The Big Travel Guide to AMEX Membership Rewards Points: Part 1 – Transfer Partners
You get lots of travel flexibility with AMEX Membership Rewards points. Because if you don’t have set travel plans for a future trip, these transferable points give you the option to choose from multiple airline and hotel partners when the time comes.
Folks in the miles & points hobby know earning transferable points, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, are the best way to get Big Travel. This can mean a First Class adventure around-the-world, a family trip to Europe, or so many other options!
The AMEX Membership Rewards points program has many direct airline and hotel partners. Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well!
We’ll tell you all about the AMEX transfer partners. And what you should know before transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to book award travel.
The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points:
- Part 1 – Transfer Partners
- Part 2 – How to Transfer Points
- Part 3 – Best Ways to Fly Within Continental US
- Part 4 – Best Ways to Fly to Hawaii
- Part 5 – Best Ways to Fly to Canada & Alaska
- Part 6 – Best Ways to Fly to Caribbean & Mexico
- Part 7 – Best Ways to Fly to Europe
- Part 8 – India & Middle East
- Part 9 – Africa
- Part 10 – South America
AMEX Transfer Partners
You can choose from airline and hotel partners when transferring your American Express Membership Rewards points.
1. Airline Partners
There are direct AMEX Membership Rewards airline transfer partners. But through these airlines, you can book award seats on all 3 major airline alliances, including:
Not all AMEX airline transfer partners are equal. The transfer ratios can vary, which means you might not be redeeming your points for the most value.
Here’s a look at the transfer ratios and estimated transfer times for each of the airline partners.
|American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners|
|Airline||Transfer Ratio||Estimated Transfer Time|
|Asia Miles||1:1||48 Hours|
|Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)||1:1||Instant|
|Iberia||1:1||~1 to 3 days|
|Singapore Airlines||1:1||~1 to 2 days|
Most AMEX points transfers occur instantly. This is great news if you’re in a hurry to book an award flight! But, if possible, we always recommend giving yourself some time, just in case the transfers don’t go through right away!
Note: The transfer ratios in the table are the standard ratios. But AMEX frequently offers limited-time bonuses when you transfer points to different airline partners.
You’ll see the current transfer ratios by logging-in to your AMEX Membership Rewards account.
A terrific aspect of the AMEX airline transfer partners is you get access to the 3 major airline alliances. For example, you can:
- Transfer AMEX points to Delta – use miles for award tickets on SkyTeam airlines
- Transfer AMEX points to Air Canada or Singapore Airlines – use miles for award tickets on Star Alliance airlines such as Lufthansa or United Airlines
- Transfer AMEX points to British Airways – use points for award tickets on oneworld airlines such as American Airlines
You can also use AMEX Membership Rewards points to book award travel on other partner airlines, which are not part of alliances. For example:
- Transfer AMEX points to Delta – use miles for award tickets on WestJet
- Transfer AMEX points to British Airways – use points for award tickets on Aer Lingus
2. Hotel Partners
The AMEX Membership Rewards hotel partners are not as extensive as the airline list.
There are 3 direct hotel transfer partners.
Here’s a look at the transfer ratios and estimated transfer times for each of the hotel partners.
|American Express Membership Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners|
|Hotel||Transfer Ratio||Estimated Transfer Time|
Generally, you’ll get a better deal redeeming AMEX Membership Rewards points with airline partners.
But thanks to the Marriott and Starwood merger, you now have a way to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points, essentially at a 1:1 ratio. This can be a good deal for folks with lots of AMEX Membership Rewards points!
Note: The Starwood and Marriott loyalty programs will be combined in August 2018.
Although the transfer ratio to Starwood (3:1) is not favorable, in certain cases it can be useful to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Starwood.
That’s because you can transfer Starwood points to lots of great airline partners. And you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer!
Choice Hotels are usually inexpensive, so you won’t often get a good value for your AMEX Membership Rewards points. And there are lots of ways to easily earn Hilton points, so we prefer saving our AMEX Membership Rewards points for transfers to airline partners instead!
Rules for Points Transfers
There are a few things to know when transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to airline and hotel partners.
1. All Transfers Are Final
Once you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to a partner program, you will NOT be able to get the points back to your AMEX account.
So we always recommend finding available award travel prior to transferring points. This way, you can just transfer your points and book.
Some airlines allow you to place an award booking on hold. For example, Million Mile Secrets team member Keith booked an award flight with Alitalia. He had 7 days after booking to transfer the required AMEX points into his account.
2. Small Fee for Transfers to US Airlines
There’s a small fee for every transfer you make to US airlines.
American Express charges an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99.
It’s never fun paying extra fees, but this is usually just small cost in the big picture.
3. Workaround to Transfer AMEX Points to Others
It’s not possible to directly transfer AMEX Membership Rewards to other folks. But there’s a way around this rule!
You can add your spouse or anyone else as an authorized user and then transfer your AMEX Membership Rewards points to their frequent flyer account.
It’s easy to add an authorized user to your AMEX card online or by calling the number on the back of your card.
Big Travel With AMEX Membership Rewards Points
In later updates to this series, we’ll share details and tips for using AMEX Membership Rewards points to get to specific places, like Hawaii.
But in the meantime, we’ll show you some examples of how valuable AMEX Membership Rewards points can be. It’s easy to earn AMEX Membership Rewards points with their charge cards, including the fantastic American Express Business Platinum charge card.
1. Transfer to British Airways Avios for Flights to Dublin
You can redeem British Airways Avios points on partner airline Aer Lingus and book flights to Dublin.
And British Airways award prices are distance-based, so shorter flights cost fewer points. This means award flights from the East Coast to Dublin are a terrific deal.
For example, Boston to Dublin requires only 26,000 British Airways Avios points for an off-peak, round-trip coach award ticket. The same deal is available from the following cities:
- New York – JFK
- Washington, DC
We looked at sample flights. Paying cash would cost ~$983. So transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios points gets you ~3.7 cents per point ($983 cost of paid ticket / 26,000 points for an award ticket). That’s a great deal!
Note: You can NOT search for or book Aer Lingus award flights on the British Airways website.
Instead you CAN search for “Saver” level award seats on the United Airlines website. Then call British Airways to book at 800-452-1201. You can read our step-by-step guide to finding available Aer Lingus award seats. Ask them to waive the phone fee because it’s not possible to book online.
Also, Aer Lingus now classifies certain dates as peak travel, which means you’ll use more points for award flights during these times.
2. Transfer to Air Canada for United Airlines Business Class Award Flights
As mentioned earlier, United Airlines is not a direct AMEX airline transfer partner. But you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Air Canada who is part of the Star Alliance. Then, book United Airlines award flights.
For example, we searched Air Canada for a one-way Business Class award flight from San Francisco to Sydney.
The flight requires 80,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles. Remember, you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Air Canada at a 1:1 ratio.
This same flight costs ~$5,086 if you paid cash. So you’d be getting ~6.3 cents per point ($5,086 cost of paid ticket / 80,000 miles for an award ticket).
And you will NOT pay an excise fee to transfer points to Air Canada because it’s a foreign airline.
3. Transfer to Starwood and Convert to Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Points
Marriott is not a direct partner of American Express Membership Rewards. But you can transfer AMEX points to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio. Then, convert the Starwood points to Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points at a 1:3 ratio.
In the end, you’re essentially getting a ~1:1 transfer ratio from AMEX Membership Rewards points to Marriott points.
For example, you can transfer 70,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points to Starwood.
You’ll have enough points for a luxurious stay at hotels like The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo.
We found standard rooms that cost $1,000+ per night during high season. So using 70,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points means you’re getting ~1.4 cents per point.
Note: The Marriott and Starwood loyalty programs will merge in August 2018.
There are 19 airline and hotel partners that are part of the AMEX Membership Rewards program.
But thanks to airline alliances and hotel mergers, you can book award travel beyond the direct transfer partners. This is extremely helpful because you’ll have more flexible award travel options.
Remember, not all transfer partners are equal. Because the transfer ratios can vary by airline and hotel, along with the time it takes to transfer your points.
There are many sweet spots using AMEX Membership Rewards points to get Big Travel! In later updates to this series we’ll show examples of using points for award flights within the US and travel to Hawaii. And redeeming points for award travel with AMEX partners can often get you better value than if you were just earning cash back rewards.
What’s your favorite AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partner?