers exceptional value, but there are times that they could come in handy.
Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Capital One’s only US transfer partner is JetBlue (transfer 1000 to 750).

Via airline partnerships, Capital One “miles” can be transferred to a number of foreign airlines in order to get sometimes excellent award prices for flying domestic.  Examples include Avianca LifeMiles for flying United; Cathay Pacific or Etihad Guest for flying American; Air France for flying Delta; and Cathay Pacific for flying Alaska.

I’ve docked some points here because Capital One’s transfer ratios are less than 1 to 1 (usually 1,000 to 750, but sometimes 1,000 to 500).  Capital One’s transfer partner list is also glaringly missing British Airways (good for AA flights) and Virgin Atlantic (good for Delta flights).

Details about Capital One transfer partners can be found here.

Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Capital One offers a number of partners that make it possible to redeem miles for very high value international awards. These include Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, and more.

I probably would have given them an A for this category if the transfer ratio was 1 to 1, but it’s not.  It’s usually 1,000 to 750, but sometimes 1,000 to 500.

For details on using miles for luxury flight awards, see our “Best ways to get to…” series.

Share Points

Capital One lets you share points with anyone, anywhere.  Awesome.

More details can be found here.

Keep Points Alive Points don’t expire as long as you keep your account open. Capital One gets an A here because they make it easy to transfer points to another card (such as the no-fee Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card which supports transfers to airline programs) or to another person.  So, if you want to cancel a premium card, you can keep your points alive by moving points to a family member or to a no fee card.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Grade Details
Earn Points

With Chase, you can earn Ultimate Rewards points through credit card signup bonuses, spend-category bonuses, friend referrals, and even through bank account and/or mortgage promotions.  Chase consistently has very high signup bonus offers for their cards, especially their business cards.  Plus, they have great category bonuses.  The best may be from the Chase Ink Business Cash card which earns 5X for 5X for cell phone, cable, and internet service and 5X at office supply stores, and 2X at gas stations and restaurants.  Office supply stores such as Staples, Office Depot, and OfficeMax sell gift cards for other merchants, as well as bank gift cards. By purchasing gift cards from these stores, you can earn 5X rewards in far more categories of spend.

One downside to Chase’s program is the fact that they won’t approve new credit card applications if you’ve signed up for 5 or more cards (with any bank) in the past 24 months.

Redeem for Cash Chase makes this simple.  Points can be redeemed for a penny each.
Redeem for Travel With a premium Ultimate Rewards card (Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred), points are worth 1.25 cents each for travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.  With the ultra-premium Sapphire Reserve card, though, points are worth 1.5 cents each for travel booked through Chase.
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners
Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred 1 to 1 to Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott.  Hyatt, in particular, can offer fantastic value.
Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Chase has the best coverage of domestic airlines. They support 1 to 1 transfers to United, Southwest, and JetBlue.

Additionally, via airline partnerships, Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a number of foreign airlines in order to get excellent award prices for flying domestic.  Examples include Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flying United; British Airways or Iberia Avios for flying American; Virgin Atlantic or Air France for flying Delta; and Singapore KrisFlyer miles or British Airways Avios for flying Alaska.

Details about Chase transfer partners can be found here.

Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Chase has fewer foreign airline partners than the other programs, and they’re missing some of the best options for booking international business or first class awards.

For details on using miles for luxury flight awards, see our “Best ways to get to…” series.

Share Points

Chase allows you to share points, but only with a person in your household.

More details can be found here.

Keep Points Alive Points don’t expire as long as you keep your account open. If you want to cancel a premium card, you can keep your points alive by downgrading to a no fee card or by moving points to a no fee card.  Or, you can move points to a household member.  Chase didn’t get an A here because their no-fee cards don’t allow point transfers to airline and hotel programs.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Citi Grade Details
Earn Points

Citi’s biggest downfall in this category is that they don’t offer many signup bonuses.  Plus, if you sign up for one Citi ThankYou card, you have to wait 24 months after receiving the welcome bonus before you can qualify for another one.On the other hand, their cards offer fantastic earnings on spend. The fee-free Citi Double Cash Card isn’t really a ThankYou Rewards Card, but cash back can be converted to ThankYou points.  This makes the Double Cash capable of indirectly earning 2 ThankYou points per dollar on all spend.  Plus, the Citi Premier Card will soon offer 3X at grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, air travel, hotels, and travel agencies.  For more, see: Citi’s awesome trio: Double Cash, Premier, Rewards+.

Citi frequently offers targeted spend bonuses and, even better, will often offer great retention bonuses if you simply call and ask.

Redeem for Cash Citi Prestige cardholders can redeem points directly for cash at a value of 1 cent per point. Other Citi cards offer far worse value.
Redeem for Travel Citi Premier cardholders can redeem points for travel through the Citi ThankYou Rewards portal at a value of 1.25 cents per point, but only until April 10, 2021.
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners
Citi doesn’t offer any hotel transfer partners.
Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

JetBlue is Citi’s only US-based transfer partner.

Additionally, via airline partnerships, ThankYou Rewards points can be transferred to a number of foreign airlines in order to get excellent award prices for flying domestic.  Examples include Turkish or Avianca miles for flying United; Cathay Pacific for flying American; Virgin Atlantic or Air France for flying Delta; and Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flying Alaska.

Details about Citi transfer partners can be found here.

Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Citi offers quite a few partners that make it possible to redeem miles for very high value international awards. These include Avianca, Etihad, EVA Air, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic and more.

For details on using miles for luxury flight awards, see our “Best ways to get to…” series.

Share Points

Like Capital One, Citi lets you share points with anyone, anywhere.  That’s great.  Unfortunately, shared points expire after 90 days, so don’t transfer until you have a plan for how to use the points.  Also, Citi has a 100K per year sharing limit.

More details can be found here.

Keep Points Alive

With Citi, if you cancel a card you’ll lose all associated points even if you had pooled together your points with a card you still have open.  This is extremely confusing and counter-intuitive.  Instead, the only good way to keep points alive when you want to avoid an annual fee is to downgrade to a no-fee ThankYou card such as the Rewards+ Card.  Note: Downgrading to the Citi Double Cash will not keep your points alive.

Details here.

For more details about each of the above transferable points programs, please visit our online guides:

Email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide

43
Leave a Reply

avatar
19 Comment threads
24 Thread replies
24 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
20 Comment authors
PamWR2AlexErnest BUkenburger Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
Bill
Guest
Bill

Great summary Greg. Any consideration to Chase’s increasing Draconian rules for getting their cards when assigning the ‘A’ for points earning? Seems like it should only be an ‘A’ if you got in when the getting was good.

Biggie F
Guest
Biggie F

Great summary. Double-check copy-and-paste error in last (Citi) cell.

Peter
Guest
Peter

Another great article this year Greg!

Bob
Guest
Bob

Now that Capital One has a transferable point program, would you care to make a guess as to whether US Bank might also move FlexPerks in that direction to keep up? Is it there anything about that program that you feel would make it or not make it a possibility?

Blue
Guest
Blue

Citi cash is a little better than described because you can get 1x to pay down a mortgage or student loan.

Sam
Guest
Sam

@Greg- If you had a choice would you put daily spend on Marriott/SPG cards to create Airline Miles or use the Capital One Sparks Miles to create Airline Miles?

Pam
Guest
Pam

Well again, Greg, am pretty much with you til I
get to the “B” assigned to Chase for Transfer Partners Potential Value. HVB spelled out yesterday exactly WHY Chase is clearly an “A,” but your blog, your prerogative. I do bet, however, you wouldn’t much like Chase taking Hyatt from your usage & their program (which would then more closely align TPs with Citi & truly earn the B you have assigned).

Otherwise I would probably also include mention of the ability to use URs, MRs, & TYPs on Amazon. My own TYPs go towards the super great deals thru the year you guys show us for using only 1 point to save $30 – $65 on Amazon purchases (& not on Malaysia airlines utilizing an ever-changing points transfer manual!). Most of us like Amazon. but each currency runs their own promos making each bank that participates more valuable with usage.

Nice breakfown, though, of the main attributes & functionalities of each currency. At least we can each go into these cats ourselves & assign our own rankings, very helpful tool.

Dan
Guest
Dan

I think the grade given on earning points with Chase and amex are overly generous. While they have point earning cards, they are hard to get approved for.

Chase has 5/24 and Amex simply tells you, you won’t get a bonus. I only have 3 Amex credit cards and one charge, and already get this message.

Also, you didn’t mention the awesome 60k point Sapphire banking option. If you own investments, JP Morgan YOU INVEST makes it very easy to do a complete a count transfer online. Woot woot for chase. (My wife and I doing this is the equivalent of two large chase credit card sign up bonuses.

Pam
Guest
Pam

(a brokerage account transfer is called an ACAT transfer)

frugalman
Guest
frugalman

Agree with the conclusion. No matter you are a routine everyday shopper or a MS player, Chase UR and Amex MR are the top 2 program you should consider. I really don’t feel Capital one’s “mile” deserve a column in the table at all. Future maybe, but a far distance I guess.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

U can use the one by their CO link for Hotels.com I’ll be applying in Mar . I’ll take that 10%. and hopefully it will b a 75K sign up too .CHEERs.

tro
Guest
tro

Another great synthesis article, and I think the letter grades work well.

To me, it looks like you based “potential value” on advanced redemptions. I understand why, since you have the separate “Transfer Partners Ease of Use” category. However, there’s really no way from that to tell what value to expect if you are more in the intermediate category and/or not willing to spend a lot of time on the phone, etc. The “dropoff” in value, from advanced to intermediate strategy, is not the same between the various currencies.

So, for me, I think a more useful organization would have been “Potential Value, advanced” and “Potential Value, intermediate”. Based on the recent Citi vs Chase transfer partners discussion (which I found to be really useful), it does seem there is a segment of your blog readers, myself included obviously, who just aren’t going to do the complicated redemptions that would make Citi transfers useful. Citi would get a C at best for intermediate transfer redemptions from me.

Anyway, maybe that’s overly complicated or just not realistic for you to estimate since everyone is going to have their own definition of how many hoops is too many hoops to jump through. But for me, intermediate is really what I should be basing my earn decisions on.

Pam
Guest
Pam

+1

Jim
Guest
Jim

Based on my experience, to obtain economy tickets, good cash back cards or Chase ultimate rewards are better choices. However, people heavily investing in the miles world often target business or first class tickets, so AMEx or Citi often works better, especially with their frequent transfer bonus to high value programs like virgin, avianca, flying blue.

Just SayIng
Guest
Just SayIng

My sense says AMEX rated too high and Citi too low

trackback

[…] think this was pretty good too, grades are very fair: Transferable Points Programs: Amex vs Chase vs Citi vs Capital One. And another one by Frequent Miler: Transfer partners: Chase vs. […]

trackback

[…] Transferable Points Programs: Amex vs Chase vs Citi vs Capital One […]

trackback

[…] For more about transferable points programs, please see: Transferable Points Programs Compared. […]

Pepe
Guest
Pepe

Since we don’t expect to travel anytime soon. Regarding Chase UR downgrade option. P1 downgrade CSR to CF or CFU and he will keep the points alive for how long?
Some time later this year P2 apply for CSP or CSR. Can P1 “points” from his CF/CFU be moved to P2 Saphire?
Thanks as always Greg, Nick and Stephen for all you do!!

Alex
Guest
Alex

Isn’t there a way to cash out ThankYou points by the paying your mortgage option?

Ukenburger
Guest
Ukenburger

Yep. It requires a phone call to do. Call the Citi ThankYou phone line, say that you are redeeming the check for a mortgage, tell them the value you want to redeem in $25 intervals, tell them the bank you are cashing this with, and wait several days for the check to be mailed to you.

It should be noted that you do not have to actually be using it for a mortgage payment. There isn’t anything denoting that the check is specifically for a mortgage (if I remember correctly). A bank teller is likely to cash the check like any other standard check into your bank account.

Also, it is important to have the check correctly listed as the payee. When Citi sent my redemption check the first time it had a typo. I had to call them up and get it resent with the correct spelling of the bank to cash it.

I did this having a Citi Premier card, but I don’t believe it matters what type of Citi credit cards you hold. Simply that you are using the ThankYou points program.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Thanks for that info!

Ernest B
Guest
Ernest B

Under 5/24, Chase = “A”. Stuck in 5/24 purgatory, Chase = “F”.

WR2
Guest
WR2

Giving Amex a B for hotel awards is quite generous. I’d say C at best, and that’s only due to occasional Hilton transfer bonuses.

Pam
Guest
Pam

Yup you finally got it right, Greg (but maybe A+ for Chase, at least by comparison). Excellent analysis.