Flexible currencies (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points and Starwood SPG points) are my favorite type of mile currencies because they’re less prone to devaluation, because they have multiple redemption options. If American Airlines devalues their award chart, transfer your SPG points to Delta (but not United!). When British Airways rips away the best part of their chart (or Amtrak!), transfer your Chase points to Hyatt instead. While I still recommend earning and burning your points, having a balance of flexible currencies is at least a LITTLE safer.
Within the last few days / weeks, there have been 2 recent additions to which flexible currencies can transfer to which other miles, that I thought I’d mention
American Express adds transfer to Etihad
Etihad becomes the 16th transfer partner of American Express. You can now transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Etihad Guest miles, at a ratio of 1:1
You can also transfer Citi ThankYou points to Etihad Guest.
One Mile at a Time shares a few good redemptions that you can book with Etihad miles, but I think the real value is in partner bookings. Richard Kerr wrote an article over on The Points Guy about using Etihad miles to get some pretty insanely good deals (transpacific first class redemption for only 96,000 miles roundtrip?!?). Although many of the first class bookings that were probably loopholes are now closed, there is still a lot of good value in the partner award chart, if you can decipher it!
Starwood / SPG adds Virgin America as a transfer partner
The 2nd newer transfer option is Starwood adding Virgin America as a transfer partner, at a ratio of 1:1. Virgin America has been in the news lately as they are now in the process of being acquired by Alaska Airlines.
The interesting thing about this addition is that typically Virgin America miles are not quite as valuable as other airline miles (for instance, American Express transfers to Virgin America at 1:2 (meaning 200 Membership Rewards becomes 100 Virgin America Elevate points). Since Starwood also gives a bonus of 5,000 points if you transfer in blocks of 20,000, this is essentially getting 1.25 Elevate points for each Starwood point, which on the surface seems like a good deal.
It CAN be a good deal, if you live on the west coast or near a city that Virgin America serves. Virgin America does have a fair number of good partners, but the one problem with that is they do charge pretty hefty fuel surcharges, which for me at least makes that a non-starter. View from the Wing has the lowdown on which partners might make sense (Singapore, Hawaiian Airlines)
And I would NOT speculatively transfer SPG points to Virgin America hoping to get double the Alaska miles – in my mind that’s way too risky and not worth doing. Save your SPG points for more valuable redemptions!