Let’s travel together.

Family points pooling: How to transfer and maximize your rewards

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Let’s face it: Families are at a disadvantage when it comes to award travel. They have to earn more points for more people and struggle to find multiple award seats on the same flight. When booking hotels, things aren’t any better either since you need to search for hotel awards that can house enough people in enough beds.

However, families (and even couples) can leverage “two-player mode” to apply for twice as many rewards, credit card bonuses and promotions — and perhaps earn some referral bonuses along the way.

Of course, having points spread across multiple accounts makes them harder to use. So, the ideal scenario is one where two people can earn rewards and then combine them into a single account for the family.

Get to that next vacation sooner. SHELBY SOBLICK/THE POINTS GUY

The policies on points pooling vary widely by loyalty program. Some offer generous family-friendly pooling terms. Others nickel-and-dime you on the transfer so much that it probably isn’t worth moving the miles around.

We’ll review the different points pooling policies and which ones are best for families.

For each of these programs, we’ll address three critical points:

  • Whether points pooling is allowed at all
  • What, if any, costs are associated with the programs
  • Who is allowed to combine points

Should you pool your reward points?

Pooling points is when you can combine points between members — or simply transfer points from one member’s account to another — for free. There are many benefits to pooling your points, and many times, this will allow you to redeem for a hotel room or airline flight that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to book.

For example, let’s say you are a family of four. You and your partner each have 40,000 miles, and your two kids have only 10,000 miles each.

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If there’s a flight you’re looking to book that costs 25,000 miles each round-trip, you and your partner could separately book the flight; however, no account would have enough miles to book each of your children’s tickets.

While you can many times share points between members, that comes at a cost, and it’s often not worth it. By pooling your points together, you’d end up with 100,000 miles total across the four accounts in this scenario — making it incredibly easy to book all four passengers on an award flight at 25,000 miles each.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The three main cards that earn transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points are the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. These cards earn points that you can transfer to hotel and airline partners such as United Airlines, Hyatt, British Airways, JetBlue, Marriott and Southwest Airlines, among other options.

There are two ways to share Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can move them into someone’s Ultimate Rewards account or transfer them directly to their hotel or airline loyalty account (with lots of caveats).

To combine points into a household member’s Ultimate Rewards account, go to the “Rewards details” drop-down menu within the Chase Ultimate Rewards site. You’ll see an option to combine points. Click “Combine points” to transfer points between your own Ultimate Rewards accounts or to someone else.

Combine Chase points. CHASE

Chase lets you transfer points to one “member of your household” or “owner of the company.” You will need their last name and credit card number. As with most Ultimate Rewards transfers, these types of transfers should process instantly. There are no fees associated with pooling Ultimate Rewards points.

While this generous policy sounds like it’s very easy to abuse, Chase includes a warning (emphasis mine):

You can move your points, but only to another Chase card with Ultimate Rewards belonging to you or one member of your household or owner of the company, as applicable. If we suspect or believe you’ve engaged in misuse, or fraudulent activity related to your credit card account or Ultimate Rewards (for example, by: buying or selling points, moving or transferring points to an ineligible third party or account, repeatedly opening or otherwise maintaining credit card accounts for the purpose of generating rewards or manufacturing spend), then we may temporarily prohibit you from earning points or using points you’ve already earned or close your credit card account.

You can also transfer points directly to a household member’s hotel or airline account, provided they are an authorized user on your Chase card account.

Related: How (and why) to combine your Chase Ultimate Rewards points into a single account

Transfer Chase points to a partner program. CHASE

Chase Ultimate Rewards business cards

The terms for points transfers from a Chase Ink Business card are slightly different. You are allowed to transfer points to other owners of the business. Chase has been known to shut down accounts for offenses less serious than gaming the points transfer system, so I would tread carefully here and follow the rules to the letter.

What if you’re in a questionable situation, such as transferring points to someone with a different last name (whom you aren’t legally married to) or someone with a different billing address than yours? In this case, you should call Chase first and double-check that the transfer you’re making is within the program’s terms.

Related: How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express is one of the more restrictive issuers because it doesn’t permit the transfer of Membership Rewards points between accounts. Amex also doesn’t allow you to transfer your points to a partner program in someone else’s name.

However, there’s one exception. If you have an authorized user — such as your spouse or a family member — on your Amex Membership Rewards-earning card, you can transfer your points to their frequent flyer accounts. The one caveat is that they must be an authorized user for at least 90 days before you can link their account and transfer the points.

Transfer your points to partner programs. AMERICAN EXPRESS

Note that this option isn’t limited to families; you can do it for any authorized user on your account. Just remember that if you give them the physical card, you will be held responsible for any charges they make.

Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

Citi ThankYou Rewards

In some ways, Citi has the most generous rules when it comes to pooling ThankYou points, though there are a few significant restrictions to be aware of. If you have a card such as the Citi Premier® Card (see rates and fees), the process is straightforward. Points can be shared right from your Citi ThankYou Rewards account under “More Ways to Redeem.”

Share your Citi ThankYou Rewards points. CITI

Citi doesn’t limit you to only sharing points with family members. You can share with anyone you’d like as long as they have a Citi ThankYou account and you can provide their information (name and account number).

Before you begin sharing ThankYou Points, it’s important to know that you can only share a maximum of 100,000 points a year. You can also only receive up to 100,000 points a year — in total — from others.

Even more important: Points are only valid for 90 days after they are received. This has a few important implications. First of all, if you’re trying to fly long-haul first class with your special someone, the 100,000-point limit might make it hard to do so. Secondly, you should only combine points once you’ve already found award space and are ready to book your trip.

That 90-day expiration window is restrictive, and it would be a real shame to lose your points just because you transferred them too soon. You also can’t go ahead and share those points received with someone else to extend the expiration window.

Related: Best ways to redeem Citi ThankYou points

Capital One miles

Capital One makes it incredibly easy to share miles with other Capital One cardholders with hardly any stipulations. Miles can be transferred to anyone — they don’t have to live in the same household or even be a family member. There’s no maximum number of miles that can be transferred. Because of this, you can book your family those award travel sweet spots as quickly as possible.

To transfer miles to another person’s account, you currently need to call Capital One. However, if you’re looking to transfer miles between your own accounts, you can do this online.

Share miles between friends and family members. CAPITAL ONE

Related: Ultimate guide to Capital One airline and hotel transfer partners: How to maximize your miles

Pooling hotel points

Families might be interested in pooling hotel points for several reasons. Perhaps only one parent has elite status with the hotel but the entire family wants to enjoy a room upgrade and complimentary breakfast. Or, maybe you are trying to take advantage of a fourth- or fifth-night-free benefit and need to book all the nights from one central account.

Marriott Bonvoy

Suppose you’ve recently opened a new Marriott Bonvoy credit card. In that case, you might be especially interested in pooling your welcome bonus points with a family member to book a longer or more luxurious trip. The good news is you can transfer Marriott points between accounts without a fee.

Pool Marriott points to take that trip to the Maldives. ETHAN STEINBERG/THE POINTS GUY

Every Marriott Bonvoy member can transfer up to 100,000 points and receive up to a maximum of 500,000 points per calendar year. Fortunately, points typically transfer instantly and can be done online.

Transfer Marriott points to another Marriott Bonvoy account. MARRIOTT

Related: New lucrative Marriott welcome offers: Earn 185,000 points with the Bonvoy Brilliant

World of Hyatt

Hyatt goes a step above the competition, allowing members to share not just points but also perks.

You can share points at no cost with any World of Hyatt member, not just someone in your family. If you want to share points, you’ll need to have both the sender and receiver fill out this form (PDF link).

Points can take up to 30 days to transfer between accounts, but in my experience, transfers happen in just a few days.

Pool those Hyatt points to get away faster. HYATT

You are only allowed to participate in a points-sharing transaction once every 30 days — and, based on personal experience, they hold you to it. There is also no annual limit on the total number of points that can be combined.

Those with Hyatt Globalist status can even share Guest of Honor awards with friends and family members. These awards can be earned as part of Hyatt’s Milestone Rewards, where a member can earn up to 10 Guest of Honor awards per membership year, starting at 40 nights.

This allows a friend or family member to receive all the Globalist perks, such as free breakfast and room upgrades, for their stay (up to a seven-night stay).

Free room service breakfast at the Park Hyatt Vienna thanks to Hyatt Globalist status. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Since Hyatt makes it easy to share points, the World of Hyatt Credit Card could be a good choice for couples looking to pool their points.

Related: How to give (or receive) top-tier Globalist perks with World of Hyatt’s Guest of Honor awards

Hilton Honors

While many programs seem to offer points pooling as an accommodation or one-off benefit, Hilton’s points pooling feature is designed to make your booking experience easier. You can start a “pool” with up to 10 other members (for a maximum of 11 people in the group).

Hilton Honors members can contribute up to 500,000 points to the pool, and an individual member can receive a maximum of 2 million points a year through pooling.

The family-friendly Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort on Oahu in Hawaii. HILTON

You can then redeem Hilton points for room rates, shopping, experiences or Points & Money bookings. Note that an individual member is limited to making six transfers to other members’ accounts and six Hilton points pooling transactions per calendar year.

If you need more Hilton points, check out the best Hilton credit cards to help you make your next big Hilton redemption.

IHG One Rewards

IHG One Rewards is dead last among the major hotel chains when it comes to sharing and pooling points — though the program has made some positive enhancements more recently.

If you are an IHG One Rewards Diamond Elite member or belong to IHG’s Business Rewards program, you can transfer up to 500,000 points per calendar year with no transfer fees. Points can be transferred in increments of 1,000 points, although the account needs to be at least 30 days old.

You can earn Diamond Elite status by spending $40,000 or more in purchases during the calendar year on the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card or the IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card. Or, you can become a Business Rewards member, which is typically a fairly easy process.

Transferring points can be extremely beneficial if you’re looking to buy IHG points during a promotional sale or if both you and your partner have earned points from the IHG cobranded credit cards. One of the best benefits of all IHG credit cards is that when using points, you’ll receive your fourth night free. This makes it essential to book your stay from the credit card holder’s account.

However, if you do not fall into one of these two buckets, you’ll have to pay a fee of $5 per 1,000 points transferred to another member — an unexpected expense to planning your trip.

For example, if you want to send someone 70,000 points to book a night, you’d have to pay $350 to do so. Typically, you’ll find that the cost does not make sense and you might as well save your points and book the entire stay with cash. During points sales, you can often buy IHG points for around the same cost as sharing them.

Related: Now you can transfer IHG points to others for free: Here’s how

Pooling airline miles

TPG has previously covered more than two dozen airlines with the most generous family points pooling programs.

While JetBlue has always been an excellent option for many families with its free pooling for up to seven people, United Airlines just joined the ranks as well by introducing its extremely favorable MileagePlus miles pooling program. With this program, you can create a pool with up to five friends or family members (including the pool leader). Members can then contribute the exact number of miles required to book their next award trip (only available on United-operated flights), making it a great option for families or even groups of friends.

Pool your JetBlue points. JETBLUE

The only other U.S. airlines that allow fee transfers for pooling include Frontier Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. However, you must have their respective credit cards, such as the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® or the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®. Alternatively, Frontier also allows you to start a family pool if you’ve earned at least Elite Silver status with the program.

The information for the Frontier and Hawaiian cards have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Noticeably absent from the points pooling landscape are two domestic legacy carriers — American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Both airlines allow the sharing of miles but with a transfer fee. Southwest is similar; however, if you have the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, you’ll be reimbursed for up to $500 in transfer fees.

Related: Southwest Performance vs. Premier: Which Southwest business credit card is right for you?

Each of these major U.S. airlines uses a tiered pricing chart for points transfers. Let’s look at a few examples to compare.

Cost to transfer 1,000 miles Cost to transfer 10,000 miles Cost to transfer 30,000 miles Minimum/maximum transfer amount Processing fee
American Airlines $5 $50 $150

1,000/200,000 per year: You can’t send or receive more than 200,000 miles total

N/A
Delta Air Lines $10 $100  $300

1,000/30,000 per transaction

Maximum of 300,000 miles received per year; maximum of 150,000 miles transferred

$30
Southwest Airlines $20 for a minimum of 2,000 points $100 $300

2,000/60,000 per day (there’s no annual cap)

N/A

While there’s something to be said for a rapid transfer to book the award you want, paying several hundred dollars to get it might entirely wipe out the value of your award. If you’re not in a rush, you should look into buying miles instead or see if you have time to sign up for a new credit card and earn the welcome bonus.

Alternatively, you could potentially book the award you want from an account that has sufficient miles. With the major U.S. airline programs, you can book award tickets for anyone, including family members and friends.

Once you look outside the U.S., the options for pooling miles grow fairly quickly. International airlines with free family pooling include Air Canada, British Airways, Etihad Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines. It’s also easy to top off your balances with these programs with transferable points.

WESTEND61/GETTY IMAGES

Bottom line

Having multiple family members apply for travel rewards credit cards to maximize perks and points can be a great strategy to fast-track your next family vacation.

However, if the points are stuck in separate accounts, the actual booking process can turn into a bit of a nightmare. Targeting programs that allow family pooling and free sharing can be an easy way to overcome this obstacle and get your whole crew on the road with less hassle.

For more points and miles resources for families, read:



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