There are plenty of great travel credit cards cobranded with individual airlines and hotel chains (we’re looking at you Aeroplan® Credit Card and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card). But freedom of choice ultimately reigns supreme for burning your hard-earned loyalty points. That’s why the likes of American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi have all created their own proprietary loyalty programs, which can then be transferred to various airline and hotel programs.
Often—but not always—these transfer ratios are completed at a 1:1 ratio and allow credit cardholders to bank and keep their points in the currency of their chosen credit card, transferring to airline and hotel partners as and when needed. This situation gives consumers the power to transfer only when they’ve found the right match—say, a business-class seat to Paris on the cheap on Air France (transfer to Air France/KLM Flying Blue), a lovely room at the Conrad Bora Bora (transfer to Hilton Honors), or a suite upgrade at Park Hyatt New York City (transfer to World of Hyatt).
We’ve gathered everything you need to know about the loyalty programs of American Express, Chase, Citi, and Capital One in brief, how to rack up points quickly in each, and how they compare when it comes to transfer partners.
American Express Membership Rewards
Membership Rewards is the loyalty currency of American Express. These points are earned through welcome bonuses and spending on Amex credit cards, namely the Gold and Platinum varieties. Once accrued, Membership Rewards points are transferable to 17 airline partners—3 domestic and 14 international—and 3 hotel partners. A total of 20 transfer partners makes Membership Rewards the best loyalty program overall for transferable points.
Boost your Membership Rewards balance big-time with hefty welcome bonuses from:
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase Sapphire cards earn Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to partners or used for statement credits, gift cards, and more. Currently, there are 11 airline partners and 3 hotel partners. While that’s fewer than the 20 partners found through American Express’s Membership Rewards, Chase ties Amex for its number of domestic airlines (3) and hotel partners (3).
Get Ultimate Rewards points quickly with the current introductory offers from:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (annual fee $95): Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® (annual fee $550): Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months.
Citi ThankYou Points
The Citi Premier® Card accrues Citi ThankYou points, which are transferable to over a dozen airline frequent flier programs at a one-to-one value and two hotel programs. It’s the only credit card program that transfers to international partners Qatar Airways and Thai Airways.
Kickstart your ThankYou points balance with the current welcome bonus from the Citi Premier Card (annual fee $95): Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first three months.
Capital One Rewards
Capital One recently overhauled its rewards program to include 14 airline and 3 hotel transfer partners, with a transfer ratio to 1:1 for most partners. Right now, thanks to the launch of the new Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (annual fee $395), it’s possible to earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $10,000 on purchases within the first six months from account opening.
Transferring points to international airline partners
All four of the aforementioned credit card programs have hooked up with international carriers to make their points transferable to foreign airline loyalty programs, often at a 1:1 ratio. Here’s how they compare in terms of partners and transfer ratios (credit card program to individual airline program).
Transferring points to domestic airline partners
Oddly enough, U.S.-based credit card issuers have few domestic airline partners, with Capital One bottoming out at zero and Citi with just one. Here’s how they compare.
Transferring points to hotel chain partners
Finally, each credit card loyalty program has its own hotel partners and transfer ratios that vary dramatically. Here’s how they compare.
The proprietary loyalty programs of American Express, Chase, Citi, and Capital One allow cardholders to bank in one program but spend in many. By each having its own airline and hotel chain partners, there’s no need for cardholders to remain loyal to one carrier or hotel brand. They can pick and choose when and where they’d like to transfer their points. In most cases, transfers can be done directly through the credit card’s website, and often they are instantaneous. Acquiring a travel credit card with myriad transfer partners is a smart choice for those who want to rack up points now for travel later. It’s the best way to achieve the freedom to choose when it comes to how and when to spend points.
While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.
>> Next: The Best Travel Credit Cards to Apply for Now
Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.