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We’re often asked by readers “how can I top off my XXX miles account?” or “how can I combine miles?” An often overlooked tool is the handful of credit cards that let you transfer the points you earn from spending directly into miles of popular airlines with no fee except for small excise taxes. We have a complete list below, but before that here are three reasons mile transfer is something you should consider:
- Maximize the chances you’ll find a free ticket. By pooling your spending and points onto a credit card that lets you transfer points to airline mile programs you can have multiple options to get a free ticket. For example, if Delta doesn’t have the free ticket availability you’re looking for, you can transfer your points to American Airlines instead.
- ‘Top off’ existing mileage accounts. You may find yourself with 44,000 miles in your airline mile account, but need 50,000 miles for a reward. By having miles banked up in a credit card program that allows mile transfer, you can top off your account. ‘Gifting’ miles to friends or relatives is also easier — you can often link the account of your spouse or an authorized user, letting you share your points. This works for American Express Membership Rewards® and Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Take advantage of reward values. Not all airline miles programs charge the same amount of miles — even for the same seat on the same plane. For example, ANA’s program will let you travel from the East Coast to Europe in business class for 88,000 miles on United flights — versus 115,000 miles if you redeem via United’s MileagePlus® program. Having points in a program that lets you transfer to multiple airline programs lets you take advantage of these opportunities.
Here is a list of the programs that let you transfer points to miles at about a one for one conversion rate, so it’s an even exchange, and the credit cards associated with them:
American Express Membership Rewards®
Transfer options: Delta SkyMiles®, Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club (1 Amex point = 0.8 Avios), Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, JetBlue True Blue (1 Amex point = 0.8 Jet Blue), Air France / KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia Mille Miglia, AeroMexico Club Premier, ANA Mileage Club, ElAl Matmid, Hawaiian Miles, Iberia Plus, and Singapore KrisFlyer. Hotel programs include Hilton HHonors and Best Western Rewards®.
Time to transfer points: Generally instant for Delta, Air Canada, British Airways, JetBlue; others vary up to a week.
Conversion rate: 1 point = 1 airline mile
Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Transfer options: United MileagePlus®, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Aer Lingus Avios, British Airways Executive Club Avios, Iberia Avios, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Korean Airlines SkyPass, Singapore KrisFlyer. Hotel programs include Marriott Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG® Club (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza), Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
Time to transfer points: Generally instant. Singapore KrisFlyer can take up to 2 days. Marriott, IHG, and Ritz can take a day.
Conversion rate: 1 point = 1 airline mile
Credit Cards: Citi ThankYou® Premier Card
Transfer options: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands, Etihad Guest, Air France / KLM Flying Blue, Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer, Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Qatar Airways Privilege Club, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
Hilton HHonors is available as a hotel point transfer partner.
Starwood Preferred Guest®
Transfer options: Air Canada Aeroplan, Air Berlin Top Bonus, Air China Companion, Air New Zealand Airpoints, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, Alitalia MilleMiglia, All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club, American Airlines AAdvantage®, Asiana Airlines, British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles®, Emirates Skywards, Air France / KLM Flying Blue, Hawaiian Miles, Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank, Lufthansa Miles and More, Qatar Privilege, Saudi Arabian Alfursan, Singpaore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Hotels include Westin, W, Sheraton, Le Meridien, Four Points by Sheraton.
Time to transfer points: Generally takes up to one week. If it takes longer than 14 days, contact Starwood Customer Service to run an inquiry.
Conversion rate: Airlines listed above transfer at 1 point = 1 mile, but you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer.
Other factors to consider when transferring points
- The time it takes to transfer — American Express Membership Rewards® and Chase Ultimate Rewards® generally offer instant or same day transfer, so you can find the award seat you want, then transfer the miles quickly to book it. Starwood can take a week or more, which may be a hassle if you have a specific date in mind.
- Consider where you already have a stash of miles. Pick a card that lets you transfer into a program that you fly most often. Chances are you’ll already have a stash of miles to build on, and this can help you get there faster when needed.
- Bonuses for transfers — Sometimes airlines will offer bonuses for transferring miles into their program. This happens most frequently with American Express Membership Rewards®, and can net you substantial value for your points.
- Alliances maximize your value — Nearly every airline mile program lets you redeem for flights on airlines beside the one that hosts the miles. This is because of alliances, and there are three main groups — Star Alliance (United, US Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, ANA, Singapore, and many more), One World (American, British Airways, Iberia, JAL, Cathay Pacific, and more), and SkyTeam (Delta, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Korean, and more).
- Miles for any one of the alliance members can be used to book travel on flights operated by any other alliance member. The only catch is you can’t transfer points between airline accounts. The great advantage here is for example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, that offers transfer to United, and British Airways, you can book travel on every one of the Star Alliance and One World carriers.