Airline and Hotel Transfer Partners: Chase Ultimate Rewards vs. American Express Membership Rewards

Elina GellerMay 18, 2020
On a similar note...
On a similar note...

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

In the world of miles and points, two loyalty programs reign supreme: Chase Ultimate Rewards®  and American Express Membership Rewards. Each program has its own currency, and the points are valuable because they can be transferred to airline and hotel partners, as well as redeemed for travel, gift cards and statement credits. Transferring the points to airlines and hotels and redeeming for award flights/hotel nights can yield excellent value. In this post, we’ll discuss AmEx and Chase’s best and worst transfer partners, explain who could benefit the most from each program and show you how to earn (and maximize) the points.

Airline and hotel transfer partners

Chase has 10 airline partners, while American Express has 19. Both programs offer three hotel chains as transfer partners. Although AmEx offers a higher quantity, it doesn’t mean that AmEx’s program is superior. Rather, it's a matter of deciding which airlines or hotels you prefer. If you love Southwest Airlines and want to use your points for an award ticket on that airline, for example, you’d want to focus your efforts on earning Chase Ultimate Rewards® points because Southwest only partners with Chase.

American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners

With 22 partners in total, AmEx points can be transferred to the following airlines and hotels.

Airlines and frequent flyer programs:

Hotels:

AmEx transfer ratio, minimum transfer amounts and alliance memberships

With the exception of Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue, the remaining carriers are international. Don’t let this deter you, though — many of these international airlines participate in large alliance networks, offering plenty of opportunities for redemptions on domestic carriers. For example, since Air Canada and United Airlines are both members of Star Alliance, you could transfer AmEx points to Air Canada’s Aeroplan program, and then use Aeroplan miles to book an award ticket on United.

Additionally, American Express often runs transfer bonuses, allowing you to maximize the amount of points you’re moving into your frequent flyer account. If you time a transfer bonus to coincide with an upcoming redemption, you could extract an excellent value out of your AmEx points.

Notable American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners

  • Air Canada’s Aeroplan is a solid program due to its decent award chart and participation in the Star Alliance network. Aeroplan miles are great for booking award seats on United, Copa Airlines any many other Star Alliance carriers.

  • Air France / KLM’s Flying Blue is another useful option due to the airline’s monthly Promo Rewards, which are discounted award tickets to specific destinations. Although the airline adds high taxes and surcharges to award tickets, the discount on the number of miles can be as high as 50%.

  • British Airways is a member of Oneworld, so you could use your British Airways Avios to book flights on American Airlines. Although British Airways is notorious for adding high taxes and fuel charges on awards, you won't pay those fees on domestic American Airlines flights. Furthermore, since British Airways' award chart is distance-based, Avios are great for short-haul flights on American Airlines.

Weak American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners

  • AmEx’s poor transfer ratio to JetBlue makes this airline a weak partner. Instead of a 1:1 ratio, for every 250 AmEx points, you receive only 200 JetBlue points. While JetBlue is a solid program on its own, transferring AmEx points to the carrier would not be a great use of points.

  • Though this point is not related to any specific airline, keep in mind that American Express charges excise tax offset fees on point transfers to domestic airlines of .06 cent per point. While this seems like a tiny amount, a transfer of 50,000 points will result in an annoying $30 fee. Keep this in mind for transfers to Delta, JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines.

How to transfer Membership Rewards points

Log into your American Express account, select “Rewards” from the top menu and then “Transfer Points” from the pop-up menu. Click “View All” to see a list of available transfer partners. The next page will show a list of airline and hotel programs, and you will need to choose one. In our example, we’ve selected Hawaiian Airlines for a transfer.

To proceed with a transfer, you will need to link your American Express Membership Rewards account to the HawaiianMiles program and verify your identity by entering the four-digit card ID and three-digit security code found on the credit card associated with your Membership Rewards account. Once the accounts have been linked, you will be able to transfer your points on the following page.

Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partners

Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can be transferred to 13 programs in total, comprising 10 airlines and three hotel chains.

Airlines and frequent flyer programs:

Hotels:

Chase transfer ratio, minimum transfer amounts and alliance memberships

You can transfer from Chase to airlines and hotels at a 1:1 ratio. Transfers are usually immediate but can take up to seven business days. Unlike AmEx, transfers to JetBlue are at a 1:1 ratio, and Chase does not charge any fees when you move points to domestic airlines.

Notable Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partners

  • United is a great choice given the airline’s extensive reach and its participation in Star Alliance. Although United has eliminated its award chart, it has also removed a pesky $75 booking fee, which the airline used to charge on award bookings made within 21 days. Another positive is that United doesn’t charge taxes or surcharges on award tickets.

  • A lesser-known fact about Virgin Atlantic is that its miles can be used to book Delta award tickets on Virgin’s website. A one-way award from the U.S. to Europe in the Delta One cabin is only 50,000 Flying Club miles. Delta One is Delta’s international first class option, and the cabin offers lie-flat seats, a superior dining option during the flight and Sky Club lounge access at the airport. If you were to book this ticket directly with Delta, you’d be subject to dynamic pricing. For example, let's consider the following flight from Boston to Amsterdam in Delta One.

On Virgin Atlantic, the flight costs 50,000 miles + $5.60 in taxes.

However, on the Delta website, you’d need to spend 80,000 SkyMiles + $5.60 in taxes for the exact same flight.

Not surprisingly, you could also use Flying Club miles to fly on Virgin Atlantic. However, we didn’t list this as a notable redemption given the high taxes assessed by the airline on its award tickets. If the high taxes don’t deter you, Virgin Atlantic's premium economy service is excellent.

  • Hyatt is truly the only hotel transfer partner that’s worthy of mention. NerdWallet values Hyatt points at 1.9 cents each, which is above the valuation of any other hotel or airline. Standard award nights at Hyatt properties range from 5,000 to 40,000 points per night.

As an example, a one-night stay in June 2020 at the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York prices out at 25,000 points or $637 per night, reflecting an excellent redemption value of 2.5 cents per point.

Weak Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partner

  • Transferring to JetBlue would not be an ideal use of your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points because the value of JetBlue award tickets is linked to the cash price of flights. As the price of the flight increases, so does the award cost in TrueBlue points. NerdWallet values TrueBlue points at 1.3 cents each. Given that you could redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards® through the travel portal for 1.5 cents each if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’d be better off booking a JetBlue flight through Chase’s travel portal. Also, if you book a flight on Chase’s travel site using Chase Ultimate Rewards®, you will earn miles/points on that flight since it's considered a revenue ticket. Even booking via the Chase portal at the lower rate of 1.25 cents per point rate you can get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you might come out ahead since you'll earn points on the flight when booking through the travel portal (rather than making a transfer to book an award ticket directly).

How to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards® points

Log into your Chase Ultimate Rewards® account and select your credit card. From the “Earn / Use” dropdown menu on the top left, choose “Transfer to Travel Partners.”

On the next page, you’ll see all the different programs available for point transfers. For this example, we’ve chosen British Airways.

To begin the process, you will need to select a recipient from the dropdown menu, which will most likely be you unless you’ve linked your account to another person. In the Member ID and Confirm Member ID fields, you’ll need to input your British Airways Avios number and then click “Continue.” The subsequent pages will ask you to enter how many points you’d like to transfer and confirm the amount.

Nerd tip: Before transferring points from AmEx or Chase to an airline for a specific redemption, call the carrier’s customer service department and ask a representative to put the award ticket on hold in case the point transfer is not instantaneous.

Overlapping partners between Chase and American Express

There are eight airlines and one hotel that overlap between AmEx and Chase. Here are a few important things to know about the partners:

  • AmEx often runs transfer bonuses to airlines, so before considering a transfer to a partner that overlaps, check if AmEx is running a transfer promo.

  • Although JetBlue is a partner of both programs, if you do need to transfer points, you’d be better off transferring Chase points — Chase offers a 1:1 ratio, while AmEx offers a 5:4 ratio. Plus, AmEx charges excise fees on transfer to domestic airlines while Chase does not. The only instance a transfer from American Express Membership Rewards could make sense is if AmEx was running a transfer bonus that equalized the ratio and offset the excise fee.

If you want to book with a partner that overlaps both programs, you have both types of points and the transfer ratios are equal, which points should you use? Your decision can largely depend on:

  • How many points you already have with each issuer.

  • How easy it is to earn the points based on your spending habits.

  • The credit cards you already have or are considering applying for.

  • Whether there is an ongoing transfer bonus.

If you’ve got your eye on some transfer partners and want to start earning AmEx Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards®, you may want to consider applying for a card that earns points with the corresponding program.

How to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® and American Express Membership Rewards points

The fastest and easiest way to earn points with AmEx or Chase is through credit card welcome offers. The other way is to strategically use the cards for everyday purchases so you maximize your earnings on bonus categories.

Keep in mind that you will need to satisfy a minimum spending requirement to receive the welcome bonus. If you cannot meet the minimum spend without going into debt, it's better to hold off applying for the card — any value you’d receive from the points will be wiped out by the finance charges you’d pay on carrying a balance.

In addition, before you start applying for any new cards, keep in mind Chase’s 5/24 rule, which limits the number of Chase cards you can be approved for. In general, if you’re deciding between AmEx and Chase, apply for a Chase card first.

Credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points

Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can be earned from these cards:

Personal credit cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® (annual fee: $550): Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® .

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Business credit card:

  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (annual fee: $95): New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

No-fee cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards®:

These no-annual-fee cards will allow you to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards®, but it is important to note that if you do not also have one of the cards above, you are limited in what you can do with your points from a travel perspective. No transfer partners are available, and any travel redeemed through the Chase travel portal will get you a flat 1 cent per point value (compared to the 1.25 or 1.5 available through Chase’s fee-based cards above).

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® (annual fee: $0): Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

  • Chase Freedom Flex℠ (annual fee: $0): Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening..

  • Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card (annual fee: $0): Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card (annual fee: $0): Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 3x points on travel and dining while the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card earns 5x on office supply store purchases. There are several ways to maximize the bonus categories on Chase cards (both fee and no fee) so you can earn the maximum number of Chase Ultimate Rewards® points.

Credit cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards

You can earn AmEx Membership Rewards points from the following credit cards:

Personal credit cards:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express (annual fee: $550): Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

  • American Express® Gold Card (annual fee: $250): Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms Apply.

  • American Express® Green Card (annual fee: $150): Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

  • The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express (annual fee: $95): Earn 15,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

  • Amex EveryDay® Credit Card (annual fee: $0): Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

  • Blue from American Express® (annual fee: $0): Earn 10,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

Business credit cards:

AmEx offers lots of products for earning Membership Rewards points. The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5x points on travel purchases directly with airlines and the American Express® Gold Card returns 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1x points on any additional purchases). Terms apply. You can make the most out of AmEx’s bonus categories by combining a few American Express credit cards.

The bottom line

American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards® are two of the most valuable transferable point currencies. The points from these programs are extremely versatile because they can be transferred to numerous airline and hotel partners. Deciding which program to go with depends on your particular travel goals, but you really can’t go wrong with either program.

Which program do you prefer? Tell us below in the comments!

All information about The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American ExpressAmex EveryDay® Credit CardAmerican Express® Green Card and Blue from American Express® has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American ExpressAmex EveryDay® Credit CardAmerican Express® Green Card and Blue from American Express® are no longer available through NerdWallet.

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:

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.