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Some information in this post is now out of date – Follow this link for an updated post on AMEX Membership Rewards.
As airline miles and hotel points devalue on an all too frequent basis it’s becoming more important for travelers to keep their rewards point balances as flexible as they can to help minimise the damage the next time a hotel chain or airline decides to “enhance” their program.
One of the better ways to maintain as much flexibility as possible is to collect points that can be converted/transferred into a whole variety of loyalty programs – that way, if one of the loyalty programs devalues, you should still have a number of other options with which to work.
The four primary convertible/flexible points currencies are the offerings from Chase, Citi, American Express and Starwood:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Citi ThankYou Rewards
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Starwood Starpoints
Last week and this week I’m taking a look at each of those currencies individually and listing out the airline and, where relevant, hotel rewards programs those currencies can be transferred into.
In this post (the third of four) I’m going to take a look at Amex Membership Rewards.
Amex Membership Rewards Transfer Partners
Airline Loyalty Programs
Amex has been on a bit of a downward trajectory for a few years and is not enjoying the best of times right now…but Membership Rewards are still extremely useful and the list of airline transfer partners is impressive:
One of the things I like about the list of Amex’s airline transfer partners is that it offers some of the same partners as Citi and Chase (so those loyalty programs can be topped up from more than one source) but it also offers a good array of other options too.
You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points over to Delta and redeem for DeltaOne awards
Considering Amex’s close ties to Delta it isn’t much of a surprise to see that name on the list but jetBlue, Emirates and ANA are all very nice options to have.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is a transfer partner for all three major US bank programs and, as Singapore Airlines offers better award availability to its own KrisFlyer members than it does to members of its airline partners’ programs, being able to transfer Amex Membership Rewards points over to KrisFlyer is very useful indeed.
Aeroplan is another program that gets quite a bit of attention despite recent devaluations and with jetBlue Mint becoming increasingly popular…..
…the option to top up a TrueBlue account using Amex Membership Rewards (which gives a better transfer ratio that Citi ThankYou Rewards) is a positive.
Amex Membership Rewards points also transfer over to Etihad Guest and, as I mentioned in my discussion of Citi ThankYou Rewards, this can be a useful transfer to have thanks to a quirk in the Etihad award chart.
Etihad is an American Airlines partner so you can use Etihad Guest miles for travel on American and, somewhat strangely, the Etihad award chart for travel on American Airlines is more generous than American’s own award chart (click to enlarge):
Etihad Award Chart For American Airlines
A one-way Business Class award between North America and Europe costs 50,000 miles while a First Class award for the same trip costs 62,500 miles….and that’s less than American Airlines charges for the exact same flights.
American now charges 57,500 miles and 85,000 miles respectively for those awards and while that only makes the Business Class award marginally better, the First Class option looks like great value.
American Airlines 777-300ER First Class – Bookable to Europe for just 62,500 Etihad Guest Miles
Yes, there’s still the issue that American saver awards are incredibly difficult to come by..but if they ever do become available Etihad Guest offers great value.
While Virgin Atlantic Flying Club isn’t exactly a popular program in the US the fact that Premium Economy awards between the US and Europe start at 35,000 miles one-way makes them very interesting as a budget option (despite the surcharges).
It would be remiss of me if I failed to mention the British Airways Executive Club at this point as, despite the fact that Avios are a truly abysmal currency to use on long-haul awards, the fact that you can book short-haul US domestic awards from 7,500 Avios one-way (with minimal taxes and fees) makes them a useful option on short, expensive routes.
Hotel Loyalty Programs
Nothing too exciting to see here unfortunately as although it’s nice to see Starwood on this list the transfer ratio doesn’t make it a worthwhile transfer for most people’s needs – Amex Membership Rewards can put to far better use than transfer to Starwood at a ratio like 3 : 1.
Hilton HHonors is an Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner but, considering how easy it is to pick up Hilton points using Hilton co-branded credit cards, you’ll probably get considerably better value out of your Membership Rewards by using them with another program.
As I prefer to use my Chase Ultimate Rewards points for Hyatt redemptions Amex Membership Rewards are where I look when I ned to top up my Avios balance for short-haul awards within Europe or within the US.
When I have a sizeable rewards balance I also transfer over to the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program (that’s how I booked Joanna and I into Singapore Airlines Suites between Hong Kong and Singapore and the Singapore and London) and I always keep an eye out for American Airlines saver awards just in case there’s an opportunity to transfer Membership Rewards points over to Etihad and book American Business or First Class at a favorable rate.