Every seasoned travel hacker who uses credit card sign up bonuses to fuel free travel LOVES bank reward cards.  Why?  Not because you can use points to directly purchase airline tickets or hotel stays.  Seems like that would be the appeal… but it’s not. The biggest perk of opening and accruing bank reward cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred or Citi Thank You is FLEXIBILITY.  That and the ability to boost a specific pocket of miles you are working on.

For example, say you opened a new Chase United credit card and received 50K miles.  That’s enough for you to fly round trip from the U.S. to Europe during the low season (40K) – and have 10K miles left over.  But say you want to bring your mom with you, and she doesn’t have any United miles.  You want to fly together.  You could purchase the remaining 30K miles you need – but that would require some significant money.  But wait.  You have 60K Chase Ultimate Reward points from an earlier sign up bonus when you opened the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  With your “Preferred” card status, you can transfer those points to United at a ration of 1:1 – for no cost.  The 30K point to mile transfer is instant and painless from the Chase Ultimate Rewards website.  Now you have enough for a second ticket.

The value of the transferred points are higher now that they are United miles than if you tried to use them to buy the ticket to Europe through the travel point website – the same amount of points wouldn’t get you as far.  And you still have 30K left that you could now transfer to Hilton Hhonors or Hyatt if you wanted to.  Having stashes of bank reward points is a way to ensure you can top off mileage accounts as needed – or just save them up to combine with bonus miles you know you’ll be receiving for big ticket cash-ins – like international, business class round-trip tickets.

Here is a quick list of my favorite transferable point plans  – and where you can transfer those points to.  There are a few hotel plans that will allow you to transfer to airline mileage plans, but at a 3:1 ratio (for examples SPG/Marriott points). Most travel hackers tend to skip transferring from hotel plans to airline mileage plans as you lose value quickly.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Transfers at 1:1 ratio to:

  • United
  • British Airways
  • Flying Blue
  • JetBlue
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Singapore AIrlines
  • Southwest
  • Aer Lingus
  • Iberia Airlines
  • Hyatt
  • Marriott
  • Ritz Carlton
  • IHG Rewards Club

Note: You can transfer Chase points to a joint card holder’s hotel or airline mileage account. Little bonus tip: I also like to use Ultimate Rewards points for cheap car rentals.

American Express Membership Rewards

Transfers at 1:1 ratio to:

  • Aer Lingus
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada
  • Asia Miles
  • Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Avianca
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • El Al
  • Emirates
  • Ethiad
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Hawaiian
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Hilton
  • Marriott
  • Choice Hotels

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Transfers at 1:1 ratio to:

  • Avianca
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EVA Air
  • Etihad
  • Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Airways
  • JetBlue
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Bottom line:  Don’t forget to open bank reward credit cards – you’ll be glad you did!

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