There are six major flexible points currently out there. More often than not, these are a much better option than holding points and miles balances in specific programs. The main reason behind this is their flexibility since they can be converted to various airline and hotel loyalty programs. In many cases, the transfer is instant, allowing you to rapidly boost your balance to secure an award you have been searching for.
American Express Membership Rewards
American Express is one of the oldest programs around and one of the most well-developed and active. Aside from having an impressive 18 airline partners, you can also transfer Membership Rewards to 3 hotel programs.
Typically, transfers are at a 1:1 ratio with a minimum transfer of 1,000 points. However, there are a couple of exceptions. Aeromexico has a transfer ratio 1:1.6, while the minimum transfers for JetBlue are 250:250 and for Qantas 500:500. In most cases, transfers are instantaneous. However, with some partners, ANA and Iberia Plus, the points can take up to a day to hit your account.
Where Membership Delivers compared to other currencies is in the transfer bonus promotion department. Amex runs regular promotions, giving you a bonus when you transfer your points to a specific airline. These bonuses can add substantial value to your points.
Standout Partners: Delta, British Airways, Air Canada Aeroplan
Delta, BA, and Aeroplan as some of the biggest loyalty programs in the three major airline alliances globally. This means that, in many cases, you can leverage your Membership Rewards points for flights with virtually every airline worldwide.
Some outstanding uses include our recent trip from Frankfurt to New York on Singapore’s fifth freedom route in business class. Typically, this ticket will set you back thousands of dollars, but it only cost us 60,000 Aeroplan points plus ~$180.65 in taxes and fees, which is an outstanding value.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Another massive player in the Points and miles space is Chase Ultimate Rewards. However, Chase’s network of partners is not as well developed as Amex’s, with only 11 airlines and three hotel partners, including IHG, Hilton, and World of Hyatt.
All Chase transfers are at a ratio of 1:1 with a minimum transfer of 1,000 points. In terms of transfer speed, Ultimate Rewards points typically transfer immediately, although transfers to Aeroplan and Singapore can take up to one day. Again, this means that Chase Ultimate Rewards is an excellent option if you rapidly move some points over and secure a booking.
While Chase does run regular transfer bonus promotions, they are not as frequent as those run by Amex.
Standout Partner: United Airlines, Aeroplan, Air France,
When it comes to Chase partners, the world is your oyster, and there is some significant overlap with other flexible points currencies. Air France KLM Flying Blue is an excellent option for bookings, especially if you use your points to book a transatlantic award on Air France Business Class.
That said, you can also transfer your chase points to other Major Alliance carriers like United Airlines, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. Booking partner awards with these can lead to some substantial value for your points.
Citi ThankYou Points
Another of the significant original flexible transfer points, Citi ThankYou points, is another powerful flexible points currency with 14 airline partners, four hotel partners, and even one retail partner. Typically, points are transferred to the various airline partners at a ratio of 1:1 with a minimum transfer of 1,000 points. The difference between Amex and Chase is with transfer times. Typically, most Amex and Chase transfers are immediate. However, most Citi ThankYou transfers take around one day, with a few taking even more.
Standout Partner: Virgin Atlantic, Air France Flying Blue
With a minimum number of awards seats on every flight, including those in premium cabins, transferring to Virgin Atlantic can be exceptional, especially if you are looking for transatlantic awards on Virgin metal.
Standard round trip awards between the UK and the East Coast will set you back 95,000 points plus taxes and fees in Upper Class. That is an excellent value for fares that would typically run to several thousand dollars each way.
There is also some excellent value on some partner awards, like first-class ANA flights from Tokyo to the West Coast. These will set you back 72,500 points one way, plus taxes and fees. That is astronomically good value for a ticket that will typically easily set you back over Ten thousand dollars.
As seen above, Air France also has some outstanding options with awards.
Capital One Miles
One the newcomers on the block, the Capital One program is the youngest of the credit card flexible point currencies. That said, since its launch a few years ago, the program has come on in leaps and bounds and now rivals the other three big players for the number of partners and ease of use. You can transfer your Capital One points to fifteen airline and 3 hotel partners.
All Capital One miles transfer at a ratio. of 1:1 with a 1,000-mile minimum transfer. The only exception is transfers to EVA Air, which are at a ratio of 2:1.5 with a minimum transfer of 750 miles. Most Capital One transfers are immediate, although several standout partners like Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific can take a few hours or a day or so.
Standout Partner: Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific
If you are a regular on routes between Asia and Europe or the US, then Capital One is an excellent option due to the sheer number of Asia-based transfer partners. Even then, things are made easier by transferring your Capital One Miles to two of the three Middle Eastern carriers, Emirates and Etihad.
Those four partners alone cover almost all your travel needs between Asia, Europe, and the US, regardless of whether you want to head east or westbound. An award from Frankfurt to New York on a Singapore Fifth Freedom route is one of the best awards and a little gem flown recently by Oscape. This will set you back 81,000 points in business or 97,000 points in first class for what is one of the best first-class cabins in the sky.
Marriott Bonvoy Points
While not a credit card-based currency, Marriot Bonvoy still has one of the most valuable flexible points currencies around since it took over the Starwood Preferred Guest program several years ago. The Marriott program has the most significant number of partners, with 40 airline partners in total. In many cases, it is a question of finding a program you can’t transfer Marriott points to, not one that you can.
Since you can earn Marriott points for stays at a higher rate, the transfer ratio to 39 of the 40 airlines is a ratio of 3:1. The only exception is Air New Zealand, which has a poor ratio of 200:1. In almost every case, the minimum number of points transferred is 3,000 points.
With so many partners, transfer times can vary, and there are insufficient data points on some to give an accurate idea. However, as a rule, most transfers from Marriott are nowhere near as fast as those from credit card companies. Typically, expect transfers to take at least one day, if not more, with some partners taking up to 3 days for other points to hit your account.
Standout Partner: 60K Transfer Bonus
The secret of the Marriott Bonvoy points transfer program is the built-in transfer bonus of 5,000 points for every block of 60,000 points you transfer. For instance, when you transfer 60,000 points, you receive 25,000 points in the recipient program instead of only 20,000 at a ratio of 3:1. This can significantly enhance the value of your Marriott points. Couple that with higher earning rates per dollar for Marriott stays, and the Marriott program can be a great way to leverage your hotel stays for premium award travel.
Bilt Rewards is the latest flexible points currency to launch, and as a result, it is still growing and has the least number of partners. Currently, you can transfer Bilt points to 12 airline partners and 2 hotel partners. Typically, points transfer at a ratio of 1:1 with a minimum transfer of 2,000 points. Due to the program’s age, there are insufficient data points to predict the transfer speed of various partners. As such, it is inadvisable to try to transfer Bilt awards to book an award that is available now.
You are much better off Selecting your next Bilt transfer based on an overall travel strategy where you are building a balance to book an award in the near future, not immediately.
Standout Partner: Avios
For almost every partner you can transfer Bilt points to you can transfer other points. However, if you are an Avios fan, then you can transfer your Bilt points to 3 of the four programs that use the currency. This opens up some great award options like Qatar Airways Qsuites. In addition, one of the best value uses of Avios is Iberia business class awards from the East Coast to Madrid for a meager 34,000 Avios one way plus taxes and fees.