Where to Transfer AMEX Points and Citi ThankYou Points Before Closing Credit Cards?

Where to Transfer AMEX Points and Citi ThankYou Points Before Closing Credit Cards?

Where to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points and Citi ThankYou Points Before Closing High Annual Fee Cards? A TravelSort Client writes “We have 600,000+ points total in our Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points accounts. We don't have any major international  trips planned, but do you recommend that I transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer or another frequent flyer program? Ideally we will use the points to go to Australia, Hong Kong or Southeast Asia. We also have many American AAdvantage miles and Delta SkyMiles. The reason I ask if that I have some annual fees coming up and would like to cancel cards before I get charged.”

Great question. Here's my take:

My Favorite Transfer Partners for Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards and ThankYou Points

These are my favorite airline transfer partners (listed alphabetically):

AMEX Membership Rewards Points

  • Aeroplan (Air Canada)
  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • Flying Blue (KLM/Air France)
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
Don't forget that not all AMEX points transfers are instant. See How Long do AMEX Membership Rewards Points Transfers Take?

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SkyPass
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • United MileagePlus

Citi ThankYou Points

  • Singapore KrisFlyer

Keep in Mind Frequent Flyer Program Miles Expiration and Potential Award Chart Devaluation

Even if you know you eventually want to book award tickets with a given frequent flyer program, keep in mind the risk of a potential award chart devaluation (there have been major award chart devaluations with Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club and United MileagePlus over the last couple years, not to mention the upcoming 2016 AAdvantage Award Chart Devaluation).

Additionally, each program has rules for miles expiration, for example:

  • Singapore KrisFlyer: Miles expire 36 months after they are earned, if there is some activity in the KrisFlyer account (activity does *not* prevent the miles from expiring).
  • Asia Miles: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles are valid for 3 years from the month the miles are credited to your account. Activity does *not* prevent the miles from expiring, though it's possible to pay a service fee to extend their expiration by another three years.
  • British Airways Avios: Avios expire 36 months after they are earned if there is no activity. If you earn, redeem, buy or share at least 1 Avios within the 36 months you'll keep your Avios from expiring for another 36 months from the date of your last activity.

Transferable Points Are Valuable

I highly recommend earning transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points, AMEX Membership Rewards points, and to a lesser degree (since I don't consider them as valuable) Citi ThankYou points. With transferable points, you preserve flexibility, since the points have no expiration date, and are able to hedge against potential frequent flyer award chart devaluations. If one program devalues before you're able to use it for awards, at least there are other transfer partners you can transfer points to.


Consider Keeping at Least 1 No Annual Fee or Low Annual Fee Card from the Issuer to Keep Your Points

Because of the value of transferable points, my first instinct if I plan to close a high annual fee card such as the AMEX Platinum or Citi Prestige is to think of what other lower fee cards will keep the points alive.

In the case of AMEX Membership Rewards, there's a no annual fee card: the AMEX EveryDay card, which earns Membership Rewards points. Or if you think a higher earn rate is worth the $95 annual fee, that's another option (see Compare AMEX EveryDay and AMEX EveryDay Preferred Cards).

For Citi ThankYou points, there is also a no annual fee card: the Citi ThankYou Preferred. The problem is that if you close a given Citi ThankYou card, for example the Citi Prestige, you have just 60 days to use all the points earned from that card before they expire. Unlike AMEX and Chase, having another ThankYou card open does NOT extend the expiration of the particular ThankYou points earned from the card you close. So be particularly careful with closing ThankYou points cards. This is the main case where I would consider transferring to a partner, most likely Singapore KrisFlyer, as long as you know that you'll be using the miles within the 36 month period.

For Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can keep them alive with a no annual fee Freedom Card, but you may NOT transfer them out to Ultimate Rewards transfer partners unless you have one of the annual fee cards linked to Ultimate Rewards: the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus.


Which Miles for Asia?

Since this client will not be able to book AAdvantage award travel before the AAdvantage devaluation later this month, it's good that he and his family have transferable points that can transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer, Asia Miles and Korean Air SkyPass, all of which can assist with getting them to Asia. 

Singapore KrisFlyer has the advantage of being a transfer partner of AMEX Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou. A Saver Business Award LAX-NRT-SIN is 68,000 KrisFlyer miles when booked online. 

Only AMEX Membership Rewards points transfer to Asia miles, which has a distance based chart and is best used when you'll be redeeming for roundtrip award travel. A roundtrip Cathay Pacific Business Class award LAX-HKG is 120,000 Asia miles, although if only booking one way, it's 70,000 miles.

Korean Air Business Class, meanwhile, is 62,500 miles each way, and only Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers to it. The advantage is that there are usually plenty of business class awards, so this is a good option for families and those that are planning just a few months out (although watch out for blackout dates).

Bottom Line

It's understandable to want to close some of the high annual fee credit cards that you may have gotten primarily for the signup bonus, and which don't provide enough ongoing value. Just be sure to have a way to keep your hard earned points alive, in the case of AMEX Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, or transfer the points to an airline or hotel partner that you'll be able to redeem with before the miles or points expire.

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