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If you have a credit card that earns a flexible rewards currency such as Chase Ultimate Rewards® or American Express Membership Rewards, you've got a world of redemption possibilities available to you — the most valuable of which can be transferring rewards to airline or hotel partners.
Here are some cases when it's good to do so.
1. When you need miles you don't already have
The most obvious use case for transferring miles is in some ways the simplest: when you need miles you don't already have.
Perhaps you travel and collect miles mostly with Oneworld members like American Airlines, but you now need an award flight on a Star Alliance carrier. If you have a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you could transfer those points directly to United to book that award.
The same goes for American Express Membership Rewards, which can be transferred to Delta. Check which airlines your credit card partners with to see what options are available.
2. When booking expensive flights
If you really want to become a points-and-miles power user, don't just blindly transfer those miles — do so in a way that will really maximize the value you get out of them.
When fares are higher for a holiday weekend or you want to take that once-in-a-lifetime vacation in a premium cabin, transferring your points to an airline can be a great way to maximize points and keep your out-of-pocket costs down. Generally speaking, if you're getting more than 2 cents in value for every mile you redeem, you're getting a very good deal. For example, a round-trip journey from New York to Sydney might cost $1,800 in economy, but if you're redeeming 80,000 points for the flight, that's a solid value of 2.25 cents per point.
3. To take advantage of a transfer bonus
Some transferrable reward currencies offer periodic special transfer bonuses. Watching for these unique opportunities may help you score big. One example is Capital One’s 33.3% bonus on points transferred to Qantas a couple of months back.
Transfer bonuses sometimes apply to hotel promotions, as well. A recent Membership Rewards promotion offered a 30% bonus on points transferred to Marriott Bonvoy.
4. When booking hotels
Flexible travel reward currencies can also often be transferred to hotel loyalty programs. If the best deal for free nights is at a hotel belonging to a chain you’re not loyal to, sign up for its rewards program and transfer your points to score that free room or suite. Again, you'll want to be mindful that you're getting a decent value for your points.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you The 5 best ways to rack Up Marriott bonvoy points You can now transfer Citi ThankYou points to AeroMexico