A Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points
Want to know where you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points? The chart below will give you information on both all of your transfer options as well as the expected transfer times.
American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners and Transfer Times
|American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners|
|Transfer Ratio||Approximate Transfer Time *|
|Aeromexico||1:1.6 (1,000 Amex = 1,600 Aeromexico)||~4-7 days|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1:1||Instant|
|Air France Flying Blue||1:1||Instant|
|ANA||1 : 1 (transfers only from Amex and Marriott)||~2-3 days|
|British Airways Avios||1:1||Instant|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1:1||~1-2 days|
|Delta||1:1 (subject to excise tax)||Instant|
|Hawaiian Airlines||1:1 (transfers only from Amex and Marriott; subject to excise tax)||Instant|
|Iberia Avios||1:1||~1-2 days|
|JetBlue TrueBlue||250 : 200 (subject to excise tax)||Instant|
|Qatar Airways Avios||1:1||Instant|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1:1||~ 1-2 days|
|Hilton||1:2 (frequent transfer bonuses - look for a better ratio if considering)||Instant|
Best Uses for American Express Membership Rewards Points
Everyone uses points differently, but the best redemptions from a pure “cents per point” perspective will always be using the airline transfer partners.
The hotel partners are tougher to extract value out of because of the poor transfer ratios, although when Hilton is bonused to a 1:3 ratio, there can be value there.
I’ll also note that those with a Business Platinum Card® from American Express have the option to spend their points on flights with a 35% rebate which works out to roughly 1.5 cents per point.
As far as the airline transfer partners, here are my favorite ways to transfer my Amex points:
Transferring points to ANA probably means you are at least an intermediate or higher “points player.” It’s also probably the best way to extract value out of your American Express Membership Rewards. For 125,000 miles (meaning 125,000 Membership Rewards transferred to ANA), you could fly over 20,000 miles in Business Class. As a Star Alliance member, your segments can be on any Star Alliance carrier. You could fly to Europe, on to the Middle East, on to Asia, and all the way home for less than some carriers charge for a one way flight! Of course, you’ll need to find award availability for all of your segments to book (I recommend using the United search engine for this) and then call ANA to book.
The rules for the RTW using ANA miles are:
- The required mileage is calculated according to the total mileage of all segments (including connections)
- You must cross both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans (once each).
- You must go in one direction (west or east) and cyou cannot backtrack.
- You may have up to 8 stopovers. (No more than 3 stopovers are allowed within Europe and up to 4 stopovers total are allowed within Japan.)
- Your trip must last at least 10 days.
- You can have a maximum of 12 flight sectors, which can have a max of 4 ground transport sectors (i.e. you transit from one airport to another between flights).
The required miles are:
ANA is also the cheapest round trip from the US to Europe at 88,000 miles, though with some caveats (mainly that it does have to be round trip – no one ways – and you can’t hold space while you transfer).
Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is in the Star Alliance (alongside United) and also can access Etihad Airways and Emirates awards. The ability to spend just 5,000 more miles to add a stopover on a one-way award is fantastic and the rates remain competitive with the best of all possible options on most Star Alliance awards. You can also add a lap infant to an Aeroplan award for just 2,500 miles or CAD$25.
Compare that to most programs which require 10% of the cash fare and you’ll see why many love to redeem via Aeroplan.
Miles expire after 18 months of no activity but any activity will extend the miles by 18 more months.
Amex frequently has transfer bonuses of 30% to Virgin Atlantic, which can make a good deal even better. The best use of Virgin Atlantic points is a ticket to Japan on ANA in Business or First Class. One way in First is just 72,500 – 85,000 miles, which is absolutely fantastic for more than 12 hours in ANA First Class but an even better value (if you don’t mind just business class is to spend just 45,000 – 47,500 points from the US to/from Japan.
Another fantastic use of Virgin points is to book Delta One (Business Class) from the US to Europe (excluding the UK). Here’s how to find that space.
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Beyond that, Virgin can also often book US domestic flights on Delta for a fraction of Delta’s cost.
Virgin can also mix and match with SkyTeam partners, including Air France and KLM.
The Cathay Pacific program is great to have in your back pocket for Oneworld awards. If you don’t have American AAdvanatge miles (and no bank points transfer there – only Marriott Bonvoy and Bilt, the credit card for paying rent free) Cathay’s AsiaMiles is often the next best option on longhaul flights.
AsiaMiles are also a better way to book British Airways longhaul premium cabins. Mixed cabin award itineraries can be a great use of AsiaMiles, with long segments in business or first connecting to a short flight in a lower cabin can be much cheaper than flying the same cabin class all the way through.
British Airways Avios
Due to their distance-based award chart, Avios are excellent for short-haul awards on Oneworld carriers like American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines and Qantas. Note that when you book an award with little to no tax (like AA awards domestically [$5.60 per segment] or JAL awards within Japan [$0], you can cancel for just the loss of your taxes. Else, awards are $55 to cancel. You can also freely transfer and combine your BA, Iberia, and Aer Lingus Avios via avios.com.
Hawaiian used to have good availability on their non-stop from New York to Honolulu, but awards at the low 40,000 mile level are exceedingly rare these days. Still, it’s the only way to book those awards with bank points. (Note: You’ll pay a $0.0006 per mile to transfer to domestic carriers, max of $99)
You can transfer from any bank point into Singapore and that’s what’s great – the combinability from all of your various bank points to get to an award. You can only book long haul awards in First Class / Suites on Singapore metal with Singapore’s KrisFlyer miles.
Not often a great deal since Skymiles is an opaque program with notoriously high rates. However, you’ll find great deals from time to time. For example I paid just 12,000 Skymiles last year to fly New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia when the cash fare was over $1,000. So, it’s good to have an optional way to get more SkyMiles beyond the Delta SkyMiles credit cards.
Useful for booking award flights with no surcharges when they are charged by most other carriers. An example is Lufthansa to Europe for 63,000 in Business class or 87,000 miles in First Class. Here are more details on the best ways to spend Avianca Lifemiles. But also read: LifeMiles Awards – Changes and Cancellations: What You Need to Know.
Booking Emirates directly with Emirates was great for a while – until they hiked surcharges to a ridiculous level in 2023.
However, you can also fly their Fifth Freedom routes like EWR-ATH and JFK-MXP which don’t yet have crazy surcharges. If you are booking summer travel, book 328 days in advance, if you can. That’s when they open award bookings.
You can also read my Emirates A380 First Class Review.
Honorable Mentions – Choice Hotels and Hilton
Hilton points transfers can be decent when they have a transfer bonus of 1:2.5 or 1:3. Still, that’s only a deal if you have a good Hilton award ready to book. I don;’t think that it’s ever worth a speculative transfer. Also, fans of Choice hotels will point out that the brands can offer some decent deals on redemptions – especially via their partnership with Preferred Hotels and Resorts.