Why Your Point Transfers To Other Programs Take Certain Amounts Of Time

Last week, I wrote about retailer’s operations in both coupons and how their point of sales operate.

Today, I wanted to quickly discuss point transfers. There’s many programs that interface with each other. I’ll quickly discuss the “big 3” as they are all very similar in processing. When I say “they are all,” I mean hotels to airlines, credit cards to airlines or hotels, and other kinds of point transfers.

You can see this thread on FlyerTalk with the Wiki on how long the transfers take using your American Express Membership Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, And Starwood Preferred Guest

American Express


Before the Ultimate Rewards redesign, Chase told you that your Ultimate Rewards transfer would be done within 2 business days to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. Meanwhile, all the others are “instantaneous.”

All of the processing are obviously done in a batch process. Meaning at a certain interval a program will run and send whatever data is available to be sent to the respective consuming system. In addition, the consuming system needs to be willing and able to accept the incoming data for processing.

Instant Transfers

That being said, we’ll start with the “instant” transfers. They’re not quite as instant as you think. The intervals in which the processing, as an example, on the Chase side just means it is very frequent. We don’t know the timing, just that it is quick. Every 5 minutes? Every 15?

After Chase runs the process to ready sending the Ultimate Rewards, the other side needs to be ready to accept the file. How quickly do they process the incoming file? Is it based on receiving a file and instant processing? We’re not sure on that as well, however, we do know that they’re reasonably quick end to end, thus we call them instant.

From a processing stand point, it makes sense for the consuming file side to process immediately upon receiving the file.

Transfers That Take Longer

There have been recorded instances where someone transferring Starwood Preferred Guest points take a day and others take days. It is that reason why Chase used to say “up to 2 business days” for KrisFlyer and some will see the transfer happen on day 1 instead of day 2. Again, this is because of the batch processing. Instead of a more frequent interval, this is because there is a set day for the processing on the originating system.

Why is that? There are many reasons for having longer intervals before processing, but none that I am privy of. Therefore, I will postulate and explain my thinking. My top reason for an infrequent interval is information security. We have discrete systems and sending files over the Internet. Absolutely, this will be a secured connection transferring files. However, one side, likely the consuming, refuses to have the “door” opened 24/7/365 as that allows an entry point into their systems. If you can control when the “door” is opened for certain times, you will know what comes in or goes out.

I believe it is this reason for the technical difficulty between Korean Air and Chase on the point transfers and thus the removal. Korean Air may want a less frequent transfer, while Chase is imploring an instant transfer and they are negotiating the best terms for each other.


7 comments… add one
  • There are several programs where instant really does mean instant, Chase is ‘live’ with United and American Express is ‘live’ with Aeroplan and British Airways to name a few. The moment you hit the transfer button the points really are in your mileage account, you can set up an award on the phone with an agent, hit the transfer button online, and if the agent refreshes their screen they will see the points there. Amex and Chase do have the ability to directly post points into their partner accounts.

    Programs that batch process do so for a variety of reasons. One is that partners that aren’t as close aren’t given the IT security access. Some programs don’t have the technology in place to support live processing — you send over a file to the partner, maybe you email it to your contact, and then that person has to get around to uploading it into their system. In a few cases this is still done by actually sending over a tape.

  • Starwood intentionally chose slower processing with many of their partners years ago because of fraud — employee fraud, they were protecting themselves against employees stealing miles.

    I haven’t asked them whether the slow transfer times now years later is an inertia issue or remains intentional, although they’ve definitely sped up the frequency of batch transfers with some partners.

    • Thanks for the comments Gary! Just learned quite a bit, especially Starwood! I’ve been thinking about that, employee fraud – if an employee were to doctor a file and receive a large amount of points.

      For the “instantaneous” part – for the company I work in, we use an enterprise job scheduler and we have “file events” where if a file lands, in this example, a frequent flyer program, then the receiving side will process as soon as they come in.

  • Here is an extreme example of batch processing gone wrong….., a year ago I transferred SPG points to JAL in two batches of 40K each. The first request was on 30 December, the 2nd on 1 January. The first request took 4-5 days to process. The 2nd had not processed after three weeks, even multiple phone calls to both parties did not result in the miles showing up. Finally, in desperation, I emailed the FT SPG representative and pleaded for help. Four weeks after I initiated the second request, the 50K miles FINALLY appeared in my JAL account. But, the 40K SPG points were never taken out the second time:-)
    I consider the action of SPG to be appropriate to the egregiously long delay in crediting to JAL. I never did hear back from the FT SPG rep, so I couldn’t really respond personally to express my appreciation for their, what to me, was fair compensation for my transfer woes.

    • That is quite some time to receive the transfer! AMEX MR transfers to CX is up to 90 days (according to the FT thread)! In this day and age, crazy long time for you and for the CX transfer

  • FWIW I’ve found UR transfers to Hyatt and Southwest to be a true instant transfer as well.

    • I’ve transferred to Hyatt and United several times it’s taken up to 15 minutes to reflect into my account. It’s frustrated a number of customer service reps at Hyatt.


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