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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.
When you transfer points to partners, you can book award travel to your chosen destination across a huge array of airlines and hotel brands while extracting maximum value from rewards points.
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 like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, or a fixed-value currency like points earned on the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card.
- $300 Cash Back after you spend $3000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
- 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
- Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
- 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
- 2% at grocery stores
- 1% on all other purchases
- Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020
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, plus additional cash back on bonus categories if the card features them.
Fixed-value points and miles like those earned with the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card are very flexible. They can be redeemed for almost any travel purchase. But, again, points are only worth 1.25¢ each when redeemed for travel purchases. The Altitude Reserve earns 3X points on eligible mobile wallet purchases using Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, plus 3X points on eligible travel purchases, and points 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.
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Capital One Rewards
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Citi ThankYou Rewards
- Marriott Bonvoy
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:
- Chase Freedom®
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card
- Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
- 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
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 Program||Time for Points to Transfer|
|Aer Lingus AerClub (Avios)||Instantly|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||Instantly|
|British Airways Executive Club (Avios)||Instantly|
|Iberia Plus (Avios)||Instantly|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1 Day|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||Instantly|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Instantly|
|World of Hyatt||Instantly|
|IHG Rewards Club||1 Day|
|Marriott Rewards||2 Days|
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:
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card
- The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card (No longer accepting applications)
- Introducing the New Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card from CHASE® with no annual fee!
- Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Earn 3X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
- 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains).
- 1X point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Receive 15 Elite Night Credits annually, qualifying you for Silver Elite Status. Restrictions apply.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Earn unlimited Marriott Bonvoy points and get Free Night Stays faster.
- 3X points for every $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
- 2X points on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains)
- 1X point on all other purchases
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 PROGRAM||TRANSFER RATIO (REWARDS:MILES)|
|Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus||3:1|
|Aeroflot Bonus Program||3:1|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||3:1|
|Air China PhoenixMiles||3:1|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||3:1|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||200:1|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||3:1|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club||3:1|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||3:1|
|Asia Miles/Cathay Pacific||3:1|
|Asiana Airlines Asiana Club||3:1|
|British Airways Executive Club||3:1|
|China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles||3:1|
|China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club||3:1|
|Delta Air Lines SkyMiles||3:1|
|Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns||3:1|
|Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club||3:1|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||3:1|
|Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank||3:1|
|Jet Airways JetPrivilege||3:1|
|Korean Air SKYPASS||3:1|
|LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass||3:1|
|Lufthansa Miles and More||3:1|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||3:1|
|Qatar Airways Privilege Club||3:1|
|Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan||3:1|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||3:1|
|South African Airways Voyager||3:1|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||3:1|
|TAP Air Portugal Victoria||3:1|
|Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus||3:1|
|Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles||3:1|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||3:1|
|Virgin Australia Velocity||3:1|
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:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
- The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
- American Express® Gold Card
- American Express® Business Gold Card
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- Rates & Fees
- 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
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.
|Membership Rewards Transfer Partners||Minimum Points to Transfer||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Aer Lingus AerClub||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Avios||Unknown|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||1,000||1,000 : 1,600 Premier Points||1-2 days|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Aeroplan Miles||Instant|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Flying Blue Miles||Instant|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Alitalia Miles||1 day|
|ANA Airlines Mileage Club||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 ANA Miles||1-2 days|
|Avianca LifeMiles||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 LifeMiles||Instant|
|British Airways Avios||250||250 : 250 British Airways Avios||Instant|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Asia Miles||1-2 days|
|Delta SkyMiles||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 SkyMiles||Instant|
|El Al Matmid Club||1,000||1,000 : 20 Matmid Points||Instant|
|Emirates Skywards||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Skywards Miles||Instant|
|Etihad Guest||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles||Instant|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Hawaiian Miles||Instant|
|Iberia Plus||250||250 : 250 Iberia Avios||Instant|
|JetBlue TrueBlue||250||250 : 200 TrueBlue Points||Instant|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||500||1,000 : 1,000 Qantas Points||Unknown|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 KrisFlyer Miles||1 day|
|Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Flying Club Miles||1 day|
|Choice Privileges Rewards (Hotel)||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Choice Privileges Points||Instant|
|Hilton Honors (Hotel)||1,000||1,000 : 2,000 Hilton Honors Points||Instant|
|Marriott Rewards (Hotel)||1,000||1,000 : 1,000 Marriott Rewards||Unknown|
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
- 60,000 point signup bonus worth $750 towards airfare through the ThankYou Travel Center, or potentially much more when transferred to airline partners
- 3X points per $1 on travel, including gas stations, plus 2X points at restaurants and on entertainment
- No foreign transaction fees
- $95 annual fee
- 3X points per $1 spent on on travel including gas stations, as well as airfare, hotels, car rental agencies, public transportation, tolls, and parking
- 2X points per $1 spent on dining at restaurants, including many cafes, bars and lounges
- 2X points per $1 spent on entertainment, including sporting events, movie theaters, concerts and more
- 1X points per $1 spent on all other purchases
ThankYou Points are excellent for travel in and around Asia-Pacific, counting Qantas, Singapore, and Cathay Pacific as transfer partners.
|Citi Transfer Partner||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time (based on our experience)|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||1:1||Unknown|
|Asia Miles||1:1||1 business day|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||1:1||1 business day|
|Etihad Guest||1:1||6 business days|
|Jet Airways JetPrivilege||1:1||Instant|
|Malaysia Airlines Enrich||1:1||2 business days|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||1:1||2 business days|
|Qatar Airways Privilege Club||1:1||2 business days|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1:1||2 business days|
|Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus||1:1||5 business days|
|Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles||1:1||2 business days|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1:1||Instant|
|Sears Shop Your Way®||1:12||Unknown|
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 using the purchase eraser function), Capital One now boasts 15 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
- 50,000 Miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening; worth $500 in travel if redeemed for a fixed-value, or potentially much more when transferred to airline partners
- 2 Miles on every purchase, plus earn 10 Miles on hotels at hotels.com/venture, through January 2020
- Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® (up to $100)
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
- 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.
- 10 Miles per dollar on hotels at hotels.com/venture, through January 2020
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 non-bonus 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 Partner||Transfer Ratio|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Avianca LifeMiles||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Emirates Skywards||2:1 or 1000:500|
|Etihad Guest||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Finnair Plus||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|JetBlue TrueBlue||2:1 or 1000:500|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Qatar Airways Privilege Club||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Singapore KrisFlyer||2:1 or 1000:500|
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.
For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)
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