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Which Credit Card Points Program is Right for You?

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It’s pretty much indisputable that airlines are making frequent flyer miles harder to use. Across the board, we’ve seen programs increase the amount of miles needed for awards—all while restricting the amount of seats available at the lowest level and adding new fees. However, it isn’t all doomsday. Luckily, credit card bonuses are extremely lucrative and there are now more ways to earn miles than ever before. Whether from online shopping or dining out, you should be getting miles for almost every purchase.

2014 has been a year of program devaluations and that is not a trend I see slowing down anytime soon. To protect yourself from these negative changes, I recommend accruing points into a transferable points program so you have a ton of options when it comes time to redeem.
 
Just this week, Citi announced that there are eight new airline frequent flyer programs that you can now transfer your ThankYou points to, plus you can transfer to Hilton, which was added as a partner last year. Sadly, there are no major U.S. programs here, but Singapore Airlines’ program Krisflyer can be a great option especially when maximizing partner awards. I’m hoping that American Airlines will soon be added as a transfer partner as well, since Citi is their sole issuer of credit cards.

Citi’s new partners include:

Cathay Pacific
EVA Air
Etihad
Garuda Indonesia
Malaysia Airlines
Qatar Airways
Singapore Airlines
Thai Airways

The three other key transferable points programs are:
 
Chase Ultimate Rewards, which transfers instantly at a 1:1 ratio to:

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

American Express Membership Rewards transfers to 17 different airlines and seven hotels:

Delta
Aeromexico
Air Canada
Flying Blue
Alitalia
ANA
Asia Miles
British Airways
El Al
Emirates
Frontier
Hawaiian Airlines
Iberia
Jet Blue
KrisFlyer
Virgin America
Virgin Atlantic
Starwood Preferred Guest
Hilton
Choice Privileges
Best Western

Pro: They sometimes run transfer bonuses
 
Starwood Preferred Guest has a total of 32 transfer partners:
Aeromexico
Aeroplan
Air Berlin
Air China
Air New Zealand
Alaska Airlines
Alitalia
ANA
American Airlines
Asia Miles
Asiana Airlines
British Airways
China Eastern
China Southern
Delta
Emirates
Etihad
Flying Blue
Gol Smiles
Hainan Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines
Japan Airlines
LAN Airlines
Miles and More
Qatar Airways
Saudi Arabian Airlines
Singapore Airlines
Thai Airways
US Airways
United
Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Australia

The most valuable points in my opinion are SPG because there’s a built-in 5,000 mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 points to a partner airline, but the key downside there is that transfers can take up to a week.

Brian Kelly is the founder of ThePointsGuy.com. Follow him on Twitter @thepointsguy and Facebook.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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