American Express Membership Rewards points are a valuable addition to any traveler's wallet. There are numerous credit cards that earn these points, and American Express has lined up several popular airline and hotel transfer partners with which you can redeem your points as well.
That means when you’re booking plane tickets, you have options to find the best possible airfare redemption. So let’s take a deeper look at the kinds of airfare redemptions you can get with your Membership Rewards.
Transfer Amex Membership Rewards to airlines
One of the best options for redeeming your American Express Membership Rewards points is to transfer them to one of Amex’s airline and hotel partners. American Express has 19 airline and three hotel transfer partners to choose from.
The 19 airline loyalty programs you can transfer to offer great value for your points. Booking Economy tickets may be a good value depending upon the cash price of the ticket. However, when booking business or first class, you are often able to get incredible value for your rewards. We'll talk about some awesome redemption ideas further down this article.
Which airlines can you transfer Amex points to?
Although many programs transfer at a 1:1 ratio, with a minimum transfer amount of 1,000 points, that is not the case for all partners. Here is a chart showing all the available airline transfer partners and the transfer ratios for each program.
|Airline||Loyalty Program||Transfer Ratio|
|Air France KLM||Flying Blue||1000:1000|
|All Nippon Airways||ANA Mileage Club||1000:1000|
|British Airways||Executive Club||1000:1000|
|Cathay Pacific||Asia Miles||1000:1000|
|Delta Air Lines||SkyMiles||1000:1000|
|El Al||Matmid Frequent Flyer Club||1000:20|
|Etihad||Etihad Guest Miles||1000:1000|
|Virgin Atlantic||Flying Club||1000:1000|
Transfer bonuses provide extra value
From time to time, American Express partners with airlines to offer transfer bonuses. These bonuses are a great way to get even more value out of your Membership Rewards.
For example, American Express has had transfer bonus offers available with JetBlue and Qantas. With JetBlue, you received an extra 25% TrueBlue points with your transfer (250 points instead of 200 when transferring 250 Membership Rewards). Qantas offered an extra 20% points by giving you 600 instead of 500 for every 500 American Express points you transferred.
Although these bonuses may seem like a great deal, you shouldn't transfer to these airline partners unless you are planning to book a flight. It is better to retain the flexibility of your Membership Rewards points by keeping them in your American Express account until it’s time to move on a redemption. This also helps you to avoid any potential points devaluations that an airline might put into effect.
The cost to transfer Amex Membership Rewards
Unlike Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points, there is a small charge when you transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to a partner. The fee is called an excise tax offset fee and is $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99).
For example, if you were to transfer 10,000 points from Amex to Delta SkyMiles, the fee for this transfer would be $6 (10,000 x .0006 = $6.00). To hit the maximum fee of $99, you would need to transfer 165,000 Membership Rewards points.
How to conduct a search to find great flight deals
Because there are 19 different airline transfer partners, you would spend a lot of time if you searched each one individually for deals. Instead, you are better off searching by airline alliance so you can search in groups. The three major alliances are SkyTeam, Star Alliance, and oneworld.
The best place to search for SkyTeam award space is the KLM website. To search for Star Alliance award space, use Air Canada's Aeroplan website. And for oneworld award redemptions, go to Qantas.
Because points transfers cannot be reversed, always check the price in points through Amex Travel before transferring Membership Rewards points to a partner airline. You may be better off paying for the flight using Pay with Points and earning miles, segments, and elite qualifying dollars instead of redeeming for an award ticket.
There are paid services that also make the process a bit easier. Juicy Miles offers a five-day pass for $9.99 or monthly service for $29.99. With this service, you can search for flights and it will tell you how many points it will take to book the flight.
Alternatively, you can use an award-booking service in which it books your award flights for you for a small fee. Its expertise is worth the expense if it can save you points or fuel surcharges versus what you can find on your own.
Examples of killer flight deals on partner airlines
To give you something to aim for when redeeming your American Express Membership Rewards points, here are a few examples of what you can do.
Hawaii on United for 35,000 points round trip
Although United Airlines is not a transfer partner of American Express, it's alliance partner Singapore Airlines is. That means you can book a flight from anywhere in the continental U.S. to Hawaii for only 35,000 points in economy. If you want to fly Business Class, you’ll need to transfer 60,000 points to Singapore Airlines.
Singapore Airlines suites for 85,000 points
Transfer 85,000 points to Singapore Airlines Kris Flyer to book first class from Singapore to Sydney and vice versa. The Singapore Suites are one of the most ultra-luxury ways to fly using points.
Delta One Business Class to Amsterdam for 50,000 points
Delta is a transfer partner of Membership Rewards, but you can find an even better deal by using one of its SkyTeam partners. Virgin Atlantic often sells flights on Delta Airlines for less points than what Delta sells them for. For example, you can book a one-way flight on Delta One Business Class from Detroit to Amsterdam for only 50,000 points.
The same flight using Delta SkyMiles would cost 80,000 miles.
Round-trip flights from North America to Japan for 40,000 points
When you transfer points to All Nippon Airways, you can book a roundtrip economy flight from the U.S. during the off-season for only 40,000 Membership Rewards points. Flight prices can rise up to 55,000 points roundtrip during peak season, which is still a bargain.
Business-class flights are approximately double with flights starting at 75,000 points roundtrip.
Los Angeles to Tahiti for 51,000 miles roundtrip
Air France and KLM are the airlines that have partnered to create Flying Blue. With Flying Blue, you can book Economy flights to Tahiti from Los Angeles for as few as 51,000 miles round trip.
Business class flights are also available but at a higher price point. I found a business class flight for only 147,000 miles round trip.
Book travel through Amex travel portal
Booking travel through Amex Travel is pretty simple. Go to Amextravel.com and search for your flights. When it comes time to pay, you can use your Membership Rewards points. If you don't have enough points (or want to save some for later), you can also pay using a combination of points and cash.
When booking your flight through Amex Travel, your points are worth 1 cent each. So, a $100 flight will cost 10,000 Membership Rewards points. The prices you'll find through the Amex Travel portal are competitive with what you'll find on airline websites and online travel agencies.
Keep in mind that redemption values for booking through Amex Travel are fixed. You will not receive additional value out of your points booking this way. To get more value, your best option is to transfer to one of the American Express airline transfer partners. But you should always look at all your booking options and run the math on each if you’re truly after the best value.
Bid on flight upgrades
In May 2019, American Express launched its Upgrade with Points program. There are 21 airlines that allow travelers to bid on potential upgrades using points or a combination of points and cash.
To upgrade your flight, you'll first need to enter your confirmation number with a participating airline to verify that your flight is eligible. If it is, you can bid for an upgrade with your Membership Rewards valued at only 1 cent per point. The website shows a minimum bid amount and tells you whether you have a fair, good, or excellent chance of winning based on your bid. For round-trip tickets, you can choose to upgrade departure flights, return flights, or both.
It is also possible to pay using a combination of points and cash. However, there is a minimum point redemption required so you cannot get close to paying for the upgrade 100% in cash.
You'll find out whether your bid was accepted within five days of your flight departure. If your flight is booked far in advance, it may be awhile before you receive a decision. With points valued at just 1 cent per point, you may be better off saving your points for award redemptions with partner airlines versus bidding on upgrades.
How to earn Amex points
American Express makes it easy to earn Membership Rewards points across its portfolio of consumer and small business credit cards. With so many of the best travel credit card options, there is at least one that will fit your style. Here are a few of my favorite rewards cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points.
|Card name||Welcome bonus||Rewards rate||Annual fee|
|American Express® Gold Card||Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of card membership||4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases||$250 (Terms apply)|
|Amex EveryDay® Credit Card||Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards Points after making $2,000 in purchases in the first 6 months||2X points per dollar (on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year, after that 1X), and 1X on all other eligible purchases||$0 (Terms apply)|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months||5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases||$695 (Terms apply)|
|The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express||Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months||2X Membership Rewards points on everyday eligible business purchases up to $50,000 each year, and 1X points on eligible purchases after that||$0 (Terms apply)|
|American Express® Business Gold Card||Earn 70,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months||4X Membership Rewards points for the first $150,000 spent in two select categories each year (after that 1X), and 1 point per $1 spent on other eligible purchases||$295 (Terms apply)|
All information about Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by FinanceBuzz.
American Express Gold Card
The Amex Gold Card is a great all-around rewards card for families and people on the go. In addition to offering you a great welcome bonus and easy rewards on your spending, the Gold Card saves you money by giving you $120 in annual dining credits and perks from The Hotel Collection. Enrollment is required for select benefits.
Amex EveryDay Credit Card
For consumers who want to earn Membership Rewards points without paying an annual fee, the Amex EveryDay Credit Card is for you. On top of its regular rewards rate, you’ll also receive a 20% bonus on points earned when you complete 20 or more transactions in a billing period. That makes this a valuable everyday card to have in your wallet.
Check out our full Amex EveryDay Credit Card review.
The Platinum Card from American Express
For frequent travelers, it is hard to beat the benefits of The Platinum Card from American Express. On top of the welcome bonus and spending rewards, there are a couple of valuable annual credits that come with this card, including $200 for Uber and $100 for Saks Fifth Avenue.
Plus, you and all authorized users receive reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and gain access to more than 1,200 airport lounges. These include American Express' Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass Select, and other lounge networks. You'll also enjoy complimentary Gold status with both Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors hotel loyalty programs, and benefits from Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection. Select benefits do require enrollment.
Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express
The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a great small business card for all-around spending and is part of the Amex Trifecta you may have heard about. It not only can earn you plenty of rewards but those rewards can be pooled together with the points you earn on your personal American Express credit cards.
In addition to the $0 annual fee, the card offers a 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases, then 18.24% to 26.24% (variable).
Check out our full Amex Blue Business Plus Credit Card review.
American Express Business Gold Card
With the American Express Business Gold Card, you'll earn bonus points on the two categories in which your business spends the most each billing cycle. The categories include airfare, advertising, gas, dining, shipping, and technology. And as a holder of this card, when you book airfare using Pay with Points through Amex Travel, you'll receive 25% of your points back. You can receive up to a maximum of 250,000 points through this benefit. There is an annual fee for this card, but there is no charge for additional credit cards for employees.
FAQs on Amex Membership Rewards Points
What are Amex points worth?
The value of your American Express Membership Rewards points vary based on how you redeem them. On average, these points are worth 2 cents per point. This valuation factors in the ability to redeem points for premium flights via partner transfer. Those redemptions are often a much higher value than the 1 cent per point received when booking flights with Amex Travel.
However, how much your points are worth can also go as low as 0.7 cents per point if you redeem for purchases at Amazon.com and other retailers. You can also cover your credit card charges with your points, but that redemption is worth only 0.6 cents per point. Because the values received are so low, these types of redemptions should be avoided as much as possible.
Can you transfer your Membership Rewards to another person?
No. You may not transfer your Membership Rewards points to someone else. All your transfers should be to airline or hotel loyalty accounts in your own name. The one exception to this rule is that authorized users may transfer Membership Rewards to their airline and hotel loyalty accounts. Be careful though, as authorized users can make purchases to your account and you'll be held liable for those charges, so be mindful of whom you give access to your credit card.
Can you transfer your Membership Rewards between Amex cards?
Yes. When your credit card accounts are linked together, your Membership Rewards will automatically pool into a single account. This is true even if your credit cards are a mixture of personal and small business credit cards.
If I close my account, will I lose my Membership Rewards points?
If you only have one credit card that earns Membership Rewards points, you could lose your points when closing the account. If you are closing an account because of the annual fee, consider downgrading to a no-annual-fee credit card that earns Membership Rewards instead.
When closing your Membership Rewards account, you'll have up to 90 days to use the points. Some of the highest-value options are to book travel through Amex Travel or transfer points to one of the 19 airline or three hotel transfer partners. For people who have multiple credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points, you may close any of the cards without forfeiting your points as long as one of those cards remains open.
Can you transfer points to American Express?
No. Points may be transferred from American Express to airline and hotel transfer partners, but you may not transfer into Membership Rewards from any other programs.
You have several options available to you when booking flights with your American Express Membership Rewards points. Flights can be booked through Amex Travel at a value of 1 cent per point; you can transfer to one of the many airline transfer partners for a potentially higher value; or you can upgrade your eligible flight using points.
To earn more Membership Rewards points for these redemptions, there are nearly a dozen American Express rewards cards available. Each has specific perks and points-earning abilities that fit the budget for different consumers and small businesses.
All this to say, there are many amazing airfare deals you can get with your American Express Membership Rewards and there’s a credit card that earns them that’s a great fit for every type of traveler.
Big Rewards for Dining Out
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of card membership
4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases