a room with grey couches and a yellow pillow

Some of the best frequent flier programs are offered by airlines with the worst seats. I for one like the best most aspirational seats. American Express Membership Rewards Points, Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and Citi Thank You Points are extremely valuable because they can all be transferred to a vast array of airline partners at a 1×1 or better ratio. Having transferrable points allows for greater flexibility on a case by case basis enabling when choosing the right airline for your desired destination. Sadly, not all airlines are direct transfer partners of your hard earned credit card points. If you have a specific airline in mind that is not listed as a transfer option, you still may be in luck thanks to a workaround using partner award space and airline alliances.

a room with grey couches and a yellow pillow

Even if the airline you want to fly isn’t a transfer partner, you can most likely still use your miles to fly with them. Alliances and partner awards to the rescue! Did you know you can use Delta Airlines Skymiles to book flights on Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, Air France, Alitalia and more? To use points for a flight on a non transfer partner airline, simply look to see if any airlines that are transfer partners, are in your desired airline’s alliance.

Example: A colleague is looking to book a flight to Asia in the coming year using his credit card points. He has both Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and American Express Membership Rewards points. One of the best options using miles from the US to Asia is with ANA. The airline offers fantastic service on modern planes and has direct flights to most of Japan with connections onward. If you have American Express points you can transfer them directly into ANA (easy). If you have Chase points, you cannot. To complete his trip, my colleague needs to be able to use his Chase Ultimate Reward points to have enough for a round trip on ANA. Even though he cannot transfer to ANA directly he can still use his Chase Points by transferring them to United, a Partner of ANA who allows for awards on the airline.

To book a round trip flight on ANA using your points from both programs, simply book two one way tickets. You will book your round trip ANA ticket using two types of miles: ANA miles and United Airlines Miles. In the end you are creating one round trip on one airline (ANA). Hard to follow?

airplanes on a runway

Step One: This is the simplest step: After confirming availability for all legs of your trip, transfer the amount of miles you need for a one way flight to your destination in your desired cabin class from American Express Membership Rewards into ANA. Book it.

Step Two: Login to United Airlines, search one way award flights on ANA returning from your destination to make sure there are available dates at a low level (the least miles for your desired cabin class). Transfer your Chase Points into United Airlines. Book a one way ticket home using your United Miles to fly on ANA, taking advantage of their partner awards and Star Alliance.

a man sleeping in a plane

As always, think outside of the box and think segment by segment. This was simply a concrete example of this workaround but it applies to many airlines across many alliances. My wife and I recently booked flights on Qatar using British Airways Avios and Virgin Atlantic flights using Delta Skymiles. A round trip ticket doesn’t have to be booked in one sitting, nor in tough circumstances does it have to be on the same airline. Don’t let your points go to waste and barring any insane bonuses, never buy miles from the airline directly.

Questions? Comments? Need help? godsavethepoints@gmail.com

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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