1. There are 4 main transferable point currencies: American Express's Membership Rewards(MR), Chase's Ultimate Rewards(UR), Citi's Thankyou (TY)points and SPG's Starpoints.
2. For the most part each rewards program can be transferred to exclusive partners. MR can be transferred to Choice Hotels, Hilton and SPG as well as 17 airlines. UR can be transferred to Hyatt, IHG, Marriott/Ritz-Carlton/SPG(via Marriott transfer) and 7 airlines. TY points can be transferred to Hilton and 13 airlines. Starpoints can be transferred to Marriott, and 30 airlines.
3. Point's value vary among these 4 currencies. MR, UR and Starpoints tend to be more valuable than Citi's Thankyou points. However, depending on your situation, maybe TY points can be of great value.
4. Getting the most value. The best use of MR is to transfer them to airlines for travel to Europe and Asia. UR are great for hotel transfer especially to Hyatt and Marriott. In general, transferring to Southwest, KoreanAir, United and British Airways (for short domestic trips only) results in the highest value. TY points are the least valuable of transferable points. It might be possible to get some value by transferring to AA, and maybe Etihad. Quite frankly, I would stay away from this loyalty currency. Starpoints can be great when combined with cash for stays at top hotels. Transferring 20,000 points to one of the 30 partner airlines yields an additional 5,000 points. On the downside, Starpoints can be hard to get.
5. Credit card Signup bonuses are the single best way to amass large amounts of points rather than high spending or in the case of SPG, staying lots of nights at hotels.
6. Things that rarely make sense to use your points for. A. Gift cards, unless you're getting more than 2 cents per point. B. Most kinds of merchandise or using points to pay on Amazon. C. Most "experiences" payable with points. D. We can't forget statement credits! This is especially true when dealing with Amex or Citi which might give you less than 1 cent per point!
7. To see if you are getting a good value for instance, more than 3 cents per point just divide the cost of the flight or the hotel nightly rate by the number of points. For instance, a stay at a top Hyatt hotel can cost $1,000 or 30,000 points. In that case $1,000/30,000*100 = 3.33 cents per point. The best return on cash back would be 2 cents per point. When transferring points to airlines the best value will almost always be in premium redemptions. Business or first class to Europe, Asia and South America come to mind. Last minute flights if there is award space can also generate a great return. The exception would be airlines like JetBlue which peg the points needed to the cost of the ticket.