Can I Transfer Miles Between Frequent Flyer Programs?

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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.

American 737
You can’t transfer miles between Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage, but you can use Alaska miles to book on American.

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.

Transferring Avios

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.

Transfer miles between programs on Points.com

You can exchange miles between the following programs on Points.com:

  • Aeroplan®
  • Delta SkyMiles®
  • Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns®
  • Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club
  • HawaiianMiles
  • 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.

transfer-miles-via-multiple-partners
Pic courtesy of | WebFlyer

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:

Each program has high-value transfer partners that can exponentially increase the value of your points if used wisely.

Final Thoughts

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.

Can I Transfer Miles Between Frequent Flyer Programs?
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Comments

  • Points.com has come in handy for me in the past, for disposing of obscure point-currencies that would otherwise have been forfeited, but yes, their exchange rates are bordering on criminal, and it seems like their rules about minimum transfer balances, etc., shift without notice.

  • Another great article. I once used points.com to transfer points . The transfer ratio wasn’t great but at least I could use the orphaned points .

  • Booking partner awards is a good way to go. One can also use orphaned points to buy stuff, maybe not things of great value but better than letting points expire.

  • I know this is a unique case, but Virgin American transferred to Alaska currently runs at 1:1.5, which isn’t that bad.

  • Another vote for points.com as a way to turn useless (and expiring) points into something I can at least USE. The exchange rate was terrible, but to me, the value of the points I traded away was ZERO so I was happy to get anything for them.

  • angelo fonseca says:

    In addition to an unsatisfactory conversion rate, Points.com options are very limited.

  • I have never found it worthwhile at all. I’d much rather extend the lifespan of a point with a $2 shopping portal bonus.

  • I transferred some orphaned Citi ThankYou points to Hilton points.

  • L. DiClemente says:

    A note on transferring Avios between Iberia and British Airways and vice versa…. you must have a few Iberia miles in the account and has to be older than 90 days…. plus, each account must have identical names and emails, otherwise transferring online will get hiccupped..

  • Or there are programs like Virgin Atlantic that let you transfer to Hilton for example

  • Is there a reason points.com limits the list of airlines for which miles transfers can be done?
    It’s such a small list of airlines and I really wish there were more.

  • Great suggestions. If anyone’s stuck for ways to activate an Iberia account (so you can transfer in/out of British Airways, Avios and AerLings), I paid a few pounds for a ferry between Schinoussa and Iraklia and entered my Iberia #FF. The miles turned up pretty quickly. I didn’t use the ferry!

  • I agree that the exchange rate for Points.com is terrible however I have used it in the past two keep my accounts active by transferring a tiny amount such as a few points.

  • Is it possible to transfer united miles –> Marriott–>SPG–>delta miles?

  • Good summary, and I appreciate the honest cautionary words.

  • didnt know points.com. Could be useful if a little bit short on something.

  • Katie Wilkinson says:

    The only time I found transferring miles is helpful is when you only need a small amount of miles to be able to get an award ticket with another airline.

  • It’s a shame that the exchange rates at points.com are terrible but do act as a life line to some orphaned points in some circumstances.
    The other routes are equally as bad, maybe one day all airlines will be able to agree a universal cost per point and open up transfers.

  • The caution is well warranted. You didn’t really mention though that you can always try to top up an orphaned account (with SPG, buying miles/points etc.) to get a good value reward, rather than just wasting several thousand on a points.com conversion or similar.

  • Is there any way to transfer miles out of Delta? Points.com not allowing it and I have some miles that I need to get rid of

  • I never heard of webflyer.com before this post. Now I know more options, but i will take your advisement that transferring between frequent flyer programs is a poor transaction.

  • Thats what I love about flexible currencies. You’re never locked in to just one redemption possibility

  • In the past I have used points.com to do some swaps without problems apart from the not favorable conversion.
    From a couple of years or even more I am not able to do some exchanges because less airlines and hotels give this possibility and even when they participate there are some restrictive thresholds (minimum miles or points to convert).

  • I transferred a bunch of frontier miles via points.com after they became a low cost carrier and closed down the Milwaukee hub, rendering the miles useless. Poor value is better than no value.

  • I try to only earn AS or B6 miles from flying, and keep everything else in flexible currency.

  • I wish there was a easier way to transfer points/miles between program. May be it’s time for an industry standard.

  • A good guide for those new to the game. This question comes up every now and then.

  • points.com conversions are atrocious. IMHO Unless we are down to non redeemable amount of miles we should not be using that option.

  • I wonder if I can exchange my Spirit miles to a different Airline?

  • Wow, I completely forgot about Points.com! Thank you! I do remember that it didn’t give many options for transferring points around and since I was new to this game it deflated my enthusiasm for it all. You all gave me the best education and still are! So now I am getting the ins and outs, so many possibilities has opened up for travel to me and my family. Thank you!

  • These are some great ideas. Only wish I had know earlier

  • Hey, I have a delta sky miles account and an Amex gold delta credit card. If I purchase a JetBlue airfare ticket with my Amex gold delta credit card would I be able to transfer miles or points ?.

  • I used my American miles to book Alaska to Liberia Costa Rica. 35K plus $50. Unfortunately almost impossible to upgrade to first class. Booked premium seat $99 more

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