American Express Membership Rewards points were one of the first flexible rewards currencies. The ability to transfer points to many different loyalty programs is important. It makes it easier to earn a large number of points in one account and distribute them as you see fit for the most valuable awards.
For example, imagine you find the award ticket you want to book an award on one airline, but you don’t have enough points because you’ve been using two different credit cards. Dividing your attention between two programs usually means a smaller balance with each, and small balances can usually be used only for small rewards. Or maybe you have a lot of points with one program, but there’s no award availability at all. Transferable points let you find the award space first, then move them to the program where they make the most sense.
Sometimes two programs have the exact same award ticket available for different prices! That’s one reason I created the Award Maximizer tool to help you compare award charts. It looks up the cost of an award between two cities and compares that price across 14 different loyalty programs. If you want to use Membership Rewards points to book that award, look for the green “MR” icon next to eligible transfer partners.
Membership Rewards Transfer Partners
Here are the current airline and hotel transfer partners, the rate of exchange with Membership Rewards, and roughly how long it takes for a transfer to go through. Do check the American Express website since promotions sometimes result in higher transfer rates for a limited time.
|Transfer Partner||Transfer Rate||Transfer Time|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||1,000 : 1,000||1 day|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1,000 : 1,000||Instant|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||1,000 : 1,000||Instant|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||1,000 : 1,000||Instant|
|ANA Mileage Club||1,000 : 1,000||2-3 days|
|British Airways (Avios)||250 : 200||Instant|
|Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles)||1,000 : 1,000||2-3 days|
|Delta SkyMiles||1,000 : 1,000||Instant|
|El Al Matmid||1,000 : 20||Instant|
|Emirates Skywards||1,000 : 1,000||Instant|
|Etihad Guest||1,000 : 1,000||2-3 days|
|Frontier Early Rewards||1,000 : 1,000||Instant|
|Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Miles||1,000 : 1,000||Instant|
|Iberia Plus||250 : 200||1-2 days|
|JetBlue True Blue||250 : 200||Instant|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1,000 : 1,000||1 day|
|Virgin America Elevate||200 : 100||Instant|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1,000 : 1,000||1-2 days|
|Choice Privileges||1,000 : 1,000||Instant|
|Hilton Honors||1,000 : 1,500||Instant|
|Starwood Preferred Guest||1,000 : 333||Instant|
If you want to fly on an airline other than one of those listed, don’t worry! Many loyalty programs allow you to redeem points on partner airlines. For example, points can’t be transferred directly to the United Airlines MileagePlus program. But you can transfer them to ANA Mileage Club or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and book a partner award.
I recommend visiting the airline website to learn more about its partner relationships. If you want to fly on United, their website lists Singapore Airlines and ANA as partners. The next step is to visit Singapore and ANA’s websites to see if they allow you to book awards on United. (Hint: they do, but learn to do your homework before transferring points because partnerships aren’t always two-way relationships.)
Who Can Receive Transfers?
Normally you can only transfer Membership Rewards points to an airline loyalty account in your own name. However, you can also transfer them to an account owned by an authorized user on your American Express card. They’ll have permission to make charges on your account, and you’ll be responsible for paying. There may also be an additional fee for adding an authorized user depending on the American Express card you have.
Linking an External Account
Before a transfer can take place, you must first link your airline program account to your Membership Rewards account. This is usually quick but not always instant, so I recommend doing this in advance if you think you might need to transfer points in the future. You wouldn’t want to find award space on a partner airline and then see it disappear while you wait for the linking and transfer to be processed.
Transferring Membership Rewards Points
Finally, you can initiate a transfer of your Membership Rewards points to a linked account. Most transfers are instant or nearly so, and the award will probably still be there once the miles are in your new account. Others can take a couple days, and unfortunately there’s nothing you can do if the award disappears while you wait. All transfers are irreversible.
Be aware that you’ll be asked to pay a tax of $0.0006 per point, up to a maximum of $99, when you transfer Membership Rewards to a U.S. frequent flyer program. For example, a $60 charge applies if you transfer 100,000 points to Delta Air Lines. This offsets certain taxes. No tax applies to other transfer partners, including hotels and non-U.S. carriers.
Sometimes Things Go Wrong
If for some reason a transfer takes longer than you expected and the award is no longer available, start thinking of another way to use those miles in the future. Maybe the award you want will reappear. Or, maybe you can use the miles for something else. Keep in mind how easy it is to work with the receiving airline loyalty program, how often awards become available, and the rules you need to follow to prevent miles from expiring. Disappearing award space is always a problem. How you plan for–and respond to–this situation will make the difference.