June 21, 2019
Both Chase and American Express give you the option to transfer points to partner airlines and hotels. Chase and AmEx each work with three hotel companies.
Chase transfer partners:
IHG Rewards Club
World of Hyatt
American Express transfer partners:
At Chase, all point transfers are on a 1:1 basis. This means one point at Chase equals one point at the partner hotel. At American Express, the Choice and Marriott programs transfer 1:1. Hilton, though, gives you 2 points for every 1 American Express point.
Moving points to airlines is usually much more valuable than transferring to hotels, as hotel points are usually worth less per point than airline miles. Most hotel points are worth around a half a cent to one cent each, according to The Points Guy's subjective valuations. Airline points are typically worth at least one cent each and can be worth even more when booking premium fares.
While transferring to hotels is usually a poor value, there is still a great way to use your points to cover hotel stays.
Booking through the point redemption portals
I recently had the chance to stay at several Millennium Hotels and Resorts properties as a guest of the brand's new MyMillennium rewards program, to learn about the program as it was launched. MyMillennium isn't a transfer partner of any credit card program — and has no plans to be anytime soon — but it got me thinking about how I can use my Chase points the next time I want to stay in one of the brand's hotels.
If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you get 1.5 cents per point when you book travel through Chase's online portal and pay with points. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you get 1.25 cents per point. The Ultimate Rewards system is powered by Expedia, so you can use your points at that rate to book any hotel you would be able to find on Expedia's website.
I found the Millennium Hotels to be very reasonably priced if booked with Ultimate Rewards. If I limited myself only to transfer partners, I wouldn't ever come across this deal for the first week of July at an average 17,851 points per night in the heart of London.
AmEx points don't give you as much value per point when booking through the rewards portal. You get just 0.75 to 0.85 cents per point when booking for hotels, according to The Points Guy. That is still more valuable than the typical transfer partner point, however, so you shouldn't completely eliminate this option.
Alternatively, you can pay money for a hotel stay, charge it to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and get points per dollar spent. This is what I often do when traveling, as I get the best value per point when using them for flights.
AmEx points are usually worth more toward flights than hotels, but if you were going to use those rewards points for a hotel anyway, going through the portal gives you a competitive value compared to transferring to partners. At Chase, you may even get a better deal booking through the portal than transferring.
Whether you are on your way to England, like I was, or anywhere else, it is worth looking at your other hotel options outside of the three transfer partners from each program. While they do offer a lot of options, many don't have the same charm and locations as smaller chains.
Millennium Hotels and Resorts has a partnership with Chelsea Football Club and owns two properties within walking distance of the stadium. In fact, one is literally in the stadium parking lot. For a big-time football fan, there is only one way to get that unique experience, and it doesn't come from a transfer partner.
With a redemption value of 1.5 cents per point, this five-star hotel becomes reasonable even if you don't normally travel on a five-star budget.
Do the math and shop around to find the best hotels and deals
On some occasions, the transfer partners may offer a good deal, but you shouldn't always limit yourself to that list. Before you book any hotel, it's a good idea to do the math and make sure you are getting a good deal for your points.
Sometimes, however, you might just find that perfect hotel while searching in the portal at Chase or American Express. If you find a great place to stay for your upcoming trip, you may be best off using points and clicking the button to book.