How to Make the Most of Your Amex Points with Travel Partners

American Express offers a number of ways for you to transfer your points to travel partners — here’s how to maximize your efforts.
8 minute read | 8/19/19Aug. 19, 2019
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American Express has a popular and flexible Membership Rewards program that allows you to use your points for a number of purposes. With Membership Rewards, you can book travel, pay for purchases, find worthwhile experiences, buy gift cards, and more.

On top of that, American Express has travel partners that allow you to transfer your Membership Rewards points to 19 airlines and three hotel loyalty programs, giving you the chance to fly for free and book free hotel stays.

This is one of the most popular ways to use points, since you have the ability to earn plenty of points using American Express credit cards and then use them wherever you can get the best value.

Earn and transfer Amex Membership Rewards

American Express Gold Card

  • Welcome offer: 35,000 Membership Rewards points (terms apply)
  • Earn up to 4X Membership Rewards points in select categories
  • $100 airline fee credit each calendar year
American Express Business Gold Card

  • Welcome offer: 35,000 Membership Rewards points (terms apply)
  • Earn up to 4X Membership Rewards points in select categories
  • Use points to book a flight through Amex Travel and get 25% of those points back (up to 250,000 points per calendar year)

Amex airline transfer partners

If you don’t want to be stuck with one airline loyalty program, you can transfer your American Express points to the following airlines and create a travel itinerary that works best for you.

Most of the airlines require you to transfer points in increments of 1,000. There are two exceptions: JetBlue, which requires increments of 250 points, and Qantas, which allows you transfer in increments of 500.

Amex Airline Transfer Partner Airline Alliance Transfer Ratio
AeroMexico SkyTeam 1:1.6
Air Canada Star Alliance 1:1
Alitalia SkyTeam 1:1
Aer Lingus N/A 1:1
Air France SkyTeam 1:1
All Nippon Airways Star Alliance 1:1
Avianca LifeMiles Star Alliance 1:1
British Airways Oneworld Alliance 1:1
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Oneworld Alliance 1:1
Delta Air Lines SkyTeam 1:1
EL AL Israel Airlines N/A 50:1
Emirates N/A 1:1
Etihad Airways N/A 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines N/A 1:1
Iberia Plus Oneworld Alliance 1:1
JetBlue Airways N/A 5:4
Singapore Airlines Star Alliance 1:1
Qantas Airlines Oneworld Alliance 1:1
Virgin Atlantic Airways N/A 1:1

In terms of value, you can get a 1:1 transfer on most of the partner airlines.  Some airlines, like AeroMexico, give you better more than one point for each point you transfer, but you'll need to look at the redemption costs on the partner airline to see if you're actually getting more value.

You also have to consider factors like where you’re going and what to expect when it comes to booking. Some airlines might require you to jump through additional hoops to book flights using points, depending on the situation.

In some cases, it can make sense to transfer to a member of the same airline alliance for better value and then book using those points. For example, you could use Air Canada points to book a flight to Europe through any Star Alliance partner, such as Lufthansa or United. This could potentially get you a great deal on business class and first class tickets.

If you like to fly in comfort on a long flight or if you want to get more bang for your redemption points, this may be beneficial. For some travelers, being able to upgrade to business class on a trans-Atlantic flight is more valuable than getting a completely free ticket.

You also need to compare awards prices. For example, you might get a 1:1 transfer ratio, but the number of points it takes to redeem points for a flight can be high. For instance, if it takes 40,000 points to fly to Hawaii with one airline and 50,000 points to fly with another, you’ll get a better deal on the first airline.

How to know if you’re getting the best value

Whether you’re getting the best value depends, in large part, on what airline you’re most likely to use and the deals it offers for rewards travel. For example, I use Delta a lot because of where I live. Even though JetBlue is often cheaper, I’d have to drive three hours to get a JetBlue flight. Plus, JetBlue doesn’t fly everywhere I like to visit.

Review your preferred airlines rewards program or take a look at what kind of deals you can get based on your route. Even though I use Delta a lot and prefer to transfer my Amex points to that airline, there’s a good chance I’d consider Air France instead if I were flying to Europe. Air France often offers monthly promo awards through its Flying Blue program, so knowing I plan to take a European trip would change the way I evaluate value.

Carefully consider your options before moving forward to ensure you’re accomplishing what you want with your points transfer.

Amex hotel transfer partners

If you want to use your Amex Membership Rewards points on hotel booking, you can do that as well, with three different hotel rewards programs.

Amex Hotel Transfer Partner Minimum Transfer Transfer Ratio
Choice Hotels 1,000 1:1
Hilton Honors 1,000 1:2
Marriott Bonvoy 1,000 1:1

As you can see, you’ll get two Hilton Honors points for each Amex point you transfer. That feels like a great deal, and it might encourage you to focus on Hilton Honors. Indeed, Hilton regularly offers a number of promotions throughout the year, so it can be a great value.

However, Marriott Bonvoy has its own advantages, even though the transfer is only 1:1 from Amex. With Marriott, my experience has been that you often get free upgrades when they’re available, and the amount of points used to redeem a room is generally lower. There’s a little more flexibility with Bonvoy as well when it comes to partners and experiences. Bonvoy has a number of partners where you can use points, and it offers access to a wide variety of additional experiences that can be bought with points when you book travel.

Choice Hotels are often cheaper, so even though you can get a room for fewer points, the dollar value might not be the same. For example, I can get a room for 8,000 points with a Choice hotel when it would normally cost $89 (value of 0.011). However, I recently booked a $350 Marriott room during the week for 15,000 points (value of 0.023). Even though both have a 1:1 transfer rate, the Marriott program got me a better bang for my buck in this case.

As with the airlines, though, what hotel you transfer points to depends on where you want to go, what type of hotel you want to book, and what kind of amenities you want.

How to know if you’re getting the best value

Whether you’re getting the best value depends in large part on your own preferences. For example, I prefer Marriott properties because of the amenities and upgrades as well as how easy it is to use points and cash.

On the other hand, Hilton Honors can be a great value because you can use top-rated credit cards to buy your way to Diamond status, which comes with elite benefits and upgrades. If you want to take advantage of that status to add value, transferring points to Hilton might make more sense.

Think about your goals and what makes the most sense based on your preferred program and what it offers. Value has a different meaning for each of us, so it’s important to make your evaluation based on what’s important to you — and whether you get it from your program.

How to transfer Amex Membership Rewards to an airline or hotel partner

Transferring your points is fairly straightforward. Here’s how it works:

  1. Log into your Membership Rewards account and select “Travel” from the menu.
  2. Select “Get Started” and you’ll be able to see your options for transfer partners.
  3. Make sure you’ve linked your loyalty program to Membership Rewards.
  4. Choose your preferred linked account.
  5. Decide how many points you want to transfer. You’ll need to transfer points in increments of 1,000 for most partners.
  6. Confirm the number of points you’re transferring.
  7. Complete the transfer.

Once you’re done, you can check your partner account to see that the points are available, and then you can book your travel.

Are there transfer “rules” I should know?

Realize transfers are final and cannot be undone once they’re completed. Before I make a move, I double check that I’ll be able to get the travel I want. In many cases, I just leave my points with Amex Membership Rewards until I’m ready to use them. If I’m 4,000 miles short for the Delta flight I want, that’s when I make the transfer — and only for the miles I need. If I’m wrong about where I want the points, there’s no sending them back.

Additionally, you might pay a small fee to transfer points to airlines — up to $99, depending on how many points you transfer. As a result, I’m more likely to create a strategy that involves earning airline points with a branded card or a travel-focused card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which allows you to earn extra points on travel and then redeem them for travel. I try to save the Amex points for hotel stays.

Can I transfer my Amex points to someone else?

You can’t directly send your points to another person. However, if you add someone as an authorized user on your Amex account, you can send your points to their frequent flyer program.

In most cases, it makes sense to focus on adding someone you trust as an authorized user, since they’ll be able to use your account to make purchases.

What’s the benefit of using transfer partners over earning points and miles directly for the airline or hotel I want?

One of the things I like best about Amex Membership Rewards is the flexibility. I can direct the points where they’re most effective. It also means I don’t have to be completely loyal to one company. While I do tend to show loyalty to particular brands, there are times I find better deals elsewhere — and want to take advantage of them.

Additionally, there’s a measure of protection with Membership Rewards. If an airline or hotel chain devalues its rewards, you’re stuck if all your points are in a specific loyalty program. With Amex points, you have the flexibility to focus on a different partner that offers better value.

In the end, it’s about figuring out what provides you with the best value, based on your situation and preferences. Figure out how you can get the most points with spending and which cards offer the most flexibility and value. Then consider how you can use travel partners to make the most of your Amex Membership Rewards.

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