You’ve heard us preach time and time again that transferable currencies are the best way to get started in the points and miles hobby. Points earned with Citi, American Express, and Chase give cardholders a plethora of redemption opportunities including airline and hotel transfers. If you haven’t already, take a minute to check out our points transfer guides for all three major currencies. You’ll find some great, and not-so-great transfer opportunities. Today I want to dive a little more in depth regarding American Express Membership Rewards. Specifically, a Membership Rewards wishlist for how Amex can make their currency more valuable than their competition.
My Membership Rewards Wishlist
Since two of my three go-to cards are American Express (Blue Business Plus & Everyday Preferred), maximizing rewards is important. With that said, I think Amex falls short in two key areas:
Direct Travel Booking
Both Chase and Citi allow users to directly book flights or hotels through their portal. This comes in handy if an airline or hotel has abnormally cheap fares. In these scenarios, using airline or hotel points and miles doesn’t always make sense. Furthermore, you don’t need to worry about award availability.
For example, what if United has a sale from LA to New York for $250 round trip? I could transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio. It would cost be a total of 25,000 United miles for the trip. Alternatively, I could book directly through Chase’s travel portal where points are worth 1.5 cents each for Sapphire Reserve cardholders. In this scenario the same trip would only cost 16,666 Ultimate Rewards points AND I’d earn miles and status credits for the flight.
Unfortunately American Express doesn’t have such a simple travel booking service. Instead they offer up “American Express Travel” which doesn’t include a full slate of airlines. Furthermore, redemptions only come in at 1:1. As a result, that same $250 flight would cost me 25,000 points, if it was even available through Amex Travel. I’d really like to see American Express take a page out of Chase and Citi’s playbook and get a real travel booking option going.
Hotel Transfer Partners
Believe it or not, we only rate one hotel transfer partner as “good” between all three major currencies. Chase’s partnership with Hyatt presents tons of opportunities at great values. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for American Express Membership Rewards.
Amex does offer three hotel partners (SPG, Hilton, and Choice). Unfortunately the value of the transfer falls well short of making it worthwhile. For example, Membership Rewards transfers to Hilton at a 1:1.5 ratio. We value Membership Rewards at 1.8 cents each. Hilton points are valued at around .05 cents each, so the transfer doesn’t add up. We’d like to see new partners added or transfer ratios improved.
It’s no secret that Chase and Citi have taken market share from American Express, especially among high earners. Perhaps part of the reason is Membership Rewards program hasn’t kept up with it’s competition. All is not lost however, a few minor tweaks and Amex can be back on top in no time. What do you think? Should Amex add a few features to it’s Membership Rewards program?