Transfer points twice: Does it make sense?

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Cashing In with Tony Mecia

Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. Every week, he answers readers’ questions about credit card rewards programs in his “Cashing In” column.

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Should I transfer my points again and again?

Just because you can transfer points or miles doesn’t always mean you should. Points and miles are like currency – they have value and if you exchange them too often, that value decreases. Pay attention to transfer ratios.

Other than some rare exceptions, look for other options and better values when redeeming your points.

Expert Q&A

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Dear Cashing In,

Can
I transfer my American Express points to Marriott and then from Marriott to
American, United or Delta airlines? – Umer 

Dear Umer,

In
many ways, points and miles in loyalty programs are like currencies. They have
a value. You can exchange them for something worthwhile.

And,
like currencies, they tend to lose value when you exchange them. If you have
ever exchanged currencies for a foreign trip, you know that every time you do
that, you lose a little bit of money.

If
you are traveling from the United States to France and then England, it tends
to be more economical to change dollars to British pounds than to change
dollars to euros and then to British pounds, because with each transaction, the
exchange agency takes its cut and you are left with less money.

See related: Which
credit card rewards programs allow you to share points?

Transferring points: Considering transfer ratios is key

The
same is true with credit card points and points and miles from hotel and
airline programs.

There
are any number of ways you can transfer points and miles among programs, and
the programs love to tout their flexibility.

However,
just because you can transfer points or miles doesn’t always mean that you
should.

In
some cases, transferring might make sense, but in other cases, it might be an
awful value. The key is to pay attention to the transfer ratios.


Typically, transferring
points from a bank program such as Chase
Ultimate Rewards
, Citi
ThankYou Rewards
 or American
Express Membership Rewards
to an airline or hotel program is a solid value,
but transferring from an airline or hotel program to somewhere else is a poor
deal.

When transferring points doesn’t make sense

Let’s
look at your example. Say you have 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards
points. You can transfer those directly to 19 airlines and three hotel chains,
including Marriott. Those 60,000 points are worth 60,000 Marriott
Bonvoy
points.


But if you then transfer
those Marriott points to an airline, you’ll see that you will lose a lot of the
value of those points.

  • You can transfer
    Marriott points

    to your choice of 44 airlines, but with just a few exceptions, those transfer
    at a rate of three Marriott points to one airline mile.
  • You do receive a bonus
    of 5,000 miles

    per 60,000 points transferred, so if you transferred 60,000 points to Delta or
    American, you would have 25,000 miles.
  • A transfer to United is worth slightly more, so you would have 27,000 United miles.

In
each case, that is enough for a domestic round-trip flight, which doesn’t sound
too bad – except that you started with 60,000 American Express points, which,
if redeemed differently, could be enough for a round-trip ticket to Europe,
Hawaii or the Caribbean or South America.

Tips for transferring points

Here
are a few ways you can redeem those American Express points for flights that
represent a better value than transferring to Marriott and then to an airline
frequent flyer program:

  • Transfer directly to
    Delta
    .
    You can transfer American Express points directly to Delta on a one-to-one
    basis, which would give you 60,000 Delta miles.
  • Transfer
    to Air Canada for United flights
    . You can transfer
    American Express points
    directly to Air Canada on a one-to-one basis. Then
    you can book United flights through Air Canada using your Air Canada miles.
    Just like United, U.S. round-trip tickets are 25,000 miles.
  • Transfer to British
    Airways for American flights
    . American Express points transfer to British
    Airways on a one-to-one basis. You can book
    American flights using British Airways miles
    . The British Airways reward
    chart is different from American’s, which means in some cases you might spend
    fewer miles, and in some cases you might spend more.
  • Book the
    flight directly with American Express
    . Without transferring your American
    Express points at all, you can book
    tickets on most airlines on the American Express travel site
    . Every point
    is worth 1 cent, so 60,000 points is worth $600 in travel.

When
transferring points twice makes sense

Usually,
there are better options than transferring your points multiple times.

The
one situation where I can see such a scenario making sense is if you find
yourself just barely short of hard-to-get airline miles.

For
instance, if you were trying to get to 175,000 American miles for a first-class
ticket to the South Pacific, but you had only 172,000 miles, it might be worth
trading in 9,000 American Express points through Marriott to make that happen.

Outside
of those rare exceptions, though, look for other options and better values when
redeeming your points.



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