FAQ: What Credit Cards Earn/Transfer to Frequent Flyer Miles

DSC_0701I think the most common question I get is in the details of how a credit card transfers to an airline. Which credit cards transfer and which don’t? When really it can be more complicated, as the cards you think transfer to miles don’t.

If you’re getting into the miles and points game you have two options, an airline/hotel credit card, or a bank points card that transfers to miles. The first is obvious, the second isn’t.

If you have an “American Airlines” credit card, or any airline/hotel card, when you spend on that card or meet the bonus requirements, the miles just automatically depot into your AA miles account. Again, any airline card you have only involves the bank for the money side of the credit card, and the rewards are with the airline. No middle man involved for rewards, as it’s all automatic.

If you have a credit card that doesn’t have an airline/hotel credit card name on it, it’s probably earning bank points naturally. Bank points do not automatically transfer to miles, but some do have the option.

  • Examples of airline credit cards:
    British Airways credit card, American Airlines Platinum card, United Explorer card, US Airways credit card, etc…
  • Examples of hotel credit cards:
    Starwood (SPG) card, Hilton HHonors cards, Marriott Rewards card, IHG Rewards card, Hyatt card, etc…

While these lists above aren’t complete, it’s pretty simple right?


Bank points that transfer to miles:

  • American Express Membership Rewards points:
    Delta Skymiles, AeroMexico, Air Canada Aeroplan, Flying Blue (KLM & Air France), Alitalia MilleMiglia, Cathay’s Asia Miles, British Airways Executive Club, El Al Israel, Emirates Skywards, Frontier, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Plus, Jet Blue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Virgin Elevate, Virgin Atlantic, All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points:
    British Airways Executive Club Avios, Korean Air Skypass, Southwest Rapid Rewards, United Mileage Plus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Citi ThankYou points:
    Asia Miles, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands, Etihad Guest, Flying Blue, Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer, Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Qatar Airways Privilege Club, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus

One odd exception of the sorts, the American Express Starwood (SPG) card. Starwood is a hotel chain, and the card earns its own SPG points, but those SPG points happen to transfer to a large number of airlines. This is just because the hotel program happens to transfer to airlines at a very high rate.

Therefore, in a roundabout way, this card is a favorite for many to earn miles on.

  • SPG transfers:
    Aeromexico Club Premier, Aeroplan/Air Canada, Air Berlin, Air China Companion, Air New Zealand & Air Points, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, Alitalia MilleMiglia, All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club, American Airlines AAdvantage, Asia Miles, Asiana Airlines, British Airways Executive Club, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club, Delta Airlines SkyMiles, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Airways, Flying Blue, Gol Smiles, Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank, Jet Airways, LAN Airlines LANPASS Kms, Miles and More, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus, US Airways Dividend Miles, United Mileage Plus, Velocity Frequent Flyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club


Banks that transfer to hotel points:

  • Amex:
    Best Western, Choice Privileges, Hilton Hhonors (1:1.5), Starwood SPG (3:1 (very bad))
  • Chase:
    Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • Citi:
    Hilton HHonors Worldwide (1:1.5)

Wasn’t sure where to add this but Chase also transfers 1:1 to Amtrak.


Amex, Chase, and Citi cards that actually transfer

Okay, to make it a little more confusing, (because why would any big business make their rewards program sensical?) not all Amex, Chase, and Citi cards transfer their points to airline partners. I can’t say it makes sense to have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points that transfer to airlines, and make the Freedom card or the regular Sapphire card (non preferred) also earn UR points that don’t transfer to airlines at all. However, they are trying to add benefits to their higher end cards… or something, so think of the ability to transfer as a benefit.

The end result is that you have to have certain cards to actually transfer from the bank’s points to the partner airlines listed above.

  • Chase cards that transfer to miles:
    Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus
  • Amex cards that transfer to miles:
    Both Amex EveryDay Credit Cards, Green Card, both Gold Cards, and the Platinum Card.
  • Citi cards that transfers to miles:
    Citi ThankYou Premier, Citi Prestige, and Citi Chairman


Who allows combining points?

However, understand the fine difference here. The Chase Freedom or Sapphire, while they still earn UR points they just don’t have the benefit of being able to transfer to airline partners. However, you can transfer all your UR points from your Freedom card to your Chase Sapphire Preferred card and then transfer to a partner Airline, like United miles.

Citi has the same thing as the Premier card transfers and the preferred doesn’t, but you can combine the two’s points.

This is not the case with all cards.

  • Amex:
    Points can not be combined with other, transferable, cards.
  • Chase:
    Any Chase “Ultimate Rewards points” can be combined with transferable cards.
  • Citi:
    Any Citi “ThankYou points” can be combined with transferable cards.

Chase has multiple cards that don’t seem to allow these transfers but could combine with the cards that do transfer: Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire, Chase Ink Cash.



The absense of cards listed probably means that they don’t transfer to miles. Due to the slick marketing of Capital One, most people think that their Cap1 “Miles” card or Discover “Miles” cards earn miles at all. And it’s just not true. These cards do not earn miles at all but are basically travel cash-back cards (and they aren’t nearly as good as the Arrival Plus).

If you want miles/points you have two options:

1) Get an airline/hotel credit card, or 2) get one of the bank cards listed above for Amex, Chase, or Citi.

Hopefully this explains which “miles” credit cards are actually miles-earning cards and which are [intentionally] deceivingly named “miles”. Which ones do earn miles (or hotel points) and which ones don’t.

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  1. Which is a worse use of MR? Transferring to SPG at 3:1 or transferring to Hilton at 1:1.5? Just curious what people’s views would be.

    • That’s easy – the one you don’t have an immediate need for!

    • I kind of agree with kenny, but I can’t imagine a scenario where I would transfer to SPG… ever. So in this one I’d say Hilton, but it totally depends on what for. If it’s a category 1 hilton, I would justify it, but otherwise I’d save for flights. But that’s me.

  2. Posts on tkts codes translation such as what does FSO mean? Or F or FS or V?

  3. Super summary. Yet again! Thanks!

    • Thanks t4a!

  4. Where is your Chase 70k link? I am about to apply for two cards and want to use your link. Please post ASAP.

  5. very good information one more time. With a lot of details. What do you think about the Capital One Venture card, is it worth? specially when they have a 40k sign up Bonus..

  6. I have a very simple question. If I have all three point transfer cards – Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Thankyou Premier, and Amex Gold, what is the best transfer partner that can take all of those miles. I know that Singapore Krisflyer and Virgin Atlantic takes all three, but they don’t get me where I need to go.

  7. I’m pretty much a newbie to this game so some of the basic stuff escapes me. I have a question about combining points. You say that AMEX doesn’t allow combining. Does that mean if I have two AMEX gold cards, one personal and one business that I can’t combine those points? Or does it mean something else? BTW.. have learned a LOT from your blog. Thanks for sharing all this wonderful info!

  8. Do you know if I could apply Chase Sapphire Preferred points to any Oneworld Alliance partner? I’m an expat in Nepal and rather frequently fly Qatar, but will find myself making more flights to the Asia Pacific region. Maybe the real question is: what’s the best card for Asia-Pacific travel miles?

  9. Hi,

    I am looking to score around 250,000 united points. I already signed up and got the 30k from the united card but I already used those. I have a while before I need this many points (around 10-11 months) what is the best route to score this many points ??

  10. Great resource and one I come back to often, but I just realized that you are missing Virgin Atlantic from Citi ThankYou points.


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