There are 4 major transferable point currencies, AMEX, Chase, Citi, and Starwood. The great thing about having points in those currencies is that they are a hedge against devaluations. When you have points in most airline or hotel programs they can’t be transferred anywhere else at a decent ratio, so if those programs devalue, your banked points are worth less. With a transferable point currency though you can always transfer to another program that hasn’t devalued.
When used properly, the value of your points can easily exceed 5 cents each, and when you’re earning up to 5 points per dollar that makes things quite lucrative.
Of course not all transferable point currencies were created equally. Starwood’s is the most valuable due to the 25% bonus for transferring in blocks of 20K points and for their vast selection of transfer partners, however Starwood transfers can take anywhere from 1-8 days, so that hinders their value somewhat. Chase points are the next most valuable due to the ability to transfer instantly to prized programs like United and Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio. AMEX points are next in line with transfers to programs like Air Canada, ANA, Cathay Pacific, El Al, and Singapore, while Citi points are the least valuable of the bunch.
It’s great when an airline partners with multiple programs as that allows more opportunities to earn points and consolidate them in one place.
This weekend Chase added Air France/KLM Flying Blue as a new instant transfer option. You can now transfer points from all 4 transferable point currencies to Flying Blue, though typically you would want to use AMEX or Citi points rather than Chase points.
It’s not my favorite program as the only way to avoid fuel surcharges is to fly on Skyteam partner Delta, and they are notoriously stingy with saver award space. Flying Blue also expire points after just 20 months and they can’t be renewed unless you credit a paid Skyteam flight to Flying Blue.
However there are several sweet spots including round-trip travel from the US to the Caribbean for 25K, Hawaii for 25K-30K, and Europe or South America for 50K. However the trick is finding award space on Delta.
The best part of the program is that it includes Tel Aviv as part of Europe. However while United has wide open saver availability to Israel, you’d be hard pressed to find that space on Flying Blue’s Skyteam partner, Delta.
That leaves travel on airlines with fuel surcharges, though those surcharges have come way down and award space is quite generous.
The best part of the program though are the Promo Awards that allow for travel to Israel for as little as 12.5K miles each way. However those have gotten rarer of late.
The other 2 programs that allow transfers from all 4 point currencies?
The excellent Singapore Krisflyer program, which has real bargains without fuel surcharges for traveling on United. And Virgin Atlantic, which currently has a promotion for transfers from AMEX, and would also be an ill-advised use of Chase points.