Quick Reference: Membership Rewards vs. Starwood Points vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards

Due to birth of our first child, we haven’t been traveling much the last 24 months. However, I’ve still been racking up the miles (via credit card bonuses, credit card rewards, dining rewards, and shopping portals) and have built up a sizable pile with the three major “superpoints” programs – those that allow transfers to a variety of air and hotel partners. Everyone has their own preferred programs and unique travel needs, but here is a quick reference guide to simplify things. My favorite transfer partners are bolded, but all of the other options are also included. These days I’ll probably just be topping off an account off to qualify for an award ticket or free hotel night. Ratios are 1:1 unless otherwise noted.

Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) Points

  • United Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Hyatt
  • Korean Air
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Marriott
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Amtrak

Credit card bonuses and rewards are the fastest way to jumpstart your miles balance. Here are related offers:

American Express Membership Rewards (MR) Points

  • British Airways (possible transfer bonus)
  • Delta Airlines
  • Hawai­ian Airlines
  • Vir­gin America
  • Jet­Blue Airways®
  • Sin­ga­pore Airlines
  • Vir­gin Atlantic Airways
  • AeroMex­ico
  • Aero­plan
  • Ali­talia
  • All Nip­pon (ANA)
  • Asia Miles
  • EL AL Israel
  • Fly­ing Blue
  • Fron­tier
  • Iberia Plus
  • Best Western Rewards
  • Hilton Honors (1:1.5)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest (3:1)

Top related credit card offers:

Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints (25,000 miles for 20,000 SPG points)

  • (Consider using directly for Starwood Hotels like Sheraton, Westin, W, etc.)
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • US Airways Dividend Miles
  • United Mileage Plus (2:1)
  • Aeromexico
  • Aeroplan/Air Canada
  • Air Berlin
  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand (65:1)
  • Alitalia
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Asia Miles
  • Asia Miles
  • Asiana Airlines
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Airways
  • Flying Blue
  • Gol Smiles (2:1)
  • Japan Airlines (JAL)
  • LAN Airlines LANPASS (1:1.5)
  • Miles and More
  • Qatar Airways
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic

Top related credit card offers:

United Airlines is a decent program and only really transferrable from Ultimate Rewards, so that alone makes them my top choice with UR. Same thing with American Airlines from Starwood points. British Airways is a non-US airline but they are quite easy to use for domestic travel on American, for example short flights like LAX-SFO roundtrip for 9,000 Avios + $5 and also West Coast to Hawaii roundtrip for only 25,000 British Avios + $5. Delta Airlines is not the best value unless you live near a Delta-dominated hub, but my parents do so we fly them a lot. Southwest can also be good value if you live near one of their cities.

Note that Membership Rewards transfers to US airlines are subject to an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point (max $99) which works out to $15 for a 25,000 mile transfer (not bad, but another reason to transfer to non-US British Airways):

Every time you transfer points into a U.S. airline frequent flyer program, your Linked Card account will be charged an excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99). We charge this fee to offset the federal excise tax that we must pay when you transfer points. This fee may be more or less than the actual amount of excise tax we pay on any individual conversion. We may offer you the option to use points to pay this fee.

Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood do not charge excise fees.

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