What Are the Best Flexible Rewards Points for Travel?

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The key to successful rewards travel is flexibility. 

Flexible rewards currencies enable you to transfer points to a variety of travel partners and provide access to dozens of different rewards programs.

Transferring to partners allows you to book award travel to your chosen destination across a huge array of airlines and hotel brands while extracting maximum value from rewards points.

waikiki-beach
Flexible rewards offer the cheapest award flights from the mainland US to Hawaii

Determining the best flexible rewards points for travel, however, is highly subjective. It's dependent on your travel goals, where you live, how you spend your money, and maybe above all, how you travel.

If you stay primarily in Airbnb properties and hostels, collecting points that transfer to Hilton and Hyatt is unlikely to provide a good return. You will find more value in a cash back card, or a fixed-value currency like Arrival Miles from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, which can be redeemed as a statement credit against any travel purchase over $100.

If luxury travel is on your radar, earning a currency that transfers to luxury hotels and several airlines will provide the best value and the most flexibility.

What Are Flexible Rewards Points?

Flexible currencies take a few different forms.

  • Cashback rewards
  • Fixed-value points/miles
  • Transferable points

Ultimately, cash back is the most flexible rewards currency, but it's not the most valuable. You can’t leverage a cash back card for higher value; it’s a straight 1-2% cash back on everything you spend. This is great if you use points to purchase gift cards or other items that can’t be purchased with rewards points, but for travel, other options present higher value.

Fixed-value points and miles like those earned with the Arrival Plus are very flexible. They can be redeemed for any travel purchase over $100, but, again, points are only worth a penny apiece when redeeming as a statement credit. The Arrival Plus earns 2X miles for every dollar spent and Arrival Miles are perfect if you’re staying in a hotel that doesn’t belong to a rewards program or purchasing transit tickets like a Eurail Pass. But there are more valuable options.

Transferable Rewards Points Offer Higher Value

The last are transferable points. There are five rewards programs we think offer high-value flexible rewards currencies.

These programs offer flexible points, a variety of high-value transfer partners, and a diverse range of earning options including credit cards, online malls, or with Marriott, via regular stays and promo opportunities.

The Best Flexible Rewards Currencies for Travel

Chase Ultimate Rewards

We consider Chase Ultimate Rewards to be the best flexible rewards currency available today. Chase offers a variety of credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, with well-thought-out bonus categories and stellar benefits. Ultimate Rewards earning cards include:

Ultimate Rewards gives members the ability to build a substantial balance of points in a short space of time. These points are both flexible & valuable: Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can redeem points at a value of  1.5 cents per point through UltimateRewards.com (other cards allow redemptions at a value of 1.0-1.25 cents per point). The golden opportunity, however, is to transfer to partners with a much higher potential value per point.

Partner ProgramTime for Points to Transfer
Aer Lingus AerClub (Avios)Instantly
Air France/KLM Flying BlueInstantly
British Airways AviosInstantly
Iberia Plus (Avios)Instantly
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1 Day
Southwest Rapid RewardsInstantly
United MileagePlusInstantly
Virgin Atlantic Flying ClubInstantly
World of HyattInstantly
IHG Rewards Club1 Day
Marriott Rewards2 Days

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott now grants members access to the combined Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and SPG hotel chains under a single rewards program, plus over 40 airline partners, nearly all of which transfer at a 3:1 ratio. Points can be a little hard to come by with the new application rules for Marriott co-brand cards, but make no mistake, Marriott is still a program worthy of attention. 

Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood has provided Marriott Bonvoy members some fantastic new sweet spots, and additional methods for earning rewards. Cards that earn Bonvoy points include:

If you want the best chance of getting into first or business class, Marriott offers the largest number of airline transfer partners of any rewards program in the U.S.

FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAMTRANSFER RATIO (REWARDS:MILES)
Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus3:1
Aeroflot Bonus Program3:1
Aeromexico Club Premier3:1
Aeroplan/Air Canada3:1
Air China PhoenixMiles3:1
Air France/KLM Flying Blue3:1
Air New Zealand Airpoints200:1
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan3:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia3:1
All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club3:1
American Airlines AAdvantage3:1
Asia Miles/Cathay Pacific3:1
Asiana Airlines Asiana Club3:1
Avianca LifeMiles3:1
British Airways Executive Club3:1
China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles3:1
China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club3:1
COPA ConnectMiles3:1
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles3:1
Emirates Skywards3:1
Etihad Airways3:1
Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns3:1
Gol Smiles2:1
Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club3:1
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
3:1
Iberia Plus3:1
Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank3:1
Jet Airways JetPrivilege3:1
JetBlue TrueBlue6:1
Korean Air SKYPASS3:1
LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass3:1
Lufthansa Miles and More3:1
Qantas Frequent Flyer3:1
Qatar Airways Privilege Club3:1
Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan3:1
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer3:1
South African Airways Voyager3:1
Southwest Rapid Rewards3:1
TAP Air Portugal Victoria3:1
Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus3:1
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles3:1
United MileagePlus3:1.1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club3:1
Virgin Australia Velocity3:1

American Express Membership Rewards

Amex offers members the most credit card options for earning points. Whether it’s 5x points on airfare for The Platinum Card® from American Express (Terms Apply) or earning 2x at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1x with The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, Membership Rewards has a huge stable of points-earning cards with options ranging from no-annual-fee cards for everyday purchases to ultra-premium cards that offer the best elite perks and lounge access in rewards travel. Some of our favorite Membership Rewards earning cards include:

Note: American Express credit cards without a link not available on this site.

Membership Rewards points transfer to 17 different airline partners and 3 hotel partners. One of the better redemption strategies for Membership Rewards can be found in updates to the Business Platinum Card. Cardholders get a 35% rebate on points when using Pay with Points on their selected airline, or when booking first or business class with any airline, through the American Express Travel website. (Terms Apply.) This could potentially save thousands of dollars over the long haul.

Note that Amex recently dropped this benefit from 50% to 35% and introduced a points cap of 500K per year. See our breakdown of the changes for the details.

American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners

Membership Rewards Transfer PartnersMinimum Points to TransferTransfer RatioTransfer Time
Aer Lingus AerClub1,0001,000 : 1,000 AviosUnknown
Aeromexico Club Premier1,0001,000 : 1,600 Premier Points1-2 days
Air Canada Aeroplan1,0001,000 : 1,000 Aeroplan MilesInstant
Air France/KLM Flying Blue1,0001,000 : 1,000 Flying Blue Miles Instant
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1,0001,000 : 1,000 Alitalia Miles1 day
ANA Airlines Mileage Club1,0001,000 : 1,000 ANA Miles1-2 days
Avianca LifeMiles1,0001,000 : 1,000 LifeMilesInstant
British Airways Avios250250 : 250 British Airways AviosInstant
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1,0001,000 : 1,000 Asia Miles1-2 days
Delta SkyMiles1,0001,000 : 1,000 SkyMilesInstant
El Al Matmid Club1,0001,000 : 20 Matmid PointsInstant
Emirates Skywards1,0001,000 : 1,000 Skywards MilesInstant
Etihad Guest1,0001,000 : 1,000 Etihad Guest MilesInstant
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles1,0001,000 : 1,000 Hawaiian MilesInstant
Iberia Plus250250 : 250 Iberia AviosInstant
JetBlue TrueBlue250250 : 200 TrueBlue PointsInstant
Qantas Frequent Flyer5001,000 : 1,000 Qantas PointsUnknown
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1,0001,000 : 1,000 KrisFlyer Miles1 day
Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub1,0001,000 : 1,000 Flying Club Miles1 day
Choice Privileges Rewards (Hotel)1,0001,000 : 1,000 Choice Privileges PointsInstant
Hilton Honors (Hotel)1,0001,000 : 2,000 Hilton Honors PointsInstant
Marriott Rewards (Hotel)1,0001,000 : 1,000 Marriott RewardsUnknown

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Citi ThankYou Rewards doesn’t offer anything in the way of hotel transfers, with Hilton no longer a transfer partner as of December 2017. However, ThankYou Rewards has airline transfer partners that cover all three major alliances, and most transfers are at a 1:1 ratio. Members can earn Citi ThankYou Points primarily via four credit cards:

  • Citi Premier Card
  • Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card
  • Citi Prestige® Card
  • AT&T Access Card From Citi

ThankYou Points are excellent for travel in and around Asia-Pacific, counting Qantas, Singapore, and Cathay Pacific as transfer partners.

Citi Transfer PartnerTransfer RatioTransfer Time (based on our experience)
Asia Miles1:11 business day
Avianca LifeMiles1:1Instant
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands1:11 business day
Etihad Guest1:16 business days
Flying Blue
1:1Instant
Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer1:12 business days
Jet Airways JetPrivilege1:1Instant
JetBlue TrueBlue1:1Instant
Malaysia Airlines Enrich1:12 business days
Qantas Frequent Flyer1:12 business days
Qatar Airways Privilege Club1:12 business days
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1:12 business days
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus1:15 business days
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles1:12 business days
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1:1Instant
Sears Shop Your Way®1:12Unknown

Capital One Rewards

The latest program to join the ranks of transferrable rewards programs (although you can still redeem Capital One miles for a fixed-value via the purchase eraser function), Capital One now boasts 14 airline transfer partners. While Capital One currently lacks a domestic transfer partner, there are some high-value frequent flyer programs on offer that overlap with the other transferable currencies like Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards. You can earn transferable Capital One Rewards via four credit cards:

  • Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
  • Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business
  • Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Credit cards without a link are are not available on this site. If you would like to support AwardWallet through an affiliate link, you can find more offers from Capital One on our partner site.

With the exception of Singapore KrisFlyer and Emirates Skywards, all transfers are 2x Capital One miles to 1.5x airline miles. When you factor in that the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business both earn 2x miles on all purchases, you're effectively getting 1.5x airline miles for each dollar you spend. Not a bad return when used for non-bonus spending.

Transfer PartnerTransfer Ratio
Aeromexico Club Premier2:1.5 or 1000:750
Air Canada Aeroplan2:1.5 or 1000:750
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
2:1.5 or 1000:750
Alitalia MilleMiglia2:1.5 or 1000:750
Avianca LifeMiles2:1.5 or 1000:750
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles2:1.5 or 1000:750
Emirates Skywards2:1 or 1000:500
Etihad Guest2:1.5 or 1000:750
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands2:1.5 or 1000:750
Finnair Plus2:1.5 or 1000:750
Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club2:1.5 or 1000:750
JetBlue TrueBlue2:1 or 1000:500
Qantas Frequent Flyer2:1.5 or 1000:750
Qatar Airways Privilege Club2:1.5 or 1000:750
Singapore KrisFlyer2:1 or 1000:500

Final Thoughts

Flexible rewards points provide one of the best methods of maximizing rewards travel. Offering travelers the chance to leverage sweet spots across multiple programs and the flexibility to change airlines or hotels when award availability is slim or in the case of a program devaluation. 

Our favorite flexible rewards currency and the one we think provides the best value is Chase Ultimate Rewards. With cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Preferred offering up one of the best rewards earning combos available today. Ultimate Rewards can help you take your rewards travel game to the next level.

What Are the Best Flexible Rewards Points for Travel?
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Comments

  • The best advice is always to diversify one’s portfolio, even when it comes to flexible points. I personally prefer UR and AmEx MR points.

  • I agree that Chase is the best. I get outsized value just from Hyatt transfers, but when there is no Hyatt I can turn to IHG or Marriott. United’s program has also enabled me to garner huge value with Business class partner flights but that is somewhat of a thing of the past now. Losing Korean Air was a bit of a bummer though. I was able to transfer enough UR points to fly them Business to São Paulo for the 2014 World Cup, which was a huge score.

    • The loss of Korean was a bummer indeed. Still Chase retains the greatest number of loyalty programs that I actively engage with, that’s why they generally remain my first choice when pulling a card out of my wallet.

    • Huge score indeed… both the Business seats and the particular event your trip took you. You got to see the team that’s good enough to have earned the nickname “The Team” win yet another.

  • yes transferable points are the way to go

  • UR for the win!

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    Excellent for European travel, especially when you’re staying in a hotel that doesn’t belong to a rewards program or purchasing transit tickets like a Eurail Pass. Works for me.

  • Chase UR and Amex MR for the win

  • Chase points are great!

  • Citi needs more partners. Amex MR and UR are way better to use than Citi TYP

  • I just got the Amex Everyday. I’m still waiting on my points to come in. I hit the 20 charges and I am eager to see how many points I’ll earn.
    I’m hoping to earn points faster with Amex instead of Chase. Has anyone come across that they earn points faster with Amex than Chase?
    I have the freedom card and sapphire with Chase and my points increase fairly well but need more for a trip I’m planning. I’m hoping that Amex will make up some difference.

  • I think Chase is the one! Able to transfer mostly instant to most airline.

    • That’s a good point. Transfer partners are important but timeliness of the transfer is also valuable.

  • Arguments can be made either way, but I do prefer Ultimate Rewards for flexibility.

  • Gosh! Excellent summary. I have to get on the Arrival Plus card and maybe a Chase card too.

  • I am also a flexible points convert. Since I like to have status with airlines, I tend to “buy” my flights through the travel portal with those points: not the best value on the surface, but when I have status and can change my flights without fees and get home earlier…that is worth a lot. An upgrade to business class here and there isn’t bad either. Since I earn points from my flights, I use those for the expensive long haul business class seats.

    • Same, or similar. It doesn’t make sense to have the United card and earn crap miles when you can have CSP or CSR and transfer your miles if you so choose but you earned more miles on those two cards than the United card would have.

  • Valentina Pelliccia says:

    I personally think UR is the best: I use to move my points either to Southwest or British Airways Avios, which I’ve already used a couple of times to reach Hawaii from the West Coast for 25k (two-way)!

  • i don’t trust Marriott Bonavoy. Maybe because they gutted SPG.

  • Amex seems to have the best transferable points program nowadays.
    Chase really needs to add new partners to stay competitive.

    • Chase should also look to do bonuses like with what they’re doing with BA right now. It’s not been done before but hopefully it continues.

  • Jack Couture says:

    Recently added Arrival Plus for for more flexibility.

  • I have them all. The instant transfers are the best.

  • I really wish you all would stop promoting the Arrival Plus. It’s not a good card for the long term and the only reason to get it is for the sign up bonus. Beyond that, virtually everyone would do better with a no annual fee 2% cash back card.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Robert. We do our best to cover cards that appeal to different types of goals. For folks that like simplicity, the Barclay Arrival is 5% better than a 2% cash-back card for travel, and the welcome bonus is far better than what you’d find with most cash-back cards.

      • It has an $89 annual fee if I’m remembering correctly though right? So an extra .1% (that’s 0.001) for $89? You have to spend $89,000 a year to come out ahead of a no annual fee 2% cashback card.
        The one and only perk is that it has no foreign transaction fees so if you live overseas, you would them compare to the Quicksilver or a 1.5% cashback card so that’s a difference of .6% (0.006) which would then be a breakeven point of $14,833 of overseas spending.
        Not my cup of tea but situations do theoretically exist where this is a good card for someone.

  • Benjamin Chang says:

    UR points are clearly the best, as I’ve been able to get crazy good value from Hyatt. I once booked a room at a Hyatt Place in Ann Arbor, MI on a football weekend for 8,000 points a night. The rooms were going for $449 a night (plus taxes!). I’ve also transferred to Hyatt to book the Park Hyatt Maldives for 20,000 points a night (villas go for $1200 a night!). Also, if you happen to be fortunate enough to have earned a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, you can get amazing value from transfers to Southwest as well.

    • That’s a really good point. Getting the companion pass doubles the value of your UR points. It could be good to stockpile UR points if you want to make a run at SW CP.

  • It is great to have lots of transfer options as it leaves you less at risk of a sudden change or devaluation in a particular program.

  • Sometimes I think of my citicashback card as “travel currency”. I simply use my 2% cash back to offset the price of travel. Probably the most flexible way to go.

  • Helene Bard says:

    I somehow figured out that the Chase UR were really good, but until I found Abroaders to help me figure out how to use them, I was using the Chase site to book flights….. Not the best thing!! So glad I found these folks!

  • Regrettably we have limited opportunities for flexible rewards programs in Australia compared to those in the US. We have Amex but the devaluation has kicked in and Citi doesn’t seem like a value for money proposition over here.

  • I can transfer points only from American Express and Marriott even though with the new travel package offer the conversion from Marriott is not as favourable as it was in the past.

  • great breakdown of the different flexible programs. I think most are in favor of UR but I can see utility in having others too.

  • I really like UR points. Best use is for luxury Hyatts around the world. You can use extra points for club lounge access and really up your experience.

  • Ulimate Rewards and Membership Rewards have both been pretty good to me.

  • Amy Wilkinson says:

    My favorite is the chase ultimate reward points they always seem to be the best transfer deals for me

  • I’ve been really pleased with UR points and have transferred them to some amazing Business Saver awards. 80k in Business from Chicago to Adelaide with a long enough layover in Singapore that I was able to check out the city. Worth it!

  • We have loved our UR points. We just used them for a few nights in Portugal and it was totally worth it!

  • The best thing to do is not to accumulate too many points. These points are good but they are not gold – they will not appreciate in value!

  • I am from Canada, and unfortunately our credit card deals are not as competitive as the Americans. From the rewards described above, only AMEX Membership Rewards is applicable here. However AMEX is not widely accepted as it charges a higher fee on the merchants. I did manage to collect a good sum of AMEX points, but must carry as Visa or Mastercard as backup if encountered a merchant who refuses to take AMEX.

  • Hands down Chase points are the best of all I can think of.

  • In my opinion Chase UR points has the best transfer deals and partners. Having a Chase Sapphire Reserve card also allows the flexibility of redeeming those points at 1.5 cents each which is an amazing 50% premium.

  • I love UR from Chase, the only thing missing was transfer bonus like American Express had but now they got that too!!! Now they just have to have Chase offers have a possibility of earning UR instead of cashback

    • I hope that the BA transfer bonus is the start of a trend. I’d love to see Chase continuing this.

  • Always difficult to compare apples to apples. Thanks for the great writeup!

  • Brian G. says:

    I like Citi TY points.

  • Patrick B. says:

    A little disappointing to not see any major financial institutions.card providers described in this article partnering with American Airlines…

  • Shmuel A says:

    Anyone have any tops on getting to Mykonos from NY with one stop, flying 1st class using points? Right now I have 500 UR, 500k Bonvoy, 100k BA.

    Any advice would be great!

  • I’ve been happy with both Capital One and Bank of America’s mile redemption system. Although I’m interested in switching to a card with lounge access perks.

  • Steve Popowski says:

    I have owned Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards (Sapphire and Freedom) and for building points, these are definitely the easiest cards to use. I really wish they had more US Domestic Airlines attached to their points system but having United, Southwest and Marriott attached provides more than enough options. I also have a Capital One Venture Card that is more of a dollar reward than miles reward but for someone who travels a lot, was super easy to claim the initial $500 card opening reward as you basically deduct $500 from your credit card statement on travel related purchases. I just opened a Bonvoy card and look forward to the benefits that come with it!

  • Scott N Roberts says:

    I love seeing the competition. I think Chase is the easiest to use and has the best redemption rates. Capital One has very unique partners that come in handy in Europe. Amex has the most options, but I don’t like that they charge to transfer.

    Best option, collect all three!

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