• Aditya Bagaria

What are points?

You may have heard of people traveling for free. Business class, the presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton, and much more. But how do ordinary people like you and I afford such luxury. The answer: frequent flier points. This is not about airline status; it is about using your points to buy a plane ticket. And hey, you get the EXACT same treatment. Points are a form of currency. While it is not legal tender, it can bring about free trips to you and your family. There are two points of this “currency”: transferable points and specific points. We will go into more detail in the next section!


So, what are transferable points? These are points usually earned through a credit card program. A few prevalent programs include the American Express Membership Rewards Program and the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. These points can be transferred to an airline or hotel program. More on that in a later guide. When you transfer these points into a specific program, they become specific points-tied to that specific program. For example, one major partner of American Express is Delta Airlines. When I have Membership Rewards, I can transfer these points to the Delta SkyMiles program. From there, I can redeem those miles on Delta flights AND their partners such as Virgin Atlantic. Often, this is the CHEAPEST way to get free flights. There are times when using the American Express travel portal is cheaper; this is a one-off situation. Let us say you are booking a trip on Delta Airlines that costs $400 in cash. The American Express Travel Portal will quote the flight at 40,000 Membership Rewards points. Checking the Delta website, you see that the same exact itinerary is 12,500 Delta SkyMiles. Since Membership Rewards transfer into a 1:1 ratio to Delta SkyMiles, you essentially bought the ticket for $125. You earned those points through everyday spending at places such as the grocery store. You did not pay any “fees” or “money” for those points. That is an EXTRA 27,500 Membership Rewards points that you could redeem for cash, gift cards, or another plane ticket. While this may seem simple, there are many intricacies within each program that you can get the most bang for your buck. Each bank has their own transfer partners. For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards cannot be transferred to Delta SkyMiles. We will talk about transfer partners in a future post!


These are points that are tied to airlines or hotels. For example, the Delta SkyMiles program or the Avianca LifeMiles program. While we want to redeem points through these programs, you should focus on earning transferable points for the flexibility. Yet, this is multi-layered – airlines have many partners due to alliances. For example, Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance. You can use points from the United MileagePlus program to book flights on Lufthansa and vice-versa. This is something we will go more in-depth in the future. On to the next!