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Today we want to address one of the most common questions we get asked both here on the blog and in our Facebook community Award Travel 101.
“Can you combine points and miles from different frequent flyer programs?”
Imagine you want to redeem miles from your Alaska Mileage Plan account for flights, but you’re a little short. You do, however, have plenty of miles in your American AAdvantage account you could transfer to reach your redemption. Can you transfer miles between Mileage Plan and AAdvantage?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. You cannot transfer miles between frequent flyer programs and retain their value.
Unlike flexible rewards currencies, which transfer to a range of airline and hotel programs, airline miles can't be transferred to another frequent flyer program (except for a few exceptions listed below).
Is It Possible to Transfer Miles Between Frequent Flyer Programs?
Technically, yes. Should you do it? No. Except for transferring Avios between British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus, the methods that allow you to move miles between programs cost more than the transaction is worth, stripping your miles of any tangible value.
The first method applies solely to Avios. Avios is the rewards currency used by AerClub, BA Executive Club, and Iberia Plus. You can transfer Avios earned in all three programs via a central Avios.com account, and redeem the combined points for award flights and more. Transferring Avios from BA to Iberia or Aer Lingus can be a great way of avoiding BA’s overpriced fuel surcharges.
Transferring Miles via Points.com
Another option is to use Points.com, which allows transfers between select rewards programs. The killer here is the exchange rates.
You can exchange miles between the following programs on Points.com:
- Delta SkyMiles®
- Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns®
- Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club
- Icelandair Saga Club
- JetBlue TrueBlue®
While Points.com doesn’t charge you a fee to transfer between programs, the exchange rates are atrocious. For example, if you exchange 10,000 JetBlue TrueBlue points for Aeroplan miles, you will receive just 4,250 Aeroplan miles. We consider Aeroplan miles to be slightly more valuable than TrueBlue points, so you’re losing more than half the value of your miles in the transfer.
We'll say it once and only once: If you place no (or minimal) value on a given point or mile and you can convert to a currency where you do place value, then yes, you should complete such a transfer through points.com; otherwise, please don't do it.
Transfer Miles via Multiple Rewards Programs
The last method is to convert miles to another frequent flyer program by routing them through various rewards programs that have transfer agreements. For this example, we’ve used WebFlyer.com to calculate the exchange ratio between American AAdvantage miles and Delta SkyMiles.
The best outcome from the seven options available is transferring American miles to Diners Club Rewards at a 2:1 ratio (losing half your miles), and then transfer Diners Club Rewards to Delta SkyMiles at 1:1, leaving you with half the miles you invested at the outset.
- 10,000 American miles @ 2:1 —> Diners Club points = 5,000 points
- 5,000 Diners Club points @ 1:1 —> Delta SkyMiles = 5,000 miles
Again. Not a recommended use of your miles.
Book Partner Airlines with Your Miles
The good news is that you shouldn’t need to transfer miles between programs to get where you want to go. While your miles may be locked into your AAdvantage account, you can book flights on any of American’s 26 partner airlines using your AAdvantage miles. You can redeem American miles to fly partner airlines like JAL, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, or Latam to destinations that American doesn’t fly. How does this work in practice?
- Search for partner award availability using the BA or Qantas websites
- Book the partner award on AA.com or by calling the AA Reservations Center if the award can’t be booked online
- Fly the partner airline booked with your American AAdvantage miles
You can catch a full breakdown of this process in our recent post covering how to search for partner award availability.
The Value of Collecting Transferable Rewards Currencies
Ultimately, if you’re not collecting transferable rewards currencies, you’re throwing away a good portion of the value gained from credit card spend. Hotel points and airline miles lose value when transferred to other programs due to poor transfer ratios. Whereas, flexible points transfer to a variety of partners at a 1:1 ratio (3:1 for Marriott), allowing you to cherry-pick the best value redemptions from each program and maximize the value of your points.
Flexible currencies tend to offer higher earning rates on credit card spend via well thought out bonus categories and a greater selection of cards to suit different spending patterns. There are four flexible rewards programs (and credit cards that earn these points) we think to offer outstanding value:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (including 19 different ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards)
- Marriott Bonvoy
- American Express Membership Rewards (with Amex's massive transfer partner list)
- Citi ThankYou Rewards (covering Citi's transfer partners and online redemption options)
Each program has high-value transfer partners that can exponentially increase the value of your points if used wisely.
One of the side effects of award travel is having miles spread across multiple frequent flyer programs. These could be from flying different carriers, collected via co-brand credit cards, miles leftover from redemptions or transfers, or miles redeposited as a result of life spoiling your award travel plans. You can't transfer these miles to other frequent flyer programs, but you can use them to book partner awards across a variety of carriers and destinations.
If you have any questions or you think we’ve missed a transfer method, please reach out in the comments.
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