Transferable points currencies such as American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Chase Ultimate Rewards are the best type of points to have. Because your points are flexible in which transfer partner you redeem them with you have flexibility and some safety against specific hotels or airlines devaluing their points. Today we explore the best use of AmEx Membership Rewards points with the American Express points transfer guide.
The American Express Membership Rewards program has long been a behemoth in the credit card world although Chase and Citi have aggressively been catching up. If you missed our past points guides for Citi and Chase make sure to catch up on those:
American Express Points Transfer Guide – Airlines
First we’ll take a look at the airline transfer partners. Keep in mind that most points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. For example: 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points equals 50,000 Aeroplan miles. There are exceptions of course though, which we will cover below. Please advise that certain transfers can take up to a few days, although some are immediate. We urge you to check Flyertalk or other websites for the most up to date info. It’s definitely something to consider if you have your eye on a specific award flight.
AeroMexico Club Premier
This is unique in that 1,000 points converts into 1,600 Premier points because Aeromexico actually is a kilometers based program. AeroMexico is rarely talked about but a surprisingly excellent transfer partner. One interesting sweet spot includes a very intriguing “Go Round the World Award Ticket” that allows you to travel across the globe, with up to 15 stopovers for 220,000 American Express points in business class. Other sweet spots include 112,500 AmEx MR points for a rountrip flight from the US to North Asia, and 100,000 AmEx MR points roundtrip from the US to Europe. Find the full award chart here. To find the number of AmEx MR points take the AeroMexico award amount and multiply it by .625.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Aeroplan used to be the darling of the points world before a massive devaluation a few years ago. There still is value to be had but Aeroplan does pass on fuel surcharges of StarAlliance partners to the member. This means your reasonable 110,000 points from the US to Western Europe could be walloped by hundreds of dollars in extra fees on certain airlines. That being said, the rates are certainly more reasonable than other Star Alliance partners, just don’t expect the absolute best value to be found here. One-way awards being available also is a nice perk. The full award chart can be found here.
Air France KLM Flying Blue
Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program of SkyTeam members Air France and KLM. Overall this is a solid transfer option. Business class flights from the West Coast to Europe are only 62,500 and availability isn’t too hard to come by. Flying Blue miles can also be redeemed through partner airlines for flights within the United States. For example, a flight from the mainland US to Hawaii can be had for just 15,000 miles. Furthermore, Flying Blue has a very easy to use calculator here which is greatly appreciated.
Flying Blue does assess fuel surcharges on award flights, however the highest we’ve seen is around $250 for a business class flight to Europe. Redemptions within the US are usually well under $100. What makes Flying Blue unique is that they are a transfer partner of the 3 major points currencies (Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You, and American Express Membership Rewards). A couple of credit card sign up bonuses can have you flying in style in no time.
Also be on the lookout for Flying Blue rotating promos. Every few months they will offer up to 50% award redemptions throughout the network. This can lead to enormous savings if your city is on sale.
Alitalia MilleMiglia program might be less known than even AeroMexico. And besides possibly going bankrupt soon and having an award chart for its own metal that only says it’s valid for another three weeks (found here), they also levy fuel surcharges on their own awards. The charts look good in theory but is only for the brave when navigating the call center and rudimentary website. Worth the work, but be prepared to put some effort in to get round-trip business class for 100,000 miles to Europe 3 and the Near East which includes Israel and Jordan. Their partner award chart can be found here. Another good value is to upgrade your flight from premium economy to business class, although there are varying reports of how many miles that actually costs.
All Nippon Airways ANA Mileage Club
ANA has a few decent spots but after a 2015 devaluation much less value is to be had. Be careful of fuel surcharges but some great sweet spots include 88,000 points round-trip to Europe from the US in business class and 104,000 points round-trip from the US to Africa (outstanding!). You can find the charts here. ANA would be ranked as “good” except for their requirements that miles can only be used for close family members. ANA defines close family members here in an overly intense way.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles is probably the most confusing frequent flyer award chart I’ve ever seen. In a nutshell, it’s a distance based award chart. This definitely isn’t the place to look for long haul deals in any class. There are however certain scenarios where this could be useful. Multiple short hops in Europe and Asia come to mind. If you’ve got a few hours to kill, here’s the link to get up to speed with Asia Miles.
British Airways Executive Club
Ironically, British Airways avios can be a great transfer option for shorter flights within the United States as I explained here. This is possible because British Airways bases their award redemption rates on distance flown. Just remember that this can work against you if your itinerary includes a stop since the mileage of both flights will be added together. Here’s a cool calculator that can give you an idea of how many Avios you’ll need.
Longhaul flights are generally a poor proposition with British Airways. Not only is the chart distance based, but they are notorious for assessing high fuel surcharges on their own award flights. They also have very high rates for business and first class redemptions. You can definitely do better than British Airways for your next award flight across the Atlantic.
Delta Skymiles could theoretically be a decent value but since they stopped publicly posting award charts, they could devalue in a moment. There also is not the ability to redeem for partners first class products. However, SkyTeam availability in business class is traditionally decent, especially to Asia. Since many of you are US based readers and might have a stock of Delta miles, it’s not the worst option to top off your account.
El Al Israeli Airlines Matmid Program
El Al is a unique award chart in that 1,000 Membership Rewards points equal 20 Matmid points. Unfortunately the interest should end there. Coach redemptions start at the equivalent of 70,000 AmEx MR points round-trip, which isn’t too bad, but round-trip redemptions start at 225,000 for business class. For 225,000 points you can fly first class on one of many excellent products across the world instead.
Emirates is one of only three programs to fly Emirates first class. The other two options are Alaska Mileage Plan which hugely devalued Emirates awards recently, and JAL, which is a program where acquiring points is difficult. Even with the desire for many to fly Emirates first class and rinse off in that famous shower, we are ranking Emirates as bad due to their sky high fuel surcharges and fees.
If you’re looking at the Etihad Guest program, it’s probably because you want to fly in The Apartment. This first class product is remarkable. It’s your own suite in the sky. Furthermore, you’ll have access to an on-board shower and lobby to socialize. Etihad has a mileage calculator that can tell you how many miles you need for your desired destinations. For example, New York to Abu Dhabi comes in just under 120,000 miles each way in the aforementioned Apartment. Etihad also has a great partner network of airlines including Brussels Airlines which allows you to fly roundtrip in business class from the United States to Brussels for only 36,620 Etihad Miles. This is an amazing sweet spot!
Hawaiian does have a couple sweet spots including 7,500 miles for inter-island flights. The full award chart can be found here but overall I wouldn’t find any extreme values here. Of course, if you are flying from the East Coast to Hawaii spending 80,000 miles for business class is certainly not a bad value.
Iberia has a similar award chart to British Airways and you are able to transfer points from British Airways to Iberia and vice versa. The Plus program comes out ahead when you need to book short trips with a stop as Iberia charges based on mileage flown and not per segment like British Airways. There is value to be had on this chart if you look for the short distance redemptions. Iberia also charges less for business class and less in fuel surcharges than British Airways.
JetBlue True Blue
Remember, our ratings are solely based on whether this is an attractive transfer opportunity for Membership Rewards points. In no way is this reflection on each particular airlines’ frequent flyer program. That being said, TrueBlue just isn’t a great partner for transferring your points. You will only get 800 TrueBlue points for each 1,000 Membership Rewards points. This is a better ratio than you will get compared to transferring from Citi. However, with each JetBlue point being worth 1.4 cents on average, with a maximum redemption of 1.89 cents, you are getting 1.12 cents value per MR point. That is not a great value and we would suggest paid travel on JetBlue instead
Virgin America Elevate
Virgin America has a revenue based program where points are worth 2-2.3 cents each. With a 2:1 transfer ratio from American Express to Virgin America that means your points would be worth a measly 1-1.15 cents each. With the merger between Virgin America and Alaska Airlines this does prevent an opportunity to transfer points to Alaska Airlines directly. This doesn’t necessarily provide a good value but is worth mentioning since it is the only way to transfer points from AmEx, Chase, or Citi to Alaska.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
There’s hard to find much to like here. One positive is that Virgin is a transfer partner of the 3 major points currencies (Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You, and American Express Membership Rewards). Presumably Virgin can swing this because nobody actually transfers to them. Virgin Atlantic assesses massive fuel surcharges much like British Airways. Miles can be used for short haul redemptions on Virgin America, but the cost usually comes in about 25% higher than British Airways Avios. The only time I’d recommend making this transfer is for a short haul flight where using British Airways Avios isn’t an option or you just need to top off an account.
American Express Points Transfer Guide – Hotels
There are only a few American Express Hotel Transfer Partners and unfortunately, none are an especially good deal.
Choice Privileges Rewards
Choice Privileges is not the most glamorous hotel chain. Brands include Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Rodeway Inn, and Econolodge. They do have some nicer properties in their portfolio but with top tier redemption rates costing 35,000 per night it is difficult to get enough value to make redeeming points worth it.
Hilton, just like when looking at it as a Citi transfer partner, is unfortunately not a great value. Points are very easy to earn, and with top tier Hilton redemptions costing 95,000 points this is not a good transfer option. 95,000 points could get you a round-trip to Europe on more than one of the airlines listed above.
Starwood Preferred Guest
SPG is a great program where you can very easily get 2 cents value per point. Unfortunately points transfer from a 3:1 ratio from American Express to Starwood which makes this not a great transfer partner. With the recent SPG/Marriott merger this is effectively the same as a 1:1 transfer to Marriott which also isn’t a great value.