Using credit cards that earn points you can transfer into multiple airline mile accounts is one of the best ways to increase the chances you’ll get the award flights you want.
Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest are the most popular programs for 1:1 airline miles transfer with dozens of transfer partners available (all listed below).
The biggest partners of Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards like United, Delta, and British Airways are pretty easy for transfers – most are instant or same day, which is ideal.
But for Starwood Preferred Guest, which has more transfer partners than any other, the transfer times vary widely, and the official guidelines are vague.
Fortunately a lot of people have tried transfers and reported their results on FlyerTalk forums. We at MileCards.com dug around and found reports that show how long the transfers can take by airline. They can change at any time, but this can give you a sense to help plan.
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||American Express Membership Rewards||Starwood Preferred Guest||Info source|
|Aeroplan / Air Canada||Instant||Varies - few days to weeks||Link|
|Air France / KLM Flying Blue||Instant||Varies - few days to weeks|
|Alaska MileagePlan||About 48 hours||Link|
|American AAdvantage||Wed and Sun mornings||Link|
|British Airways Avios||Instant||Instant||Few days||Link|
|Delta SkyMiles||Instant||24-48 hours||LInk|
|Frontier Early Returns||Instant|
|Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards||Instant|
|United Airlines MileagePlus||Instant||Unknown|
|US Airways Dividend Miles||~3 days||Link|
|Virgin America Elevate||Instant|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Instant||1-2 days||Unknown|
|AeroMexico Club Premier||Up to 14 biz days|
|Air Berlin Topbonus||Unknown|
|Air China Phoenix Miles||Unknown|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||2nd and 16th of the month||Link|
|ANA Mileage Club||2-4 days||Every other Sunday||Link|
|Asia Miles / Cathay Pacific||3-7 days||10th and 25th of month||Link|
|El Al Matmid||Instant|
|Emirates Skywards||Sundays, but can be longer||Link|
|Iberia Avios||4-7 days|
|Japan Airlines Mileage Bank||Unknown|
|Korean Airlines SKYPASS||Instant||Unknown||Link|
|LAN||Varies - can be 4 weeks+|
|Lufthansa Miles & More||1-2 times per month|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||3 business days||Generally Tuesdays||Link|
|Thai Royal Orchid Plus||Unknown|
Note: all transfer partners are 1:1 except (Starwood: United – 2:1, Air New Zealand – 65:1, LAN – 1:1.5, Gol – 2:1, United – 2:1) (Membership Rewards: JetBlue – 5:4, Virgin America – 2:1, El Al – 50:1, Aeromexico – 1:1.6).
What are the cards available to earn transferable points?
Chase Ultimate Rewards – The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the most popular to get started with, and people tend to like Southwest and United as valuable Chase partners. The Ink Plus and Bold are also useful if you have a business.
American Express Membership Rewards – see a list of cards here. The Amex EveryDay and EveryDay Preferred are the best for starters, and people who fly Delta will find Membership Rewards useful.
Starwood Preferred Guest – There is only one available, the Starwood American Express. People who like American and Alaska miles find it particularly useful.
Why does Starwood airline transfer take so many days?
Officially, Starwood transfers can take up to 2 weeks for domestic airlines and 30 days for international airlines. That’s because each airline Starwood partners with agrees to a different schedule for when it wants to receive the data dump of mile transfers. This data dump is then processed by the airline, sometimes manually, which can be time consuming, so they often process them in batches.
Some airlines only want to process the data twice a month. Others will do it overnight. And others will do it even less often. It’s maddening if you are planning an award trip right away. But it can work just fine if you’re planning to top off miles in an account you often use to redeem miles.
What is the official line from Chase Ultimate Rewards?
While Chase has fewer partners than the others, it is overall the most responsive with transfer times.
“In most cases, points are transferred the same day as your request. However, timing may vary depending on the participating frequent travel program and may take up to one week. To confirm your points successfully transferred, visit the participating partner’s website and log-in to view your miles/points.”
What is the official line from Membership Rewards?
American Express’ ‘official’ times are pretty close to reality, though ‘instant’ transfer partners carry a disclaimer they could take up to 48 hours to transfer, but that is rare.
What should you do?
While Starwood’s transfer times are a hassle, if you are transferring to top off your domestic program like American, Delta, or US Airways you are in good shape as it will happen in under a week. Also know Starwood does offer an ‘expedite’ option for 3,500 points. While this eats up the 5,000 mile bonus you get for every 20,000 points transferred, it can come in handy when you’re in a pinch. But if you plan ahead with the guidelines hopefully you won’t find yourself needing the expedite option.
Our favorite overall points for transferring are Chase Ultimate Rewards via the Sapphire Preferred. They are fast, have great partners (United, Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Amtrak), and are easy to earn.
What is your experience? Let us know if you’ve had different transfer times when you got ready to book an award.
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