Travel rewards programs can be an efficient way to optimize your spending on everything from travel costs to dining and entertainment to monthly bills. They can also be a great way for families to cut down the cost of a big trip. If you’ve collected a significant number of travel points across more than one program, it could make sense to combine them into one massive force of buying power. Here are a few such scenarios.
When flights spike to a pricepoint out of your budget
A rewards program balance really starts to mean something once it reaches the point where you can offset one of the major and unavoidable costs of a trip, say, a round-trip flight or a five-night vacation rental in a hotel or condo. Many of the top programs offer this amount, or close to it, as an initial sign-up bonus after you meet an initial spend. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, consistently ranked among the top rewards programs for frequent travelers, offers 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of possessing the card. This gives you the buying power of at least $750 in cash, plus whatever you accumulate through the actual spending to earn the bonus.
That’s enough to fly roundtrip between most major US airports. The thing is that once you use the bonus, it can be tough to build up that same buying power again. But you might not have to if you also happen to be a member of an airline rewards program that partners with Chase. We’ll use United’s MileagePlus program as an example, as it works in conjunction with both Chase and the global Star Alliance partnership that includes 26 airlines from across the globe, allowing users to accumulate and spend miles with each.
Now, let’s say you have built up a balance of 30,000 points on your Sapphire Reserve card. This is worth $450 in cash. You also have 10,000 MileagePlus miles. You need to fly from LA to Tokyo, and it’s relatively last minute — one-way flights are spiked to $565 on United for a flight two weeks out. But, United’s basic rewards program has the same flight available for 38,500 points, a decent chunk off of the original cost in cash value. Bingo. All you need to do is log into your Chase account, select “earn/use,” and then click the option to “transfer to travel partners.” Your points will be available immediately in your MileagePlus account, and you’re off to Tokyo for the mere cost of a $5.60 flight tax.
Transferring to a spouse or relative
If you and your partner or children are members of the same rewards program, it is possible, in most cases, to combine your points and boost buying power. This is useful in two primary situations. Perhaps one person in the family is about to embark on a big trip, and the family wants to help out, for example, if your child is heading overseas for a semester abroad. The other scenario is that the family is taking a big trip and wants to combine everyone’s points for maximum buying power. In this case, each member of the rewards program you wish to make your purchase through should transfer their points to the person handling the booking.
Chase, for example, allows you to move points to a family member with their primary travel rewards credit cards. You’ll need their Chase card number and last name, and points can be transferred immediately for no cost. After logging into your account, open the menu bar and select “combine points.”
A less-cheerful situation is the transferring of points when an account member passes away. Some major airlines allow the transfer of points to a family member without a fee in this circumstance, though not all do. Delta, for example, does not. American Airlines does. What you can do regardless of the airline is to obtain the login information of family members so that, when the time comes, you can transfer the points to another account on your own. Major point purchases such as timeshares are often handed down to a beneficiary in the will of the deceased, though this is dependent on the policy and status of specific programs and accounts.
Transferring between timeshares and airline rewards programs
For those who are timeshare members, or otherwise accumulate points via purchase on an annual basis, you can transfer your timeshare points to airline miles. Of course, the general concept of owning a timeshare is to use it — or transfer your points to a sister property in a different location — on an annual or bi-annual basis. But when circumstances conspire to keep you home or needing to travel beyond your timeshare’s reach, you can move those points over to a partner airline. You’ll want to do this then because timeshare points are bought and meant to be used within a set time frame, often two years, meaning that your money could go to waste if you let them sit there for too long.
Marriott Vacation Ownership members, for example, can move their timeshare points to partner airlines or to partner hotel properties around the world. Transferring the points to your airline program is a true hack because it allows you to hold on to them for longer and/or use them to buy flights if you elect not to visit your timeshare.