Which Credit Cards Have the Best Travel Redemption Value?

By Jason Steele. Last updated 19 September 2017. 0 comments

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Travel rewards cards have come a long way and cardholders can take advantage of opportunities to get more value from their points. While co-branded airline credit cards offer special benefits to frequent flyers of one specific airline, general travel rewards cards can offer more flexibility in redeeming award flights and other travel bookings. Especially valuable is the opportunity to transfer points to miles on a 1:1 ratio. Check out these programs to find the best credit card suited for your travel plans. (See also: Best Credit Cards that Offer Points to Miles Transfer)

Amex Membership Points

This program is offered by many different American Express cards. Cardholders can transfer their points to 17 airline programs:

  • AeroMexico Club Premier 
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
  • Asia Miles
  • British Airways Avios
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • El Al Israel Matmid
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Airways Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus Avios
  • JetBlue Airways TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin America Elevate
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

These options represent a wide range of foreign and domestic carriers, including those that are part of major airline alliances as well as several independent carriers. Furthermore, American Express sometimes offers transfer bonuses for specific airlines that allow you to receive greater than a 1:1 exchange rate. Transfers to airlines generally occur in just a few seconds, however there is no way to share points between other cardholders, including spouses and domestic partners.

This program also includes hotel transfer partners including:

  • Choice Privileges at a 1:1 ratio;
  • Hilton Honors at a 1:1.5 ratio;
  • Starwood Preferred Guest at a 3:1 ratio.

In general, these hotel points are not considered to be as valuable as airline miles at the ratios offered, but the exchange rate for Hilton Honors points can be worthwhile in some cases. (See also: Best Credit Cards That Transfer to Hotel Points)

Starwood Preferred Guest

You might be surprised to know that the Starwood Preferred Guest Card offers 1:1 transfer to over 30 partners. That's why it's a very popular card among travelers. Additionally, SPG will match 5,000 Starpoints for each 20,000 transferred at a time (1 Starpoint will be worth 1.25 miles of most partners). Note that SPG transfers are not instantaneous and may take some time to be processed. Here's the list of their transfer partners:

  • Aeromexico (1:1)
  • Air Canada (1:1)
  • Air Berlin (1:1)
  • Air China (1:1)
  • Air New Zealand (65:1)
  • Alaska Airlines (1:1)
  • Alitalia (1:1)
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) (1:1)
  • American Airlines (1:1)
  • Cathay Pacific Airlines (1:1)
  • Asiana Airlines (1:1)
  • British Airways (1:1)   
  • China Eastern Airlines (1:1)
  • China Southern Airlines (1:1)
  • Delta Air Lines (1:1)
  • Emirates (1:1)
  • Etihad Airways (1:1)
  • Air France and KLM (1:1)
  • Gol Transportes Aereos (2:1)
  • Hainan Airlines (1:1)
  • Hawaiian Airlines (1:1)
  • Japan Airlines (1:1)
  • Kingfisher Airlines (1:1)
  • LAN (1:1.5)
  • Mexicana (1:1)
  • Lufthansa (1:1)
  • Qatar Airways (1:1)
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines (1:1)
  • Singapore Airlines (1:1)
  • Thai Airways (1:1)
  • US Airways (1:1)
  • United Airlines (2:1)
  • VARIG (2:1)
  • Virgin Atlantic (1:1)
  • Virgin Australia (1:1)
  • Amtrak Guest Rewards (1:1)

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase offers transferrable Ultimate Rewards points to holders of its Sapphire Preferred. Currently, it allows you to transfer to 11 different travel partners on a 1:1 basis in the following programs:

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards

These are great options, especially when you consider that all three major airline alliances are represented. For instance, Delta awards can be booked using Korean Air miles, while American Airlines awards are offered by the British Airways program. In addition, several of the major hotel programs are featured, and transfers from this program are virtually instantaneous, allowing you to book airline tickets or award nights at hotels that you found before the availability disappears.

Other features include the ability to book travel, including hotels, airfare, car rentals, cruises, and activities directly through Chase at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. Finally, Chase allows spouses and domestic partners to share points at no charge.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is an attractive option for frequent travelers. Earn 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. There are no foreign transaction fees. The introductory annual fee is $0 the first year, then $95.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Credit Card today!

Citi ThankYou points

Citi's ThankYou program from our partner Citi has been around for many years, but it only became a serious competitor once it began offering transfers of points to travel partners. It currently offers transfers from Citi Prestige cards to the following frequent flyer programs at a 1:1 basis:

  • Asia Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

In addition it offers transfers to Hilton Honors at a 1:1.5 ratio.

Although this program shows a lot of promise, it currently has no US based airlines in its program, and it features airlines like Malaysia and Garuda Indonesia that don't even offer service to the United States. While each of these programs is partnered with US based carriers, their awards charts do not offer very compelling value in most cases, with Singapore and Air France/KLM Flying Blue being the two best options. Furthermore, point transfers can take at least a day or two, and over a week in some cases.

One strength is that members are allowed to transfer their points to any other member at no charge. In addition, Prestige cardholders receive an exceptional 1.33 cents per point for airfare reservations and 1.6 cents per point if the airline is American or US Airways.

Which Is Best?

Choosing the program that works best for you will always depend on your individual travel needs. For example, the American Express program can offer great rewards from airlines like Virgin America, Hawaiian, and Air Canada, while Starwood's list of airline partners is the longest and includes both domestic and international partners. Someone who flies a lot on Southwest will get tremendous value from Chase's Ultimate Rewards program. And even though Citi's ThankYou program still has a way to go before it can compete with its rivals on transfer partners, receiving 1.6 cents in value per point towards flights from American and US Airways can be a great deal, especially when you consider that you will earn miles and be eligible for upgrades on these flights.

By taking a close look at the advantages and drawbacks of these flexible reward programs, you can choose the right one for your needs, or even decide to earn points in more than one.

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