3 reasons why you shouldn’t speculatively transfer your miles (& 1 time you should) – Forbes Advisor
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Flexible miles are almost too good to be true. Cardholders can earn and accumulate miles long before they need them, deciding only which travel partner is best for their needs when they’re ready to book. There is no commitment involved, other than choosing a bank currency to start with, but even then you can’t really go wrong. The four major credit card currencies offer attractive repayment options.
Wait, don’t speculate
The key to getting the most out of transferable programs is to keep all of your points in their original form until you need them. Whether it’s Citi ThankYou Points or Capital One Miles, Flexible Points can be transferred to any of their travel partners – or even used as cash – as long as they’re on your card account. . Once you move them to a mileage partner, they lose that flexibility.
While it is true that airline miles sometimes offer higher redemption values than redemption for cash, this is only true when you can use those miles, which is not always that simple. as it seems. That’s why it’s best to wait to transfer your miles until you have a precise and immediate plan: this allows you to rotate your plans to find the best flights and hotels for your needs. Waiting is only to your advantage.
Here’s a look at why you shouldn’t speculatively transfer your miles, as tempting as that sounds.
The reward space can (and disappears)
Managing airline inventory is a complete mystery to the average traveler. The prices seemingly change on a whim, including the award prices. One day, a business class flight to Paris could cost 50,000 miles per person; the next it could be 300,000. Two days later, the same flight might not be available at all.
By transferring miles before you’re ready to use them, you lock yourself into a single frequent flyer program. If there is no reward space for the dates and destinations you need, your miles will be stuck in this frequent schedule since transfers are irreversible. Even if another airline offers perfect rewards, you’re out of luck unless you have enough credit card points left to start all over again.
Instead of transferring your miles speculatively, wait until you are ready to book and confirm that a reward space is available. Then you can transfer the appropriate number of miles: many transfers are instant, and some airlines even allow temporary itinerary reservations to cover potential processing delays.
Devaluations are common
Unfortunately, inflation is a common occurrence in rewards programs. Airlines and hotels are constantly adjusting the reward tables, and many programs opt for dynamic pricing instead of fixed reward prices, which means the cost of your trip can vary each time you check out.
Unfortunately for travelers, these changes are almost always devaluations rather than a price change in your favor. These changes can also happen with little or no notice, even if you’ve been saving points for months or years.
When you collect transferable points, you hedge against these devaluations. Even if a transfer partner re-prices their rewards, there may still be eight or 10 alternate partners who haven’t updated their prices. Holding transferable points until you’re ready to use them lets you grab the best-priced one, when you need them.
Your travel goals or needs may change
Setting travel goals is great, but committing to a destination before you’re ready to book is a problem. Situations beyond your control arise despite your best intentions. Border closures, natural disasters, and health hazards have been all too common in recent history and can impact where it’s safe (and pleasant) to go.
Personal preferences or situations may also change. You may need to relocate or postpone a trip if you are looking for a new job. Family situations can change, for better or for worse, as can budgets.
As much as you have a specific location, airline, or hotel in mind, keeping your miles as flex points instead of speculatively transferring them allows for ultimate flexibility in case scenarios change.
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There is one major exception
There is always an exception to the rule and there comes a point when you absolutely have to transfer your miles on a speculative basis. Often times when you cancel or close a bank card, you lose any rewards left in your account. In these cases, getting a value (even if you’re guessing the best use case) is better than zero.
Before you speculatively move miles and close your card, check with the card issuer if you have any options. For example, if you have two or more cards with the same issuer that earn the same type of points, such as a Platinum® card from American Express and an American Express® Gold card, your points can stay safe with the second open card. . . Some cards may also allow you to transfer your points to another household member (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card).
When these options do not exist, you will need to transfer all points before officially closing the card. There are many ways to determine your best option: you can choose a program that you know and use often or you may prefer to take advantage of a transfer bonus, assuming the bonus points help protect you against possible future devaluations. . Finally, some bank points allow you to cash in points at a fair rate of 1 to 1.5 cents each, allowing you to take the money and spend it later.
What about transfer bonuses?
Card issuers occasionally increase transfer ratios when you convert bank points to travel points, thus extending your miles an additional 15-50%. For travelers, this is a great way to treat yourself to trades that might not have been realistic in your personal situation or to pay for a bonus and still have miles left for the next one.
As tempting as it may be, these time-limited bonuses always come with risk. The bonus itself is likely to thwart potential devaluations, but the risk of not finding reward space in this program when you need it is still very real.
Since transfers are irreversible, think carefully about speculatively transferring miles to a specific airline or hotel, unless you have a specific and immediate need for those miles. Yes, your miles may be worth more when the bank adds an extra 20%, but your miles won’t be worth anything if they get stuck in a program where you can’t use them.
For travelers who frequently trade from the same program over and over, or who are intimately familiar with availability trends on certain routes, transferring miles during a limited time offer may be worth the risk.
For most other travelers, transfer bonuses are a pretty good excuse to start planning your next trip. If this bonus puts you over the edge so you can afford an earlier trip, take some time to consider your options. Most bonuses last for several weeks, which may be enough to consolidate your plans, find specific award flights, and book your travel before the offer expires. It’s the best of all possible worlds.
The love for flex points is justified. The cardholders essentially have the advantage of collecting miles with ten or fifteen programs simultaneously. The secret to getting the most out of it is not to commit to just one transfer partner until you’re ready to book a trip. Then, and only then, can you find a reward space at the best possible price. It turns out that patience really is a virtue.