Why I Speculatively Transfer Points During Transfer Bonuses Why I Speculatively Transfer Points During Transfer Bonuses

Why I Speculatively Transfer Points During Transfer Bonuses

Earn Bonus Points

AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. Terms Apply to the offers listed on this page. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.

There is a “rule” that I've heard on many occasions: You should never speculatively transfer points. This applies especially to flexible bank points like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. For most points aficionados, the reason is obvious. “Flexible points” are just that: flexible.

But I am here to tell you why, on occasion, I deliberately depart from this general wisdom.

A Common Refrain: Don't Speculatively Transfer Points

The reason for this advice is simple: As long as you keep your points as bank points, you retain all of their flexibility. All. This goes away the instant you complete a transfer to any travel partner. The points are moved, and you can't convert them back. Now, you can redeem them only with this one hotel/airline program.

I'll be honest that I've found myself with stranded points more than once. For example, I once transferred points during an Asia Miles transfer bonus and used them to book Cathay Pacific first class. It's not the most ideal use of miles, but I wanted to fly this top-notch product.

Then, COVID-19 hit. The trip was canceled. I didn't re-book it. Since my points were already converted to Asia Miles, I was now stuck with a stash of them. I ended up burning them — at least those about to expire — to fly American Airlines Flagship First from coast to coast.

While I didn't speculatively transfer points in this case, it was still a lesson in dealing with a stranded balance. Yet, even after this (and other) experiences, I transfer points speculatively.

Why I Occasionally Break This “Rule”

The need to position for international flights is an unfortunate reality for me. I live in a rural area, about five hours by car from the closest major airport. In order to save the time and hassle (and massive parking fees), I do my utmost to position to San Francisco (SFO) when needed, rather than drive.

This means I fly the same little United Express hop at least half a dozen times per year, if not more. And rather than use United MileagePlus miles, the cheapest option is Avianca LifeMiles. I can fly this short hop for just 6,500 LifeMiles and $15.60. Cash prices can hit $200 each way, so this provides an excellent use of my Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points.

Related: 112 United Award Routes That You Can Book for Just 6,500 Miles

I've found holding a small stash of LifeMiles to be extremely convenient. Sure, I could transfer points anytime I need them. But why not get the extra value by converting them to LifeMiles during a transfer bonus? Sure, the program could kill this sweet spot. But I tend to use the miles quickly, so I'm happy to speculatively transfer points. I keep a balance of around 30,000 LifeMiles on hand.

It comes down to this: I have high confidence that I'll use the points in the coming 6-12 months. Given this near-certainty, transferring points during a transfer bonus makes sense.

picture of a United Airlines regional jet; I Speculatively Transfer Points to Book This Sky Chariot
I've spent a lot of time on these, unfortunately.

Keeping LifeMiles in My Pocket: Some Real-Life Examples

Here are a few situations where having LifeMiles on hand was extremely useful for me:

These are all very standard uses of points. However, I normally don't keep a balance with many international airline programs (e.g., Aeroplan, Emirates Skywards, or Etihad Guest), only transferring what I need when I need to use them. LifeMiles is my one exception, as I take advantage of transfer bonuses when they come up.

Final Thoughts

Sure, I am taking on some risk each time I speculatively transfer points to LifeMiles. The program could roll out a no-notice devaluation that reduces their value. It would be unfortunate, but I am willing take that risk.

If this sounds interesting, you can bookmark our page for Citi-LifeMiles transfer bonuses and Amex-LifeMiles transfer bonuses to check what's available and see updates when future bonuses roll around. I know this decision isn't for everyone, but I wanted to highlight it since it is an unusual choice that diverges from conventional advice. It's definitely worked out for me over the past few years.

5 / 5 - (7 votes)
AwardWallet Tip of The Day
Did you know that you can view all accounts with balances that have changed in the last week or month? To filter your loyalty accounts by these options, select the Changed within 1 week or Changed within 1 month option in the Views menu.
Show me how

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Adam Garrett says:

    I agree that the rule is not one that all should follow. I also am one of those that know the rule and break the rule to speculatively transfer points during promos. In my case, a high % of the points that I have are from speculative transfers during peak transfers when considering the past few yrs prior to transfer. For instance, >99% of my Etihad miles were from that 50% transfer promo from Capital One. Most of my Hilton Honors Rewards are from 50% transfer promos from Amex (though I know that buying Hilton Honors for half a cent each is likely a better way to get them for those with a high $ budget). My Avios are primarily from past 40% transfer promos, Air France Flying Blue from 30% promos, Virgin Atlantic from 30% transfer promos, etc.

  • LifeMiles expire after just 1 year, so be sure to consider that when making a speculative transfer.

    • Adam Garrett says:

      Richard, Lifemiles can be extended, and I do extend them, by a 1k transfer. There are some points currencies that can’t be extended, and with those, it is most important to be cautious about a speculative transfer.