|by Jason Steele|
Star Alliance miles have gotten more valuable lately for travel to Europe and the Middle East. With OneWorld and SkyTeam, you are limited to a single domestic airline, American and Delta respectively. With Star Alliance, you currently have three domestic partners, Continental, United, and US Airways. Although Continental and United are merging, they are currently operating separate frequent flier programs. The cool thing is that you can currently transfer miles between the two programs any time you want. With miles in either of these programs, you can book transatlantic award travel on United, Continental, US Airways, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Austrian, Swiss and others.
How To Get The Most Continental/United Miles
You could apply for a United card, or a Continental card. They are both offered by Chase, and they both currently feature a 30,000 mile sign up bonus. The real deal is with Chase’s Sapphire Preferred card. They are currently offering 50,000 points and a $50 statement credit as a sign-up bonus. One of the lesser known features of the Sapphire Preferred card is that you can transfer miles to a very limited number of airlines, but Continental is one of them. The only other airline where you can transfer your Chase points to is British Airways, at least as far as I know (I don’t have this card at the moment). It is very odd, but they don’t publish a list of transfer partners the way other programs do.
Be Careful With Chase
Chase is getting to be a real giant in the credit card business. As you can see, they are the credit card partners for both United and Continental, as well as British Airways in the US market. Add Southwest and even Amtrak and you can see how big they are in the travel card market. Throw in the majority of major hotel chains like Hyatt, Marriott, and Priority Club (Intercontinental Hotels Group), and they seem to command about half of the credit cards off all the major travel loyalty programs in the United States. The problem here is that they do not like it when you apply for many credit cards in too short of a period. Some people report a limit of one application every six months, while others say that is not necessarily the case. Either way, they are the only bank to ever turn me down for a credit card. Back when the British Airways 100,000 sign up bonus was introduced for the first time, I applied for it shortly after receiving a Southwest card. As someone who pays all his bills on time and in full, I was shocked at the denial. I have very little debt and a high credit score, but that didn’t seem to matter, only the fact that they had recently given me another card. Thankfully, I was instantly accepted the next time the 100,000 mile offer came up. Heck, if the 50,000 point bonus is still around later this year, I might try to get the Preferred card to top off my UA/CO balances or to boost my BA miles even further.
In the game of reward credit cards, the real value is often in the transfers between partners. Chase has an almost hidden transfer option between the Sapphire Preferred product and the Continental and British Airways programs. If you can learn all you can about which programs transfer to which airlines, you can maximize your reward opportunities through sign up bonuses and reward card spending.