If you’re stuck with rewards in a loyalty program you rarely use, you might be wondering if you can transfer them elsewhere. This usually isn’t possible between frequent-flyer programs, and it can be a poor choice for hotel rewards. But you can get excellent value when transferring rewards from credit cards.
Can I transfer miles between frequent-flyer programs?
You typically can’t transfer miles between frequent-flyer programs — even if the airlines are in the same alliance or are partners.
But there are exceptions. For example, you can transfer Avios between your British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus accounts, as these airlines are owned by the same company.
There are third-party sites that facilitate mile transfers. Generally avoid them, however, as they typically offer dismal transfer ratios. Only consider using them in special circumstances, such as if you need just a few more miles to book an award flight.
Redeem miles for flights on other airlines
You can use your airline miles to book flights on other airlines, as long as the carriers are within the same alliance. The largest alliances are SkyTeam, Oneworld and Star Alliance.
Even if two airlines aren’t in the same alliance, you can use your miles to book flights on either one if the carriers are partners. Alaska Airlines is an oft-cited example: It doesn’t belong to an alliance, but it’s partnered with major carriers such as American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific. You can use your Alaska Mileage Plan miles to book flights with these airlines.
Can I transfer points from a hotel loyalty program to frequent-flyer programs?
Yes — most of the largest hotel chains allow point transfers to frequent-flyer programs. That said, consider avoiding this because it usually comes with a poor transfer ratio. You’ll likely get more value by redeeming your points for hotel stays.
Here are the typical transfer ratios for a few major chains:
Typical transfer ratio
Typical minimum transfer
3 to 1
World of Hyatt
2.5 to 1
10 to 1
Best Western Rewards
5 to 1
5 to 1
IHG Rewards Club
5 to 1
5 to 1
Can I transfer rewards from a credit card program to other programs?
A few major credit card rewards programs allow transfers to hotel and frequent-flyer programs. This is one of the best strategies to use, as you’ll often enjoy strong transfer ratios and a wide selection of airlines.
Here are the top credit card rewards programs that allow rewards transfers to frequent-flyer programs. At the time of this writing, only Chase and Amex offer transfers to hotel programs. Click on the program names to learn more about transfers.
You usually can’t transfer miles between airlines, and hotel transfers can bring weak transfer ratios. However, transferring rewards from certain travel credit cards to hotel and frequent-flyer programs can be an excellent idea.
You can transfer points or miles through your credit card rewards portal. If you’d prefer to do this over the phone, call the number on the back of your card and a representative will assist you.
Transfers are often instant. In some cases, transfers may take 24 to 36 hours to complete.
You can book flights with the carrier whose miles you have, typically online or by phone. For example, if you’re using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles to book an American Airlines flight, you would book through Alaska.
Kevin Joey Chen is a credit cards, banking and investments writer whose work and analysis have appeared on CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Business.com, Lifehacker and CreditCards.com. He's passionate about helping you get your finances in order by expertly navigating cutting-edge financial tools — including credit cards, apps and budgeting software.
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