With tons of transfer partners and frequent bonuses on those transfers, American Express Membership Rewards points can be insanely valuable. There's just one pesky problem: The bank charges a small fee when you transfer points to U.S. airlines like Delta, JetBlue or Hawaiian Airlines.
These fees aren't massive by any means: It's a .06 cent excise tax per point, so a transfer of 20,000 points would incur a $12 fee, while a 100,000-point transfer would get slapped with $60 in fees. It's capped at $99 per transfer. Still, it's a pain: From Chase to Capital One and even Citi, no other bank does this.
And now, neither does American Express – at least temporarily. Travel with Grant broke the news that Amex is waiving these excise fees through at least Dec. 31, 2020. This took effect on March 28, which means any previous transfers you made and paid fees on should be refunded.
Here's what you'll see when you try to transfer Membership Rewards points to any U.S. carrier.
Why is this happening now? It all goes back to the CARES Act, that massive financial aid package passed by Congress in late March that sent $1,200 checks to almost every American. That bill also temporarily banned charging excise taxes on U.S. domestic airfare.
“Accordingly, American Express will not assess an excise tax offset fee on Membership Rewards points transfers to domestic airline frequent flyer programs from March 28, 2020 through December 31, 2020,” an Amex spokeswoman said.
These fees weren't egregious – just annoying. And given all the uncertainty surrounding travel right now, it's certainly not worth proactively transferring a boatload of points just to save some money.
But it's good to know that transferring some Amex points to book a Delta SkyMiles flash sale like a domestic round-trip for 8,000 SkyMiles or flights to Greece for just 32,000 SkyMiles won't get hit with even more cash fees on that transfer.
Booking award travel on Delta, Hawaiian, or JetBlue with Amex points just got a little bit cheaper thanks to this move from Amex. It may not be earth-shattering, but even small news is good news right now.
Here's hoping American Express decides to get rid of these excise taxes permanently.