If, for some reason, you find yourself with small amounts of miles across different mileage programs, you might be asking yourself whether there is a way to pool them into one of those accounts.
Similarly, if you have, let’s say 30,000 American Airlines miles and 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles, you might be wondering whether you can transfer your American Airlines miles into your Alaska Airlines account, so that you can afford a 70,000-mile first class award ticket from the US to Asia.
Unfortunately, transferring miles between different airline programs is generally not possible (with very few exceptions) or very expensive.
Are you interested in trying business or first class for the price of economy?
If so, you might want to check out Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank - a free guide that I put together detailing some of the ways I was able to do so - and experiment with some of the methods mentioned in it.
Directly Transferring Miles Between Airlines Is Generally Not Possible
As mentioned above, in general, you cannot directly transfer miles between different programs. In other words, you cannot take your Turkish Airlines miles and turn them into – let’s say – Alitalia miles.
Now, you might be asking whether that’s the case even if the two airlines you want to transfer miles between belong to the same alliance.
Unfortunately, the answer is yes – miles cannot be transferred between airlines even when they are members of the same alliance. And so, you can not only transfer miles between Turkish Airlines which is a Star Alliance member and Alitalia which is a SkyTeam member, but you cannot transfer them between Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines – both Star Alliance members – either.
The one exception to the above is Avios which is a mileage currency used by British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and some other airlines. In that case, you can transfer miles at a 1:1 ratio between your British Airways, Iberia, and “general” Avios account.
That is quite useful as each of those programs – in spite of sharing a currency – use a different award chart.
In either case, though, the takeaway is that for all practical purposes you cannot move miles between different airlines and programs. And so, you should do some strategizing before deciding where to credit miles for the flights you take – and you shouldn’t spread the miles across too many accounts.
Transferring Miles Between Programs Using Points.com
While (other than in the case of Avios) it is not possible to transfer miles between different programs directly, there is one option that lets you transfer miles between a limited selection of different programs – Points.com.
The programs that it allows you to transfer (or as they call it “exchange”) miles between include – among others – Aeroplan, HawaiianMiles, and JetBlue True Blue.
In addition to the very limited selection of programs that you can transfer miles between, though, the other downside of the platform is the extremely high cost. Even though it costs nothing in cash to exchange miles between the different programs, the exchange rate itself is bad, to say the least.
Just as an example, you need as much as 15,000 Aeroplan miles to get a little more than 6,000 HawaiianMiles.
Transferring Miles Between Programs Through a Third-Party
The last option to transfer miles between two different programs is to use a third program (like a hotel rewards program) as the intermediary – to do the transfer in two steps.
Just like with using Points.com, though, it’s not something that’s practical.
Not only is the process fairly complicated and can take a long time, but the choice of airline pairs you can transfer the points between is very limited and the exchange rates are generally bad as well.
One example of this method would be using Hilton Honors program to convert Virgin Atlantic and Hawaiian Airlines miles to other program’s miles.
It would first involve changing either of the two into Hilton Honors points, and then changing those into one of Hilton’s airline partners’ (such as British Airways, Lufthansa, or Delta Air Lines) miles.
Collecting Transferable Points Instead of Miles
When earning miles through flying, unfortunately, you are bound by all of the things mentioned above. However, when it comes to earning miles through other means – mainly through credit cards – the situation is a bit better.
The reason is that with some credit cards, rather than earning the airline miles themselves, you can earn transferable points.
To do so, you have to be careful about which credit card you choose, though.
For example, if you get a British Airways-branded credit card, you will still earn British Airways miles only. But, if you get a Hilton credit card, you will earn Hilton Honors points that you can then transfer to dozens of airline mileage programs depending on the award ticket that you want to book.
Similarly, if you get a “non-co-branded” American Express and earn Membership Rewards points, you will be able to transfer them to a variety of different mileage programs.
The actual opportunities vary greatly depending on the country you live in, though, and so, you will have to do a bit of research if you are interested in pursuing this method.
Unfortunately – but understandably – airlines do not allow for miles to be directly transferred from their programs to other programs with Avios being the exception to the rule.
And, while you can transfer miles between some airline pairs using Points.com or an intermediary program, those options are not very useful given the limited choice of programs you can transfer the miles to and from and the very high cost of transferring (in the form bad exchange rate).
As such, for all practical purposes, you should not rely on being able to transfer your miles from one program to another. Instead, you should pick the program you credit your miles to carefully.
That said, also keep in mind that you do not necessarily have to book an award ticket using the airline’s program. And so, if you have enough of them, you can – for example – book a Singapore Airlines ticket using one of its Star Alliance partners’ miles.