Despite the recent popularity of using credit card points to simply pay for award travel, many cards still allow—and even promote—credit card point transfers to partner loyalty programs. These include frequent flyer programs for redeeming award seats and hotel programs for redeeming complimentary hotel stays. It’s no secret that legacy airline carriers and big hotel brands have made it significantly harder to both earn and redeem miles/points within their loyalty programs. But sometimes credit card point transfers can be the best options for scoring free seats up in the air and free nights on the ground. Here, we look at two current promotions for transferring credit card points to hotel points and question whether these promos are worth our time—and yours!
American Express is offering a 40% bonus on transfer to Hilton Honors
American Express is no stranger to offering transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards® into frequent flyer programs and hotel loyalty programs. Over the years, some bonuses have been available to all card holders; some have been targeted (meaning not all of us are necessarily privy to the extra miles) and some have been “flash bonuses,” meaning the offer would be available only during one specific online session and not the next. In the past year, we’ve seen some great opportunities for cashing out Membership Rewards into partner programs: Air Canada Aeroplan (10%–20%, targeted), Air France/KLM (25%, not targeted), British Airways (40%–50%, targeted), Hilton Honors (30%–50%, multiple promos, both targeted and not targeted), JetBlue True Blue (40%–50%, targeted), Qantas Frequent Flyer (20%, not targeted), and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (30%, not targeted).
At the onset of the pandemic, all promotions ceased. But now American Express has released its first transfer bonus since February 2020. Between August 1 and October 31, 2020, card holders can transfer Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors at a ratio of 1:2.8. The normal transfer ratio is 1:2, meaning this is a 40% bonus above the standard.
Though not as generous as the 50% bonus (1:3 ratio) we saw in February, this offer presents a good opportunity for those looking to book a vacation or hotel stay using Hilton Honors points in some, but not all, cases. Before doing any transfer, check points availability and pricing through Hilton Honors on your desired dates. With Hilton’s dynamic pricing, a stay paid with points can run the gamut. For example, our favorite use of points, Conrad Bora Bora Nui, runs as low as 89,000 points per night in October but starts as high as 340,000 per night in September. That’s a huge difference. So, 89,000 Hilton Honors points is a great return on 32,000 Membership Rewards when it gets you a free night in Bora Bora. But when you have to spend 121,000 Membership Rewards points (340,000 Hilton points) to get that free night, so not worth it!
For those who like to stockpile points during bonuses, don’t be in a hurry. You have until October 31 to take advantage of this offer and we may see other—even better—bonuses arise during that time with Amex’s other partner programs. Also, given the state of travel these days, we recommend holding onto your credit card points until a greater sense of normalcy returns.
Chase Sapphire is offering a 60% bonus to IHG Rewards Club
Through its Ultimate Rewards® program, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® allow credit card point transfers to 10 airline frequent flyer programs and three hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. In May 2019 Ultimate Rewards had its first-ever transfer bonus, offering 30% extra on transfers into British Airways Executive Club. And now the credit card points program has announced its second-ever transfer bonus, 60% bonus points with transfers into IHG Rewards Club.
When pegged to a dollar value, Ultimate Rewards points are worth double IHG Rewards Club points. So, we’d never recommend transferring between the two at the normal 1:1 ratio. At this 1:1.6 ratio, it may not seem logical to transfer at first, but it may be worthwhile if you have specific dates and locations in mind—and plans to book in the very near future. Hear us out.
Like Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards Club recently switched to dynamic pricing, leading to some great points deals in cities currently seeing low demand due to the pandemic (e.g., New York City and Miami). The points prices for these hotel stays are far lower than usual. So, if you have a points stay that costs 40% less points than usual, and you are getting a 60% bonus on your transfer, it’s a win-win. That perfect love match is rare, but it does exist.
All this to say, if you have a specific trip in mind and the price for booking with points is on the lower end, by all means take advantage. But we wouldn’t recommend transferring from Ultimate Rewards to IHG on speculation. Transfers are one-way and once you click the transfer button, there’s no getting those Ultimate Rewards points back!