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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.
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 better value in a cash back card, or a fixed value currency like Arrival Miles from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® (See Terms), which redeem 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 currencies
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 currencies. 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
Ultimate Rewards gives members the ability to build a substantial balance of points in a short space of time, points are both flexible & valuable, and they can be redeemed for as much as 1.5 cents per point through UltimateRewards.com for Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders, or potentially much more when transferred to transfer partners.
|Partner Program||Time for Points to Transfer|
|Aer Lingus AerClub (Avios)||Instantly|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||Instantly|
|British Airways 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, 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 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:
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
- Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card
- Marriott Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card
If you want the best chance of getting up the pointy end of the plane and into first or business class, or you regularly fly international, Marriott offers the largest number of airline transfer partners of any rewards program in the U.S. at more than 40.
|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 cards options for earning points. Whether it’s 5x points on airfare for The Platinum Card® from American Express 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 everyday spend cards 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
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. 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 Partners||Minimum Points to Transfer||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|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|
|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:
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)|
|Asia Miles||1:1||1 business day|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||1:1||1 business day|
|Etihad Guest||1:1||6 business days|
|Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer||1:1||2 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 flexible 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 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|
|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: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® (See Terms)
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