Can You Turn Amex Points Into American Miles? Can You Use Amex To Book Etihad Awards?

by on May 26, 2013 · 13 comments

in American, American Express, Etihad, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express has expired. View the current offers here – personal, business.

This reader question comes from TPG reader Steven, who asks:

“Can you turn Amex points into American Airline miles? I want to use them to fly Etihad from the US to the Middle East.”

The answer to Steven’s first question about converting Amex points into American miles is: yes, but it’s at a terrible conversion rate. That’s because first you have to transfer your Amex points into Starwood points at a dismal 3:1 ratio, and then you can transfer Starwood points to American Airlines miles at a 1:1 ratio and you get a 5,000-mile bonus for transfers of 20,000 miles – so at least there’s a little 25% bump there. Still, let’s say you transferred 60,000 Amex points to get 20,000 Starpoints, which you then transferred to American miles for a grand total of 25,000 miles – that’s a pretty terrible conversion rate! You’re only getting about a 42% return on your points! No thank you.

So let’s say you wanted to fly Etihad roundtrip from JFK to Abu Dhabi. That’s 90,000 miles in economy or 135,000 miles in business class. That would require you to transfer 330,000 Amex points (!) for business. They’re a great airline and all, but you can get the same seat for a lot less points.

Amex points only transfer to SPG at a dismal 3:1 ratio.

Amex points only transfer to SPG at a dismal 3:1 ratio.

However, Etihad is a partner of All Nippon Airlines (ANA), which is also an Amex transfer partner and transfers take about 2 days. ANA awards are distance based and since JFK- Abu Dhabi is 13,374 miles roundtrip, it would be 60,000/90,000/140,000 for economy/business/first class roundtrip and between $500-$1,200 in taxes/fees. Not cheap, but the amount of points needed is less than Alitalia in most cases and you can redeem for First Class.

ANA Award chart for roundtrip flights based on how far the flights are in total miles roundtrip

ANA Award chart for roundtrip flights based on how far the flights are in total miles roundtrip

You can also use Alitalia, which is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, and is also an airline partner of Etihad. Per Alitalia’s Etihad award chart, to book a roundtrip economy class ticket from the US to the Middle East, you only need 120,000 Alitalia MilleMiglia miles, or 180,000 in business, so much more than ANA.

Alitalia's Etihad award chart.

Alitalia’s Etihad award chart.

So even though 180,000 points is a lot and might not be the best redemption value out there, it’s still a whole lot better than spending 330,000 points – it’s almost half!

If you’re really looking to score some American miles, you might want to open either the personal or business version (or both!) of the Starwood Amex, which is currently offering 25,000 points when you spend $5,000 in 6 months (though that sometimes goes up to 30,000 points), so that when you go to transfer points, you’re at least getting a 1:1 ratio, and potentially a 25% bonus on those 20,000-point transfers.

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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  • DS

    Better way to do it would be with ANA Miles

  • Jetstream007

    Air Berlin (25% owned by Etihad) is a full partner of Ethiad and has codeshares on most of their destinations. You might be able to go that route or use ANA instead. Better options out there.

  • Sir Jim

    While listening to this video, I had a crazy thought: Can I transfer Starwood points to AMEX at a 1:3 ratio and then transfer AMEX to Avios and get a 35% bonus?

  • thepointsguy

    You’re right- updated!

  • thepointsguy

    No- its a 3:1 meaning 60,000 Amex = 20,000 Avios.

    Transfer directly to Avios for the 35% bonus!

  • thepointsguy

    ANA is indeed the best option, even if the fees are higher. I updated post

  • Matt

    Transfer to Aeroplan and then move from Aeroplan to US Airways via at an approximately 10% devaluation. By the end of the year US/AA miles will be transferable (assuming AA/US follows DL/NW and UA/CO — which is almost assured). It would be best if Aeroplan offers another 30% (or is it usually 20-25%?) bonus this year.

  • Jason Mickleby

    And provided AA 1) does use a 1:1 transfer acceptance ratio between US and AA and 2) AA does not devalue its own chart in the process. People are assuming it will be seamless. Lets hope so!

  • Jason Mickleby

    330,000 points equal to $3,300 cash value let’s not forget this. SPG is not a decent option at all. ANA issued ticket will cost close to $2,000.00 for J ( real value of MR points plus ANA fees)

  • Justin

    Also assuming Etihad is still a partner by then. Qatar is about to be Oneworld…

  • ocscorpio

    Not that this would help anyone in the near future, but I’m assuming when the merger is finalized, Dividend Miles will convert to AAdvantage miles. Assuming this is true, theoretically you could convert your AMEX points to Dividend Miles at a 1:1 ratio, and then when the merger is complete see those Dividend Miles convert to AAdvantage miles, presumably at a 1:1 ratio as well.

  • cchrissyy

    what is the ticket in dollars? remember Amex has the travel booking portal where you can use MR points in place of dollars, and get 20% instantly back. So if the ticket was $2000, you can get in through amex for 160,000 points and no transferring needed.

  • Mapalumpa

    I need to transfer Amex rewards to American Airlines to book a roundtrip from Chicago to Melbourne, Australia. American Aiones offers the roundtrip for 75000 miles opposed to Delta’s 132000. Any suggestions?

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