Pool your travel rewards points the smart way

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If you want to play it smart and pursue free travel with rewards credit cards, collecting as many rewards points as possible is the name of the game. More airline miles at your disposal could mean booking several free flights instead of one, for example. Meanwhile, more hotel points on-hand could allow you to book more free nights or rooms with upgraded amenities.

The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. If you’re looking to rack up more rewards than you can earn on your own, one of the best ways to go about it is to get your spouse, partner, or other family members in the game. Ask everyone to sign up for their own rewards cards, score a huge signup bonus or two, begin earning points on their regular spending and you’ll earn points at a much faster rate.

Before you implement a travel rewards strategy, however, let’s look at which loyalty programs allow cardholders to pool points with other people:

American Express Membership Rewards:
Transfer points to the frequent flyer programs of authorized users on your account.

Chase Ultimate Rewards:
Pool points with a family member living at the same address.

Citi ThankYou® Rewards:
Pool up to 100,000 points per year with rewards members, transferred points expire after 90 days if not used.

Hilton Honors:
Pool points with up to ten other members.

Marriott Rewards (and now Starwood Preferred Guest):
Share up to 50,000 points per year with any Marriott Loyalty Program Member provided both accounts are in good standing and have been open for at least 60 days.

World of Hyatt:
Pool points or share awards with any other World of Hyatt member.

How does points pooling work?

The ability to pool points can work in your favor in more ways than one. For starters, pooling your points in a single loyalty account can help you reach the number of points you need for a specific redemption (e.g. you and your spouse transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points into a single frequent flyer account so you have enough miles for an award flight).

Pooling points with a spouse or partner may also make it possible for you to have enough points to reach a specific promotion. For example, combine Hilton Honors points to get your 5th night free when booking four consecutive nights with points.

Finally, it’s possible to receive better value for your points when you pool them in an account with the most lucrative value proposition. If you have a Chase Freedom® card and your spouse has a Chase Sapphire Reserve®, for example, you could combine your points into their Reserve account to get 50% more travel when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

The best cards for pooling points

If you want to benefit from having more than one person racking up rewards in your family, it helps to focus on the best travel cards for the types of points you hope to accrue. Consider these options:

Best for hotels

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: This dynamic hotel credit card offers big rewards after you pay its $450 annual fee. Not only do you earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 on your card within four months of account opening, but you get a free weekend night each year, automatic Hilton Diamond status, a $250 annual airline credit, a $250 Hilton resort credit, and a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership.

World of Hyatt Credit Card: This hotel credit card offers up to 50,000 Bonus Points – 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening and an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening. Free nights start at 5,000 points, and you can pool your points with any World of Hyatt member for more free nights overall.

Best for flexible rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® to receive 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening. You can transfer points 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners or get 25% more travel when you use points to book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card also offers 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. In exchange for a $450 annual fee, you receive a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, and other travel benefits. You also have the ability to transfer points 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners, and you can get 50% more travel if you use points to book within the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Chase Freedom®: The Chase Freedom® is a smart card to pick up when it comes to pooling points since it lets you earn 5% cash back on your first $1,500 spent in categories that rotate each quarter. You also earn a $150 bonus after you sign up and use your card for $500 in purchases within three months of account opening. Pool your points in your or a household member’s Chase premier travel card account for superior travel benefits.

Watch out for pitfalls

While having more than one person earning rewards in your family is typically a good move, there are possible dangers to avoid. Here are some potential problems and rules to consider:

  • Be aware of expiring points. Many hotel and airline programs will let your points expire if you don’t earn or burn any rewards within 12 to 24 months. Also note that when you transfer Citi ThankYou® points to another person, the transferred points expire within 90 days if not used or transferred to an airline partner.
  • Watch out for annual fees. While having multiple family members earn rewards can help you rack up more points, the annual fees on multiple cards can add up.
  • Don’t spend more to earn more rewards. Make sure you and your family members aren’t spending more than you would normally just to earn more rewards.
  • Many transfers can’t be undone. Also remember that most point transfers are one-way. Make sure you are sure you want to transfer points to another person’s loyalty account before you pull the trigger.

Tips to make your points go further

Pooling points is a genius idea if you can work with a family member to rack up the points and miles needed for a family trip. Consider these strategies to earn even more points over time or to further stretch the points you earn.

Take advantage of signup bonuses

While earning points on your regular spending can help you earn plenty of free travel over time, the signup bonuses many cards offer can give your rewards efforts an instant boost. Make sure you and other family members earning rewards are considering the advantages of signing up for new cards to take advantage of large bonuses. Also note that both you and a spouse can sign up for the very same rewards card — even if you live at the same address.

Look for reduced rates and award “sales”

Keep your eyes open for special rewards programs that occasionally let you book travel with fewer points or miles. Southwest Airlines is well known for their frequent sales, and Delta Airlines offers recurring award sales that work with certain destinations and dates. Air France’s Flying Blue Promo Rewards program also makes it possible to fly around the globe for fewer miles than usual.

Utilize category bonuses

You can earn more points and miles over time if you take advantage of your rewards card’s bonus categories — or categories that award you with more than the standard number of points for each dollar you spend. Not all rewards credit cards offer bonus categories, but the ones that do make it easy to rack up more rewards over time if you can utilize them.

As an example, the Chase Freedom® offers 5% cash back on your first $1,500 spent in bonus categories that rotate each quarter, which can include things like groceries, gas, or Amazon.com purchases. If you were able to maximize these bonus categories, you could then pool your points in a Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Sapphire Reserve® account for transfers to airline and hotel partners.

Get a 5th night free

Pay special attention to hotel programs that offer 5th night free promotions such as Hilton Honors and Marriott Rewards. While it can cost a lot of points to book four consecutive nights with either hotel program, being able to pool points in these programs makes it considerably easier to reach these award thresholds.

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