Jhere are many great travel credit cards co-branded with individual airlines and hotel chains (we’re looking at you Aeroplan® Credit Card and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card). But freedom of choice ultimately reigns supreme to burn through your hard-earned loyalty points. That’s why companies like American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi have all created their own exclusive loyalty programs, which can then be transferred to various airline and hotel programs.
Often, but not always, these transfer ratios are completed at a 1:1 ratio and allow credit cardholders to bank and store points in their chosen credit card currency, transferring to airline and hotel partners as needed. This situation gives consumers the power to transfer only when they have found the right match – say, a cheap business class seat in Paris on Air France (transfer to Air France/KLM Flying Blue), a nice room at the Conrad Bora Bora (transfer to Hilton Honors), or a suite upgrade at Park Hyatt New York City (transfer to World of Hyatt).
We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about loyalty programs from American Express, Chase, Citi and Capital One at a glance, how to earn points fast in each, and how they compare when it comes to transfer partners.
American Express Membership Rewards
Membership Rewards is American Express’ loyalty currency. These points are earned through welcome bonuses and spending on Amex credit cards, namely the Gold and Platinum varieties. Once accumulated, Membership Rewards points are transferable to 17 airline partners (3 domestic and 14 international) and 3 hotel partners. A total of 20 transfer partners makes Membership Rewards the best overall loyalty program for transferable points.
Dramatically increase your Membership Rewards balance with big welcome bonuses from:
Chase the Ultimate Rewards
Chase Sapphire cards earn Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to partners or used for statement credits, gift cards, and more. Currently, there are 11 airline partners and 3 hotel partners. Although this is less than the 20 partners found through American Express Membership Rewards, Chase ties Amex for its number of domestic airlines (3) and hotel partners (3).
Earn Ultimate Rewards points fast with current introductory offers from:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ($95 annual fee): Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® ($550 annual fee): Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Citi Thank You Points
the Citi Premier® Card earns Citi ThankYou points, which are transferable to more than a dozen airline loyalty programs at individual value and two hotel programs. It is the only credit card program that transfers to international partners Qatar Airways and Thai Airways.
Start your ThankYou points balance with the current welcome bonus from Citi Premier Card ($95 annual fee): Earn an additional 60,000 thank you points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Capital One Rewards
Capital One recently overhauled its rewards program to include 14 airlines and 3 hotel transfer partners, with a transfer ratio of 1:1 for most partners. Right now, thanks to the launch of the new Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (annual fee of $395), it is possible to earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $10,000 on purchases within the first six months of account opening.
Transfer of points to international airline partners
The four credit card programs mentioned above have partnered with international carriers to make their points transferable to foreign airline loyalty programs, often at a 1:1 ratio. Here’s how they compare in terms of partners and transfer ratios (credit card program to individual airline program).
Transfer of points to domestic airline partners
Curiously, US-based credit card issuers have few domestic airline partners, with Capital One hitting zero and Citi hitting just one. Here’s how they compare.
Transfer of points to hotel chain partners
Finally, each credit card loyalty program has its own hotel partners and transfer ratios that vary widely. Here’s how they compare.
Exclusive loyalty programs from American Express, Chase, Citi and Capital One allow cardholders to bank in one program but spend in many. Since everyone has their own airline and hotel chain, cardholders don’t need to stick with one carrier or hotel brand. They can choose when and where they wish to transfer their points. In most cases, transfers can be made directly through the credit card’s website, and often they are instant. Acquiring a travel credit card from a myriad of transfer partners is a smart choice for those who want to accumulate points now to travel later. It’s the best way to have the freedom to choose how and when to spend points.
Although the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time and may have changed or may no longer be available.
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