Transferable Points Programs: Amex vs Chase vs Citi vs Capital One vs Brex

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Amex Transfer Partners

This Report Card for Transferable Points Programs post has been updated to account for Capital One adding a new 1 to 1 transfer tier and additional partnersNick recently posted his preferences, and so it was clearly time for me to update this guide showing my preferences.  Oh, and I also added Brex to the mix…

In my opinion, transferable points programs are the most valuable points to accumulate.  In many cases, points can be used at better than 1 cent per point value to book travel.  Even better, points can be strategically transferred to airline and hotel programs when valuable awards are available.  If you’re at all interested in free travel or luxury travel with points & miles, then you need to understand the basics of each of these transferable points programs.

In this post, we’ll compare the following transferable points programs (click each link for a guide to that particular program):

What are transferable points programs?

Each of the card issuers covered here offer their own rewards programs.  With each program, you can earn rewards points (which Capital One confusingly refers to as “miles”) through credit card sign up bonuses, credit card spend, and more.  All of the rewards programs share common traits:

  • Points can be redeemed directly for travel, merchandise, or (sometimes) cash back.  Points are usually worth most when redeemed for travel.
  • Points can be transferred to airline and (sometimes) hotel loyalty programs. For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to United miles or to Hyatt points, among other options.
  • Points never expire unless you close your associated credit card accounts

Even though the programs are similar at a very high level, they are very different when you drill down.

Transferable Points Programs, Graded by Greg

Amex Capital One Chase Citi Brex
Earn Points
Redeem for Cash
Redeem for Travel
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners
Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners
Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners
Share Points ?
Keep Points Alive
Amex Capital One Chase Citi Brex
Summary Grade

Transferable Points Programs Summary Grade Details

New as of 4/22/2021: In order to determine a summary grade for each program, I assigned values to each grade as follows: A=4, B=3, C=2, F=1.  Next, because I value some things more than others, I gave greater weights to the following program aspects: Earn Points, and Luxury Flight Awards; and I gave less weight to the ability to redeem for cash.  These calculations resulted in the following scores:

  • Amex: 3.2
  • Capital One: 3.1
  • Chase: 3.2
  • Citi: 2.8
  • Brex: 2.5

I then “graded on a curve” and gave an A to the programs at the top, a B to the next, and a C to the last.

Details about all of the individual grades follow…

Amex Membership Rewards

Amex Grade Details
Earn Points Amex offers a slew of options for earning points:

I particularly love that the no-fee Blue Business Plus card offers 2X everywhere on up to $50K spend per year (then 1X), and points earned with the card are fully functional (i.e. they can be transferred to airline and hotel partners).  Amex also has the best food-related earnings with the Amex Gold Card, which earns 4X points at US Supermarkets (up to $25K in purchases, then 1X) and 4X at restaurants worldwide.

Redeem for Cash The only good way to redeem points for cash is with a Charles Schwab branded Amex card.  That said, this is the only program in the roundup where it’s possible to get 1.25 cents per point in cash. Details here.
Redeem for Travel The only options to redeem for travel and get better than 1 cent per point value is to hold specific high-end cards. Even then, you only get high value for your selected airline or for premium cabin fares.
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners

Amex supports point transfers to Choice Privileges (1 to 1), Marriott (1 to 1), and Hilton (1 to 2).

Unfortunately, none of the supported hotel programs reliably offer better than 1 cent per point value (or half a cent per point value with Hilton), so it’s rare for these transfers to make sense.  That said, Amex frequently offers transfer bonuses to Hilton and Marriott which can make these transfers worthwhile under the right circumstances.

Details about Amex transfer partners can be found here.

Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Amex is the only program that supports transfers to Delta SkyMiles and Hawaiian Airlines.  Often Delta runs award flash sales that offer very good value, usually for economy flights.  Hawaiian Airlines rarely has good award prices, but it’s good to at least have that option.  Unfortunately, Amex charges a small fee to transfer points to any US based airline.

Via airline partnerships, Membership Rewards points can be transferred to a number of foreign airlines in order to get excellent award prices for flying domestic.  Examples include Avianca LifeMiles or Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flying United; British Airways or Iberia Avios for flying American; Virgin Atlantic or Air France for flying Delta; and Singapore KrisFlyer miles or British Airways Avios for flying Alaska.

Details about Amex transfer partners can be found here.

Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Amex offers quite a few partners that make it possible to redeem miles for very high value international awards. These include Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA, Avianca, and more. Best of all, Amex frequently offers transfer bonuses that can greatly increase the value of your points.

For details on using miles for luxury flight awards, see our “Best ways to get to…” series.

Share Points

Amex doesn’t allow point sharing with other people. You can indirectly share points, though: you can transfer your points to another person’s loyalty program as long as that person is an authorized user on one of your Amex Membership Rewards cards.

More details can be found here.

Keep Points Alive

All you need is one Membership Rewards card open in order to keep all of your points intact. Even better, Amex has a couple of no-fee cards that give you full power to transfer points as needed.

Details here.

Capital One “Miles”

Capital One
Grade Details
Earn Points Capital One points can be earned through credit card welcome bonuses and through spend.  Compared to Amex, Chase, and Citi, though, there are far fewer opportunities to earn points through welcome bonuses or category bonuses.  One place where Capital One shines is with the ability to earn 2X everywhere, uncapped, with either the Venture Rewards or Spark Miles card.
Redeem for Cash Whereas points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for travel, they’re worth only half a cent each for cash back.
Redeem for Travel Even though Capital One only offers 1 cent per point value for travel, the way they do so is great.  With competing transferable points programs, you must book travel through the bank’s portal in order to use your points for travel.  With Capital One you can purchase any travel with your credit card and then use their “purchase eraser” feature to redeem points for those purchases. This is great because you actually earn points on these purchases as well.  Even better, you can take advantage of sales, promo codes, portal rewards, members-only deals, etc.
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners Capital One supports point transfers to Accor Live Limitless (1000 to 500 transfer ratio) and Wyndham Rewards (1 to 1 transfer ratio).  While it’s not a slam dunk, Wyndham can offer exception value at times.
Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Capital One’s only US transfer partner is JetBlue (transfer 1000 to 750).

Via airline partnerships, Capital One “miles” can be transferred to a number of foreign airlines in order to get sometimes excellent award prices for flying domestic.  Examples include Turkish, Air Canada, or Avianca LifeMiles for flying United; British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Guest, or Qantas for flying American; and Air France for flying Delta.

Details about Capital One transfer partners can be found here.

Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Capital One offers a number of partners that make it possible to redeem miles for very high value international awards. These include Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Turkish, and more.

Now that Capital One has added Turkish (1,000 to 750 transfer ratio) and have moved some of the above programs to 1 to 1 transfers, I’ve bumped up the grade to an A.  I’m still not happy they they don’t support transfers to ANA or Virgin Atlantic or that some transfers are less than 1 to 1, but the options here are still solid.

For details on using miles for luxury flight awards, see our “Best ways to get to…” series.

Share Points

Capital One lets you share points with anyone, anywhere.  Awesome.

More details can be found here.

Keep Points Alive Points don’t expire as long as you keep your account open. Capital One gets an A here because they make it easy to transfer points to another card (such as the no-fee Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card which supports transfers to airline programs) or to another person.  So, if you want to cancel a premium card, you can keep your points alive by moving points to a family member or to a no fee card.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Grade Details
Earn Points

With Chase, you can earn Ultimate Rewards points through credit card signup bonuses, spend-category bonuses, friend referrals, and even through bank account and/or mortgage promotions.  Chase consistently has very high signup bonus offers for their cards, especially their business cards.  Plus, they have great category bonuses.  The best may be from the Chase Ink Business Cash card which earns 5X for cell phone, cable, and internet service and 5X at office supply stores, and 2X at gas stations and restaurants.  Office supply stores such as Staples, Office Depot, and OfficeMax sell gift cards for other merchants, as well as bank gift cards. By purchasing gift cards from these stores, you can earn 5X rewards in far more categories of spend.

One downside to Chase’s program is the fact that they won’t approve new credit card applications if you’ve signed up for 5 or more cards (with any bank) in the past 24 months.

Another downside is that, unlike Amex and Capital one and Citi, they don’t have a 2X everywhere option.

Redeem for Cash Chase makes this simple.  Points can be redeemed for a penny each.  You can also indirectly redeem for cash back at better than 1 cent per point through Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature.
Redeem for Travel With a premium Ultimate Rewards card (Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred), points are worth 1.25 cents each for travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.  With the ultra-premium Sapphire Reserve card, though, points are worth 1.5 cents each for travel booked through Chase.
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners
Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred 1 to 1 to Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott.  Hyatt, in particular, can offer fantastic value.
Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Chase has the best coverage of domestic airlines. They support 1 to 1 transfers to United, Southwest, and JetBlue.

Additionally, via airline partnerships, Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a number of foreign airlines in order to get excellent award prices for flying domestic.  Examples include Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flying United; British Airways or Iberia Avios for flying American; Virgin Atlantic or Air France for flying Delta; and Singapore KrisFlyer miles or British Airways Avios for flying Alaska.

Details about Chase transfer partners can be found here.

Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Chase has fewer foreign airline partners than the other programs, and they’re missing some of the best options for booking international business or first class awards.

For details on using miles for luxury flight awards, see our “Best ways to get to…” series.

Share Points

Chase allows you to share points, but only with a person in your household.

More details can be found here.

Keep Points Alive Points don’t expire as long as you keep your account open. If you want to cancel a premium card, you can keep your points alive by downgrading to a no fee card or by moving points to a no fee card.  Or, you can move points to a household member.  Chase didn’t get an A here because their no-fee cards don’t allow point transfers to airline and hotel programs.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Citi Grade Details
Earn Points

Citi’s biggest downfall in this category is that they don’t offer many signup bonuses.  Plus, if you sign up for one Citi ThankYou card, you have to wait 24 months after receiving the welcome bonus before you can qualify for another one.  On the other hand, their cards offer fantastic earnings on spend. The fee-free Citi Double Cash Card isn’t really a ThankYou Rewards Card, but cash back can be converted to ThankYou points.  This makes the Double Cash capable of indirectly earning 2 ThankYou points per dollar on all spend.  Plus, the Citi Premier Card offers 3X at grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, air travel, hotels, and travel agencies.  For more, see: Citi’s awesome trio: Double Cash, Premier, Rewards+.

Citi frequently offers targeted spend bonuses and, even better, will often offer great retention bonuses if you simply call and ask.

Redeem for Cash Citi Premier and Prestige cardholders can redeem points directly for cash at a value of 1 cent per point. 
Redeem for Travel While you can redeem points for travel, you won’t get better than 1 cent per point value this way (legacy Citi Premier cardholders may still get 1.25 cents per point when booking travel through Citi, but that is expected to end soon).
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners
Citi doesn’t offer any hotel transfer partners.
Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

JetBlue is Citi’s only US-based transfer partner.

Additionally, via airline partnerships, ThankYou Rewards points can be transferred to a number of foreign airlines in order to get excellent award prices for flying domestic.  Examples include Turkish or Avianca miles for flying United; Cathay Pacific for flying American; Virgin Atlantic or Air France for flying Delta; and Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flying Alaska.

Details about Citi transfer partners can be found here.

Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Citi offers quite a few partners that make it possible to redeem miles for very high value international awards. These include Avianca, Etihad, EVA Air, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic and more.

For details on using miles for luxury flight awards, see our “Best ways to get to…” series.

Share Points

Like Capital One, Citi lets you share points with anyone, anywhere.  That’s great.  Unfortunately, shared points expire after 90 days, so don’t transfer until you have a plan for how to use the points.  Also, Citi has a 100K per year sharing limit.

More details can be found here.

Keep Points Alive

With Citi, if you cancel a card you’ll lose all associated points even if you had pooled together your points with a card you still have open.  This is extremely confusing and counter-intuitive.  Instead, the only good way to keep points alive when you want to avoid an annual fee is to downgrade to a no-fee ThankYou card such as the Rewards+ Card.  Note: Downgrading to the Citi Double Cash will not keep your points alive.

Details here.

Brex

Brex
Grade Details
Earn Points Brex points can be earned through a welcome bonus, through spend, and sometimes through other specific promotions.  Brex offers some compelling category bonuses such as 8x on Rideshare, 5x on Brex travel, and 4x on Restaurants.  That said, many options for earning points with other issuers aren’t available: you can’t earn with multiple different signup bonuses, there is no “2X everywhere” card; you can’t earn points referring friends; etc.
Redeem for Cash Points can be simply redeemed for a penny each.
Redeem for Travel While you can redeem points directly for travel, you won’t get better than 1 cent per point value this way.
Hotel Awards via Transfer Partners Brex doesn’t support any hotel program transfers
Domestic Flight Awards via Transfer Partners

Brex’s only US transfer partner is JetBlue.

Via airline partnerships, Brex points can be transferred to a number of foreign airlines in order to get sometimes excellent award prices for flying domestic.  Examples include Avianca LifeMiles for flying United; Cathay Pacific for flying American; Air France for flying Delta; and Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flying Alaska.

Luxury Flight Awards via Transfer Partners Brex has a few transfer partners that make it possible to redeem miles for very high value international awards. These include Avianca Lifemiles, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and more.  Brex would get an A if they would expand to include ANA and/or Air Canada, Etihad and Virgin Atlantic.
Share Points ? I suspect that Brex doesn’t allow sharing points, but I don’t know for sure.
Keep Points Alive Points don’t expire as long as you keep your account open. And since Brex Cash is free, there’s no reason to close your account.

For more details about each of the above transferable points programs, please visit our online guides:

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