90 days to use ’em or lose ’em: Where would you transfer your points?


a man sitting at a table using a laptop

An excellent question came into our Giant Mailbag a few days ago:

Hi Greg and Nick,

New York State recently enacted a law requiring a 90-day grace period to use your points after voluntary or involuntary (i.e. shutdown) account closures.
If you were given this 90-day window to speculatively use EVERYTHING or lose it all (knock on wood), what would you do with your points?

Maybe I’ll get Greg’s take during this week’s Question of the Week, but in the meantime I couldn’t get the question out of my head without writing about it. For reference, here is more information about the law in question.

American Express Membership Rewards points

a close up of some cards

My pick: Air Canada Aeroplan

Runner up: Avianca LifeMiles

I’ve said before that Avianca LifeMiles might be my favorite transfer partner and that if I could only have one program, LifeMiles might be it. That’s because Avianca has a number of unwritten sweet spots that make for great redemptions, their “official” award chart is very reasonable, and they do not pass along any carrier-imposed surcharges. Furthermore, their award pricing is pretty “gameable” since their mixed-cabin awards can help you save over the cost of a simple long-haul award. And since Avianca is in the Star Alliance, I find their miles to be the most useful to me because I more frequently fly Star Alliance internationally than any other alliance.

However, when I contemplated this question, I decided that Avianca LifeMiles would not be my answer if given 90 days to use or lose my Amex Membership Rewards points for a a couple of reasons.

First, Avianca sells their points affordably with high frequency. Yet another sale on the purchase of LifeMiles just hit this week and it provides the opportunity to buy LifeMiles for as little as 1.22c per mile. At that price, one could buy the miles necessary for a one-way business class ticket to Europe for $768.60 or less (it would only effectively cost $427 for enough miles to fly the New York-JFK to Lisbon business class sweet spot). While still not cheap, I could imagine buying miles if I lost my ability to generate them.

Second, Avianca LifeMiles expire after just 12 months of account inactivity. That’s the shortest expiration policy I can name among the major loyalty programs and one that has tripped me up before. I’d hate to speculatively transfer a large number of points and then risk losing them altogether if I just forget to keep the miles active.

So where would I speculatively transfer my Amex points? Air Canada Aeroplan.

Let me be clear: I don’t think that Aeroplan would be the right answer for everyone. Given Aeroplan’s mixture of a region-based and distance-based award chart, those living on the west coast get stuck with some high prices for business class awards to Europe. However, as someone based in New York State, Aeroplan makes sense for me for a lot of reasons.

First of all, Star Alliance has excellent coverage, both out of New York City and around the world. Because of New York’s proximity to Western Europe, business class award pricing from New York to Frankfurt and points west actually rings in a few thousand miles cheaper than with Avianca LifeMiles, which is an added bonus given that I could fly United, TAP Air Portugal, Lufthansa, or even Singapore Airlines to Europe in business class for a reasonable number of miles.

More importantly, Air Canada Aeroplan provides access to an unmatched number of airline partners overall thanks to wide-ranging partnerships beyond the Star Alliance. Those non-alliance partners include airlines like Oman Air, Gulf Air, Air Serbia, Bamboo Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Gol, and Virgin Australia. That gives an Aeroplan award ticket incredible reach, especially when you consider that you can mix and match partners and create complex routings (like the time I visited 6 different countries on a one-way ticket that incorporated 5 different airlines). While I probably won’t fly something quite so fast-paced with two young kids any time soon, I could certainly imagine leveraging Air Canada for some really cool trips since their partners could really get us almost anywhere we want to go.

Furthermore, Air Canada Aeroplan seems to have expanded access to award space on some partners. That’s been most widely noticed on Singapore Airlines, which seems to release far more business class space to Aeroplan than to other partners, but I’ve also noticed Aeroplan piecing together United awards that I can’t find through other Star Alliance programs.

Finally, Air Canada Aeroplan partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One miles, and Bilt Rewards. That gives me plenty of ways to continue earning Aeroplan points and topping off my account without Amex if need be.

The argument against Aeroplan would surely be that they have had some specific partner issues over the past couple of years: there was the Etihad débâcle of course, but we’ve also seen Aeroplan blocking a lot of space on ANA and Oman Air flights went missing for a long time. I’m sure it’s somewhat challenging to manage partnerships at the ambitious breadth at which Air Canada has established them, but nonetheless there have been some points of frustration. And customer service hasn’t done much to alleviate that frustration, with long hold times (or a recording that frequently tells callers that the call center is too busy and they should just call back later before hanging up on them). Air Canada Aeroplan hasn’t been perfect, but they’d be my pick for my Amex Membership Rewards points if I had to use ’em or lose ’em.

Capital One Miles

a hand holding a wallet with credit cards inside

My pick: Air Canada Aeroplan

Runner up: Turkish Miles & Smiles

Capital One has really upped their game over the past couple of years and has an impressive list of transfer partners. Among them is a favorite program of mine, Turkish Miles & Smiles.

Turkish has of course been a personal favorite award program ever since we first published the sweet spot that offers domestic Star Alliance awards for 7,500 miles one way. I’ve leveraged that sweet spot numerous times to travel to Hawaii for just 7,500 miles each way in economy class (I once had it booked for my family in business class for 12,500 miles each, but finding that availability is next to impossible) and I used it last year to fly from Anchorage, Alaska to Chicago.

Furthermore, Turkish offers numerous other business class sweet spots, including 45K miles from the US to Europe, 47K miles from the US to the Middle East, and 52.5K miles for business class to Central Asia. If you can find space on airlines with low surcharges or no surcharges, those prices are hard to beat.

Unfortunately, a number of Star Alliance carriers have high carrier-imposed surcharges that get passed along when booking through Turkish. Specifically, flights operated by Lufthansa Group airlines (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Brussels, and Eurowings) tend to have enormous surcharges in most situations. Surcharges on flights operated by Turkish have also inched upward.

But the even bigger problem with transferring to Turkish Miles & Smiles speculatively is the expiration policy: miles expire 3 years from the date they are earned. It is possible to extend the expiration for another 3 years by paying $10 per 1,000 miles, but that gets pricey quickly and paying it would seriously diminish the value you’re getting from your points. I might consider speculatively transferring enough points or a round of round trip tickets to Hawaii for my family, but absent a big transfer bonus (which we haven’t ever seen), I don’t think I’d want to park my points with Turkish.

Instead, I’d go with Air Canada Aeroplan for the same reasons outlined under the Membership Rewards section above.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

a group of credit cards with a question mark

My pick: World of Hyatt

Runner up: World of Hyatt

This one is very easy: World of Hyatt. Almost all of the Chase Ultimate Rewards points I’ve ever used (easily more than 90%) have gone to World of Hyatt and I wouldn’t hesitate to transfer my entire Ultimate Rewards balance there if push came to shove.

First and foremost, this is because of Hyatt’s incredibly reasonable award chart. At both the low end, where awards start at 3,500 points per night for an off-peak Category 1 property, and at the high end, where a peak-priced Category 8 property costs 45,000 points per night, you can get fantastic value for your points.

Furthermore, I enjoy staying at Hyatt hotels, where I can typically count on excellent service. While any hotel program will have some misses here and there, we tend to like everything from Hyatt Place properties (which work out very well when traveling with a family given the extra space / sofa bed in most standard Hyatt Place rooms) to Park Hyatt and SLH stays like our 2023 stays at the Park Hyatt Vienna and the Grand Hotel Victoria.

Hyatt represents the rare opportunity to get fantastic value out of hotel points. There aren’t many opportunities to do that with other transferable currencies and I know I could get plenty of value out of my airline miles through other programs. Hyatt would easily be my pick for Chase.

Citi ThankYou Points

a group of credit cards in a wallet
A great combination

My pick: Choice Privileges

I’m going to make a controversial pick with Citi ThankYou points: Choice Privileges.

I should caveat this by saying that we don’t have many Citi ThankYou points in my household, so it’s a bit easier for me to play it fast and loose with Citi points. And I should add that arguments could be made for Avianca LifeMiles or Turkish Miles & Smiles that would include some of the positive points I’ve made about those programs above.

However, I think we all sleep on Choice Privileges too often. For my part in that, it’s largely because I’m not very interested in staying at many of the brands in the Choice portfolio.

However, I have stayed at plenty of decent Choice properties over the years, including one I really enjoyed in Napa Valley and another that we’ve stayed at a couple of times in Rome. Scandinavia offers abundant opportunity to get excellent value from Choice points and I’ve looked at using them in Australia numerous times. While Choice doesn’t have the aspirational properties of a World of Hyatt, they provide some reach in places where other chains just don’t have a footprint.

Furthermore, at the more aspirational end, Greg has written about his experiences with Choice’s partnership with Preferred Hotels. I’ve nearly gone down that rabbit hole a number of times before and would probably pursue it more fully if I had more Citi or Choice points.

The times when I’ve used Choice Privileges points, I’ve not had difficulty getting 1c per point in value or better. Given the 1:2 ratio when  transferring from Citi to Choice Privileges, I think there is enough potential value at Choice that I’d consider parking points there. I’d feel differently about this pick if Citi were my only points program and I was about to lose it — in that case, I’m sure I’d probably want airline miles. But as things stand, I think I’d choose Choice.

Bilt Rewards

My pick (tie): Air Canada Aeroplan or American Airlines

Bilt would be the hardest pick for me among the transferable currencies simply because Bilt has most of my favorite transfer partners.

The easy answer would appear to be World of Hyatt for all the same reasons I outlined for transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt. But Bilt has some airline partnerships that Chase doesn’t with partners like American Airlines, Turkish Miles & Smiles, and Avianca LifeMiles. And if I were losing my Bilt account but keeping my Chase accounts, I wouldn’t feel the need to speculatively transfer to Hyatt since I would presumably still have access to Hyatt via Chase moving forward.

I’ve been using American Airlines miles much more regularly than I anticipated even when I bought several thousand dollars worth of miles during the SimplyMiles 240x bonanza of a few years ago. I wish I had purchased more miles because I especially like the easy flexibility of booking prospectively with my American miles. I’d be tempted to transfer Bilt points to AA to top off that account.

However, assuming that I’m keeping my other transferable currencies, it would probably make more sense to transfer to an airline program that I can easily top off with other points (especially since I have a smaller balance of Bilt Rewards than I do of Chase, Amex, or Capital One points). I think I’d lean toward the Star Alliance trifecta of Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles or Turkish Miles & Smiles as noted in discussion above.

I should note that Greg has been excited lately about the utility of Air France Flying Blue, which partners with Bilt and also partners with all of the other currencies mentioned so far. If I were placing a bet, I think Greg’s answer for at least one of the award currencies would be to speculatively transfer to Flying Blue. I have also found Flying Blue particularly useful as a family traveler since they frequently make enough seats available for my whole family and they offer a 25% discount on long-haul child tickets (for ages 2-11). Furthermore, huge Bilt transfer bonuses to Flying Blue both last year and earlier this month made speculative transfers to Bilt a fantastic deal.

However, given the surcharges on Flying Blue tickets (which are moderate but which certainly add up over 4 passengers), I’d rather speculatively transfer to a program that does not pass along carrier-imposed surcharges. That means my top choices for Bilt points would be Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles, or American Airlines. I’d probably go with Air Canada Aeroplan for all of the same reasons listed above, though American Airlines and Hyatt would be solid alternatives that I might consider depending on my individual needs in the moment. In fact, I think I’d put American Airlines more or less at a tie with Aeroplan specifically because I don’t have other transferable points with which to top off my American Airlines balance.

Bottom line

I’m not currently in the midst of any sort of account shut down (knock on wood), but I thought the reader question about where we’d transfer points if given 90 days to use them or lose them (given New York’s new law requiring notice & opportunity to redeem even after account closure) was an interesting one to consider. Hopefully, I won’t need to make a decision like those outlined above. And it’s worth noting that actual near-term circumstances could influence my decisions (like if I had specific near-term booking needs). Furthermore, I imagine that I’d be able to split up my redemptions and perhaps transfer some points to Turkish Miles & Smiles for instance — it probably wouldn’t be an “all or nothing” transfer situation. Hopefully I don’t need to work out the exact splits on those speculative transfers any time soon, but if I do I’ll have this post to guide my way.

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[…] month, I shared this post from Frequent Miler. Based on a reader question, the author share which program he would pick to transfer his flexible […]


Before the Vacasa deval … Wyndham for Cap1 and Citi no doubt


I have found Flying Blue to be frustrating as they have cancelled both segments of my round trip, placing me on unacceptable alternative flights. Working with them was difficult and they are not as flexible as a US carrier. I am a disgruntled passenger.


Make sure you file an EU 261 claim. Search for the article on FM


Thank you! Had forgotten about that!

[…] days to use ’em or lose ’em: Where would you transfer your points?: This is a really interesting read on Frequent Miler. Everyone has their favorite programs. There is no right or wrong answer here. I plan to write a […]


Just want to say nice post !


Small point in your post but…what Choice property did you like in Rome? Going there for 5 nights in June and the available Hyatts are a bit pricey – plus looking for a 3-person room… thinking of setting a reminder for 120 days pre-stay to jump on Choice!


Hi Nick and Greg,
Can you offer some advice on how to find business class award seats with Lifemiles?
I struggle to find award seats to Asia and to Europe. Honestly in the last 5-6 years, I found 1 one way flight LAXIST on LH, 1 one way flight HNDHNL via LAX on NH/UA and that’s it. Help !!!


Chase – send it all to hyatt
Amex and Cap1 – Aeroplan + cash out a bit
Citi – Turkish
Bilt – Hyatt


I don’t think the question stipulated all your points had to go to one program, did it? I’d go:
Amex: ANA for how much I could easily use in 3 years, rest in Aeroplan. I don’t trust Avianca to be solvent over many years, though I’ll happily transfer for short term use.
C1: Aeroplan
UR: Yep, all Hyatt
Bilt: AA (don’t have much though)

Downside of above is basically stuck in Star Alliance, so might put some in FB and Asia Miles.


My hesitation with some airlines is that, while redemption values might be great, customer service is not. With some, a scenario that necessitates interacting with customer service destroys all value gained. Just a thought.


I think it’s also a fair point to think about recovery during IRROPs and partner awards, as well as ease of cancellation and flexibility. In particular, when partner awards are cancelled. UA, AA, DL, and AC are very good about opening space for you on their own metal, but booking QR via CX may leave you stranded when say, QR’s PHL-DOH leg disappears completely.


I notice you didn’t talk much about free cancellation… some of your parking places have tolls if you want to leave


Surprised that to see that you didn’t choose Air France. They have some of the best saver award availibility.


Booking Air Europa with AF miles is a great alternative because the surcharges are only $10.10. Its a great sweet spot for AF miles.


It varies, I just looked and saw Business available for 53.5k in December. I flew them from Miami to Madrid in business last year in the 787-9. I have it booked in business from JFK in May in the 787-8 although I choose the 2 middle seats so I don’t mind that it is an older plane.


We just booked one way, 2 person BOS to ATH in economy using 30.000 Air France miles plus $175 for both in May, but there is good availability in each month of 2024.


Not a fan of Air Canada’s 39 CAD partner award redemption fee