Which Is The Best Transferable Points Program? Amex, Chase, Citi And More, Head-To-Head

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Updates:

  • November 14, 2021: Citi adds Wyndham Rewards as hotel transfer partner
  • January 2, 2022: Capital One adds Choice Privileges as hotel transfer partner
  • March 1, 2022: Capital One adds Virgin Red as transfer partner, I’ve added this under Virgin Atlantic
  • March 16, 2022: Bilt adds United MileagePlus and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles as airline transfer partners


What’s the credit card points program? Just like not every airline program is created equal, not every credit card points program is either. I’m going to look at Chase, American Express, Citibank, Capital One, Bilt and Brex. Several factors go into which credit card points program is best, for instance:

  • How much each point is worth, based on what you can do with the points (transfers to airlines and hotels, redemption directly for travel, etc)
  • How quickly you can earn points in the program
  • Trust, the program’s track record and reliability with customers, not devaluing its points and giving members notice of changes

“Which is the best credit card points program” can be a bit like “who was the better ballplayer, Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle?” We may not settle it definitively, but we can get pretty close I think and the thinking process can help you figure out which program is the right one for you.

Who Are The Transfer Partners?

The most leverage for transferable points is… transfers to other airline and hotel loyalty programs. That’s because the points can be used very strategically,

  • when an award ticket offers the best value, and is available for the travel you want
  • to top off an account, rather than booking entirely with transferable points
  • put in the right account, in the right amount, at the right time – it’s better to be able to accumulate points where you can choose where they go later, rather than committing up front to a single airline or hotel program

Naturally, not all transfer programs are created equal. They all have different partners based on strategy, relationship, and cost (and in some cases contractual limits). So it makes sense to start with, who are the partners of each program? Here’s a handy chart:

Chase Amex Citi Cap One Bilt Brex
Star Alliance
Air Canada X X X X
All Nippon X
Avianca X X X X
EVA X X
Singapore Airlines X X X X X
TAP X
THAI X
Turkish Airlines X X X
United Airlines X X
oneworld
American X
British Airways X X X
Cathay Pacific X X X X X
Finnair X
Iberia X X
Malaysia Airlines X
Qantas X X X X
Qatar X
SkyTeam
Aeromexico X X X X
Air France X X X X X X
Delta X
Non-alliance
Aer Lingus X X
Emirates X X X X X X
Etihad X X X
Hawaiian X X
InterMiles X
JetBlue X X X
Southwest Airlines X
Virgin Atlantic X X X X X
Hotels
Accor X
Choice X X X
Hilton X
Hyatt X X
IHG X X
Marriott X X
Wyndham X X

Who Has The Best Airline Transfer Partners?

The best SkyTeam transfer partner is easy. That’s Air France KLM’s Flying Blue, and all of the transfer currencies partner with them. It’s tough for them to make money on credit cards in Europe with regulated interchange, so liberal points transfers are how they get a piece of the more lucrative U.S. credit card market. It’s odd that Bank of America issues the Air France KLM credit card in the U.S. and doesn’t have exclusivity.

Aeromexico is next to useless as a partner. Sure, they have attractive published rates for round the world tickets but I don’t know of anyone that’s ever successfully booked and flown one of those using Aeromexico. Their award pricing is mostly quite high, but most of all they are just insufferably difficult to deal with – even for patient Spanish speakers.

Delta is usually going to give you only a bit over a penny per point in value most of the time. Occasionally you’ll do better, but not with the sort of leverage Flying Blue still offers. I’d rather have Air France as a transfer partner than Delta, though most American Express customers will transfer to Delta because that’s what they know and it seems simple.

The best oneworld transfer partner is American AAdvantage, which is a Bilt transfer partner. Citibank temporarily had them in 2021, so hopefully that returns and it’ll make a big difference for the program.

After AAdvantage, Qatar Airways is very attractive for actually flying on Qatar’s QSuites product – reasonable redemption prices and no fuel surcharges. They’re exclusive to Citi. British Airways can be ok for short-haul flying. Iberia is good for transatlantic flights on their own aircraft. (And British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus points all transfer back and forth provided the accounts are considered active.) Cathay Pacific’s program is… ok. While outside of some edge cases, such as unique Pacific parnters and when they have inventory offered only their own members, Qantas Frequent Flyer won’t be used often. Finnair and Malaysia Airlines are next to useless.

The best value transfer partner in Star Alliance is ANA, though they can be a bit tricky (redemptions restricted to family members, transfers aren’t instant, roundtrips are required though there are workarounds). After that I’d say Aeroplan is marginally better than United. Turkish offers some unique value. Avianca has an award chart similar to United’s and a few hacks to lower redemption costs but miserable customer service.

EVA Air’s Infinity MileageLands is an underrated program. Singapore Airlines is useful for redeeming awards in premium cabins on Singapore itself, since for long haul flights those aren’t generally offered to partners. The win here goes to American Express Membership Rewards by a nose, followed I think by Bilt which is the only program that transfers to 2 of the 3 major U.S. airlines and then Chase simply because of the ease and familiarity of United if not overall value.

Among non-alliance partners, Emirates is a transfer partner of everyone, and offers (unique) value for Emirates first class redemptions. Aer Lingus offers almost zero incremental value, and is duplicative in any case since British Airways and Iberia points can be moved into the program.

Hawaiian has limited value – access to extra inventory for Hawaiian’s own flights, and especially for upgrades on Hawaiian itself. Etihad can be useful for their own flights (though AAdvantage gets you Etihad redemptions at lower cost generally) and for a hodge podge of partners. InterMiles has been useless since the demise of Jet Airways.

JetBlue offers little value (a single JetBlue point isn’t worth a lot, and redemptions are roughly revenue-based) but lets a program claim a U.S. airline partner. Southwest points don’t buy enough in airfare to make sense transferring except as a pure top-off play.

Virgin Atlantic points are generally low value, but there are some very high value rewards like ANA premium cabin redemptions. They let you put an award on hold pending transfer. Don’t ever be tempted by a transfer bonus or to proactively move points to Virgin, since the best value awards could go away at any time (and that’s happened with Virgin in the past).

Who Has The Best Hotel Transfer Partners?

The only hotel program with transferring to is Hyatt, and that’s a win for Chase and for Bilt. The problem is that each hotel point in other programs is too low value to make the transfer ratios make sense. Neither Hilton, IHG, nor Marriott points are worth even $0.006 apiece in my view, so even at 1:2 you’re getting at best about 1.2 cents per credit card point after transferring.

Who Has The Best Non-Transfer Redemption Options?

Points can often be spent at a penny apiece towards travel, and perhaps at a lower rate against options like gift cards or statement credits. However one program stands apart in the non-transfer redemption category and that is Chase.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can use their points at 1.5 cents apiece through the bank’s travel portal, or against charges on their account in rotating ‘Pay Yourself Back’ categories.

Meanwhile holders of other cards in the Ultimate Rewards family that transfer points, like Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, can generally redeem those points at 1.25 cents apiece against travel portal expenses or Pay Yourself Back categories.

To be sure Chase isn’t the only currency that can be redeemed at greater than a penny apiece outside of transfers. Bilt Rewards allows redemptions at 1.5 cents apiece towards mortgages, but that’s less appealing than Sapphire Reserve’s 1.5 cent offerings which are more immediate, can be redeemed in smaller quantities, and the savings of course from those redemptions can be used towards a mortgage or anything else.

Whose Points Are Easiest To Earn?

When pooling points from different cards within a transferable points family it’s easy to earn quickly for spend across a wide variety of categories, such as using the Platinum Card® from American Express for airfare purchased from an airline, an American Express® Gold Card on dining, etc. Or using a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for 3 points per dollar on dining, an Ink Business Cash® Credit Card for its bonus categories, and then a Chase Freedom Unlimited® to earn 1.5 points per dollar on everything that doesn’t earn a bigger bonus somewhere else.

Citi offers similar opportunities with the Citi Premier® Card and other cards like Citi® Double Cash Card (which when paid off effectively earns 2 points per dollar on everything, not bad for a no annual fee card).

Capital One Venture and Venture X both earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, representing the strongest earn for unbonused spend from a card whose earnings are uncapped and transfer to miles directly (without pooling of some kind).

Bilt offers something unique, earning up to 50,000 points per year on rent with no additional fee. Its bonus categories are the same as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. However Bilt doesn’t offer an initial bonus, while Sapphire Preferred does.

Think about this another way, there are different reasons to get a card – the up front bonus, benefits of being a cardmember (companion tickets, lounge access, etc), and return for your ongoing spend. In the ‘return on spend’ category Bilt gets you what Sapphire Preferred gets you plus points for rent.

Still, if you were only going to get one card, it’ll take awhile paying rent to ‘catch up’ with what Chase gives you because of that up front bonus. However Bilt also is unique in earning in non-spend ways, such as signing leases with big high rises in major cities. You can catch up to that bonus if you’re a renter in that demographic.

Places You Can Park All Your Points

One facet of these transferable points programs is that they share some transfer partners in common. That means you can earn in all of the programs and then pool your points in a single airline frequent flyer program to book rewards. That’s great because it means initial card bonuses can all go to the same place, if that makes sense. It also means you can pick and choose which card you want to use based on which earns the most points for a given type of spending.

It doesn’t always make sense to do this. For instance you may be able to pool points from several programs into British Airways, but they may charge too much for an award. And you might already have points in a United MilaegePlus account and be looking to top that account off for an award, in which case supplementing with Chase makes more sense.

However ‘transfer partners in common’ is a very useful feature to be thinking about.

The most ubiquitous partners are Air France KLM and Emirates which are partners of all 6 programs. Singapore Airlines is a partner of 5 programs (all but Bilt). Air Canada is a very useful partner, and works with 4 programs (all but Citi and Brex). Somewhat less useful are Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic and Qantas which are partners of four programs. Utterly useless is Aeromexico which partners with 4 as well.

Whose Transfer Options Are Best?

American Express has the most transfer partners. They have historically also had the most transfer bonuses. They have ANA, with its low mileage cost redemptions, and it’s unique to them. They’re really only behind one program in one category, Bilt with AAdvantage for oneworld. So I believe they’re first by a nose.

Now let’s look at Chase versus Bilt because I think it may be surprising how close the two programs are with transfer partners.

  • They both have Air Canada, which is the best all-around Star transfer partner in my view (though ANA can offer more value and partners with Amex). Chase has United, which many will be comfortable with, and they have Singapore, while Bilt has Turkish (which offers the cheapest domestic United redemptions and cheap long haul as well).

  • Bilt beats Chase with oneworld hands down because AAdvantage is better than British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Iberia – generally lower award pricing for most routes and only imposes fuel charges on British Airways (and minor ducats on Iberia metal).

  • They’re identical for SkyTeam

  • Among non-alliance carriers we weigh JetBlue and Southwest (Chase) versus Hawaiian (Bilt)

On the basis of transfer partners along I’d say they’re pretty indistinguishable, and have to wonder if Turkish and American (Bilt) versus United and Singapore (Chase) makes them a bit of a draw with maybe the tiniest edge to Bilt on the basis of transfer partners alone?

Considering Citibank vs. Capital One, I focus on valuable partners the other one lacks. Citi has Qatar and Virgin, while Capital One has Air Canada and British Airways. I’d say this is a close call, the two currencies aren’t separated by a lot here, but I’d probably go with Capital One by a hair.

There’s absolutely no question that Brex is the laggard here with the weakest partners.

Which Is The Best Credit Card Points Program Overall?

So what’s the best credit card points program? All of these program’s – except Brex – are great. Is it too Leninist to just ask ‘who (partners with) whom?’ Undergrad poli sci notwithstanding, we need to look beyond just transfer partners to determine which program is best. There’s how easy is it to earn points? And even determining how much those points are worth requires us to look at non-transfer redemption options as well as risk.

The two programs where I might flag small risk elements are with Citibank and Bilt.

  • Citi has devalued in the past for use of points to buy airfare. They’ve dropped premium insurance offerings on most cards. They’ve done cost-cutting in ways that affected the value of their points and cards. Citi in some ways hinges on its ability to bring American AAdvantage back as a transfer partner beyond its limited-time run.

  • Bilt is simply too new to have a track record to judge. I don’t doubt their staying power at this point considering the amount of money they’ve raised and the deals they’ve struck, but I can’t give them the bonus points I might apply to Chase – which has kept the value of its program in the face of unexpected nine-figure costs, and the many decades-long reputation Membership Rewards has built.

Ultimately I’d say that American Express, with the largest stable of transfer partners and easy to earn points, may have the most valuable program by a hair.

Then when I consider Chase, I have to think that there’s really a couple of different programs. Sapphire Reserve points can be redeemed at 1.5 cents apiece towards travel through their portal or through ‘Pay Yourself Back’ while other Chase transferable points cards give you 1.25 cents apiece here and are a tiny bit less valuable as a result.

Meanwhile Bilt’s only premium redemption at 1.5 cents comes when spending points for a mortgage, something you don’t do often and some won’t do at all. I have to discount this for time value assuming that the redemption comes far in the future, meanwhile someone could redeem Sapphire Reserve points against expenses now and still pocket the savings for a future mortgage if they wished.

What this means, I think, is that Chase points in a Sapphire Reserve account are marginally better than Bilt points while Chase points in a Sapphire Preferred account are roughly equivalent to a Bilt point. Although with the addition of United and Cathay Pacific as Bilt transfer partners you could easily argue the opposite.

How I Actually Play This Game

In the end I’m not sure the marginal differences in which is the best credit card points program matters a lot. These points programs are an embarrassment of riches. I love having all of these options, and all of these points, and the differences mostly come down to personal preferences for how you’ll use the points. Indeed, they’re all useful and there are even options where you can take points from several bank programs and transfer into the same place. Play in all of these bank programs, and combine towards an award.

Indeed, I’m at a place where I want to spread out my points-earning. While bank programs themselves are a hedge against the devaluation of a single airline or hotel currency you might have focused your earning on, I am working with seven figure balances in Chase and American Express and try to diversify my transferable currencies too.

I’m also not going to turn down a big offer – I’ve got approximately 210,000 Brex points from a 110,000 account signup offer and then 100,000 more points from a related Paypal offer which cost me nothing to do. Brex points may be worth less but they are anything but worthless

If I were a renter I’d be all over the Bilt Rewards Mastercard, which lets you earn up to 50,000 points per year paying rent on the card (no need to pay Plastiq 2.5% for the privilege!), but I’m a homeowner. I may still apply for the card just to experience the program first hand and be able to report on it here.

As a general rule what I do is earn the most points I can in any of the transferable points programs based on what I’m spending my money on. I am doing airfare (5x) these days with my Platinum Card® from American Express. I do restaurants with the American Express® Gold Card. Hotels should go on Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Citi Premier® Card if you don’t have Reserve (3x), except that Hyatt spend should go on The World Of Hyatt Credit Card and Hilton spend on the premium Hilton card. A American Express® Gold Card for groceries (4x up to $25k/ calendar yr)

Office Supplies, telephone, cable and internet go on my Ink Business Cash® Credit Card (where they earn me 5x). Gas should go on a Citi Premier® Card (3x) while fitness and gym memberships are uniquely bonued by The World Of Hyatt Credit Card.

I’m looking forward to putting otherwise-unbonused spend on the Capital One Venture X>.

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the article. I’d actually argue that Chase UR points are “better” than Amex due to the fact that you can churn (relatively) every 24 months (or 48 for Chase Sapphire cards). Whereas Amex has the “lifetime” (or 7 years if one must).

    But YMMV as it depends on what you’re accumulating the points for (which airline, hotel, etc.)

  2. Thanks for this thoughtful analysis of a complex topic. To some extent, it’s a YMMV type of thing. Despite Amex having the most airline transfer partners and other advantages, I like Citi most because Hyatt is a transfer partner. I like Citi least because its points are card-specific: Cancel a Citi card and you’re in a “use it or lose it” position regarding its points.

  3. Oops! Thanks for the correction, QP. I meant to write that I like CHASE best because Hyatt is a transfer partner.

  4. Gary, providing info like this based on your analysis is your forte and reason enough to be a religious View from the Wing subscriber/reader. Just the table would be valuable, not even considering your commentary that goes into more nuanced considerations. Thanks very much for helping all your readers in this way.

  5. Gary, this is an excellent overview and I’m certain that readers appreciate it.

    There is something to be said about simplicity . . . and the domestic harmony that stems from that simplicity. (Now, which card do I use for this purchase?)

    Along the same line, as you were suggesting, one must ask whether the incremental value of a given strategy 1) moves the needle enough or 2) is worth the extra effort.

  6. One nice partnership AmEx has with Rakuten where if you have any AmEx card that earns unrestricted MR points, even a humble no annual fee Everyday card, you can set it up to get MR points instead of cash as a rebate, even if you use a different card to pay for that transaction. Combine that with occasional MR transfer bonuses and you can get a lot more out of the point option than a cash rebate from the site

  7. AMEX is First – broad and frequent transfer bonuses which are really valuable.
    Chase is Second – easy to earn for small businesses and Hyatt as a transfer partner is wonderful.
    Citi is a Close Third – good program and some unique partners.
    Capital One – Recently this program has become valuable, but I already have three girlfriends and don’t know if I have the energy for a forth.
    Brex – less valuable than Capital One, and same issue.
    Bilt – Never heard on them.

  8. Good analysis, and obviously depends on what your travel priorities are. Also where you live- if in a Delta hub, Amex points may be more valuable for you. In the DC area, with United and Southwest hubs, Chase might be more valuable.

  9. Totally agree with Amex being the best. They are the easiest currency to use, give you a ton of opportunities to earn extra miles, transfer to ANA, and have consistent transfer bonuses to get outsized value. As someone else mentioned, Rakuten also gives thousands of extra Amex points each quarter (sometimes 10s of thousand for basically free). Nice article!

  10. Actually after reading this I realized Citi and Cap One are best as all points are double.
    e.g., AF even with 25% bonus is only 62k per year with Amex business plus while Citi with double cash (or Cap One Venture) 2x is unlimited
    Rest of spend is 1x w Amex or 1.5x w Chase for everyday unbonused spend.

    So with an Amex Plat for benefits and a business Plus for 2x up to 50k
    A Chase SP for ability to transfer along with Ink cash for 5x and an unlimited for 1.5x
    A Citi Premier along with Double Cash
    and an additional Venture X – you can cover almost everything
    Total 8 cards – 4 with no fee covers almost all
    Upfront Cost Max 600+100+100+400 = max 1200 with benefits easily giving back 800 at once

  11. The strategy stated at the end needs to have a caveat for the level of spend required to make all the separate annual fees worth it. As of right now I focus on Sapphire Reserve and a $95 /yr Amex Hilton card. Once travel picks back up (I can use a personal card for business expenses) I will reassess adding another high fee Amex but what’s the break even point on a $300-400 annual fee?

  12. @ Gary. Consistency being a hobgoblin, the Venture X article seems to say that you applied & were instantly approved while this article says you plan to apply.

  13. The only hotel program with (sic) transferring to is Hyatt, and that’s a win for Chase and for Bilt. The problem is that each hotel point in other programs is too low value to make the transfer ratios make sense. Neither Hilton, IHG, nor Marriott points are worth even $0.006 apiece in my view, so even at 1:2 you’re getting at best about 1.2 cents per credit card point after transferring.

    The relative “values” of points currencies, by which their relative “worth” is incorrectly implied, have absolutely nothing to do with why transferring UR points to Hyatt points 1:1 is more favorable than transferring UR points 1:1 to HH, IHG or BonVoy points. Rather, it is because, arbitrarily, Hyatt’s points scale goes only up to 45K, while the points scales of the other programs go up to 2x or 3x higher values, precisely to discourage members from earning points (e.g., UR) elsewhere and redeeming them for free stays at the expense of the chains’ own points and bottom line!

    I already debunked the claim before in this space, which in that incarnation was that:

    A single Hyatt point is the most valuable major hotel currency. It doesn’t take nearly as many points to book a top Hyatt property as it does to book a Hilton for instance. The most expensive Hyatt standard room is 35,000 points (leaving aside partner hotels and timeshares), compared to 95,000 at Hilton and 100,000 at Marriott.

    However, trying to access that thread leads to “Oops! That page can’t be found, which means that after having been rinsed clean, the bogus claim is simply being recycled. So, let me try another, shorter proof that again shows the claim to be pure nonsense.

    Reductio ad absurdum:
    Transferring 45K UR points 1:1 to Hyatt points would allow one to book an award night at Hyatt’s very best (category 8) hotels. Transferring 45K UR points 1:1 to Hilton would allow one book an award night at a mediocre Hampton Inn by Hilton in China, at best. By the same logic as in the quoted claim(s), it means a top-category Hyatt hotel is equivalent to a mediocre Hampton Inn by Hilton in China. Right? Conversely, doesn’t that imply that very top Hilton hotels that would require transferring 120K-150K UR points 1:1 to Hilton points to afford are much more “valuable” than very top Hyatt hotels? If not, then why not? After all, the very same number of UR points that cost exactly the same in hard currency to acquire were transferred to the two points currencies of the two programs…

    Inquiring minds wanna know!

  14. Cleaner…

    I already debunked the claim before in this space, which in that incarnation was that:

    A single Hyatt point is the most valuable major hotel currency. It doesn’t take nearly as many points to book a top Hyatt property as it does to book a Hilton for instance. The most expensive Hyatt standard room is 35,000 points (leaving aside partner hotels and timeshares), compared to 95,000 at Hilton and 100,000 at Marriott.

    However, trying to access that thread leads to “Oops! That page can’t be found, which means that after having been rinsed clean, the bogus claim is simply being recycled. So, let me try another, shorter proof that again shows the claim to be pure nonsense.

    Reductio ad absurdum:
    Transferring 45K UR points 1:1 to Hyatt points would allow one to book an award night at Hyatt’s very best (category 8) hotels. Transferring 45K UR points 1:1 to Hilton would allow one book an award night at a mediocre Hampton Inn by Hilton in China, at best. By the same logic as in the quoted claim(s), it means a top-category Hyatt hotel is equivalent to a mediocre Hampton Inn by Hilton in China. Right? Conversely, doesn’t that imply that very top Hilton hotels that would require transferring 120K-150K UR points 1:1 to Hilton points to afford are much more “valuable” than very top Hyatt hotels? If not, then why not? After all, the very same number of UR points that cost exactly the same in hard currency to acquire were transferred to the two points currencies of the two programs…

    Inquiring minds wanna know!

  15. DCS, I think the discussion of points value is significantly larger than what any blog has ever discussed.

    Blogs will talk about destination X and soon enough destination X becomes overrun and a place no one would want to visit. Blogs will talk about a points opportunity / strategy and soon enough the points opportunity / strategy gets shut down.

    Along this line, a commenter to one of the blogs said that the truly adept points masters will keep quiet about their strategies as they don’t want them shut down. I think the adept points masters are talking quantum mechanics while we in the blogs are talking about Newtonian physics . . . and enthralled by orthodoxy. Quid tibi vis dicam. Quid tibit vis facem.

    I think that beyond simply booking a hotel award stay, there’s *how* the award stay is booked. And, I think *how* leads to redemption values that are meaningfully greater than the numbers discussed in any blog article. But, the adept points masters aren’t going to share *how*. If they share, it gets shut down and no one benefits. I understand and respect what this commenter said — it’s Darwinian.

    So, when I see any discussion about points value, I sense the participants are missing something.

    Peer through the looking glass Neo.

  16. PS

    In defense of Gary relative values, his lead-in says, ” . . . the thinking process can help you figure out which program is the right one for you.” This is consistent with the quantum mechanics analogy in my prior comment — the position of the electron (value of points) is completely dependent on the observer.

    Separately, consider that you’re staying at a hotel outside the U.S. You can use an Amex, Bilt, Capital One, Chase, Citi, or other credit card to pay for the stay. You have them all. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s level the playing field and say that 1) all cards earn the same number of bank points, 2) all cards have the same transfer partners (assume the same value), and 3) none have foreign transaction fees. Which issuer would you use? On the surface, everything is equal. But, it’s not. It matters which card you use. So, which would you use and why?

  17. I think that beyond simply booking a hotel award stay, there’s *how* the award stay is booked. And, I think *how* leads to redemption values that are meaningfully greater than the numbers discussed in any blog article. But, the adept points masters aren’t going to share *how*. If they share, it gets shut down and no one benefits. I understand and respect what this commenter said — it’s Darwinian.
    So, when I see any discussion about points value, I sense the participants are missing something.

    — Joe Reno

    @Joe Reno – Most of what you stated is irrelevant to my beef with what objected to, except what quoted above, which I partially agree with, especially the bolded part.

    Discussion “participants”, including self-anointed “travel gurus” who ought to know better, simply misunderstand points currencies at the basic concept level. You sort of alluded to it, but much of the misunderstanding or confusion arises from the fact that virtually everyone lumps together two distinct concepts, which I will elaborate on in my in-preparation magnum opus on the ‘demystification’ of hotel loyalty points currencies, of which I will just give glimpse below. The short of it is that the usual caveat about how everyone values points differently stems from lumping together the following two concepts:

    1. There are nominal values of points currencies (i.e., the “face” value of each points currency denomination), which are fixed, can be calculated analytically and are, thus, objective. These are the values of points currencies that bloggers publish and can be arrived at by making hundreds of dummy bookings and then calculating the values of points as the average of (nightly revenue room rate divided by the number of points required for an award night in the same room) over all dummy bookings. The two methods (analytical calculations and average of hundreds of dummy bookings) yield identical results, if done just right, and what they show is that all major hotel points currencies are worth exactly the same, despite having different nominal values.

    2. Then there are redemption values of points currencies, which are not fixed because they do not exist until points have been redeemed through a highly subjective process that depends on *how* and for what each individual redeems their points (this is what you alluded to).

    If one gets 180K HH points as a signup bonus for the HH AMEX Surpass card, then one can say that the nominal cash value of those bonus points is (valuing a HH point ‘nominally’ at 0.5cpp):

    180,000 HH point * $0.005/HH point = $900.

    On the other hand, there are many highly subjective ways that those 180,000 HH points can be redeemed. Some people would dread flying across the world to redeem those points for an award stay on some Indian Ocean atoll with strange sounding name, but I would do such a redemption, I have done such a redemption, and I am doing such a redemption again in about a year. For that upcoming award stay on the far away atoll with strange name, I will be paying 120K HH points per night for a standard villa that would cost $1,829 per night, excluding taxes. Therefore, I can ‘estimate’ the nightly redemption value as

    $1,829/120,000 HH points = $0.015/HH point,

    i.e., 3x more than the nominal value of 0.005/HH point.

    Of course, my actual redemption value for what will be a 5-night award stay will be much higher because steep taxes and other fees are excluded from the total cash value above and I will get the 5th award night free.

    Thus, at least for me, the cash value of those 180K bonus HH points would be $1,820 and change, i.e., twice as much as bloggers would estimate based on their nominal or “face” values of hotel points currencies, which are actually not too bad, especially if averaged across bloggers.

    In short, one of the major sources of confusion about points currencies is that virtually everyone lumps together two distinct concepts: (a) nominal or “face” values of points currencies, which are fixed, can be calculated objectively and show that all points currencies are worth exactly the same; and (b) redemption values of points currencies, which do not exist until points are redeemed according to personal preferences and/or circumstances and are, therefore, highly subjective.

    G’day.

  18. Separately, consider that you’re staying at a hotel outside the U.S. You can use an Amex, Bilt, Capital One, Chase, Citi, or other credit card to pay for the stay. You have them all. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s level the playing field and say that 1) all cards earn the same number of bank points, 2) all cards have the same transfer partners (assume the same value), and 3) none have foreign transaction fees. Which issuer would you use? On the surface, everything is equal. But, it’s not. It matters which card you use. So, which would you use and why?

    That is a softball. If the hotel outside the US is a Hilton property, I will use the incomparable HH AMEX Aspire card to earn HH points directly because it is the program that I patronize. If the hotel is not a Hilton property, I will use the Chase CSR to earn UR points that I can transfer to the two airline FF programs that I patronize, UA and SQ. I will never ever transfer bank points to hotel points (not even to Hyatt points) because it is a waste of highly transferable currencies, when, based on my choice of hotel loyalty program, I can easily earn hotel points with my co-branded hotel cards.

    You probably expected a different answer, but what I just stated is my real answer because that is exactly what my strategy is in practice.

    Which card would you use?

  19. The point of the question was to uncover an aspect about issuers that affects the economic value garnered by the card holder (that is never discussed on blogs) as opposed to specific cards.

    I’ll step back behind the looking glass and let ponder those who thirst . . . if there be any.

    Good night and good luck.

  20. I am not at all of the opinion that bloggers are hiding ‘trade secrets’ from their readers. They are simply not as knowledgeable about points currencies as they ought to be considering that it’s what they do for a living. Why attribute to malice what is simply due to limited knowledge?

    G’day.

  21. I am not saying that the bloggers themselves are hiding anything. I agree that they’re not covering an issue or strategy because they don’t know about it. So, no malice.

    But, I am saying that there are non-blogger members of the community out there who have found / invented superior strategies and who are not sharing. And, I find no malice in these people not sharing.

    Imagine that airline X’s reservation system has a flaw. The flaw allows a person to book long-haul first class for the price of long-haul business class. Someone discovers the flaw. If that person spills the beans so everyone can benefit, airline X will learn of the flaw and fix it.

    Recall the PayPal debit card that would be linked to any credit card in one’s PayPal wallet? A person could make a “debit” transaction through Plastiq (or another service) and be charged for a “debit” transaction while earning points on the credit card linked to the PayPal debit card. The blogs picked it up and within a couple months it was shut down. The moral of the story is that if someone finds an exploitable flaw, tell no one. Otherwise, it’s gone.

  22. @Reno Joe — I have no idea why you are focusing on exploiting programmatic flaws instead of focusing on exploiting official programmatic benefits by fully understand what is or is not offered and the associated T&C and then taking advantage of it. It’s called playing the game with a “full deck.”

    My general feeling is that (a) there are not that many ‘flaws’ out there just waiting to be exploited and (b) those that are discovered are generally fixed so promptly that they benefit very few.

    Hunting or waiting for ‘flaws’ that can be exploited is no way to play miles/points game…

  23. I appreciate Gary’s post and the discussion here. But isn’t so much of this subjective?

    For example, I just splurged on a couple of Hyatt and Hilton redemptions, going for a premium suite at the former and a boutique hotel’s best suite at the latter. I used far more points than regular rooms at those hotels would have required. Plus I transferred some Chase points to Hyatt to make the former happen. And I did this despite the possibility of my top status at both hotels might have gotten my wife and me upgraded.

    Still, for our circumstances it made sense to me. These are both special trips (for my wife’s birthday and for our first overseas trip – knock on wood – since Covid started). Plus, we’re not young, and we’re not getting any younger. And we still have health airline, hotel and credit card points balances in our accounts.

    Someone with a different outlook, points balance, age or whatever could justifiably view what I chose more negatively. Which is why I get back to YMMV.

  24. @Steve – One aspect of it, like your recent ‘splurging’, is subjective, i.e., YMMV. Another aspect of it, which include bloggers’ valuations of points currencies, is not at all subjective and is the one that also universally misunderstood and misused, as everyone lumps together the two distinct aspects, as I described up-thread in DCS says: March 1, 2022 at 9:38 pm.

  25. Why would anyone put their rent on a Bilt card at 1X, when all of the other currencies have cards that would earn at least 1.5X for everyday purchases that would also cover rent? If the landlord takes Mastercard already, there’s no point.

    The only Bilt scenario that doesn’t apply to cards is paying via their alliance. There’s no opportunity cost in that case, as there’s no card-based alternative other than Plastiq which isn’t a great alternative at current prices.

  26. Why are these posts with debunked content suddenly being recycled? None of the debunked claims will become true just because they are repeatedly recycled, y’know…

    G’day.

  27. A question for the update of this post. In your “hotel Transfers” section, you don’t even mention that Citi Thank You points 1 for 2 transfer to Choice. Using your own value for choice points, that would give you a value of 1.2 cents per thank you point, not far off from the 1.4 cent Hyatt point value for ultimate rewards. Do you still consider this a nonstarter for hotel point transfers?
    I point this out as I find that Choice also has a very wide range of value when redeeming their points, wider than most hotel points. I am looking at a redemption this summer that is looking like about 1.75 cents per point, so 3.5 cents per thank you point. While choice points often only bring a value in the half cent range, there also seems to be quite a number of situations where values can be multiples of this value. Not great if you are getting choice points directly and might have to hold onto them for quite a while to get the value, but if you come across a situation like this, it makes thank you points quite valuable and with other options, you can hold thank you points for as long or as short as you need.

  28. Gary
    I am glad you recycle these posts to let new people know – but don’t you want to update the real important info?
    e.g.,
    Qatar is moving to Avios and may no longer be a Citi exclusive.

  29. One big consideration with Citibank, IMHO, is their (negatively) one-of-a-kind point expiration or forfeiture policies.

    Most obnoxiously: if you cancel a card (or if they cancel your card), you have to use or lose those points within 30 days. Can’t transfer them to another Citicard, even one that earns ThankYou points.

    What’s even MORE obnoxious is that this forfeiture is silent. It’ll be noted in the yadda yadda of an account closure, but you won’t see these points listed as pending forfeiture in their online tool, despite it claiming to show “expiring points.”

    This is in stark contrast with Amex and Chase, where — as long as you have ONE of their cards (even a no-annual-fee one!) that earns their points — you can transfer any/all your points there before or right after you close one of their other cards… and those points WON’T expire!

    Ask me how I know

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