When you’re dealing with credit card points and airline miles, there are some key differences. The ability to transfer credit card points to different airline and hotel accounts makes these points insanely versatile and valuable. And that’s an area where American Express Membership Rewards points truly excel.
With nearly two dozen airline partners and hotel chains at your disposal, American Express points open up a world of travel opportunities. But whether you’re a newbie to points and miles or an old hand, there’s no denying these transfers are a whole new can of worms, with confusing twists and considerations to keep in mind.
We’ll show you how to transfer your American Express Membership points – and some of the best partners to keep in mind.
22 Partners to Choose From
Before we get into the “how?”, let’s cover the “where?” As in, where can you transfer your American Express Membership Rewards? With more than 20 transfer partners overall, American Express has the largest stable of transfer partners out there.
Below are the current options, as well as how long it takes to move points from your American Express account to an airline or hotel brand.
|Program||Type||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Airline||1:1||Instant|
|Cathay Pacific||Airline||1:1||1-7 days|
Let’s go over some important points before we highlight some of the strongest partners. Unlike Chase, from which every single point transfers on a 1:1 basis to an airline or hotel account, there are some poor transfer ratios here. Whether it’s the 1.25:1 ratio with jetBlue (where 25,000 points gets you 20,000 jetBlue miles) or the horrible 50:1 ratio with El Al, these should be avoided.
And while Chase has some very valuable hotel transfer options like Hyatt in its portfolio, it’s admittedly a weak spot for American Express Membership Rewards.
That said, there are a handful of great options to consider here:
- Looking to pad your Delta SkyMiles balance? American Express Membership Rewards are the only credit card points that transfer to Delta, making these credit cards a strong option if you want to catch the next great SkyMiles flash sale.
- Keep Iberia in mind if you have some short domestic flights in the U.S. coming up. You can use miles from this Spain-based carrier to fly on American Airlines due to their partnership through the Oneworld alliance. And thanks to Iberia’s distance-based pricing system when using miles, you can often save some serious miles compared to what AA itself would charge. Iberia also offers one of the cheapest ways to get to Europe in business class using miles.
- Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is great, especially if flying business class is your thing. The airline charges just 55,000 miles each way to fly business class on Star Alliance carriers from the U.S. to Europe, or 75,000 miles for a one-way to Asia. Just be sure to avoid those exorbitant cash fees on awards to Europe by flying airlines like United, Turkish, SAS, TAP Air Portugal, or SWISS.
- Avianca Lifemiles is one of the strongest airline programs out there. This quirky Colombian airline’s miles are insanely versatile and lucrative. You can book domestic flights on United Airlines for fewer miles than United itself would charge. It’s also one of the best ways to book flights in business or first class to Asia. As a whole, LifeMiles mixes good rates on award flights with very low fees and no fuel surcharges. Considering many airlines pass on hundreds of dollars in fees, that’s a recipe for a great frequent flyer program.
- Looking to fly to Japan in business class for the same amount of miles most airlines charge for economy? ANA is your answer, and it’s another great transfer partner.
- Virgin Atlantic is one of our absolute favorite transfer partners, and it’s another great option. When Delta is charging 280,000 SkyMiles or more to fly in Delta One, you can snag the exact same seat by transferring just 50,000 Amex points to Virgin Atlantic. In general, Virgin Atlantic can be a great way to save miles to fly Delta. Frequent transfer bonuses of 10% to 30% or more just make it btter.
- Air France and KLM’s Flying Blue program can be worth a hard look, especially if you’re catching a big discount on one of the monthly Flying Blue Promo Rewards tickets to Europe. Flying Blue slashes economy, premium economy, or business class award tickets on select routes between the U.S. and Europe by as much as 50% each month. But one of our favorite uses of Flying Blue miles is booking Delta flights from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii. It’s just 35,000 miles round-trip, no matter where you depart from.
- Singapore Air’s KrisFlyer Miles program is a strong option, largely because it is so easy to pile up points. Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Marriott Bonvoy points all transfer to Singapore, too. Transferring miles to Singapore is your only way to book business or first class on one of the world’s best airlines. However, the airline is also expanding its ability to book online with partner airlines.
Transfer Bonuses Sweeten the Deal
You like airline miles, right? How about some free miles?
A few times every year, American Express teams up with a specific airline and give travelers a bonus to transfer their miles. From 10% extra to 30% or more, these bonuses are basically free airline miles.
Virgin Atlantic has offered several 30% transfer bonuses within the last year. The same is true for Air France/KLM. British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus – all part of the same parent company – offered an outstanding 40% bonus when transferring Amex points last year.
And Chase doesn’t even compete. To date, Chase has rarely offered a similar bonus. It’s a big part of the reason why I think American Express points are more valuable than Chase.
Curious how to track when these transfer bonuses pop up? Log in to your Amex account and check out the list of transfer partners, or just sign up for our daily newsletter. We’ll let you know as soon as one of these great offers pops up.
How to Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points
American Express allows you to transfer Membership Rewards points in 1,000-point increments (except jetBlue, which allows transfers of 250 points at a time) to any of the partners listed in the table above. Just how many points you’ll get will depend on each partner’s transfer ratio.
Thrifty Tip #1: You’ll need an account with that airline or hotel chain before you start the transfer. No matter the airline or hotel, creating one of these accounts is gree and only takes a few minutes.
First things first, you’ll want to log in to your Amex account for the card that earns you Membership Rewards points. From there, click the “Rewards” option in the menu bar.
From here, click the “Transfer Points” tab and then hit “View All” when it pops up below.
And voila: All your transfer partner options will pop up. Any loyalty accounts you’ve already linked will hover at the top of the page. And any current transfer bonuses will be highlighted with some handy orange text and a big “OFFER” sticker.
Just beware: Once your transfer goes through, you can’t pull those miles back into your Amex account. That makes it critical to do your research and make sure sending your miles to that partner is the best way to go, and that the award tickets you want to book are available.
Once you’ve decided where you want to transfer your points and linked the account, you’re ready. Just click on the account and enter how many points you want to transfer over.
With a handful of different transfer ratios, it can be difficult to keep track of how many miles you’ll actually get. Luckily, Amex makes it very clear just how it shakes out.
You’ll have to enter some details from your Amex card to finalize the transfer. And finally, there’s one last quirk to be aware of. When you transfer to U.S. airlines (Delta, jetBlue, or Hawaiian), you’ll get hit with a small fee: .06 cents per point. A transfer of 20,000 Membership Rewards points will cost you $12. These fees are capped at $99. And while American Express allows you to cover the fee with points, that’s a bad decision.
Once you’re done, just hit confirm and transfer those points. Most of these transfers will clear instantly, but a handful of partners take 12 to 48 hours or more. Check out the chart above to get a sense of how long it may take to get those miles in your account.
Thrifty Tip: Want to combine with a spouse, friend, or family member? If you add them as an authorized user, American Express allows you to transfer Membership Rewards directly to their own airline or hotel accounts.
How to Build Your American Express Membership Rewards Balance
Now you just need some American Express points. You’re in luck. American Express has a handful of credit cards to earn Membership Rewards points.
We love the American Express Platinum card. It starts with a 60,000 point welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in three months, but be sure to check and see if you qualify for a 100,000-point bonus. That’s a huge stash of points that could get you some serious travel. Add in the unbeatable suite of travel perks like unrivaled lounge access, $400 in credits split between airline fees and Uber rides, and it’s easy to see why this is one of our favorite cards.
Click Here to learn more about the American Express Platinum Card.
There’s also the American Express Gold card, which is currently offering a 35,000-point welcome bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months. After Amex revamped the card with some great rewards for dining purchases and credits, this card has earned a spot in our wallets.
Click Here to learn more about the Amex Gold Card.
And finally, there’s the old kid on the block with a new look. The recently refreshed American Express Green card is potentially lucrative, with a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points after spending $2,000 within three months. The card also comes with a $100 membership credit toward CLEAR, the privately run security program, and another $100 credit for Loungebuddy.
Click Here to learn more about the American Express Green Card.
It’s not quite as simple as using your points toward a great flight deal, but transferring Amex points opens up a whole new world of travel. Use this guide to maximize those Amex points.
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