Pick a single transfer partner for each program’s points…


If you had to transfer all of your Citi ThankYou points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, or Amex Membership Rewards points to a single partner today, which partner would you pick and why? This question has been running through my mind for the past couple of days thanks to someone who tuned in to our Ask Us Anything Live on Youtube on Tuesday. In a normal environment, that question would be tricky to answer; in today’s environment it seemed especially challenging. In this post, I’ll lay out my picks for all of the major transferable currencies, but I am just as interested in reader picks: let me know where you prefer to transfer points in the comments.

The question of where to transfer points…

Audience member Jake posed the question this way during our Youtube Live session:

Due to possible risk of shutdown, I’d like to transfer a lot of citi thank you points to airline partners. What airline program would you recommend?

He went on to qualify that a bit with a couple of slightly more specific travel goals (traveling to Europe or Asia in premium cabins down the road), but given the current environment I thought it was worth consideration from a broader standpoint: given the uncertainty of future travel and of specific airlines/programs, where would I transfer today if I had to transfer points?

Let’s be clear: I don’t recommend transferring points anywhere right now unless travel is imminent. As Greg and I said on our Frequent Miler on the Air podcast last weekend, I think the time is right to collect points right now. If you have points in a specific airline program already, I think it’s fine to book speculative 2021 travel. But personally, I’m not willing to transfer points from a transferable currency into any specific airline program today without a near-term use. If you tried to convince me six months ago (reminder: that was January 9th) that by this summer, Americans wouldn’t be welcome in Europe or Canada and that people traveling within the United States would be asked to quarantine themselves, it would have been an awfully hard sell. Given how much the world has changed in six months, I won’t pretend to confidently know what it will be like six months or a year from now. Yes, I feel reasonably confident and hopeful that travel will be back to “normal” next summer. I’d wager ten or twenty bucks on that. I’m less excited about wagering the flexibility of a couple hundred thousand points or more.

So all that said, I thought the question was a great thought exercise. And in Jake’s shoes, it might be a prudent idea; if he’s asking this question, I have faith that he has reason to suspect that shutdown is imminent. In that case (particularly with Citi), it likely makes more sense to use them than lose them.

Without further ado, here are my picks (note that my answers for Chase and Amex are shorter, but I give some background on my Citi choice since I changed from my answer during the broadcast):

Where to transfer Citi ThankYou points

A fantastic trifecta if you want 3 cards: Citi Premier, Double Cash, and the Rewards+. Bye bye Prestige — you just don’t belong.

Long-term readers likely expect me to pick Turkish Miles & Smiles here, and there is good reason for them to suspect that. When I uncovered the Turkish Miles & Smiles domestic flight sweet spot just over a year ago (See: Hawaii for 7.5K miles each way: The sweetest spot we’ve been missing.), I was pumped. I always say that my blood is tropical; approximately three quarters of my summer wardrobe is Hawaiian shirts. And it’s not just Hawaii: the ability to get anywhere in the US on United for 7.5K miles each way in economy class is pretty terrific. United domestic saver availability in economy class is usually strong and given what looks like more domestic than international travel in my near-term, Turkish would seem like a wise pick.

However, my problems with Turkish are two-fold. First, I don’t know how long that domestic flight sweet spot will last. They removed that special domestic flight chart from their award chart page about nine months ago. The writing could be on the wall for that one (or it could last forever…who knows?). Second, I have no idea what Turkish’s economic viability is given a world economic standstill. I feel confident that most countries will ensure that their major national flag carriers get through this time, but I don’t know whether Turkey is in the position to do that, nor do I know whether Turkish can viably sustain itself if travel restrictions persist. I’m not actively concerned that Turkish (or any other major airline) will collapse, and I say this without having researched the airline’s financial state, but given that Turkish’s route network is so heavily international and that their position geographically speaking makes them a better connecting point for inter-regional flights than intra-European flights, I’m just not in a rush to move points there without a specific trip to book.

LifeMiles was my answer during the broadcast. My rationale is that I can still get United flights within my region for 7.5K miles each way (and between Zone 1 and Zone 2, which covers most of the US, for 10K each way). Furthermore, by purchasing miles in the most recent sale, I locked in their current award chart through at least January 2021 — at which point, I could theoretically book travel through December 2021 at current prices. Given no fuel surcharges and Star Alliance’s wide reach combined with excellent mixed-cabin pricing that can lead to great deals, this seemed like a good play. But I can already hear the voice in your head saying, “But if you are at all worried about the economic viability of Turkish Airlines, how could you consider transferring to LifeMiles?”. Avianca has been in a somewhat tenuous position for a few years now. Pre-pandemic, I was very confident they would get through it. Today, I still think that LifeMiles will likely be OK, but it’s not unreasonable to question their future. I’ve second-guessed my LifeMiles answer over the past couple of days. I feel it is a particularly questionable choice if you have a very large ThankYou points balance that you need to empty (in the high hundreds of thousands or million plus range) given that it will take some time to actually use up those airline miles. LifeMiles definitely wouldn’t be the best pick in that scenario.

Given that I’ve now eliminated two of the most likely candidates for my ThankYou points, who would I pick if I needed to transfer out all of my points today? Air France KLM Flying Blue.

Why would I choose Air France KLM Flying Blue in Jake’s shoes? There are a few reasons:

  • really don’t think the government of France will allow their national flag carrier to collapse. I think Air France is here for the long haul (see what I did there?)
  • Flying Blue offers decent prices on Delta domestic tickets (and while more expensive,  Hawaii can still be reasonable). While I don’t often fly Delta, they could probably meet whatever needs Southwest can’t meet for me domestically.
  • Flying Blue offers monthly Promo Rewards where they price some routes lower than usual. While the amazing deals mostly dried up a few years ago, we have continued to see some solid deals periodically over the past couple of years. As demand will probably be slow to recover, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the return of some really good deals once regular travel to/from Europe resumes.
  • Flying Blue is part of a major world alliance (SkyTeam), which is a big advantage over transfer partners like Etihad, Emirates, or Virgin Atlantic that rely on individual partnerships. I think the future of those individual partnerships are tougher to predict as are the futures of those airlines themselves.
  • Air France KLM Flying Blue is transfer partners with everyone: Amex, Chase, Citi, Capital One, and Marriott. Even if Citi shut me down completely, I still have plenty of cards with which to earn points that are transferable to Flying Blue should I need to add some miles for a specific award down the road.

Do I love Flying Blue? No. Does Flying Blue have a great award chart? No — they don’t even publish an award chart. But am I confident that I can eventually find a reasonable use of Flying Blue miles and that I can add to my balance if and when I need to? Yes. Flying Blue likely won’t represent the best sweet spot and awards may carry some surcharges that I’d not be terribly enthusiastic about, but I also know that I will probably be able to put those miles to use. Further, given the variable award pricing they use, I may get lucky and snag an even cheaper-than-usual award if they reduce award rates as demand lags. It is a reasonable if not exciting selection.

Update: As Larry points out in the comments and Greg noted to me via email, the biggest downside of Air France is their mileage expiration policy. Air France miles expire after 24 months of inactivity unless you have one of the two things happen:

  • Credit a flight from Air France or its partners (including Delta) to Flying Blue
  • Use your Air France credit card

I don’t often fly paid tickets and rarer still do I fly on a paid ticket with Delta, but if I were taking this option I’d have to be sure to book a paid Delta ticket every 24 months until I used up the miles. I’d likely book that Delta ticket with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. This makes Air France less convenient. I’d still choose them over other options — but feel free to disagree!

Where to transfer Amex Membership Rewards points

I am tempted to be much less rational with Amex Membership Rewards points. ANA has so many sweet spots that I would be really disappointed not to give myself a chance to take advantage of things like 88K round trip business class to Europe, 75K round trip business class to Japan, or 105K round trip business class to Australia — and that’s not to mention round-the-world in business class with a number of stops for 115K (or more or less depending on your situation). I would really want to choose ANA.

But given no easy way to top off ANA miles and a hard expiration date that isn’t reset by activity, I know it wouldn’t be a rational choice.

In my case, I think the most rational decision (which does not excite me but makes sense) would be Avios.

My reasons for choosing Avios are:

  • They are transferable between British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus, which gives me a couple of award chart sweet spots.
  • One of the domestic destinations I usually visit a couple of times per year is Chicago. American has direct flights from my home airport to Chicago. These are cheap with British Airways Avios.
  • Booking AA domestic awards via British Airways Avios gives me the flexibility to cancel up to a day in advance without a fee.
  • Booking domestic AA awards via Iberia Avios can be an even better deal, particularly for another route that works well for my needs (See: From 11K RT on American: A sweet spot for North American flight redemptions). Note that AA awards ticketed via Iberia can not be changed or canceled; you will lose the Avios if you need to cancel. There is no way to redeposit for flights on AA metal (note that Avios used for flights on Iberia metal can be redeposited).
  • Iberia has great off-peak pricing from JFK to Madrid at 34K each way in business class.
  • Lap infants booked via British Airways Avios cost 10% of the mileage rate of the adult ticket (useful for international premium cabin flights)
  • A downside is that extra segments add to the price, but given that I can pretty easily position with Southwest when necessary for international trips, this isn’t a big deal.
  • Avios is also partners with Chase and Marriott, so I have other ways to add to my balance via transferable currencies
  • British Airways Avios has a shopping portal, which gives me another very easy way to add to my balance and keep it from expiring (and in fact I naturally use their portal from time to time because it sometimes has the best rate)

Again, Avios wouldn’t be my pick for best or second-band Membership Rewards transfer partner, but they’d be my most logical choice if I had to transfer every point to a single partner tomorrow.

Where to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Surely a few people read the section above about Membership Rewards and said to themselves, “If I had to get rid of my Amex points tomorrow, I’d get the Schwab Platinum card and cash them out for 1.25c each before I’d transfer to Avios”. That’s not an unreasonable choice and in fact it foreshadows my choice with Chase: if I needed to use up my Chase points in a hurry, my first choice would be to go on a grocery shopping spree and pay myself back at a value of 1.5c per point.

I know that there are readers screaming in their heads, “Transfer to Hyyyyyyaatttt!”. That’s clearly a pretty good choice. I don’t imagine Hyatt will devalue its award chart any time soon. A hotel chain almost surely won’t collapse entirely. Hyatt has plenty of sweet spots where it is possible to get well over 1.5c per point in value. Whether travel is mostly domestic for a couple of years or international travel roars back quickly, there are plenty of Hyatt destinations to suit the needs of many. I won’t argue that Hyatt is a bad choice.

However, in my situation, I still have zero overnight trips planned. I would bet that I’ll stay in a hotel sometime this year and I would bet even more than I’ll do so in 2021. But at the same time, I’m not confident that I will stay in enough hotels to use up my entire Chase Ultimate Rewards balance within the next year or two. I think I’d rather cash out and invest the money than hold a hotel currency indefinitely without any firm travel plans. And by cashing out, I give myself the ability to use those funds toward any kind of travel I want. I’ve been putting some thought into buying a travel trailer/camper lately. If I cashed out my points now, I could use that cash for a Hyatt hotel down the road if I wanted to stay in a hotel — or I could use my cash for lot rental in a campground, or a Southwest flight, or a business class mistake fare, or to pay taxes, or to invest in my retirement — or all of the above. Cash provides the ultimate flexibility.

I noted recently that I think we should all consider the Chase cash-out more seriously (See: Is it now irrational to hold Chase Ultimate Rewards points? (On Nick’s mind). I also noted that despite the fact that I think I should cash out points that way, I probably won’t. Logically, I think that the cash-out makes the most sense — and that is why, if I were faced with the dilemma of having to use all of my Chase points in one shot, I’d cash out rather than transfer to a partner. I’m glad to not be in that situation today.

But if you were to press me to pick a partner in the spirit of the question rather than cashing out, I would go back to Hyatt without hesitation. I have many ways to earn valuable airline currencies (airline credit cards, other points programs, shopping portals, etc). Hyatt is the only hotel currency worth a transfer. I have no fear that Hyatt points will be worth less than they are today any time soon and even less fear that they will become worthless even if the pandemic drags on. If you made me pick a partner, Hyatt would be it.

Bottom line

It’s worth repeating the fact that I’m glad not to be in the situation where I need to choose a single transfer partner for any of my points balances. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that in Jake’s shoes specifically, he doesn’t need to transfer to only one partner — he could transfer some to Turkish, some to LifeMiles, some to Flying Blue, etc. The purpose of this post was the fun of trying to convince myself which partner I would pick were I limited to one and why. This is just a theoretical exercise; I don’t recommend that anyone transfer all of their points to a single partner today. That said, I’m very curious to hear your arguments: if you could only pick one transfer partner for all of your current points balance in each currency, which would you pick and why?

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How’s ur uncle doing in Hawaii ??
Watch ch 4 ….


I cashed out the Amex to my Schwab acct – Business Plus 2x x 1.25 = 2.5c cash back
Chase was to payback with Reserve = 1.5c x many 5x with Ink = average 3-4c cash back
Citi was just 2c cash – thanks
I can always get more points AFTER I use what we have




My Citi partner most likely would be flying club for 2 reasons. The ability to fly Delta mainly, but also I find it to be a tremendous value for one-way last minute hops to JFK for EWR to LHR for only 10,000 miles and $147 in taxes in fees. yes the $147 in taxes seem steep, But a steal compared to one way or even round trip flights that I consistently see for $1500 to $3000 One-way and Round trip last minute trips to LHR. I consider this an economy sweet spot when compared to the cash prices on such a premium route.


Assuming we are in a world back to normal soon, I’d go with TYP to EVA (one of best biz class products, 150k RT US to SE Asia with free stopover), MR to ANA (I don’t have such an outrageous balance that I’d worry about the expiration) and UR to Hyatt. But with no AF cards available with all currencies, this is all really a moot point. The only scenario I could see is if one of the banks is shutting you down but letting you transfer out the points.


having a balance in 4 or 5 airline programs and 2 hotel programs. I decided not to load up on any more. I don’t play amex , and was new to citi points which i used for 3x travel and ran up 350K in points. We got the Chase reserve and transferred points to it and hyatt and had 400k UR points. When chase offered the generous pay yourself back offer, I decided to jump with the logic cash is king and the UR offer is prefaced with exchange rates can change at any time. the UR travel bonus through their portal rarely offered .01 per point value even at the bonus rate of 1.25 due to jacked up redemption prices. So to have a general cashout at 1.5 was an easy decision to cash out $6000.
Citi was a disappointment because i don’t have much use for their partners, and they don’t have many cash out offers, also their portal is just as bad as UR for travel value. I found that you can get the best cash out value for getting mortgage payments for points, so I got $3500 and will close the card…..hotels and airlines are hurting, i feel they will offer a few bargains to get people to start coming back, but once demand rises they will offer fewer bargains in search of lost profits, I imagine postponed devaluations will quickly be imposed and new ones will quickly follow. It never hurts to get some new signup offers to boost points ion those programs but as far as versitile points that can be turned into cash, it seems the best play for most people would be cash.


Hey, I think it is awesome that my question triggered a complete post! I don’t actually think Citi shutdown is imminent, but it is possible because I do a lot of MS. My Thank you points balance is pretty high and that makes me nervous, so I’d feel safer transferring some points out. I’m leaning towards transferring to Lifemiles(Avianca) but I’m worried about the future of that program. For Chase I’d transfer to Hyatt, and for Amex I’d transfer to ANA and/or Avianca. (although lately I’ve just been mostly just cashing out Amex and Chase points using the Schwab Plat and the CSR)


So for you it is gamble either way. You may lose by keeping points intact if there is a shutdown, but you would also lose if you transfer to Avianca and they shut down program or have a big devaluation. I might just hedge in this case and transfer some points but leave plenty in Citi. However, I would figure that Avianca has a good chance of going under and probably more so than a Citi shutdown (unless there is a rash of citi TY shutdowns I don’t know about). Doing nothing seems the easiest and most prudent path.


Since you are cashing out UR/MR , why not cashout TYP also. You will get 1cpp


Yesterday I saw a option to cahsout type for 1c for cash voucher. Is that not a bad option ?


If it is just 1cpp, I’d rather transfer to a mileage program. I can get more than one cent per point in value with virtually any airline program.


Correct, I find it very hard to spend $$$ on travel but points spending who cares. But if u can crank them out like Greg then who cares cashing in too. Maybe I’ll be getting a suite with my points coming back.


I have this exact same situation since I am downgrading my Prestige and will have 60 days to transfer points (also have Premier but points earned w Prestige will last only 60 days after downgrade). I have never found a good use for Flying Blue as Delta is never available for award flights for me and surcharges on their metal is awful, as is the price. Turkish has an additional strike against it: 3 year expiration with no extension. So for me it comes down to Etihad, Avianca, and Virgin. All three have financial issues so that may be a wash though I think Avianca is the one I trust the least. I value ease of use and Virgin is outstanding with great sweet spots. Avianca seems the most frustrating and worst service of the three so that is a strike against it. Virgin has the best service and a couple fantastic sweet spots, namely Africa w SA and Japan w ANA, but both of those could dry up and I’d be stuck. Etihad has the most sweet spots and they are spread out between different partners and alliances (now Star Alliance). Their RAM deal from DC is amazing and I’m eyeing that. Also 50k biz to South America on AA that has long had good availability. Also super cheap AA from DC to Toronto at 5k on AC (new). What was holding me back was points expiration which could not be renewed. However, now expiration gets extended with each earning so that is the clear winner. Even if they severed ties with AA or RAM there would still be other good sweet spots. I also think it is the most likely of the three to get bailed out by its government. So to me Etihad is the clear winner with Virgin in second place. I’ll send some miles to each.

Greg The Frequent Miler

What are you downgrading to? If you are downgrading to another ThankYou card such as Rewards+ or Preferred then your points won’t expire with the downgrade. If going to Double Cash or another non-ThankYou card, then yes you will have to transfer out your points before losing them.


Greg, I’m about to do the same (downgrade the Prestige). I’ve researched your (and others’) advice on this, and am aware that I should try to retain the same card number to avoid points expiration, but do you have a recommendation on whether the Rewards+ or Preferred is better? I wasn’t sure whether PCs to the Preferred were still available. I do have the Premier, so should be able to link the accounts.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Rewards+ is better than the Preferred card. Your points aren’t affected if you get a new card number. The downside of getting a new card number is that Citi will record that you closed your Prestige account on that date. So that will reset the clock on when you can next get a bonus on a ThankYou card.


Definitely Rewards+ is the way to go. It will keep your points but they will still expire in 60 days, as my experience confirms (see above). Switching to a Rewards+ kept the same account for me (account keeps aging and no new one created) but the Rewards+ card they send you will have a different number than your old Prestige. That doesn’t matter though.


I PCed my Prestige to a Rewards+ in late Feb. Number changed, my points are not expiring. I called ThankYou a few times to confirm. My account didn’t show expiration at that time and still doesn’t. I was approved for a Premier a few weeks before PCing my Prestige though, don’t know if that affects anything.


Matt, that’s the boat I’m in (just got the Premier, and planning to PC Prestige to Rewards+. I’m curious: did you link your new Premier TY account to your old Prestige TY account before PCing to Rewards+? That’s what I’m planning to do, unless others recommend otherwise.


I sure did. Maybe that’s what keeps the points from expiring? Not sure. However, here’s a fun unique DP regarding behavior of Citi T&C for anyone wondering:

-Approved Prestige April 2015
-Approved Premier Jan 2016 and closed March 2017
-Approved Premier Feb 14 2020
-PCed Prestige to Rewards+ Feb 25 2020
-Earned the Feb 14 2020 Premier SUB with no issues despite PC of Prestige


I downgraded to Rewards+ and your information is incorrect. An agent told me I would have 60 days to use the miles and, sure enough, after the downgrade it showed about 72k miles w an expiration date, which is about what I guessed I had earned on my Prestige that was left over. So now when I go to the ThankYou page it shows total miles and expiring miles. I found a page that talked about this as well but it’s not a well-known thing.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Try another agent (or 3). There’s a known bug in the product change process where points show that they are going to expire. However, a few weeks later you’ll see that they’re no longer set to expire.


Good to know, thank you. I even talked to someone who worked in the TY rewards program, which is a different group of agents, and he said the same thing. Different agents at Citi say a lot of different things, e.g. when I went to PC to R+ the agent told me I would not get a pro-rated refund but I’ve read on the web this is false information they often give.

Marriott Marty

Same boat 161k I will go with Etihad u less there is a decent bonus elsewhere. Etihad will be government supported so better financial risk.


Sorry for the rookie question, but I want to be clear on your language. When you say “cash out” your points, in the terms of UR points, you are talking about the Pay Yourself Back program (statement credit)… NOT actually getting CASH for your points (take my points, hand me a check).

thank you!


Greg The Frequent Miler

Yes, that’s correct. He means to use the Pay yourself back feature to get 1.5 cents per point


One issue for flying blue is the difficulty of keeping them from expiring unless you are in a delta market and don’t mind wasting the credit on delta to post a segment to FB.


How about when they go on STRIKE in the middle of my trip as in Don’t Fly Bozo’s .


A Flying Blue agent told me a few days ago that you can just transfer a small number of miles and that will extend all miles in your account.


Unless that is something new, then I never heard that. Always had to fly with them or their partner to keep Flying Blue points alive.

Larry K

Everything I’ve heard or read suggests that this won’t work but maybe they have changed it very recently. But traditional wisdom is that while a transfer of new miles will give you a 2 year expiration on the miles that you have transferred, it will not extend previously transferred or earned mile. AF actually shows you when your miles expire so it should be easy to test for anyone that has a balance. I may try it myself sometime this week.

(Incidentally, I think I’m going to be “Larry K” from now on given that Larry seems to be the most popular name in the frequent miler universe. I think there are 5 of us.)


Yeah, definitely agree with this. When closing out an account a few years ago I transferred the remaining points to Flying Blue, and now have to find the best option flight each year to credit. Earlier this year I ran into a problem where one segment was operated by a local affiliate that FB refused to give points for (the same route last year worked).

I have not had any luck with promo awards in the past few years. Business class awards often require positioning to Canada.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Citi: Virgin Atlantic. Easy to keep miles alive. Great for non-stop Delta flights. Good for Air France/KLM flights. Great for ANA first class.

Amex: Cash out for 1.25. Otherwise: Aeroplan. It’s a gamble since they’re planning to overhaul their rewards program soon, but they seem to be moving in the right direction by adding new partners for award redemptions (Etihad, for example, is a big win).

Chase: Cash out for 1.5. Otherwise: Hyatt.


Wow. When I think Greg, I think Necker Island, not SAVE $7.50 ON YOUR $100 GROCERY BILL NOW! Do you think there will be amazing sales coming up to buy those miles you are cashing out now, do you have so many miles that you will never use them, or are you that pessimistic about the future of the hobby?

Greg The Frequent Miler

The first option. I have so many miles in so many programs that I wouldn’t want to buy miles for 1.25 cents or 1.5 cents each (which I would be doing if I chose to transfer rather than cash out).


Thanks. Had me worried there for a sec!


He is saying that only if you were closing all Chase cards with UR, but of course no one has to do that!


It’s funny that Greg won 40k-to-far-away almost exclusively because he used half his UR points with United, and then also another 25% of them with BA, but neither of those programs even warrant a consideration. 🙂


Chase– Hyatt, Citi– Singapore, AMEX– (tie) Singapore or Delta


Totally given up on United? I know they have been a pain during the last few years, but I have always managed to get decent J seats on Star Alliance carriers for a fair number of points, and I always use the excursion perk, plus fees are low and miles don’t expire. Although I always make at least 30 Hyatt nights each year through a combination of stays and at least $15K on the credit card so I can get my 3 cat 1-4 certificates, I still really have an issue with the Hyatt footprint plus the lounge certificates in the past (and almost certainly in the future) are approaching worthless as Hyatts continue to close their lounges. Just curious if you considered United as an alternative since my guess is that most people who are NOT in the hobby would probably consider that alternative first for UR points (just like most people NOT in the hobby use their MR points exclusively on Delta).


United has been the best for me points and cash back in hours too. Points are worthless today 6 months from now Hmmmm.


Miss the yacht club member ?? I took all my Thank You points and transferred to Singapore AL which I can top up from my INK card (INKER 4 EVER). I canceled 2 rt’s from them first was 2 hrs on the ph and just yesterday 30 mins and got points and cashback in 4 weeks on the first one.
It’s like who do u Trust ?? I lost $50 on 3 trips so far one to Go.