What To Do When Your Points are in Different Accounts and You Want to Book Awards (For a Family, Even)

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As you’re collecting points it’s easy to build up balances in several programs — substantial amounts of points, but maybe not enough for two or four people to fly roundtrip in business class to the other side of the world.

If you and a spouse or partner do that, you’ve got over 400,000 points to work with but they’re in different accounts.


Etihad First Apartment

I’ve long said it’s a great idea to build up points in a single program until you have enough points for the award you want, and then diversify into another program. That gives you a better chance of finding awards when the time comes because you have more airlines to try, and it serves as a hedge against devaluation because you won’t have all of your points affected by a single program change.

What I like the best is to earn points in transferable bank currencies — Chase, American Express, Citibank — where you can move points to your choice of frequent flyer programs. You get to decide where to put those points later.

  • Based on which airline has availability for the award you want
  • To top off an account that’s short of the number of miles you need for an award
  • To keep your miles from expiring (except for programs where all points expire after a given period of time, or like Air France KLM Flying Blue where only crediting a flight extends your points)

Transferable bank points are also a great hedge against devaluation not only because you have more options for where to move your points but historically they haven’t devalued as much as airline miles (they may add or lose transfer partners, but it’s only rare cases like Amex to British Airways where the transfer ratio changes).

Nonetheless, I like to diversify even across transferable bank points as a further hedge. I have lots of points in Chase and American Express since they have some partners that differ and because I don’t put all my trust in one bank.

Following this strategy you may wind up with six figure amounts across different programs. So what do you do when it comes time to redeem?

The great news is you’re actually in a good position to put your family on the same flights even with points in different accounts.

  1. You can book one way awards through many programs. So book one way outbound with one kind of points, one way return with a different points account.


    United’s New Polaris Bedding

  2. Transferable points programs share partners such as Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance), Air France KLM (SkyTeam) and British Airways (oneworld) so you can even transfer points from different currencies to the same account. Or you and a spouse can transfer points to the same program.


    Singapore Airlines Business Class

  3. Each of the transferable points currencies have partners in each of the large airline alliances. So you can transfer Chase points to United, Amex points to Aeroplan, and Citi points to Singapore and use those points to redeem for saver awards on the same Star Alliance airlines and flights.


    Cathay Pacific Business Class

The analysis, outside of ‘transferring to the same mileage program’ is the same if you’re working with airline miles rather than transferable bank points.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. But beware — airlines impose fees to transfer their miles (not to receive miles from, e.g., Amex or Chase, but to gift or transfer). It cost me $110 to consolidate my wife’s and my Delta Sky pesos in order to use them for a J class trip to Europe.

    On the other hand, paying a fee to consolidate miles between two accounts may be cheaper than buying miles if you are up against a deadline and don’t want to forfeit expiring miles.

  2. It’s a small thing, but I combine all our Hertz points into one account. I have to call to do it but it allows more options for redemption.

    We both have Club Carlson credit cards. This allows points to be moved with no fee. I keep all the points in one account.

    With the merger of Marriott and Starwood, it’s easy to combine points. Move Marriott to Starwood and move Starwood from one spouse to the other with higher status.

  3. . . . and, of course, there are a few airlines (jetBlue, BA for example) that allow “family pooling” of points into one account.

  4. Nice for couples/families.

    What the world needs is a way to transfer your miles from one airline program to another. UA/AA/DL/SW etc. There is one site online but the transfer ratios are horrible and it’s not easy.

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