New From Amex: Upgrade Flights With Membership Rewards Points


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American Express is launching a new offering for US Consumer, Business and Corporate Card Members enrolled in the Membership Rewards program today which will give them the option to use Membership Rewards points, or a combination of points and dollars, to place offers on airline seat upgrades in First Class, Business Class, or Premium Economy Class on over 20 participating airlines.

Amex Upgrade With Points

How it Works:

  1. Visit the Upgrade with Points section of MembershipRewards.com.
  2. Select the airline you are booked with.
  3. Enter your reservation details to see if your itinerary is eligible to upgrade.
  4. If eligible, use Membership Rewards points, or a combination of points and dollars, to place an offer towards an upgrade.
  5. Your offer will be accepted or declined by the airline, usually within 5 days of your flight. Whatever the airline’s decision, American Express will communicate the result to you via email prior to your departure.
  6. If your offer was accepted, visit your airline’s website or call your airline to obtain a copy of your updated itinerary.
Qantas 787 Business Class

Important To Know:

  • Not all flights with a participating airline may be eligible for upgrade. The airline determines in its sole discretion which flights to make available for upgrade.
  • All U.S. American Express Card Members with a Membership Rewards account can use Upgrade with Points.
  • You can utilize Upgrade with Points whether you use American Express or another form of payment to purchase your ticket.
  • You can change or cancel your upgrade offer at any time until it is accepted or declined by the airline.
  • Once accepted by the airline, your upgrade offer is nonrefundable and cannot be changed.
  • Your itinerary must be ticketed in order to be eligible for upgrade.
  • You can place more than one upgrade offer per reservation if there are multiple eligible flights in the itinerary. However, only one upgrade offer is allowed per flight.
  • If your reservation includes multiple travelers, you must place an upgrade offer for all travelers on the reservation. You must contact the airline if you would like to split the reservation in order to upgrade only certain travelers.
Etihad A380 First Class

Two Features That Look Good:

  • You do not need to be traveling on the reservation to place an upgrade offer
  • You can offer more points than are currently available in your Membership Rewards account

Here’s what American Express has to say about what will happen if you make an offer greater than the number of points you have in your account:

    When your upgrade offer is accepted, the following will happen:

  1. Your Card Account will be charged for the upgrade.
  2. The points you offered will be deducted from your Membership Rewards account.
  3. A corresponding credit for the deducted points will be applied to your Card Account.

If you do not have enough points in your Membership Rewards account to cover your offer amount when the airline accepts your upgrade offer, the following will happen:

  1. Your Card Account will be charged for the upgrade.
  2. The available points will be deducted from your Membership Rewards account.
  3. A corresponding credit for the deducted points will be applied to your Card Account.
  4. Any difference between the charge amount and the credit applied will remain on your Card Account.
Malaysia Airlines A330 Business Class
Malaysia Airlines A330 Business Class

Participating Airlines:

  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air Mautitius
  • Avianca
  • Caribbean Airlines
  • Ethiopian
  • Etihad
  • Fiji Airways
  • Gulf Air
  • Icelandair
  • Kenya Airways
  • LATAM
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Norwegian
  • Qantas
  • SAS
  • Silk Air
  • Singapore Airlines
  • TAP Portugal

Thoughts

There are quite a few ‘unknowns’ here so things are still a little unclear.

I don’t have any current reservations with any of the participating airlines so I can’t go ahead and check to see what the process looks like.

Also, as no guidelines have been given to us to let us know what sort of points range airlines will be looking for before they consider processing upgrades and as the rules say that not all flights will be eligible for upgrades (but then don’t give any indication which flights will be eligible and which won’t) it’s hard to tell just how useful this latest addition to Membership Rewards is.

The concept of allowing Amex card members to use Membership Rewards points to upgrade flights is a great one but it’s only really going to be of any use if the airlines don’t set the thresholds ridiculously high.

Until we start to hear back from people who have put in bids and succeeded (or failed) we won’t really know just how good or bad of a proposition this is….but I like that Amex is thinking  of new ways to make Membership rewards more interesting.