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Members of the Ultimate Rewards program linked to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, and Chase Ink Plus credit cards can now transfer their points 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club.
Other Ultimate Rewards points-transfer partners include British Airways Executive Club, United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Korean Air SKYPASS, Amtrak Guest Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, Priority Club Rewards, and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
As airline programs go, Flying Club isn’t among the most generous, with award prices and fuel surcharges both on the high side. But Flying Club miles may be transferred to Hilton HHonors, for example, so there are some potential uses for Virgin Atlantic miles. And the addition is a reminder that cards linked to loyalty programs with points that may be transferred to other programs can play a key role in making the most of frequent flyer points and miles.
The Convertible Points Contenders
With the change to Ultimate Rewards, it’s worth a quick comparison with the other two major convertible-points cards, the American Express cards with Membership Rewards, and the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, also issued by American Express.
The Membership Rewards partner lineup currently includes the following airline and hotel programs, most of which transfer 1:1:
And the Starwood card allows point transfers into the following airline programs:
If the cards were judged solely on the number of transfer partners, Starwood’s would be first and the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards would be last. But the real key here isn’t so much sheer numbers as it is real-world usability.
For U.S.-based travelers, Starwood still might eke out a top ranking, with Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, United, and US Airways among the transfer options. But American and US Airways will soon be merged into a single carrier with a single program, and points transfer to United at an uncompetitive 2:1 ratio. And there are no hotel transfer options.
American Express Membership Rewards features Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, and Virgin America. And unlike Starwood’s airline-only partnerships, it includes a handful of larger hotel chains as well.
Although Chase’s Ultimate Rewards has the fewest transfer partners, the list features two of the largest U.S. carriers, Southwest and United, plus Hyatt, InterContinental, and Marriott.
All the cards have their particular strengths and weaknesses. The choice comes down to which programs best fit with individual travelers’ earning strategies, not the number of programs listed as transfer options.
Reader Reality Check
Do you use a convertible-points card as part of your earning and redemption activities?
Which one works best for you?
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