The Big Travel Guide to AMEX Membership Rewards Points: Part 3 – Best Ways to Fly Within Continental US
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 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.
The AMEX Membership Rewards points program has 19 direct airline and hotel partners. Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well! So you’ll have lots of choices when planning flights within the continental US. And it’s easy to earn AMEX Membership Rewards points with several American Express cards, like The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN.
We’ll show you the best ways to use American Express Membership Rewards Points for US Flights!
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
Cards That Earn Transferable AMEX Membership Rewards Points
You can earn AMEX Membership Rewards points with the following cards:
American Express Membership Rewards Points for US Flights
In a moment, we’ll share a few airlines that are great for flights within the US that you can book using AMEX Membership Rewards points. Even though the airlines might not be direct AMEX transfer partners, you can still book award flights thanks to alliances and partnerships.
The best transfer partner will depend on:
- Available award seats
- Which airlines fly from your home airport
- Your airline & alliance preferences
- Where you want to travel
If you don’t have the time or don’t want to book your own award tickets, you can consider using an award booking service.
Delta is the only direct AMEX airline transfer partner based in the continental US with a 1:1 transfer ratio. This means selecting Delta is the simplest way to book award flights within the US.
But this does NOT mean it’s the cheapest!
You’ll have to pay an excise fee to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Delta because it’s a US airline.
And Delta no longer publishes an award chart! This means you’ll need to search specific routes and dates to find the price of an award ticket.
But Delta offers many non-stop award flights from their hub cities:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Salt Lake City
Other cities like Houston, Newark, and San Francisco also have non-stop award flight options.
Generally, the cheapest one-way US award flights you can find in coach cost:
- 5,500 Delta miles for short-haul flights (i.e. Los Angeles to San Francisco)
- 7,500 Delta miles for medium-haul flights (i.e. New York to Atlanta)
- 13,000 Delta miles for long-haul flights (i.e. New York to Los Angeles)
And for one-way Business Class award seats, the cheapest award flights cost:
- 13,500 Delta miles for short-haul and medium-haul flights
- 35,000 Delta miles for long-haul flights
The good news is there are no close-in booking fees or fuel surcharges, although Delta charges more miles on some routes within 21 days prior to departure. And Delta award flights are easy to book online after you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points.
You can also transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue to book Delta award flights because both are part of the SkyTeam alliance.
One-way coach award flights within the US are variably priced, but start at 11,500 Flying Blue miles.
You’ll likely only want to book Delta award flights through Flying Blue if you already have miles built up in your frequent flyer account. Then, you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to top off your account and book an award flight.
2. United Airlines
United Airlines is NOT a direct AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partner.
But you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Star Alliance partner airlines Air Canada or Singapore Airlines. Then book United Airlines award flights within the US.
United Airlines offers lots of non-stop flights out of their hub cities, including:
- Houston (IAH)
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- Washington, DC
But you can only book “Saver” level United Airlines award flights using Air Canada Aeroplan or Singapore Airlines miles. So I recommend searching the United Airlines site first before transferring points to either of the partner airlines.
Using partner airline miles for one-way United Airlines flights within the US, you’ll pay:
- 12,500 Singapore Airlines miles or Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
- 20,000 Singapore Airlines miles or 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
So the sweet spot is using Singapore Airlines miles to book United Airlines Business Class award flights. But it can be difficult to find available “Saver” level award seats.
Between the 2 airline partners, it’s easier to use Air Canada Aeroplan miles for United Airlines award flights because you can book online.
For example, we searched the Air Canada website for a one-way flight from Denver to Aspen. There are coach award seats available for 12,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles.
To book via Singapore Airlines, you’ll have to call 800-742-3333 and provide the agent with your flight details.
Air Canada and Singapore Airlines do NOT add fuel charges or close-in booking fees to United Airlines award bookings.
3. American Airlines
Similar to United Airlines, American Airlines is NOT a direct AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partner. But you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to British Airways or Etihad and then book American Airlines award flights.
You can find lots of good non-stop flight options from American Airlines hub cities like:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Washington, DC
British Airways and Etihad use different systems for pricing award flights on American Airlines.
British Airways has a distance-based award chart. So the amount you’ll pay depends on the length of your flight.
For example, one-way coach award flights cost:
- 7,500 British Airways Avios points for flights under 1,151 miles
- 10,000 British Airways Avios points for flights between 1,152 and 2,000 miles
- 12,500 British Airways Avios points for flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles
So using British Airways Avios points for short flights within the US can be a terrific deal. For example, here’s a one-way award flight from Miami to Atlanta for 7,500 British Airways Avios points.
For one-way Business Class award flights, you’ll pay:
- 15,000 British Airways Avios points for flights under 1,151 miles
- 20,000 British Airways Avios points for flights between 1,152 and 2,000 miles
- 37,500 British Airways Avios points for flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles
Meanwhile, Etihad charges a flat amount for one-way flights within the US. You’ll pay:
- 12,500 Etihad miles in coach
- 25,000 Etihad miles in Business Class
- 32,500 Etihad miles in First Class
The trick to using British Airways Avios points or Etihad miles for American Airlines flights is to find available award seats.
You can only book American Airlines award flights using partner airline miles if there are low-level “MileSAAver” seats available.
Here’s how you can check available seats and book using partner airline miles.
Step 1. Search American Airlines Award Calendar
First, search your desired American Airlines route on the airline’s website. In this example, we searched one-way non-stop award flights from Los Angeles to Dallas.
To view the lowest level “MileSAAver” awards, you can click on “Economy MileSAAver” or “Business/First MileSAAver”.
We wanted to see if there were any available Business Class award seats.
Step 2. Book American Airlines Award Flight Using Partner Airline Miles
After you confirm award seats are available, you can use British Airways Avios points to book online. Or you can use Etihad miles, but you’ll have to call to book.
For example, we searched the flight on the British Airways website and found the available seats.
You can quickly book this flight online after you transfer in AMEX Membership Rewards points.
Because this flight is between 1,152 and 2,000 miles, you’ll pay 20,000 British Airways Avios points, which is less than the 25,000 American Airlines miles you’d use if you booked directly.
As an alternative, you can call Etihad at 877-690-0767. Then, book using 25,000 Etihad miles, which is the price for all Business Class flights within the US.
The good news is you won’t pay any extra booking fees or charges when you redeem partner airline miles to book American Airlines award flights.
Other than Delta, JetBlue is the only other US-based airline where you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points. However, the transfer ratio is 5:4, earning 200 JetBlue points for every 250 AMEX Membership Rewards points transferred. There are occasional promotions that increase the transfer ratio, usually to 1:1.
Unlike most other frequent flyer programs, JetBlue does not use limited award seats. You can book any JetBlue seat using points. The number of points required for a trip is tied to the current cash cost of that ticket. This means the more expensive your ticket, the more points you’ll need to use. Generally, JetBlue points are worth ~1.4 cents each, but that value changes depending on the fare purchased.
You can only redeem JetBlue points on JetBlue and partner Hawaiian Airlines. JetBlue flies domestically in the United States, to the Carribean, and to South America. And you can book Hawaiian Airlines flights with JetBlue points from the mainland US to Hawaii, within Hawaii, or to international destinations.
So while JetBlue is a great airline with a fantastic Business Class, the transfer ratio from AMEX is not as favorable as other airlines, and there’s only one other partner you can redeem JetBlue points with.
Use AMEX Pay With Points for Simplicity
When you use your AMEX Membership Rewards points towards air travel, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket. And folks with the Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN can effectively get ~1.54 cents per point using the Pay With Points perk to get 35% of your points back.
For example, we searched the AMEX Travel Portal and found a one-way Alaska Airlines flight from Chicago to Los Angeles, which costs $97 or 9,619 AMEX Membership Rewards points.
The benefit of redeeming points this way includes the option to book flights on airlines that are not direct or indirect AMEX transfer partners. And you earn frequent flyer miles on the flights. Plus, you don’t have to worry about blackout dates!
But you’re better off transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to a partner airline if you can get more than 1 or 2 cents per point.
American Express Membership Rewards points are very flexible for award flights within the US.
Between direct transfer partners and award flights through partner airlines, you can use AMEX Membership Rewards points for award flights on American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, and JetBlue.
The best transfer partner depends on available award seats, where you want to travel, and the departure airlines from your home airport.
For simplicity, you can redeem AMEX Membership Rewards points for paid airfare using Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal. This will give you more options beyond the direct and indirect AMEX airline transfer partners.