Tip: Avoid a “test transfer” from transferable currency to airline miles


Upon connecting a new loyalty program to a transferable currency like Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, etc, it can be tempting to perform a “test transfer” to make sure that the transfer works and happens instantly. I generally recommend against doing that: we frequently receive reports from readers (and it has been my personal experience also!) indicating that a second transfer within a short time-frame is sometimes held up as a fraud risk. That hold-up can lead to awards evaporating before your points hit the intended account.

a finger pressing a green key on a keyboard

This post was immediately inspired by a reader in our Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook group who shared a really frustrating experience (though we’ve received lots of other similar reports and questions about doing this in recent months):

Time for a rant. So since United had a fare sale going on yesterday, I tried to book some tickets to Tahiti. I was using air Canada Aeroplan. I transferred 55,000 from my capital One account to my account. No issues. The points went through immediately
For my wife’s and sons ticket I tried to transfer 100,000 points from Chase. I did a few tests with a small amount of 1,000 points. It went through immediately.
I decided to do 98,000 more points so I could have completed the booking. However, the points never went through last night and they still have not gone through. I called Chase to ask him what’s going on and they said oh because it’s such a huge amount we flagged it as fraud.
At this point the points may go into Aeroplan. However, it’s pointless for me to receive them now since all the award tickets and space is gone.
I’m trying to fight Chase on it to ask them to put it back into my chase account since it did not go through in time.
Do I have any recourse, because if the points went through immediately into Aeroplan, and I was unable to get the tickets. That’s my own problem. I understand that. However, the points have not gotten transferred through.
I called and begged them to please cancel it.
They said they’re back off. This marketing team will decide if they will put the points back in my account. Any advice from anyone would be greatly appreciated right now

That’s an annoying experience for sure. A major challenge of award booking is that when the space is available, you often need to jump at it right away. With limited exceptions regarding a few specific programs, most point transfers happen immediately.

However, sometimes a transfer gets held up unexpectedly. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed a bit of an uptick in reports of this on transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards (specifically, for transfers to Hyatt and United, which are typically instant). There generally isn’t anything you can do when this happens — most programs note that transfers can take “up to” anywhere from a few days to a week. When a transfer gets held up, it typically still executes during the promised timeframe, leaving you with no recourse if and when award availability evaporates in the interim.

The reason you don’t hear much about transfer problems is because they are so rare overall. Most transfers go through without issue. I have made many, many transfers over the years and the vast, vast majority of them have gone through without issue.

In the handful of instances where my points did not transfer in the timeframe expected, almost all of them have been instances where I initially transferred X number of points and then realized that I needed Y number more (because I found an additional award / I wanted to book for another person / I miscalculated what I’d need / etc). When making a second transfer in a short period of time, I’ve sometimes had the second transfer held up for 24 hours. This has happened to me before with Amex and Capital One and with both issuers, there was nothing to do to push the second transfer through faster. In each of the instances where that has happened, I have gone ahead and transferred the rest of the points from another program (for instance, I recall this happening once when I tried to make two consecutive transfers from Amex to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club; when the second transfer got delayed for fraud concerns, I made a transfer from Chase for the balance needed in order to get the points immediately for the award I wanted to book).

Based on all of the above, I always recommend against making any sort of “test” transfer. Transferring 1,000 points to “make sure it works” and then following that with a large transfer is likely to trip a fraud prevention concern. Of course this won’t be a problem every time with every transfer — there have been plenty of times when I’ve transferred twice in close succession without issue — but you don’t know when that subsequent transfer is going to trigger a manual review, so just transfer everything at once when you can. I’m not going to say it has never happened, but I have never heard of a transfer accidentally going into the wrong person’s frequent flyer account. If the information (like name) on the attached frequent flyer account didn’t match (for instance because you somehow entered the wrong frequent flyer number), I expect that the transfer would fail. I can’t really see a good reason to make a test transfer. There are plenty of online resources indicating how long transfers typically take between programs (including ours), so you should know what to expect without making a test transfer of your own (obviously there is some infinitely small chance that your transfer will get held up, but your risk of that increases after a test transfer rather than decreasing).

In the specific instance reported above, the reader reported a subsequent small transfer of 1,000 points going through successfully, but the large transfer took about 24hrs. I don’t understand why the small transfers that followed the big one didn’t get blocked, but 98K points isn’t a terribly large transfer, so I don’t think it was the size of that transfer but rather the succession of events that led to one transfer being slower. Weird.

The purpose of this post isn’t to be insensitive to a specific reader’s circumstances by playing Monday Morning Quarterback on the decision to do a test transfer. I mean it when I say that it really stinks to be in that situation. I would be as frustrated without a doubt. The reason I wanted to write a post is because I’ve gotten a number of messages from readers recently asking about making a test transfer and then a main transfer and I have advised each person of the fact that I wouldn’t do it that way. Given the uptick of those questions and reports, I figured that there must be readers who haven’t considered that this might cause a problem and it’s worth a quick alert.

Again, sometimes two transfers back to back won’t cause any problems, but it increases the odds of having a problem — and it’s a problem you don’t want to have during the short window when you find availability. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard of a transfer being reversed successfully — if you find yourself in similar circumstances, chances are high that you’ll be stuck with those transferred points even if your availability is gone. I want to emphasize again that the overall risk of any of this happening is low, but I can’t think of the benefits of a test transfer over just trying to transfer the full number of points you need in one shot. If you really want to test a transfer, I think the best course of action is to link your frequent flyer accounts well before you need them and make those test transfers at a time when you aren’t trying to book an award – though in my opinion this would senselessly tie up points that need to be tracked for expiration.

Instead, I’d create and link your Frequent Flyer accounts now, before you need them, and make a single transfer of whatever you need when it is time to book an award. There is still a chance that you’ll encounter a delay in your transfer, but it is an extremely small chance.

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Agreed, did 2 from Hyatt to Chase, successful, 3rd was held up


One datapoint – did a test transfer of Capital One points to Emirates (to upgrade a business award to first class) and subsequently transferred the balance of points I needed 2-3 hours later (when I was in front of airport checkin desk in Athens). Both transfers occurred immediately, but I’ve heard enough datapoints since then that I probably wouldnt do it in the future.


Recently, I did a test transfer from AMEX to Virgin, which succeeded. But when I tried to do the main, second transfer, AMEX said I had hit the max number of transfers for the day.


Amex held up transfers after linking P2 Amex account to my FF acct ( I am an AU)
I had to send in drivers license of P2 to Amex before account was unlocked
Needless to say I linked ALL our accounts to Amex and sent a few test transfers then at once once verified- now transfers go through just fine


My first transfer (extra Large) of Capital One to Emirates was held up 1 week
– by the time I changed my mind – and called to reverse it – was told “all transfers are final and cannot be reversed”
then a few days later got points back automatically !

My smaller transfers to Emirates went through just fine a day later – so large first is no guarantee

Chase -I have found it is best to call them with a large transfer – manual transfer goes through


DP: on my first Aeroplan transfer of 105k points, it was held up for several days; that was on a brand new account.

Now, they transfer instantly.


What’s the downside of linking all your accounts now? With Bilt, the benefit is I receive 100 bonus points/account.


Just for what it’s worth: 100% agree to pre-emptively create and link your FF#s to Chase/Amex/C1/Citi, but I have done a 1k point transfer with every new linkage then the “main” and haven’t once had a fraud issue.

In fact I’m very glad I do a test transfer on a new account because I newly linked Avianca while they were having mileage posting issues (miles would show up in an account but couldn’t be used until the system refreshed at midnight Colombia time) and by doing a test transfer, I saved myself 100k+ miles that would’ve been burned on an award whose availability dried up due to an Avianca IT issue.

Just to give a different perspective on when a test transfer can be beneficial.


What do you mean by “link your…accounts now”? For Chase, I just typed in the FF number when making the transfer.

On my first ever transfer from Ultimate Rewards, which was 110K points to Aeroplan, it got held up for 4 days. I was trying to book emergency travel and ended up just using different miles. Really annoying, especially because I can’t put the Aeroplan points back into UR. I hadn’t actually transferred points before, since we used to fly a lot and earned miles organically, but I read on all the blogs that it was supposed to be instant. So I REALLY appreciate you transparently posting about potential pitfalls, unlike other blogs that advertise “instant” without telling you the potential issues that could arise. Keep it up.


I think he literally means link your accounts now, so you don’t need to do it later


Totally agree. There was a transfer bonus of TYP: Qantas = 1:1.6 through a Choice Privilege promotion last month. I was unsure if the promotion worked for my case according to the terms, so I made two small transfers followed by a big one, which was blocked. Fortunately, the points were posted the day after I called Choice, and I was able to have all the tickets issued.
The weird thing is that I made another smaller transfer a few days after this to attempt to book another short trip, but the transaction has been pending since then (more than 3 weeks). I’ll call them maybe by the end of this month…

Last edited 1 year ago by TYW