January 30th, 2012

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El Al, the national carrier of Israel that flies nonstop from Tel Aviv to JFK, Newark, Los Angeles and Toronto, has been a member of the Membership Rewards program for a while, yet I’ve never considered using them as a transfer partner because the ratio was 70 Amex to 1 Matmid point. New York to Tel Aviv is 1,400 credits in coach, 3,000 in business class and 5,000 in first. That translates into 98,000, 210,000 and 350,000 points for coach, business and first respectively. No thanks – especially when you can redeem American Airlines miles for El Al flights for 90,000, 135,000 and 180,000 for coach, business and first.

However, American Express just announced that Amex points will now transfer to El Al at a 50:1 ratio, making New York/Toronto to Tel Aviv economy/business/first roundtrips now 70,000, 150,000 and 250,000. While AA still has a better ratio on business and especially first, El Al releases more award availability to their own members and many of you have more Amex points than American, so it’s good to know in case you are planning travel to Israel.

Also, if you sign-up for Matmid via American Express’ link, the $25 registration fee is waived.

El Al Award chart

Plus, El Al members can use points to upgrade from coach to business and business to first class at pretty reasonable ratios – American miles cannot be used for upgrades. El Al even offers a cash & miles upgrade option – for example only $250 and 300 Matmid points (15,000 Amex points) for coach to business class or business to first on New York/Toronto to Tel Aviv.

El Al Upgrade Chart

Elal.co.il actually has a pretty good award booking engine that will even let you go through a dummy booking without having any points in your account. When I searched for availability in February for New York and Los Angeles to Tel Aviv I got a lot of  economy and first class options – business class availability was almost non-existent.

Good availability for February

Taxes and fees on most awards come about to about $350 and you have the option of using 150 Matmid points (7,500 Amex) to take off $150 in fees. That would equate to each Amex point being redeemed for 2 cents each, which isn’t bad.

However, I priced out purchasing these flights directly and they almost all came out to about $1,041 total roundtrip. So, 70,000 Amex points to save $691 in airfare is just under 1 cent per point, which is not a good redemption. You can use Pay With Points to redeem for 1 cent per point and earn miles on the trip. Platinum card holders get 1.25 cents per point, so a $1,041 flight would only cost 83,280 points and no fees. However, the value proposition increases during peak travel periods when fares are high – especially in business and first class. I recommend doing your research before redeeming to see where you’ll get the most bang for your point.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
5.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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