transferable points vs hotel airline cards
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If you are brand new to the miles and points game, you may be quite overwhelmed by the options you have. You hear about a credit card that has points and then another one earns miles for one airline or another. It’s overwhelming how many there are to choose from.

Commonly, someone’s first travel rewards credit card is a co-brand card with either an airline they fly a lot or a hotel chain they stay at a lot. It makes sense from the standpoint that they have an affinity for and loyalty to that brand.

If you are in a cash crunch, you should avoid travel rewards credit cards until you are caught up. Here are our favorite credit cards for Intro 0% APR offers and for balance transfer offers

But when it comes to spending on that credit card, it is very rarely the best move compared to a bank credit card offering transferable points, meaning points that can be moved from your credit card account to a variety of different airline frequent flyer programs or hotel frequent guest programs. You even have the option to redeem transferable bank points for travel (sometimes valuing points even higher than a penny each) via the bank travel portals. This provides less value than transferring points in most cases, however, some people do prefer the simplicity. Airline cards would not offer this option.

In my book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points, Chapters 2, 8, and 9 all cover transferable points, why they matter, and why they are better than earning an airline mile or hotel point for your spend.

A transferable bank point is one that is earned via a credit card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, or Capital One Miles. Examples are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Citi Premier, the American Express Gold Card, and the Capital One Venture X.

Examples of co-branded credit cards include the American Airlines AAdvantage Credit Cards, United Credit Cards from Chase, and the Delta Credit Cards from American Express as well as hotel co-brands like the Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards from American Express and Chase.

While there are times that it makes sense to have a co-branded credit card for your favorite airline or hotel, it is almost never the first card you should get nor the card you should put sizable spend on.

Transferable Points = Options

This hobby is all about options.

If one airline doesn’t have award space, another might.

For example, if you have Delta SkyMiles and there are no good options to get where you are going but United does, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can transfer to United 1:1. Likewise, if you needed Delta SkyMiles, you could transfer to Delta from American Express Membership Rewards points. If you stay at a range of hotels, you may not want to be locked into one chain, but your Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred into Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott Bonvoy. Obviously, if you have a Hyatt, IHG, or Bonvoy credit card, your points are only good at that one chain.

The bottom line here is that while a co-branded airline or hotel card may offer some perks (and at the end of this post I’ll cover when and why you may want one), you want the bulk of your spending to go on a transferable points card.

Let’s take a look at the four major bank points and all the places you can transfer them to:

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners Last Updated: August 2021
Transfer RatioExpected Transfer Time *
Aer Lingus Avios1:1Instant
Air Canada Aeroplan1:1Instant
Air France Flying Blue1:1Instant
British Airways Avios1:1Instant
Emirates1:1Instant
Iberia Avios1:1Instant
JetBlue1:1Instant
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1:1~ 1 - 2 days
Southwest Airlines1:1Instant
United MileagePlus1:1Instant
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1:1Instant
Hyatt1:1Instant
Marriott Bonvoy1:1~ 1-2 days
IHG Rewards Club1:1~ 24 hours
American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners Last Updated January 2021
Transfer RatioApproximate Transfer Time *
Aeromexico1:1.6 (1,000 Amex = 1,600 Aeromexico)~4-7 days
Aer Lingus1:1Instant
Air Canada Aeroplan1:1Instant
Air France Flying Blue1:1Instant
ANA1 : 1 (transfers only from Amex and Marriott)~2-3 days
Avianca1:1Instant
British Airways Avios1:1Instant
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1:1~1-2 days
Delta1:1 (subject to excise tax)Instant
Emirates1:1Instant
Etihad Guest1:1Instant
Hawaiian Airlines1:1 (transfers only from Amex and Marriott; subject to excise tax)Instant
Iberia Avios1:1~1-2 days
JetBlue TrueBlue250 : 200 (subject to excise tax)Instant
Qantas1:1Instant
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1:1~ 1-2 days
Virgin Atlantic1:1Instant
Choice Hotels1:1Instant
Hilton1:2 (frequent transfer bonuses - look for a better ratio if considering)Instant
Marriott1:1Instant
Citi ThankYou Transfer Partners Last updated: November 2021
Transfer RatioApproximate Transfer Time *
AeroMexico1:1Generally instant
Air France Flying Blue1:1Instant
Avianca LifeMiles1:1Instant.
Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles1:1Instant
Etihad Guest1:1Instant
Emirates1:!Instant
Eva Air1:1~1-3 days
Jet Airways InterMiles1:1Instant
JetBlue TrueBlue1:1Instant
Malaysia Airlines Enrich1:1~1-7 days
Qantas1:1Instant to 1 day
Qatar Privilege Club1:1~2 days
Singapore Airlines1:1~1-2 days
Thai Orchid Plus1:1~3-7 days
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles1:11-2 days
Virgin Atlantic1:1Instant to 2 days
Hotels
Choice Hotels1:2 (Citi Prestige / Premier / Chairman cards)

1:1.5 (No fee Citi ThankYou cards)
Instant
Wyndham Rewards1:1 (Citi Prestige / Premier / Chairman cards)

1:0.8 (No fee Citi ThankYou cards)
TBD
Capital One Miles Last updated: March 2022
Transfer RatioExpected Transfer Time
Air Canada (Aeroplan)1:1Instant
Air France / KLM Flying Blue1:1Instant
Avianca Lifemiles1:1Instant
Aeromexico1:1Instant
British Airways Avios1:1TBD
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1:1Nearly instant
Choice Hotels1:11 day
Emirates Skywards1:1Instant
Etihad Guest1:11-2 days
Finnair1:1Instant
Qantas1:11-2 days
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1:11-2 days
TAP Air Portugal1:1TBD
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles1:1TBD
Wyndham Rewards Hotel Program1:1Instant
EVA2:1.51-2 days
Accor Live Limitless (ALL) Hotel Program2:11-2 days
Virgin Red1:1TBD

As you can see, you have TONS of options with each program. Each program has their highlights, which is why I have a guide to each transferable point.

Co-branded Airline and Cards = Benefits

Now, I want to emphasize upfront that we nearly always want to focus on transferable points cards first, specifically business credit cards first and then Chase credit cards next, due to Chase’s 5/24 rule. The rule means that if you get a bunch of co-brand cards first, you may find yourself locked out of applying for the best transferable points cards from Chase. We don’t want that to happen!

But there are a few reasons why you may want to add one or more co-branded cards to your portfolio after you’ve mapped out a strategy around 5/24 or have already hit the 5/24 wall at Chase.

Free checked bags: All of the standard airline co-brand cards come with some level of free checked bags. If you fly several times a year and check bags each time, but do not fly enough to earn even base level status, then you will come out ahead on the $95-$99 annual fee these cards carry. Examples are: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard, the United Explorer Card, and the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.

Airline specific lounge access: If you fly one airline all the time (you may even have status), you may have considered or even purchased a membership to an American Airlines Admiral’s Club, the Delta SkyClub, or the United Club. In all three cases, paying the annual fee on the premium co-branded card would get you access to the club for LESS than the price you are paying directly to the airline. Why? I don’t know. But it’s true. These cards are the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite MasterCard®, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Credit Card, and the United Club Infinite Card.

Free Nights with Hotel Cards: Many co-branded hotel credit cards come with an annual free night at renewal. In all cases where you earn one, it’s very hard to not get a room worth well more than the annual fee when redeeming it. For instance the $95 World of Hyatt Credit Card comes with a free night at renewal capped at 15,000 points. It’s not hard to get a room worth at least $250 for that, and the room will come free of any resort or destination fees as well (as is the case at Hyatt with all points stays and certificate stays).

Additionally, most hotel branded credit cards are the best way to earn at that chain. If you have the Hilton Honors Aspire® Credit Card, for example, you’ll earn a whopping 14X on your Hilton stays (I’d value that at a 7% return on spend). In fact, the Hilton Aspire is easily the best hotel credit card due to its insanely rich benefits, despite the $450 annual fee – and its annual free night can be used at any property worldwide, even if it’s 150,000 points for that night, as long as its a Standard Award.

Hotel Status: Only the Hilton Aspire grants you automatic top tier Diamond status. But you’ll get some level of status with every hotel credit card that has an annual fee. For example, Hyatt Explorist with the World of Hyatt Credit Card, Marriott Bonvoy Gold with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Earn Platinum with $75,000 in spend in a calendar year), Marriott Bonvoy Silver with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card, Hilton Gold with the Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card or The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card and Platinum IHG One Rewards status with the IHG Premier and Business Premier cards.

The Bottom Line – Cards You Spend On vs Cards You Hold

The main thing I want you to take away from this is that you should be putting 95% of your spend on transferable currency point cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Citi Premier, the American Express Gold Card, and the Capital One Venture X.

When it comes time to redeem, you’ll have lots of options. Transferring points to airline and hotel partners provide the best value (and we’ll help you in the MilesTalk Facebook group!). The important thing is that you will have all the options that each transferable currency provides. If you are just starting out, I recommend starting with Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards and specifically a Chase Sapphire Preferred due to the ease of use of Ultimate Rewards. From there, build on more points systems as you go. If you spend enough, I recommend having all four major transferable points currencies as you never know where the best bargain may lie for your next trip.

Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Sapphire Preferred® Card Earn 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points (worth up to $750 or more!) when you spend $4,000 in 3 months. How to apply for this offer.

Thoughts?

Let me know below in the comments, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

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You can find credit cards that best match your spending habits and bonus categories at Your Best Credit Cards

New to all of this? My “introduction to miles and points” book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points is available on Amazon and at major booksellers.

I got "in the game" in 2003 and since then I've collected literally millions and millions of frequent flyer miles and hotel points. I've flown around the world in first class seats that would cost $29,000 using frequent flyer miles and a few bucks in tax. And I've stayed in some of the finest hotels - all for free! A few years ago I realized many of my friends actually thought I was paying for these!! So I started sharing my tips. It's long been a passion, but when I hosted a session on Miles and Points at the South by Southwest festival, my love of the game intensified and this blog was born.

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