How Transferring Credit Card Points to a Travel Program Can Boost Your RewardsCompared to straightforward cash back, credit card rewards points have a bit more mystery to them. There are a variety of ways you can redeem points, and some of those ways are worth more than others, so it’s up to you to figure out how to maximize your rewards. Across almost all points cards, though, there is one universal constant: transferring your points to a travel program can usually give you more value for your rewards than any other option. If you’re willing to commit some time to do research and you don’t mind some restrictions on your travel, airline and hotel loyalty programs offer, you can find some of the most incredible rewards redemption options by transferring your points. To learn more about how travel program transfers work, including some of their limitations, read on.

What’s the difference between credit card and travel program points?

Many rewards credit cards already offer the ability to purchase flights with points through a rewards travel portal, so what makes travel programs so special? Simply put, points in airline and hotel travel programs are valued differently than credit card points. Most credit card rewards points have fixed values for each redemption option that the card providers use to determine how many points a reward is worth. For instance, if you book a $500 flight through a credit card travel portal, and that card provider values its points redeemed for travel as being worth $0.01 per point, then that flight will cost you 50,000 points, every time. On the other side, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points often have variable values that change based on a number of factors, such as availability. A flight that normally costs $500 could cost 70,000 points, or it could only cost 25,000 points, depending on when you book it and the airline’s needs. By converting your credit card points into travel program points, you can pick out the best deals and take advantage of them.

How to transfer points to a travel program

Before you start transferring your credit card rewards into frequent flyer miles or hotel loyalty points, you have to make sure you’re earning the right kind of rewards. The only credit card points you can transfer to a travel program are convertible points, of which there are three main types: American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Citi ThankYou points. There are also Starwood Starpoints, though Starwood is currently going through a merger with Marriott, so the future of the Starwood Preferred Guest program is a little unclear. You can certainly sign up for a Starwood card and start earning convertible points with it, but the rewards program may change in the future. Also note that you can’t earn convertible points with every model of credit card from those issuers. For example, the Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser) earns Membership Rewards points, but the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express earns cash back instead. If you want the ability to transfer card rewards to travel programs, make sure you sign up for a rewards card that earns the right points.

Once you have the right card and some convertible points, you can transfer them by logging into your online credit card account and going to the rewards section. From there, you should find an option to transfer your points, along with a list of the travel programs your card partners with. Whichever travel program you pick, you will need to have an account already set up with it, and you will likely have to supply some sort of account number. For instance, if you’re transferring points to a Delta SkyMiles account, you would enter your SkyMiles frequent flyer number. Before you initiate the transfer, check the points exchange rate to make sure it’s favorable. With many travel programs, your points will transfer at a 1:1 ratio, but some will give you less favorable exchange rates, like 0.6 points for every point you transfer. Also, be aware that once you transfer credit card points to a travel program, you generally can’t transfer those points back.

Potential drawbacks of transferring points

As amazing as transferring your points can be, it also comes with some negatives, most of which are related to travel programs themselves. Travel programs can have a lot of limitations, including blackout dates, a limited ability to change your booking and having to pay certain fees with cash, such as fuel surcharges. Also, some of the redemption offers are actually poor values for points, and finding the best deals on those programs takes a lot of effort and number crunching. Hunting for flights and hotel bookings with the best rates can get you once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences that you may not be able to afford otherwise, but you have to put in time to find them. Furthermore, the trips and stays that offer the best value for points may not be anything you’re interested in. Because of this, it’s a good idea to browse what’s available from the travel partners first, and only transfer your credit card points over when you find something you want to claim. If all of that sounds like too much of a hassle, you may want to stick with trading your rewards points for flights directly through your card provider, as you’ll face fewer restrictions.

For people who want to get a bit more involved in their credit card rewards in exchange for some astounding travel deals, diving into travel programs by transferring your credit card points to them is one of the best ways to do that. For more tips and tricks on how to get the best value out of your cards, follow our credit cards blog.

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