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Rewards Credit Cards & Airline Transfer Partners

A irline partner rewards type credit cards can be a good alternative to standard airline branded cards. These types of cards are a lot more flexible with instant transfer possibilities to multiple airline partners.

In this article we profile cards from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest - with the main travel benefits highlighted. For further information on interest annual percentage rates (APRs) etc you should check with the corresponding card issuer.

The following Chase Ultimate Rewards card can be used for transferring points to British Airways (oneworld), United Airlines (Star Alliance), Korean Air (Skyteam) and Southwest Airlines on a 1:1 basis:

Chase Sapphire Preferred card
40,000 bonus points on $3k spend in first 3 months
1 point per $1 spend
Double points on travel spend
Ultimate Rewards - points transfer to airline/hotel partners
7% annual points dividend
$0 first year, $95 annual fee, no forex fee

korean air - ultimate rewards partner

American Express Membership Rewards in the US has more airline partners than Chase to transfer on a 1:1 basis: AeroMexico, Air Canada Aeroplan, Air Tran, Alitalia, ANA, British Airways/Iberia, Delta, ELAL, Frontier, KLM-Air France, Hawaiian, jetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic. The minimum transfer is 1,000 points. Occasionally there will be a transfer bonus on offer to a specific airline partner.

(Note the absence of American Airlines and United Airlines. However, AA flights can be booked by transferring to BA/Iberia; United flights can be booked via Aeroplan, Singapore Air or ANA).

American Express Blue Credit Card
10,000 bonus points on $1k spend in first 3 months
1 point per $1 spend
No annual fee, 2.7% forex fee
American Express Green Card
1 point per $1 spend
2 points per $1 spend at American Express Travel
Travel accident insurance
$0 first year, $95 annual fee, 2.7% forex fee
American Express Gold Card
1 point per $1 spend
Travel accident insurance
$0 first year, $125 annual fee, 2.7% forex fee
American Express Premier Gold Card
25,000 bonus points on $2k spend in first 3 months
15,000 bonus points on $30k spend in one year
1 point per $1 spend, double points on gas/groceries spend
Triple points on airfare spend
Travel accident insurance
$0 first year, $175 annual fee, 2.7% forex fee
American Express Platinum Card
25,000 bonus points on $2k spend in first 3 months
1 point per $1 spend
Double points on travel spend
Lounge access with Delta, American and US Airways
Priority Pass Select membership
$200 in Airline Fee Credits
Companion ticket when booking qualifying business class fare
Travel accident insurance
$450 annual fee, no forex fee

Similar Membership Rewards cards are available in other countries though airline partners can vary. UK transfer airline partners are: Alitalia, British Airways/Iberia, Delta, Finnair, KLM-Air France, SAS, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. In Australia: Air NZ, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic (note: no Qantas).

American Express also issues the following Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) branded card:

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card
10,000 bonus Starpoints after first spend
further 15,000 bonus Starpoints after first $5k spend in first 6 months
1 Starpoint for every $1 spend
up to 5 Starpoints for every $1 spend at SPG Hotels
Points transfer to multiple partners
Automatic travel accident insurance
$0 first year, $65 annual fee, 2.7% forex fee

SPG is the frequent stay program of Starwood hotels. SPG has a large number of airline partners including: Air Canada Aeroplan, Air NZ, Alaska Air, Alitalia, American, ANA, British Airways, Delta, Emirates, KLM-Air France, LAN, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai, US Airways, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic (full list here). Transfers to most airline partners is done at a 1:1 basis with an additional bonus of 5k Starpoints on a 20k transfer. (United is on a 2:1 basis, LAN 1:2, Air NZ 65:1). Note that SPG transfers to airlines can take a number of days to clear.

The pick of the cards looks like the Chase Sapphire Preferred (particularly for United flyers with its high bonus, double miles on travel spend, no forex fee, 7% dividend and low annual fee); the Amex Premier Gold card (triple points on airfare) and the SPG card (bonus points and large airline partner possibilities).

As always, you should carefully read and understand the terms and conditions before applying for any frequent flyer miles credit card. Alternatively speak to an authorised financial advisor. Above card names are registered trademarks; information accuracy not guaranteed and can change.

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