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SRQ: How Can I Keep My Corporate Amex Membership Rewards Points After Closing an Account?

by on March 3, 2013 · 26 comments

in American Express, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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TPG reader Todd has been smart about using a corporate credit card to accrue American Express Membership Rewards points, but now that he’s changing jobs, he’s got to decide what to do about them. Here’s his question:

“I am changing companies and am being told by Amex Membership Rewards that the points I’ve accrued on my corporate card can’t be transferred to my personal Membership Rewards account.  I’ve pushed them, but am striking out.  

I have about 2 million points so I don’t want to lose them. If I need to redeem them, what hotel chain is my best bet?  I fly almost exclusively Delta out of Salt Lake City (SLC) so even though Delta’s currency is headed in the wrong direction I’m inclined to transfer some of them to Delta (I’m Platinum and intentionally stay under Diamond).  I could also sell them to a service like Cash Your Miles that buys them for about 1 cent per mile.

I need to make a decision in the next week.  Any ideas?”

I’m not sure what exactly is happening in Todd’s situation, because when I worked at Morgan Stanley, my corporate Amex cards were actually attached to my personal Membership Rewards account so that even when I left and closed that corporate account I was able to retain those points. However, if your company has some sort of special arrangement that does not allow you to do so, transfer them all before the account is closed, or risk losing them.

You mentioned selling them to a broker. I don’t really discuss this option, though they’re out there. Essentially, by selling to a points broker, you’re transferring your points into one of their partner mileage or points accounts and then they sell discounted airline tickets or hotel rooms to other customers. It violates the Membership Rewards programs’ rules and you’re often not getting a great value on your points, plus if you get caught you can lose all your points. For instance, I contacted brokers just to see what they were offering for Amex Membership Rewards points and I got a 1-1.3 cents value on them, so in all, you’d be getting $26,000 at most – but again, if Amex found out, you could lose all of them and not see any money.

If, for some reason, you can't retain your corporate points, transfer them before you lose them!

If, for some reason, you can’t retain your corporate points, transfer them before you lose them!

In terms of transfers, you’ve got tons of options thanks to Amex’s multiple transfer partners – and with 2 million points, you might be in the enviable position of having too many points and not enough time to use them.

Personally, I would transfer to British Airways in Oneworld and Air Canada Aeroplan in Star Alliance, though I would try to wait until there was a transfer bonus  to do so – it doesn’t sound like you have the luxury of time, though.

If I had to make a split-second decision right now, I would probably transfer half my points to Aeroplan and half to British Airways – though maybe I’d hold about 500,000 back for pay-with-points redemptions that came up.

I would choose Aeroplan because it is part of Star Alliance and has 26 other airline partners that reach to pretty much every single corner of the globe. Although they devalued their award chart and instituted some huge fuel surcharges back in 2011, there are still several great redemptions to be found including 90,000 miles for roundtrip business class from North America to Europe; or using 125,000  miles for roundtrip US to Asia in business class routing across the Atlantic so you can effectively build a “round the world” itinerary with 2 stops, one of them in Europe.

In terms of British Airways, there are tons of great values to be had from using Avios points – though I would try to avoid flying British Airways to and from London because of the enormous fuel surcharges and fees on tickets through there. However, you can look at my whole British Airways Avios series to get some great ideas for how to maximize Avios:

I know you said you were a Delta flyer, but you’ll incur a 0.6 cents/mile fee on these transfers, and finding low-level award availability has become as difficult as spotting the Loch Ness monster lately. I also have a hunch that the SkyMiles program might change drastically soon, so you might be better off putting your miles somewhere else.

Then, as I mentioned, I don’t normally recommend Pay With Points where you can redeem Membership Rewards points for 1 cent per point, but if you have 500,000 leftover, there’s $5,000 you can put towards whatever travel you want, such as an expensive cruise you couldn’t otherwise have booked, or premium class tickets on airlines that might be discounted for summer and that it makes more sense to pay for with points instead of miles, and you will earn elite status and miles, and since you have more miles than you could probably possibly use, this could be a decent option for you.

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  • Toby Kaplan

    I sold my MR points a few weeks ago and got 1.5cents/point from most brokers

  • Slee

    “I know you said you were a Delta flyer, but you’ll incur a 0.6 cents/mile fee on these transfers”

    What is this fee and when did this start?

  • thepointsguy

    It’s an “airline excise fee” that Amex has been charging for years on Membership Rewards transfers to US airline partners, like delta

  • Shawn

    Whoa that’s news to me, I just started using Member Rewards this year. Is there a list of airlines with the 0.06 cents/mile fee?

    For 2 million points that’s $120,000. That’s insane. I mean, I do okay in my career and everything but my cash flow can’t handle a surprise 6-figure bill.

  • thepointsguy

    It is 6/10 of a cent per point so $60 per 100,000 points

  • palooza

    Ya, I’ve seen brokers quoting 1.5c so if this guy has to sell them, he’s best shopping around for a much better rate. that being said, it’s a true shame to sell them since you can do so much better with actual redemptions.

  • Md

    If you sell all your points then you have no points that they can take away if they catch you. Since you won’t be adding points to this account, i don’t think you have much to lose. Just get the $ from the broker & sell the entire account at once. You should be able to get at least 1.5cent per point.

  • Andre
  • Slee

    The 0.6 cent/mile you quoted was shocking….would make it $12000 to xfer 2M points. What you meant was 0.06/mile…which is still a significant $1200 but a fair more palatable.

  • David S

    If you have another Amex that earns MRs you can consolidate into one account. I regularly sweep my corporate points into my Platinum MR account.

  • http://twitter.com/ryanebush Ryan Bush

    If they catch you they will block the transaction from going through, then you’re stuck with no points and no money

  • Webazoid

    Can you still transfer to aeroplan and then to us airways with 100k aeroplan to 84k us aiways?

  • Ryan

    Capped at $99 per transfer

  • http://twitter.com/rubiety Ben Hughes

    Transfer at least some to Singapore Airlines! That’s the only way you can get first/suites class. They don’t have a bad *A award chart either…

  • Matt C

    “[o]r using 125,000 miles for roundtrip US to Asia in business class routing across the Atlantic so you can effectively build a “round the world” itinerary with 2 stops, one of them in Europe.” — I thought you couldn’t cross two oceans with an award ticket. I have a lot of United points and would look to maximize them using open jaws and stop-overs!

  • thepointsguy

    No that exchange ratio is temporarily down

  • thepointsguy

    You can with Aeroplan. You can also route to Asia via Europe w united

  • john

    You can link your personal and corp mr accts by paying some fee per yr, I think $125. It is in the terms of membership.

  • old guy

    How does one fly business class from NA to Europe w/90k miles? i checked the link but the closest i found was from N. America to N. Asia using US airways Dividend miles

    also, does it matter whether flying off-season or not… ie does the 90k apply during end of May?

  • http://twitter.com/rafkuhn rafael

    the fee is $90 dollars. This is something i dealt with last week, so here’s the intel: if all you have is a corporate card, your rewards account is subject to an annual fee (used to be $75, last year increased to $90). When you open up a personal amex charge card, in my case premier rewards gold, Amex will automatically link your two cards together (without asking you….grr….) and 1) charge you the $90 annual fee for the corporate card linking while 2) crediting you the prorated amount of the previous year’s fee that hasn’t been used. For me, since my $75 was last paid in May, that means 1) a $90 charge 2) a ~$19 credit since (1) is taking place in Feb instead of May.

    Once this takes place, the personal card is designated primary on the membership rewards account and all associated fees are then charged to the personal account.

  • TravelSplash

    Isn’t Singapore Airlines a good Star Alliance option also? It seems like a better option than Aeroplan to me with great redemption options such as Singapore suites and no fuel surcharges on United redemptions.

  • Shaka

    How does one do this?

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  • flyatlanta

    Personally I think Todd need to find way to reserve the point and not to rush to transfer or cash out. He can apply a AMEX card with reward program and link his existing reward program to the new card. Those card include AMEX PLATINUM personal/business card or Gold reward card with lower annul FEE. By doing so, the point earned via corporate card should reside with the personal card even the corporate card being cancelled.

    I changed 2 jobs with different consulting firm and both issue AMEX credit card. I never lost the point earned via the corporate card during the job transition. since I have my personal Amex Platinum card.

    Not sure it will apply Todd’s situation, but 2 million points can do a lot if following TPG ‘s blog

  • Guest

    Old post, but I just came across this and felt I should correct for anyone else who does – it is not 6/10 of a cent per point. It is $0.0006, or 6/100, per point. 6/10 of a cent per point would have been $600 for a 100k point transfer. And as Ryan said, the cap is $99.

  • jj

    I think this rule may have changed. AmEx claims that you will not lose a corporate card’s membership rewards points, if you close the account as long as it’s linked to another card.

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