Unused points and miles: You have options

Dear Cashing In,

I have 40,000 miles on my Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®. The card is paid off. I don’t travel that often, and I am wondering: Is there a way to transfer miles to another credit card that offers points/rewards (say for hotels, etc.) – even if it is not a 1:1 transfer? – Carl

Dear Carl,

People who have travel rewards credit cards often have questions about transferring their points or miles. It can be confusing since each program has different rules.

We’d like to think that because points and miles are becoming more flexible, we can easily transfer them to other programs. Unfortunately, that is not usually true.

The good news, though, is that you do have options. In your case, they might not give you as much value as using your miles for flights on American. But you’re not totally stuck, either.

Rewards points (usually) flow only in one direction

Generally, points flow in one direction: from bank reward programs to airline and hotel programs. If you have points in an airline or hotel program, you usually cannot move those into another program.

  • You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for instance, to United, Southwest, JetBlue and a few other airlines, as well as Hyatt, IHG and Marriott hotels.
  • You can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to JetBlue, Delta and Air Canada, among others – as well as to Hilton and Marriott.
  • But once the points are transferred to an airline or hotel program, there’s usually no going back and no transferring to other programs.

That’s the bad news – but don’t despair just yet.

There are a few companies that run points exchanges, such as Points.com. But they tend to be at a far smaller ratio than 1:1. And in any event, they don’t include American AAdvantage miles in the exchange, so you’re out of luck even if you wanted to transfer miles that way…Read more>>