Some of our most valuable redemptions are the result of transferring bank points such as Amex Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline partners. Those points become airline miles and then we use the airline miles to book otherwise expensive plane tickets.
It is important to note that you cannot just transfer to any airline, though. Each rewards program has different airline (and possibly hotel) transfer partners.
It can be tough to keep up with which points transfer to which airlines, so I made a table for 4 popular transferable bank currencies. I have included Marriott Rewards as well, since they have several airline partners*
Note that not all transfer partners have a 1:1 ratio.
*Marriott Rewards points are hotel points. Hotel points usually aren’t transferable to airlines, and even the ones that are have a terrible ratio. Marriott is an exception because the ratio is somewhat reasonable.
Keep in mind that just because you don’t see an airline as a transfer partner, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are out of luck. For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards points do not transfer to American Airlines. But they do transfer to British Airways. You cannot transfer British Airways avios (miles) to American Airlines, but you can use British Airways avios to book American Airlines flights. Sometimes, you may get an even better redemption price than what it would cost if booking through American Airlines! Click here for more information.
For more of our favorite redemptions, click here.
Earn bank points, not airline miles
Most travel rewards credit cards can be placed into one of 4 categories. Click here for more info.
- Bank point cards
- Airline co-branded cards
- Hotel co-branded cards
- Cash-back cards
Sometimes, there may be some overlap in the categories. For example, bank point cards are cards that earn transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards. Bank points are often redeemable for cash-back, but it’s rarely a good value.
If you use an airline co-branded credit card such as an American Airlines Aviator card from Barclay, you earn AAdvantage miles. Those AAdvantage miles can only be redeemed through the AAdvantage program. They are not transferable to other airlines or to bank programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. But if you collect bank points (which I highly recommend), you can transfer to whichever airline partner makes the most sense when you are ready to redeem.
There is no need to memorize transfer partners, but this chart may help you plan your long term strategy. Pay attention to alliances and indirect partners. Depending on which airline operates your desired flight, one bank currency may be better than another.
For example, our American Airlines flights to Japan in business class were not a good redemption price if booked with British Airways. British Airways avios are great for booking tons of American Airlines routes, but not business class long-haul.
Etihad is a non-alliance partner of American Airlines. That means you can use Etihad miles to book American Airlines flights. The flights we wanted were a great price with Etihad. In fact, it was less than it would have been even if our points transferred to American Airlines AAdvantage.
Amex and Chase are our currencies of choice. Both transfer to British Airways. Chase Ultimate Rewards do not transfer to Etihad. Amex MR do transfer to Etihad. If we only had Chase Ultimate Rewards, we wouldn’t have been able to book those flights (at least not at that redemption price).
So, make sure you are collecting the right currencies. Or better yet, use cards that earn 2 different types of bank points, such as Amex and Chase.