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In the world of miles and points, two loyalty programs reign supreme: Chase Ultimate Rewards® and American Express Membership Rewards. Each program's points are particularly valuable because they can be transferred to airline and hotel partners, as well as redeemed for travel, gift cards and statement credits.
Transferring points to airlines and hotels and redeeming for award flights/hotel nights can yield excellent value. We take a look at both programs and analyze AmEx and Chase’s best and worst transfer partners. In addition, we explain who benefits the most from each program and show you how to earn and maximize the points.
Chase has 11 airline partners, while American Express has 19. Both programs also offer three hotel chains as transfer partners.
Although AmEx offers more partners, it doesn’t mean that AmEx’s program is superior. Rather, it's a matter of deciding which airlines or hotels you prefer.
For example, if you love Southwest Airlines and want to use your points for an award ticket on that airline, you’ll want to focus your efforts on earning points because Southwest only partners with Chase.
With a total of 21 partners (18 airlines, three hotels), AmEx points can be transferred to the following airlines and hotels.
Air Canada’s Aeroplan: Air Canada’s Aeroplan is a solid program due to its and participation in the Star Alliance network. Aeroplan miles are great for booking award seats on United, and many other Star Alliance carriers.
Air France / KLM’s Flying Blue: Air France / KLM’s Flying Blue is another useful option due to the airline’s , which are 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: British Airways is a member of the , so you could use your British Airways Avios to book flights on . 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, .
JetBlue: 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 on its own, transferring AmEx points to the carrier would not be a great use of points.
Delta or Hawaiian Airlines: 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.
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Here's a closer look at American Express' transfer ratios, minimum transfer amounts and alliance memberships.
With the exception of Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue, the remaining airline partners are international. Don’t let this deter you, though — many of these international airlines participate in large , offering plenty of opportunities for redemptions on domestic carriers.
For example, Avianca and United Airlines are both members of the . So you could transfer AmEx points to , and then use LifeMiles miles to book an award ticket on United.
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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.
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'll need to choose one. In our example, we’ve selected Hawaiian Airlines for a transfer.
To proceed with a transfer, you'll 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 card associated with your Membership Rewards account.
Once the accounts have been linked, you'll be able to transfer your points on the following page.
Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can be transferred to 14 programs in total, comprising 11 airlines and three hotel chains.
Note, a Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partner by the end of 2021.
United: United is a great choice given the airline’s extensive reach and its participation in Star Alliance. Although United has , its award search tool is great for checking Star Alliance availability. Another positive is that United doesn’t charge taxes or surcharges on .
Virgin Atlantic: A lesser-known fact about Virgin Atlantic is that its miles can be used to book Delta award tickets on Virgin’s website. Despite the recent negative , a one-way award from the U.S. to Europe in the Delta One cabin is still only 50,000 Flying Club miles. is Delta’s international first class option, and the cabin offers lie-flat seats, a superior dining option during the flight and 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 plus $5.60 in taxes.
However, on the Delta website, you’d need to spend 80,000 SkyMiles plus $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 service is excellent.
Hyatt: Hyatt is the only Chase hotel transfer partner that’s worthy of mention. , which is above the valuation of any other hotel or airline. Standard award nights at Hyatt properties range from per night.
As an example, a one-night stay this fall at the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York prices out at 25,000 points or $695 per night, reflecting an excellent redemption value of nearly 2.8 cents per point.
Marriott or IHG: Transferring to Marriott or IHG would not be ideal. NerdWallet values Marriott points at and IHG points at each. Given that you could redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards® through the travel portal for 1.5 cents each if you have the you’d be better off booking a hotel room through Chase’s travel portal.
Here's a deep dive into the Chase transfer ratio, minimum transfer amounts and its 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.
Log into your Chase Ultimate Rewards® account and select your credit card. From the Earn / Use drop-down 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'll need to select a recipient from the drop-down 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, 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.
There are nine airlines and one hotel that overlap as partners for both AmEx and Chase. Here are a few important things to know about the partners:
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:
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.
The fastest and easiest way to earn points with AmEx or Chase is through . The other way is to strategically use the cards for everyday purchases so you maximize your earnings on bonus categories.
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, as 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 cards you can be approved for. In general, if you’re deciding between AmEx and Chase, apply for a Chase card first.
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Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can be earned from these cards:
These no-annual-fee cards will allow you to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards®, but it's important to note that if you don't also have one of the cards above, you're 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).
The earns 3x points on travel and dining while the 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.
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You can earn AmEx Membership Rewards points from the following cards:
AmEx offers several products for earning Membership Rewards points. earns 5x points on travel purchases directly with airlines on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and the 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 by combining a few American Express cards.
To view rates and fees of , see . To view rates and fees of the , see . To view rates and fees of , see . To view rates and fees of the , see .
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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, your home airport and which airlines fly to where you want to go. With so many airline and hotel transfer partners, you really can’t go wrong with either program.
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