Credit Card Currencies

We all have a friend or family member who travels all the time for work.  They probably have gold or platinum status with one of the U.S. airlines, check-in on Facebook from the Delta Sky Club, and either fly business class or are upgraded to business class because they spend multiple times each month flying the friendly skies.

This blog isn’t intended for them.  Taryn never travels for work, and I usually have work trips 2-3 times/year, which sometimes earns me United Premier Silver status if I’m lucky.

But our goal in life is to travel and experience the world 🌎. After being teased with Facebook and Instagram posts about flying in business class with points, I finally devised a strategy that would take us on a trip of a lifetime.

It all begins with amassing credit cards points.

There are four primary types of credit card points/currencies that I will discuss:

  1. Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  2. American Express Membership Reward points
  3. Citi ThankYou Points
  4. Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Starpoints

(Yes, SPG Starpoints are the oddball among the group.  I’ll explain that later.)

Each bank (let’s just call SPG a bank for simplicity sake) issues a variety of personal and business credit cards that often 1) give sign-up bonuses for opening the card, and 2) provide different benefits using the credit card for purchases, such as spending on gas, groceries, dining, or travel.

Bottom Line: Credit card points are MORE valuable than airline frequent flyer miles because credit card points have the ability to be transferred to a wide variety of different frequent flyer programs.

1) Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners:

Chase Airline TransfersChase Hotel Transfers

2) American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners:

AMEX Transfer Partners

3) Citi ThankYou Points transfer partners:

Citi TYP Pg 1Citi TYP Pg 2Citi TYP Pg 3Citi TYP Pg 4

4) SPG Starpoints transfer partners:

SPG Transfer Pg 1SPG Transfer Pg 2SPG Transfer Pg 3

What’s the benefit of having so many different frequent flyer programs to transfer into? One of the benefits is that it gives you the ability to acquire points from many different credit card currencies and compile them into a single frequent flyer program.

For example, you can see that Singapore Airlines’ Frequent Flyer program, KrisFlyer, is a transfer partner of ALL FOUR credit card currencies. 

Why would you ever want transfer all of your credit card points to an airline that you may have never flown?

1) Because Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, allowing you to redeem KrisFlyer miles for flights on one of the 27 Star Alliance members such as United Airlines, Lufthansa Airlines, Austrian Airlines, ANA, and Air China.  For example, you could redeem Singapore Airlines frequent flyer miles to fly on a domestic United Airlines flight without stepping foot in Singapore or flying on a Singapore Airlines plane.

2) Because the Singapore Airlines award chart has redemptions that are a terrific value.  For example, the Singapore Airlines award chart considers Hawaii in the same geographic category as Central America.  Using United MileagePlus miles, a roundtrip business class flight would cost either 80,000 or 100,000 miles each.  However, even when redeeming Singapore Airline miles for the exact same United Airlines flights, the roundtrip business class flight would only cost 60,000 miles.

3) Because you might want to actually fly with them!  Singapore Airlines has one of the best first/business class seats in the airline industry, and the first class seats are only bookable using KrisFlyer miles.  This includes the brand new Singapore Airlines Suites, which are absurdly cool.

Singapore Suite 1
Singapore Airlines Suites – yes, you have a separate chair and bed
Singapore Suite 2
Two Suites can be combined to make a double bed in the sky.  Ridiculous, right?

Another great thing about having these credit card points is that they often provide category bonuses on certain types of credit card spending.  For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card gives 2x points on all dining and travel related charges.  The Citi Premier card goes a step further and gives 3x on travel, 2x on dining, and 2x on entertainment (concert tickets, movie tickets, etc.).  Meanwhile, most airline credit cards (which is what we used to think was the best way to accumulate frequent flyer miles) only provide a category spending bonus for purchases with their own airline.

So what’s the big deal?  Let’s say you want to earn 6,000 more United MileagePlus miles.  With the United Explorer credit card, you’d have to spend $6,000 in order to earn the 6,000 miles.  However, if you used the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you’d only need to spend $3,000 on dining and travel related expenses to earn 6,000 Ultimate Rewards points, which can then be transferred to the cardmember’s MileagePlus account.  So in reality, you would receive a better return with the credit card points than you would with the frequent flyer miles.

Which credit card is best?  It all depends – each credit card has its own strengths and weaknesses.  Later, I will go into greater detail with each of the cards below to help sift through the major takeaways.

Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
  2. Chase Sapphire Reserve
  3. Chase Freedom
  4. Chase Freedom Unlimited

American Express Membership Rewards credit cards:

  1. AMEX Premier Rewards Gold
  2. AMEX Platinum
  3. AMEX Everyday and Everyday Preferred

Citi ThankYou Points credit cards:

  1. Citi ThankYou Premier
  2. Citi ThankYou Prestige

SPG Starpoints credit cards:

  1. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Now that we have explored different credit card currencies, let’s take a look at finding value in these types of points.

1. Ground Rules

2. But My Credit Score…

3. Credit Card Currencies

4. Finding Value in Points

5.  Award Availability

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