Things to Consider When Transferring Flexible Points to an Airline Program

Disclosure: Well Traveled Mile has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Well Traveled Mile and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

After publishing my flexible bank-point transfer chart I figured it would be the perfect time to follow up with a post outlining some of the major factors to consider when transferring points to an airline program.


Of course, figuring out which airlines you can fly on by alliance is not a complete picture. Given that each airline program publishes its own award chart and redemption rules, certain airlines may offer more flexible routing rules or charge expensive fuel surcharges over the other.

With numerous airline programs to choose from the options are almost limitless, but some airline programs hold the key to much more valuable award redemptions and you will get more value from your airline miles!

When transferring points to an airline program, there are several factors that you should consider:

  1. Amount of miles you already have with each airline program
  2. Cost in miles of the award flight you want with a specific airline program
  3. Does the airline program pass on fuel surcharges for awards?
  4. Does the Airline Program Allow Stopovers and Free One-ways on Awards?
  5. How does award availability look?

All of these factors can make or break an incredibly valuable award redemption and mean huge mile savings when maximized. Finding the best airline program to transfer to will help you stretch the value of your flexible bank-points.

Amount of Miles you Already have with Each Airline Program

One of the first things to consider is how many many miles you already have in a given airline program. If you have an orphaned amount of miles in an account this can be a great way to use them for an award flight. Given that you may already have a portion of the miles needed for the award flight you want, you may only need to transfer some points to top off your mileage account.


Choose which partner makes the most sense for you

On the other hand, if you have an aspirational award flight that you have an eye on, it may make sense to transfer the full amount needed for that flight to the airline program. For instance, you may want to fly on some of the most premier luxury cabins such as Lufthansa First Class or Singapore Airlines Suites.

Cost of Award Flight with a Specific Airline Program

Given that the value of airline programs award charts can vary greatly it is always a good idea to find out how much it will cost for a particular award flight. I’ve created  comparison guides of airline award charts showing the cost in miles to a particular award region using miles from various airline programs.


Compare airline programs' award charts to get the best deal

Using the right miles to fly to a region can save you thousands of miles per round trip. Also, given that some award charts are region based while others or distance based, there may be huge mileage savings based on the total length of flights.

For instance, it costs 10,000 miles less to redeem US Airways miles for an award flight originating in the US to North Asia than using United miles.

Does the Airline Program Pass on Fuel Surcharges for Awards

One of the best ways to maximize airline miles and travel for almost free is to avoid fuel surcharges at all costs. On some carriers fuel surcharges can easily be $300+ for international flights, which can mean a huge out of pocket cost on top of the miles redeemed.

Some airlines, such as US Airways, almost never pass (except British Airways) on fuel surcharges on partner award flights. For this reason US Airways miles are among the most valuable airlines miles for many partner awards. Whereas other airline programs, such as British Airways and Lufthansa, charge high fuel surcharges on many partner airline award flights which can add to the cost of award flights.

Does the Airline Program Allow Stopovers and Free One-ways on Awards?

One of my favorite ways to maximize airline miles is to add stopovers and free one-ways at no extra cost. I love to visit as many destinations on one trip. With some airline miles it’s even possible to visit an additional country for free!

Things to Consider When Transferring Points to an Airline Program_02

Adding free stopovers is a great way to add value to your miles!

Each airline has its own award routing rules, but some of the most valuable and flexible miles for US travelers include United and US Airways miles. There is a lot of information covered on blogs about the possible routing options with these two airline programs, but if you’re willing to learn a new program some airline programs offer even more flexible routing rules. Check out the full list of airline stopover and open jaw rules to see the possibilities.

In some cases you may have as many as 7 stopovers on one award, such as with JAL and Asiana, but you will have to do a bit more legwork figuring out a valid itinerary.

How is Award Availability?

To throw another factor into the mix would be to consider how much open award availability there is with a specific airline. This can touch-and-go with some airlines, but given that some airlines in general have much better availability than others it may pay off to know when and how much award seat availability will be released.

Check to see if there's award availability before you transfer points!

The easiest way to get around this is to only transfer flexible bank-points when there is the award seat availability so you can transfer to the airline program and book immediately. In fact I would never recommend transferring to any program before you are ready to book a particular flight or hotel and you can confirm there is the award you want.

The Bottom Line

The factors listed above are important to think about when transferring flexible bank points to various airline programs. Doing research before transferring to an airline program can mean the difference between huge mileage savings, avoiding fuel surcharges, and having the option to add stopovers.

A little work up front can easily help you maximize and potentially save headaches later on during the booking process. Hopefully looking into these factors along with the bank-point transfer chart can help you decide which airline program is the best option for transferring points into.

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