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Amex Membership Rewards Sweetens El Al Transfer Ratio

by on January 30, 2012 · 20 comments

in American Express, El Al

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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Maury

    Isn’t AMEX transfer to Flying Blue a better value to Israel from the US, since they treat Israel in the same region as Europe?

  • Davids

    TPG, great post, but 2 clarifications:

    1) AA has no access to First Class awards on El Al.

    2) There is no additional availability for Matmid club though elite members have a better chance when waitlisting through a travel agent. So what you see on Expert Flyer for Business and Economy is available for Matmid and AA

  • JA

    If you don’t live in NYC or YYZ, you would have to get there on you own whereas using AA miles, you can use AA to get to the international gateway, right?

  • Davids

    Correct

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/IU5TLNAX4OHARFEHEFDD2WCTZI Lawrence Dalsemer

    Earning a ton of American Airline miles with BankDirect. If you can’t get interest from the local banks, I might as well get miles. I think that makes me a miles-geek.

  • Carberrie

    Davids: Do you mean that El Al does not give any first class seats for mileage tickets to AA? They give only coach and business?

  • Carberrie

    Isn’t Flying Blue the best value to Israel if you can get one of those “half-miles” tickets? Then I believe only 50,000 miles for r/t in business class! :)

  • Mark

    other then the off season like in February, it is almost impossible to get a bonus flight with EL Al

  • Chanany

    Usually Flying Blue it’s 100K plus hefty surcharges (like $800). the 50K RT business was only back then why they had this promo.
    Even though when Delta has low tier availability you can get this for 100K on Flying Blue without surcharges, but Delta almost never gives out this level.

  • Asdfasdf

    You can get an upgrade on El Al anytime you want if you are crew or know the crew or have Vitamin P.

    (proteczia)

  • NanaB

    I’m a points geek “wanna be”. I am learning all I can from following you religiously!
    Thanks!

  • Guest
  • TLV local

    There is a special promo right now that requires less points: RT from JFK or YYZ to TLV is 900 points + 150$ in coach (instead of 1400 points) and 2000 points + 250$ in bussiness (instead of 3000 points). Ofcourse you still have to add the 350$ of tax & fuel……..
    The promo is valid for departures till 16MAR and returns till 30Mar.

  • Gary Leff

    American’s program does not offer first class awards on El Al, it’s not a part of the agreement that the two airlines have, it’s not about whether inventory is released by El Al (i.e. a point of sale restriction on first class award inventory) or not.

  • http://twitter.com/MiriamAbrams Miriam Abrams

    DansDeals just wrote a great post about this and he basically says that the best way to not have to pay those heavy fees is to transfer the points to Flying Blue to book a reward ticket on Delta in coach.

  • Anonymous

    Yea, the only issue though is that delta low level awards are nearly non-existent

  • Gil

    Can you upgrade to business class from any economy fare class? Even the lowest priced class (i think G/O/L/T)?

  • Marko2652

    anyone have a link to where i can go and transfer spg points to elal matmid points. if the 50:1 ratio isstill valid then thats 70k in spg points for a flight from ny to tlv correct me if i am wrong?

  • Jeremy

    You can use Flying Blue points on Delta though (they fly JFK-TLV direct) and the fees aren’t bad.

  • Jon

    Checked this morning, and the ratio is now 24 to 1 instead of 50 to 1. When did this change?

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