Credit cards with airline mile transfer feature

by on Wed September 4, 2013 • 12 Comments
Google+TwitterFacebookEmailLinkedIn

We’re often asked by readers “how can I top off my XXX miles account?” or “how can I combine miles?” An often overlooked tool is the handful of credit cards that let you transfer the points you earn from spending directly into miles of popular airlines with no fee except for small excise taxes. We have a complete list below, but before that here are three reasons mile transfer is something you should consider:

  1. Maximize the chances you’ll find a free ticket. By pooling your spending and points onto a credit card that lets you transfer points to airline mile programs you can have multiple options to get a free ticket. For example, if Delta doesn’t have the free ticket availability you’re looking for, you can transfer your points to American Airlines instead.
  2. ‘Top off’ existing mileage accounts. You may find yourself with 44,000 miles in your airline mile account, but need 50,000 miles for a reward. By having miles banked up in a credit card program that allows mile transfer, you can top off your account. ‘Gifting’ miles to friends or relatvies is also easier — you can often link the account of someone beside yourself when you transfer, letting you share your points. This works for American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards
  3. Take advantage of reward values. Not all airline miles programs charge the same amount of miles — even for the same seat on the same plane. For example, ANA’s program will let you travel East Coast to Europe in business class for 68,000 miles on United – versus 115,000 miles if you redeem via United’s program. Having points in a program that lets you transfer to multiple airline programs lets you take advantage of these opportunities.

Here is a list of the programs that let you transfer points to miles at about a one for one conversion rate (little dilution), and the credit cards associated with them, with annual fees in parenthesis:

American Express Membership Rewards

The Platinum CardCredit Cards: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express ($175), Platinum Card from American Express ($450), Green Card from American Express ($95)

Airlines available: Delta, Air Canada, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America (1 Amex point = 0.5 Virgin America points) Cathay Pacific, JetBlue (1 Amex point = 0.8 Jet Blue), Air France / KLM, Alitalia,  AeroMexico, ANA, ElAl, Hawaiian, Iberia, and Singapore Airlines. Hotels include Hilton and Best Western.

Time to transfer points: Generally instant for Delta, Air Canada, British Airways, JetBlue; others vary up to a week.

Conversion rate: 1 point = 1 airline mile

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Credit Cards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ($95), Ink Bold for Business ($95)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardAirlines available: United, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Airlines, Amtrak. Hotels include Marriott, Hyatt, Priority Club (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza), Ritz Carlton.

Time to transfer points: Instant

Conversion rate: 1 point = 1 airline mile

Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood Preferred Guest American ExpressCredit Card: Starwood Preferred Guest American Express ($65)

Airlines available: Air Canada, Air Berlin, Air China Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, Alitalia, All Nippon Airways (ANA), American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Emirates Flying Blue, Hawaiian, Japan Airlines (JAL), Mexicana, Lufthansa, Qatar, Saudi Arabian, Thai Airways, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic. Hotels include Westin, W, Sheraton, Le Meridien, Four Points by Sheraton.

Time to transfer points: Generally takes up to one week. If it takes longer than 14 days, contact Starwood Customer Service to run an inquiry.

Conversion rate: Airlines listed above transfer at 1 point = 1 mile, but you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer.

Wyndham Rewards

Wyndham MasterCArdCredit Card: Wyndham Rewards Visa ($0)

Airlines available: American, Delta, United, US Airways, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air Berlin, CSA Czech, Frontier, Spirit, Air China, China Eastern.

Time to transfer points: Varies –typically within 2 days for large US programs according to recent user reports. Officially they say to allow up to 6-8 weeks.

Conversion rate: Effectively 0.8 miles for every point you transfer. The card earns 2 miles per dollar spent, and points transfer to miles at 8,000 points ($4,000 in spending) converting to 3,200 miles.

Other factors to consider when transferring points

  • The time it takes to transfer — American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards generally offer instant or same day transfer, so you can find the award seat you want, then transfer the miles quickly to book it. Starwood can take a week or more, which may be a hassle if you have a specific date in mind.
  • Consider where you already have a stash of miles. Pick a card that lets you transfer into a program that you fly most often. Chances are you’ll already have a stash of miles to build on, and this can help you get there faster when needed.
  • Bonuses for transfers — Sometimes airlines will offer bonuses for transferring miles into their program. This happens most frequently with American Express Membership Rewards, and can net you substantial value for your points.
  • Alliances maximize your value — Nearly every airline mile program lets you redeem for flights on airlines beside the one that hosts the miles. This is because of alliances, and there are three main groups — Star Alliance (United, US Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, ANA, Singapore, and many more), One World (American, British Airways, Iberia, JAL, Cathay Pacific, and more), and SkyTeam (Delta, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Korean, and more). Miles for any one of the alliance members can be used to book travel on flights operated by any other alliance member. The only catch is you can’t transfer points between airline accounts. The great advantage here is for example, with the Chase Sapphire, that offers transfer to Continental/United, and British Airways, you can book travel on every one of the Star Alliance and One World carriers.
Follow @MileCards on Twitter for the latest updates and new offers

Still confused? Have a question?

Leave a comment below -- we'll reply shortly -- no need to use your real name. Or, use the email form at the top of the page for private advice.

"These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered."

12 thoughts on Credit cards with airline mile transfer feature

  1. Rose

    If I want to open a new Capital One Venture card and transfer my balance from my Citicard with AA miles- can I transfer the points I have earned to Capital One?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Rose – Unfortunately no, your AA points will not transfer to another account.

      But the good news is, even if you cancel your AA card, you will still be able to keep and use those miles, even after you no longer have the card.

      Reply
  2. Kim

    I have a bunch of points on my Chase Southwest credit cards. However, I want to go to a place where AirTran/Southwest does not go. But United Airlines does. Can i transfer mileage to a United Airlines flight? I do not have a Chase United Credit Card however. Thanks for your wisdom.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Kim- Unfortunately you can’t transfer miles out of a Southwest card to United miles. However…

      You can still use Southwest points to go places Southwest doesn’t fly, including on United Airlines. Just go to this page and you’ll be able to search for flights to Hawaii and International destinations

      https://www.rewardingescapes.com/air_home/

      For places in the Caribbean or Mexico you can try transferring your points to AirTran, which does fly to many destinations there.

      http://milecards.com/8203/just-19200-southwest-points-to-9-mexico-caribbean-destinations-this-winter/

      Reply
  3. Poppy K.

    I feel so silly! I can’t seem to wrap my head around the best way to do this. I have 75,000 miles on a Venture One Capital Card. The flights to Italy are 150k miles. Does that seem like a lot??

    Can I transfer these miles to a better card or is there a card I should open and transfer them to Venture Capital one? How can I find out where else to redeem my miles besides the Venture Capital One Website?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Poppy – Capital One Venture miles are always worth the same, no matter what the flight is. Each point is worth one cent toward the cost of a flight or other travel purchase you make with the card. So you have $750 worth of miles that can be applied as statement credit against travel purchases.

      The only catch is, you have to have enough miles in your account to cover the full cost of the purchase item you want removed from your statement. So…sounds like the tickets to Italy you want cost $1,500 in cash (which would be 150,000 points). Your options would be to find a cheaper ticket to Italy at another time or on a different airline, though finding one that’s $750 or less could be tough. The other option would be to use the miles for other travel purchases that are $750 or less, like hotel rooms while you are in Italy.

      Reply
  4. Shawn

    I travel to south africa often my question is I haveafriendwillingtogive me Amex points now and I’m not sure of my next flight which airline should I put it in flying blue? Air Canada which is partners with saa? Or a different one

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Shawn – Can your friend wait and do the transfer when you’re ready to book your trip? Best idea is to do a search for the dates you’re interested in — see if it’s available, then do the transfer and book. You can check Air Canada partners at http://www.aeroplan.com online anytime without any special login.

      For Flying Blue you’ll need to setup a free account, but once you do that searching for reward availability is quite simple online.

      Flying Blue tends to have more reasonable change fees (about 45 euros, vs $90 for Air Canada).

      Flying Blue requires 80,000 miles from the US to South Africa, Aeroplan Air Canada requires 100,000 miles.

      Reply
      1. Shawn

        He wants to do it now the question is will there usually be more availability on aero plan bc south African air is a partner or is Kim also good to africa

        Reply
        1. MileCards

          @Shawn – Take a look at aeroplan.com and do a search on dates you might consider. Looking from here it seems South African has decent availability on its nonstop out of New York. If your friend is willing to transfer a full 100,000 miles then might as well try for that.

          Reply
  5. nicholas

    Q1. I have a large balance of miles with USAIR. can i transfer them into the Chase Preferred program?

    Q2. assuming that I have a balance with Chase Preferred and none with USAIR if i want to fly with USAIR to Paris from the USA would I be charged the “partner” milage rate by USAIR or the “native” rate ?

    Q3. I have a $25,000 credit limit with USAIR Visa. Would I be able to have the same credit limit with Chase Prefered. ( i pay off my balance in full each month, and between my wife and myself spend about $6/7000 a month)

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @nicholas –

      Q1 – No, you can’t transfer points into the Sapphire Preferred’s Ultimate Rewards program from other airlines, just out.

      Q2 – If you wanted to fly on US Air with points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred you would actually transfer the miles to United. You can’t transfer them directly to US Air. However once they are in United miles you can use those miles to book reward tickets on US Airways flights. That’s because United and US Airways are partners. It’s 60,000 miles roundtrip for a ‘saver’ coach ticket from the US to Europe with United miles on its own flights or any of its partners.

      Q3 – The credit limit varies for each card, and the US Air card is issued by a different bank than the Chase cards.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *