Perhaps the most confusing part of points in miles are the can’s and the cannot’s. Like driving in a foreign country, there are confusing rules, one way streets and exceptions for every rule. One of the most common questions is how to pool whatever points you’ve got, together- to put together a great ticket. Here are the things you can – and cannot do…

The Cant’s…

With the exception of basically two airlines (British Airways and Iberia), you can’t convert one airline’s points into another. Period. You can’t take United points and turn them into Singapore Airlines points, and same for virtually every one else. The key to understand here though, is that you generally CAN use points to book flights on other airlines, it just doesn’t involve transferring those points. You book through the airline you have the points with. You also generally can’t turn airline miles into hotel points- but you can do the other way around. You also cannot turn airline miles back into credit card points. That’s a one way street.

The Cans…

The great news is that you CAN convert multiple types of credit card points into one type of airline miles. There are a few airlines, whose points you can instantly create from all three major banks like American Express Membership Rewards Points, Citi Thank You Points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points. This allows you to pool points from different credit card into one type of miles. Additionally, Starwood Preferred Guest points can also be transferred to almost any airline as well. This allows for relatively small numbers of points to be stacked together towards one larger goal.

One Example

Let’s say you have 17,000 United Miles, 20,000 Chase Points, 12,000 Singapore Airlines Points and 40,000 Amex Points. You CAN’T combine your United and Singapore Miles together, nor can you combine your Amex Points and United Miles. But, you CAN turn your Chase Points into United Miles, and you can turn your Amex Points Into Singapore Points. United is a transfer partner of Chase – but not Amex. Singapore is a transfer partner of both Amex and Chase (and Citi as well). So you COULD end up with 27,000 United miles and 52,000 Singapore miles. OR, you could transfer both Amex and Chase points to Singapore, giving you 17,000 United miles and a lovely 72,000 Singapore points. You could use one of those to book one way flights, and the other to book the return leg.

One More?

You’ve got 40,000 Delta Skymiles, 20,000 Starwood Points and 25,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles. You can’t combine your Delta and Virgin Atlantic miles into one pile. But you CAN convert your SPG (Starwood) points into either Delta Skymiles or Virgin Atlantic miles. So you could have 65,000 Delta miles and 25,000 Virgin Atlantic miles or 50,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles and 40,000 Delta miles. That’s because for every 20,000 SPG points you transfer, you get 5,000 bonus points. You could then book your flights one way at a time, using the two separate piles of points. A wise traveler would figure out that Virgin Atlantic charges just 50,000 points for one way business class on Delta, whereas Delta charges 70,000 points for the same seat, on their own airline. You could book one way in economy using your Delta points, and one way in business using Virgin.

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Featured image copyright: William Perugini