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How to Convert Amex Membership Rewards to US Airways Miles at a Decent Ratio

by on August 29, 2012 · 34 comments

in Aeroplan, Air Canada, American Express, US Airways

Update: This can no longer be done.

Although American Express Membership Rewards has 19 airline partners and three that are in Star Alliance, they no longer have a US based Star Alliance carrier since United/Continental left in October of 2011. Now cardholders must go through another partner such as Air Canada’s Aeroplan, All Nippon Airways Mileage Club or Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program for Star Alliance redemptions.

However, a FlyerTalker named easygoing77 recently posted a creative way to convert American Express Membership Rewards point to US Airways Dividend Miles via Aeroplan and points.com. I was skeptical at first because points.com rarely offers valuable ways to transfer miles between currencies, but lo and behold for some reason Aeroplan to US Airways transfers are at a 1: .85 ratio, meaning you can transfer 100,000 Amex points into 85,000 US Airways miles- not bad.

Points.com lets you exchange miles in one program for those in another. The ratio of Aeroplan to US Airways is about 1 : 0.85.

Setting Up The Transfers

Before you get started, you’ll need to have accounts for Membership Rewards (if you have an Amex card like the Premier Rewards Gold card or the Platinum card, these are the points you earn), Aeroplan, US Airways Dividend Miles and Points.com.

You can sign up for Aeroplan here. If you need a US Airways account, you can register for one here. The last piece in the puzzle is a points.com account for managing the points/miles transfer, which you can sign up for here. It’s free to join all three.

Next, you’ll “Add Programs” to your points.com account including your Aeroplan and US Airways frequent flyer numbers.

Add your individual airline and hotel accounts to your points.com profile.

Now, go to membershiprewards.com -> Use Points -> Airlines -> Aeroplan/Air Canada Transfer points.  Amex points transfer to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio and must be transferred in increments of 1,000.

Points usually post instantly and once the miles are in your Aeroplan account, log into points.com and click on the “Trade, Exchange & Buy” tab at the top of the page.

Under Step 1, click on “get more into a program” in the “would like to” box, and then select US Airways from the dropdown bar under “select a program and amount.”

That will pull up all the options in the “exchange” portion of Step 2, and as you can see, 1,191 Aeroplan miles gets you 1,000 US Airways miles (the rest of the options are such horrible exchange rates they’re not even worth mentioning).

The exchange ratio you’re getting is 1 Aeroplan mile to 0.85 US Airways miles, a 15% drop, but possibly still worth it since US Airways doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on most Star Alliance awards and they have much lower redemption rates on certain awards since Aeroplan raised most of theirs last year.

Keep in mind that under the rules of exchange on points.com, you must exchange at least 15,000 Aeroplan miles at a time, and no more than 50,000 in a single transaction, and you have to wait until the exchange goes through before making another transfer and sometimes they take up to 48 hours to go through.

Worth It?

Considering you can pretty much book any Star Alliance award with Aeroplan miles, why bother with the second transfer to US Airways?

Aeroplan has some high-value redemptions like 90,000 miles roundtrip business class North America to Europe awards, but it also levies substantial fuel surcharges on certain Star Alliance partners (Adria Airways, TAP Portugal, Lufthansa, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines and THAI) while US Airways surcharges are much less (though it does charge for simply booking award tickets!).

If you have no miles, or just a very few, in either your Aeroplan or US Airways accounts and would need to transfer enough Amex points for an entire award redemption, and the fuel surcharges and taxes to redeem with Aeroplan are reasonable, consider skipping the second transfer via points.com.

However, where this might be worth it is if you need to top up your US Airways account for a particularly valuable redemption. Remember, you need to transfer at least 15,000 Aeroplan miles per transaction and up to 50,000, so you would end up with between 12,601-42,005 Dividend miles.

If your transfer is toward the lower end of the spectrum, it might be worth burning a couple thousand miles in order to score an ultra-valuable redemption like US Airways’ 110,000-mile requirement for roundtrip award tickets in business class from North America to the South Pacific/Australia – especially because you can route through Asia with a stopover and basically get two trips in one. The same award would require 135,000 miles (from Canada and the continental US) with Aeroplan, so as long as you are saving more miles with the US Airways redemption than you’re losing with the Amex -> Aeroplan -> US Airways transfer, you’ll still come out ahead. Some of my other favorite US Airways redemptions are 90,000 mile roundtrip business class tickets to North Asia and off-peak awards to Europe for only 60,000 miles.

Air Canada charges 135,000 miles for a business class award ticket from Canada/continental US to Australia, but US Airways only charges 110,000.

Yes, the math can get a little complicated, but if you’re seriously considering this transfer option, make sure you crunch all the numbers involved (the main one is that exchange/transfer ratio and the number of points you lose from it since that will be your basis of comparison) and it should be fairly straightforward to figure out if the double-transfer is the best way to go. USAirways.com only shows US Airways flights, so if you want to compare the taxes/fees for Star Alliance flights, you’ll have to call US Airways at 1-800-428-4322 and the great thing is that they allow award holds for up to 72 hours. For more information on maximizing US Airways awards, check out this post.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Andrew L

    I read about the loophole to book UA F transcontinental awards in the comments section a few weeks ago and took advantage of it earlier this week on a PS flight that had only F available in both directions.

    It is sad that this will go away soon when UA switches to a two cabin setup.

  • Roadeightyfive

    I use this system regularly. It’s especially nice when the Canadian amex runs bonus points to Aeroplan, but even without it, it’s a good option for those of us up north who are sick of Aeroplan’s fees.

  • Zz

    On a related note, for those who have a Bank of America issued CC and earn WorldPoints. They can be transfered at 1:1 to Aeroplan. Now you can go from WorldPoints to US airways via Aeroplan.

  • Moe Safer

    I am not seeing this ratio anymore. I am seeing 13000 Dividend Miles from 17753 Aeroplan Points. Is anybody seeing a different amount of Aeroplan points needed than the example given in the TPG post?

  • piruka

    Zz,

    Have you done this recently? I think WorldPoints took away that transfer option several months ago?

    TPG, can you confirm this?

    Thanks

  • audisfo

    Can anybody confirm if US airway divident miles will not expire as long as you have activities (redeeming miles or earning miles) every 18 months?

  • audisfo

    I would say it ranges from .84~.85 ratio. I transfer 50K Aeroplan miles to us airways and it turns out to be 42000 us airway miles.

  • hc

    Darn! I wish I knew this sooner. Thanks for posting. Does Amex ever run transfer bonuses to Aeroplan??

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  • 15% loss but 20% discount

    Now that it’s in my US Airways account, I can utilize my 5k points discount for having the US cc, as well as not worry about close in/booking fees since i’m a Chairman.

    Thanks!

  • MikeA

    Message to @easygoing77 and the person who created this post…

    Thank you form the bottom of my heart. Money is always a tight subject. In the past American Express did have a relationship between USAirways and the Star-Alliance program. Now that is over, I had a dilemma.

    I started out with 160K points in my USAIRWAYS account that I’ve accrued in the past 3 years. Credit card bonuses aside and special offers, I bumped my points up significantly. I am married to a South African citizen and every few years we make plans to see my in-laws overseas. This time around, it’s extra special; my Mother-in-law turns 75 and I have a new nephew who’s fighting for his life… and with tight budgets and flight / fuel increases, to fly a family of 4 is ridiculously expensive.

    So I used this article to get an AEROPLAN account, and made my third and final transfer today. What it turned out was over 3 transactions, I transferred 137K AMEX points to AEROPLAN which became a bit over 115K points getting retransferred to my USAIRWAYS account.

    The significance? I’ll probablly pay about $800 in fees and taxes versus about $7,800. I can’t even book the trip yet because it’s far in advance… but at least I have the option to save abut $7K overall (money which I don’t have at the moment).

  • Fishclimb

    This might really help me – does a transfer like this count at all toward PQM or Preferred Status?

  • Italia

    For those that have redeemed Business/First seats on US Airways, how are they for availability? I’m sick of having to book my Aeroplan a year in advance to get one of the two business class seats they release on trans-atlantic flights!
    I’m on the west coast and any flight to Europe AC routes through YYZ and if you are not in Business, it’s not pretty on arrival.
    I’ve done the search for USA flights and it is showing as Business/First available, but before I transfer, I was curious how people do on getting those seats when they go to book.
    This would also save me about $300 per person!

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  • Banana

    that ended january 31, 2012. i know cuz i did it.

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  • jreif

    I tried transferring my Aeroplan miles tonight on points.com to US Airways and it is saying “These programs cannot exchange.” What can I do?

  • JCC9

    @jreif- me too! I just tried transferring my Aeroplan miles to US Airways on points.com and it says “these programs cannot exchange”. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

  • Boilerhoops10

    Has this disappeared? I saw it available over the weekend, then checking in today it does not show availability to transfer from Aeroplan to US.

  • Boilerhoops10

    I got a response from customer service at points.com and they said they were doing “testing” between Aeroplan and US and that they expected the capability back online in the next day. Sounds temporary, but I hope the exchange rate remains unchanged.

  • Eddy

    Can this be done multiple times in the same day or week etc.? I would like to get just over 50000 miles in my us air account.

  • Circumnavigate

    not possible!!!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jerry.udell Jerry Udell

    It appears that as a result of the AA/USAir merger they will leave the Star Alliance. Does this still make sense?

  • Rob

    Caution! Tranfer of points does not equate to miles. In other words, you will not be at a silver or gold status by just trasfering miles. Just spoke with US Airways.

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  • mog

    i just did this. strangely if i tried to trade my aeroplan there was no option for usair, but when i requested to ‘buy’ usair, then there was an option to give in aeroplan

  • B

    Does this still work? I don’t see any options to do this….

  • B
  • c

    Please remove this blog entry. It no longer works and now I am stuck with aeroplan points.

  • Justin Wilkins

    It’s working again!

  • Mark

    Worked for me today 2/22/14 at a ratio of 50K Aeroplan to 42K US.

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