Maximize Your Travel: The Definitive Guide To Which Transferable Points Are Most Valuable

United miles are great, and so are Southwest points, but I would rather have Chase’s points that transfer directly to both United and to Southwest as well as to a variety of other programs like British Airways and Hyatt.

Similar flexibility exists for American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One’s and Citibank’s points, and Bilt Rewards. Transferable currencies, that let you move points into a variety of programs, are more valuable than any single airline or hotel program’s points. But which one of these currencies is the most valuable? There are subtle but important differences in each.

  • This is about the value of the points earned – not the speed at which you earn them. For instance you could put airfare on a platinum card, groceries and dining on Gold and everything else on a Blue business and earn Membership Rewards quite quickly – faster than most will earn Citi points because the Prestige card is no longer available to new customers. Bilt has only one card.

  • But it helps you answer, would I rather have 200,000 Chase points, Bilt points, Membership Rewards points, Capital One points, Amex points or Citi transferable points? In which program is a single point worth the most?

Answering this question starts with looking at the transfer partners each program has (they’re all different), which partners provide the most value, and also how flexible each currency is when you want to use your points directly against a paid ticket or hotel night rather than redeeming for a free flight or free hotel award night.

Singapore Suites, two suites combine and offer double beds

Here Are The Transfer Partners Of Each Program

The primary benefit of travel rewards cards from big banks is the ability to transfer points to your choice of airline or hotel loyalty program. Instead of earning a single currency, like United’s miles, you earn points that can be redeemed directly as cash against paid fares or transferred to your preferred points.

For instance if you earn Chase points you can transfer to United or other miles, if you earn American Express points you can transfer to Delta or other miles. That’s better than ‘just’ earning United or Delta miles directly. You have choice, and the ability to put points where you need them based on the trip you’re trying to book and who has award availability.

So in assessing which program is best (and best for you!) the best place to start is comparing which transfer partners are part of each bank’s program:

Chase Amex Citi Cap One Bilt
Star Alliance
Air Canada X X X X
All Nippon X
Avianca X X X X
Singapore Airlines X X X X
Turkish Airlines X X X
United Airlines X X
American X
British Airways X X X X
Cathay Pacific X X X X
Finnair X
Iberia X X X
Malaysia Airlines X
Qantas X X X
Qatar X X
Aeromexico X X X
Air France X X X X X
Delta X
Virgin Atlantic X X X X X
Aer Lingus X X X
Emirates X X X X X
Etihad X X X
Hawaiian X X
JetBlue X X X
Southwest Airlines X
Accor X X
Choice X X X
Hilton X
Hyatt X X
Leading Hotels Of The World X
Marriott X X X
Wyndham X X

Etihad Premium Cabin Awards Currently Only Bookable More Than 60 Days Out Using Etihad’s Own Points

Comparing Airline Points Transfer Options

Air France KLM has the best SkyTeam frequent flyer program. All of the programs transfer to their Flying Blue program. You might make an argument that Korean Air SKYPASS is the better SkyTeam program, but in the U.S., US Bank has exclusivity with them, and none of the banks transfer there anymore (Chase used to). This isn’t an area of meaningful differentiation.

American is the best oneworld frequent flyer program. For distance-based awards you may want access to an Avios program. Bilt is the only program that transfers to American, and they have British Airways and Iberia for Avios. They also have Cathay Pacific which offers lower fuel surcharges. The only other differentiator here is Qantas, for better availability on their own flights, but those are pretty expensive and won’t trump having American as a transfer partner.

Within Star Alliance I’d say the best general all-purpose program is Air Canada Aeroplan, and they partner with Chase, American Express, Capital One and Bilt. Beyond that, the best values are with ANA (American Express) and Turkish (Bilt, Capital One, Citi). ANA transfers take a couple of days, which makes them less useful – you need to make proactive transfers, but then their points expire if unused. Turkish is tough to work with sometimes.

ANA’s First Class Meals Are Incredible

There’s value in Singapore (for premium cabin flights on their own planes) and EVA Air (for great availability on their own flights). Most people like United as a U.S. airline partner, and both Chase and Bilt transfer there, but MileagePlus just isn’t as good a program as the rest – you likely only should be working through them to (1) top off miles you’re earning flying as a U.S.-based customer, and (2) for extra availability at higher prices on their own flights.

So maybe Capital One is best for Star Alliance redemptions, even though they don’t have a U.S. based transfer partner? But it’s not a win by a lot, and I consider Chase, Bilt and American Express all competitive in this category.

Comparing Hotel Points Transfer Options

Chase and Bilt offer transfers to Hyatt. That makes them the top two programs for hotel points transfers, because Hyatt offers the best value at 1:1.

It would go to far to say that Hyatt is the only decent hotel points transfer partner. With a 50% transfer bonus from American Express to Hilton you’ll get alright value. More importantly,

  • There’s actually some value in Citi transfers to Choice Privileges (because they’re 1:2). They have some premium partner properties, and if you’re taking a whole sports team somewhere it’s probably to a town with Choice hotels. The value in top properties isn’t terrible, but they’re pain to book. And there are too many place you won’t want to stay.
  • In addition, there’s decent value in Citi transfers to Leading Hotels of the World at the high end, too.

I’ve Stayed On Points Twice at Bora Bora Nui

Mostly, though, the problem with hotel points transfers is that they’re usually set up 1:1 (or 1:2) but hotel points operate on a different scale, with each point worth less than an airline mile. The problem isn’t the transfer partners as much as the transfer ratios. Hyatt is the only one where there’s strong value at 1:1.

Park Hyatt Hadahaa, Maldives

Transfer Bonuses

American Express was the leader in offering transfer bonuses for many years, along with Diners Club which I don’t write about here because you can no longer get a U.S.-issued Diners Club card and because that program is a shell of its former self.

The Membership Rewards program actively offered 20%, 30%, or even larger bonuses from time to time with many of its transfer partners. That’s something Capital One copied, and with increasing competition we’ve seen greater activity from Chase and even Citibank.

What I love about this is that they usually ‘take turns’ with partners like Air France KLM Flying Blue and with Virgin Atlantic, so someone often has a transfer bonus when I happen to need one. However I value the flexibility in having the option to move my points wherever I want, whenever I need to, that these bonuses don’t tempt me for their own sake. Having 20% more points with British Airways Executive Club isn’t enough to compensate me for the lost flexibility in being able to move my points to any partner unless I know I have a near-term specific use for points in BA’s Executive Club.

The only exception to this is what Bilt Rewards has been doing. They were the first program ever to offer 100% bonuses to a 1:1 transfer partner (well, Delta and American Express did it once 15 years ago but that was a glitch, hah). They’ve offered 100% or better bonuses to Hawaiian Airlines, Air France KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Emirates as well as IHG One Rewards.

Emirates Airbus A380 First Class Shower Spa

What Bilt has started doing is offering tiered transfer bonuses based on elite status in their program, often ranging from 75% to 150%. I took advantage of a 150% transfer bonus, moving 200,000 Bilt points to 500,000 Virgin points.

These bonuses, when offered, are available for just a single day (the first of the month, “Rent Day”) in contrast to the more modest offerings of bank programs which usually run for a few weeks or a month. Longer bonuses are great for happening to be able to take advantage of a bonus when you go to redeem, while these big one-off bonuses are great for proactively moving points given how valuable the offers are.

When I’ve needed Air France KLM Flying Blue points I’ve been able to take advantage of small bonuses that happen to be going on – I’ll look across programs to see which one has the best transfer offer. However I’ve jumped on offers from Bilt that are bigger and more lucrative than what anyone else has put into the market. I far prefer what Bilt is doing, making my points worth 2.5 times as much in some cases rather than just 30% more, but others may prefer just having offers ongoing in the background.

Comparing Travel Portal Booking Options

Chase and Bilt both offer to let you use your cash towards paid trips at better than 1 cent apiece. That trumps standard 1 cent offerings from other programs.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve customers can use their points at 1.5 cents apiece
  • Sapphire Preferred and Bilt customers can use their points at 1.25 cents

I don’t love these options because you have to book through their agency offerings (e.g. Bilt is a branded Expedia product) and that means dealing with those agencies for customer service. It’s fine when things go fine, and your initial online booking just works. But getting customer service is always a time-consuming affair and that’s if things go right.

The Amex Business Platinum offers a 35% rebate on pay with points bookings made for flights with your selected airline, or all business and first class flights. That gets you 1.54 cents apiece towards air travel, and it’s better to be booking air travel through a card portal than hotels – because with hotels you’ll be giving up elite status benefits, credit towards earning status, and hotel points-earning since you’ve booked through a third party agency.

However the pay with points rebate is limited to the Business Platinum and Centurion (50% rebate) cards, and isn’t available with other Amex products – it’s not a Membership Rewards benefit as such.

Here Sapphire Reserve > Business Platinum > Bilt and Sapphire Preferred (maybe a slight edge to Bilt, which doesn’t exclude Disney redemptions) which in turn is better than American Express, Chase, Capital One and Citi portal bookings generally.

Conclusion: Bilt Rewards Is Beating The Rest

Bilt is strong across the board – with the best oneworld partner, one of the best programs for Star Alliance, and one of the best travel portal options. They also offer much larger transfer bonuses than any other program.

American Express has ANA as a transfer partner setting themselves apart, but outside of their most premium business cards they don’t have a good portal. Chase has a good portal, but none of the niche transfer partners. Capital One lacks any U.S. airline transfer partner.

Bilt Rewards doesn’t have as long a track record as Membership Rewards or even Ultimate Rewards. But they are over two years old and they haven’t lost partners yet. They are well-capitalized. So I feel very good about my balance there even if they are maybe rewarding me a little too much (or maybe my expectations for everyone else just aren’t high enough).

When I last looked at this question two years ago I considered a Chase point with a Sapphire Reserve worth marginally more than a Bilt point. Since then Bilt has added partners (like Avianca and Marriott) and instituted regular transfer bonuses, launched their travel portal at 1.25 cents per point value making them more valuable – plus developed a track record.

And they’ve introduced free access to premium tools like for airline awards and Awayz for hotel awards to help you get the most out of your points with their transfer partners. In other words, I’ve had to revise my value of Bilt upward relative to competitors.

Playing At Scale

I’ve been focused on earning Bilt points because I already work with seven figure balances with both Chase and American Express. I like to diversify my points across airlines and hotels with transferable bank points, and then diversify across bank points.

That’s a hedge against changes in any one program. It also gives me options when booking awards, so that I have access to as many redemptions as possible. It also lets me take advantage of whatever transfer bonuses are live when I need to make a transfer – since the only transfer bonuses that ever tempt me to move points speculatively are Bilt’s 150% bonuses. I don’t ever move points on the if-come for a 20% or 30% bonus, but I love having one of those available when I happen to want to make a transfer.

When considering what your second or third transferable points program should be, though, especially at early stages it helps that they share some transfer partners in common.

That means you can earn in multiple transferable points 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 Flying Blue, Virgin and Emirates which are partners of all of these programs.

Air Canada, Avianca, Singapore, BA, and Cathay partner with 4 programs apiece. Air Canada Aeroplan is a very useful partner. BA, Singapore, Cathay and Virgin are strategically useful though less so than Aeroplan and Flying Blue.

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, 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 »

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  1. We call our Citi Prestige card THE BEAST. The 5x on restaurants, 5x on airline tickets, even when not purchased through the Citi portal means we get a lot of flexibility in how to earn. Through the grace of my employer, I also run my Travel and Entertainment on said Beast. I hope it never goes away. We are deep in the Citi ecosystem.

    We have a close friend who is a big-wig at another bank and he tells us that they see Citi as a listless, non-threat in the card environment. I don’t think I would start out again with a strategy around Citi but what we have works really well.

  2. IMHO Bilt is a gimmick and I know Gary, TPG and others have a financial stake in its success but no way am I getting a card that the main selling pitch is you can use for rent. No thanks – I’ll stick to my large balance of Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate points

  3. Have to disagree.

    1. AMEX
    2. Chase UR points
    3. Citibank
    4. Bilt

    While earning points on rent is a real plus, and Bilt’s special transfer bonuses can be fantastic – earning points on the Bilt card for the standard homeowner is a real chore.

    As mentioned AMEX transfer bonuses are frequent and their menu of airline partners is wonderful. Chase is also an easy one to build up balances. As mentioned earlier Citi is a beast – love my prestige card.

  4. What about Avianca for United Flights? Isn’t it a really good currency for short-haul domestic flights in the United States?

  5. Why am I not shocked that you’d rate Bilt the best? I mean… I was figuring as such when I clicked the link.

    It does have good transfer partners but as I don’t pay rent, I don’t get much value out of it. I can do better on nearly any other credit card than Bilt.

  6. @BC – tell me, if you had 100,000 Bilt points would you trade those for 100,000 Citi points?

    This is EXPRESSLY not “which is the best earn and burn program” I think I make clear it’s “who’s points are the most valuable if you have them.”

    And I note that Bilt has only only credit card (though there are several other ways to earn), so you cannot pair two cards together to maximize card earn.

    So… if you’re going to snark at my conclusion, don’t you at least have to offer an alternative or explain why it’s wrong? A point in which transferable currency do you think is the most valuable?

  7. I accumulate all those transferrable currencies. To me, transferrable points are really some complicated financial options, whose values, therefore, depend on:
    1. their strikes (i.e. the values of each of the frequent flyer/guest miles/points, the transfer ratios and bonuses);
    2. all the indirect “restrictions” on the exercise of those options (i.e. how difficult to use those transferred miles/points, and how quickly the unused transferred miles/points expire).

    Based on my own evaluation, I’d rank the transferrable currencies in the following order (not too dissimilar to Gary’s):
    1. Bilt Rewards
    2. AmEx MR, Chase UR (slight edge to AmEx MR primarily due to NH)
    3. Cap1 Miles, Citi TY (slight edge to Cap1 primarily due to AC)

  8. I think it would be fair to mention that Bilt is a startup, without real long term record. It’s tied to Wells Fargo that has been hinting on introducing their own points. What happens to Bilt if WF drops them? Bilt is a niche product. I would rather have 100K Chase UR than Bilt

  9. Chase points are the most valuable to me because they have the only reasonable value hotel transfer partner: Hyatt. I cam use my MR and TYP for free flights, as well as my AA, AS, and Delta miles. Aside from HH, UR to Hyatt is my only good hotel points option. It’s about opportunity cost, not about the sum product of transfer partners and their award charts.

    Bilt might be most valuable based on partners, but the opportunity cost of earning them vs. big signups bonuses on other currencies make it not worth it for me.

  10. The Bilt card replaced my CSP because it offered the same benefits without the annual fee. With that being said, I wouldn’t exchange any of my other transferrable currency cards for the Bilt card.

    Here’s to hoping that Wells Fargo introduce decent transfer partners because if they copy those of Bilt, it will make the Bilt card absolutely useless.

  11. “Hilton is the most valuable program because you get so many more points.”

    Many of the comments here hint at that logic. It is clear that Bilt has the most valuable currency, but like Hyatt points in the hotel world, you just earn less of them. That being said, if they are doing 100% transfers 4-5 times per year, everyone should want to build a balance to keep around. It is like the CSP with no AF. It is also clear that the Amex MR ecosystem (especially with Rakuten) probably allows the best balance of earning to value.

    And for the folks with the Citi Prestige: I’m jealous. That card is a beast. I understand why you would stay in that ecosystem for a core setup.

  12. AMEX Gold Cards get a 25% bonus when redeeming their points, including airline tickets through their travel portal.

  13. What’s the hype with the Citi Prestige? It earns 1 more additional point than the Amex Gold for dining, the annual fee is $245 higher, and the transfer partners are shittier when compared to Amex.

    The card has absolutely no protection so who would want to book any kind of travel on the card even if it earns 5x. No warranty protection, no return protection, no purchase protection. Hell, even the Amex Gold gives you some kind of travel protection albeit after 12 hours, but it’s something.

    So I ask again, what’s the hype behind the Citi Prestige?

  14. For my few domestic travels per year my collection of Seven Chase cards has worked well. However I may start looking to see what more is out there.

  15. @WF: I recently transferred Citi TYPs to Avianca, happily just when Avianca offered a 25% transfer bonus. I then used them for UA Econ IAH-PTY (18.5k + $28 rather than $638), and COPA Biz PTY-ASU-PTY (80k + $96.30 rather than $1660). So a very good use on both counts even without the transfer bonus.

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