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The Ultimate Guide To American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfers

by on August 19, 2013 · 73 comments

in American Express, TPG Contributors

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Following up on his Ultimate Guide to Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfer Options, TPG contributor Jason Steele takes a look at the airline partners of American Express Membership Rewards – including their alliances and non-alliance partners you can use their miles on, as well as one-way and roundtrip routing rules – as a comprehensive web resource on the Membership Rewards program and how to maximize its 16 airline partners.

In my last post, I looked at all of the Starwood Preferred Guest’s program’s airline mileage transfer partners, and all of those airlines’ partners. That list included 118 individual airlines that your Starpoints could be used to redeem flights on by transferring them to one of the program’s airline partners and then in turn booking awards on their partners – the old “partners of partners” strategy that maximizes your points by taking advantage of the myriad airline partnerships out there.

Membership Rewards has 16 airline partners.

Membership Rewards has 16 airline partners.

Today, I am looking at the next largest airline point transfer program, American Express Membership Rewards, which you accrue with cards like the Premier Rewards Gold card and Business Gold Rewards card as well as the business, personal and Mercedes-Benz versions of the Platinum Card.

Results

Although Membership Rewards only has 16 transfer partners (compared to SPG’s 31) at this point, there are 94 individual airlines that you can use your points to fly by leveraging those 16 direct airlines transfer partners’ partners. Unique to Membership Rewards is JetBlue, Iberia, Frontier, El Al, and Virgin America. Nine of these direct transfer partners allow one-way awards for half the price of roundtrips, five don’t, and Hawaiian only does with its own flights and JetBlue’s.

Also remember that when transferring to US-based airlines including Delta and Frontier, that you will be charged a fee of $0.0006 (6/100th’s of a cent) per point up to a maximum of $99.

As with the other list, I am sure that there are some smaller codeshare partners that are not included which are often wholly owned subsidiaries of the listed carriers.

The Charts

When you download this Excel document that I created, you will see that there are two separate charts: American-Express-Membership-Rewards-Airline-Transfer-Partners-Guide

The first set of information is a list of the Amex Membership Rewards airline partners grouped by alliance and then notes on which non-alliance partners you can redeem their miles on.

The second one is a list of every partner of the American Express Membership Rewards airline transfer partners including which alliance they are in and which non-alliance partners’ miles you can use to book awards on them. I did not include lists of alliance partners since that information is readily available, so if it says Star Alliance, you can assume you can use ANA, United, US Airways, etc. to book an award on that airline, plus whatever non-alliance partners I list.

As before, if you find any errors, please let us know in the comments so that we can update it.

For more information, also be sure to check out these posts: Analyzing Membership Rewards Star Alliance Partners Top 10 Lesser Known Amex Membership Rewards Transfer Partners Transferring Amex Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios Versus Cathay Pacific Asia Miles ANA Award Taxes and Fees Roundup

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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  • Vaselenko

    It is not accurate to say airlines don’t allow one-way awards. They do, but at the same redemption level as round-trip awards. Better to say something like (under the subheading “Results”) “some airlines allow one-way awards at the one-way redemption levels (or lower redemption levels). You get my point.

  • Paul

    Thanks for posting this. Have you done any work on SPG or Amex transfer partners that let you do interesting things with miles? For example, SPG has a bunch of Star Alliance partners. Are there airlines there that let you do things like the US Airways 90k miles to North Asia with a stopover in Europe? Just planning ahead in case the US Airways/AA merger go through or US Airways devalues…

  • Kelly O

    So, for example, let’s say I wanted to redeem Amex points for a Qantas flight. Would I transfer the Amex points to either ANA or Alitalia? Then would I have to call the airline to book? Thanks for the info and chart.

  • Upen Patel

    Etihad is a non-alliance partner with American

  • Greco

    In your excel the second chart says “Starwood transfer partners”. Maybe a copy-paste fault?

    Anyway, I understand that if I want for example an award for a domestic flight in Greece with Aegean (Star Alliance), then I should first transfer AMEX MR points to a Star Alliance transfer partner (Air Canada, ANA or Singapore) and then book the award via their systems and procedures. Correct?

    Also, take a look at this link:
    http://bit.ly/18FrWMC

    Maybe SAS should be mentioned as a partner, even it doesn’t support AMEX MR from all countries out there?

  • mddi

    I’m on a Mac and the Am Ex Chart won’t translate. I can’t just view it.

  • slickmouse

    Maybe I missed it – but I didn’t find Frontier on your spreadsheet.

  • David

    So posts like this imply that transferring points/miles to airline rewards programs and then booking your flight on that airline using those miles gives you more bang for you buck than simply purchasing travel with your credit card and then using miles to pay yourself back, correct?

  • Bucky Katt

    It opens fine for me on both Excel for Mac and Numbers . . .

  • Jonathan

    Great resource – thanks for doing this. I’d love to see some analysis here, though. Where are the sweet spots? What transfer parters should be avoided?

  • letsbeoff

    You can book one way awards with Virgin Atlantic.

  • Kevin

    You get charged a fee to transfer amex points to some carriers(like JetBlue)

  • thepointsguy

    Thanks, we corrected.

  • JB

    BA -> non alliance JAL

  • bltn95

    If you take requests, I think it would be helpful to include transfer ratio and surcharges information for each airline.

  • thepointsguy

    Good reminder – we added that info in.

  • thepointsguy

    JAL is in Oneworld.

  • barbara

    I cannot open the file. have tried to open it under both firefox and explorer and have not been able to do so with either.

  • Jerry

    Hello

    i have a friend moving to the UK soon and we were discussing about credit cards

    he currently has an Amex linked to Air France Flying Blue

    he was hesitating between:
    - Starwood Amex (good conversion ratio to almost all airlines)
    - British Airways Amex Premium (earning BA avios only)
    - Preferred Rewards Gold (converting MMR points to hotels/flights)

    each has different advantages, cons and pros

    Starwood and Preferred Rewards Gold would be more flexible than BA…

    all have travel insurances, bonus sign-up and cost annually almost the same price

    any advice?

    thanks

  • JB

    For the MR transfer chart, you can transfer to BA and JAL should be listed as a non-alliance MR airline you can book through BA?

  • SgFm

    Vietnam Airlines is a Delta partner. I have used this in the past.

  • Guest

    The file is showing 2 extensions… .xls.xls so it will not open. Just an FYI.

  • LJA

    won’t open – on a Dell PC

  • thepointsguy

    It’s only showing one for me, and it’s opening fine on my computer. Maybe you have an outdated edition of Excel?

  • Jason Steele

    Transfer ratios on Amex are all one to one. The surcharge info is very complicated, but I will try to address it in a future post.

  • Jason Steele

    Correct. I will have it updated.

  • Jason Steele

    Starwood is the most flexible, although the BA card has a great sign up bonus at 50k. I would probably go with the Starwood and wait until BA 100K comes back.

  • Jason Steele

    Absolutely. You can get 5 cents per point in value or more when points are transferred to miles and the miles are redeemed for business or first class awards.

  • Jason Steele

    Will fix, thx

  • Jason Steele

    Good point.

    Essentially, they all offer 1 way awards, as no one will force you to return. More accurately, they are one-way awards for less than the round trip miles.

  • Jerry

    thanks Jason

    what about the regular Amex Gold ?

    is its point value to low ? it seems to me that earning 1 point per pound spent is quite low…

  • deWeb

    Is it posible to transfer or use Amex membership rewards points to aa?

  • Joe

    Would appreciate ring able to view document on my iPad. PDF perhaps? Thanks.

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  • Diamond Vargas

    For both this and the SPG transfer chart, you should correct AeroMexico to note that they do allow one-ways for half the miles, according to http://www.frugaltravelguy.com/2013/07/9-ways-to-get-to-mexico-on-points-and-miles.html and http://www.webflyer.com/programs/ratings_and_reviews/program.php?key=AM01

  • disqust101

    A functional tablet uses Android.

  • disqust101

    ??

    Lousy advice if you MS.

    PRG is significantly better card because you can manufacture at gas/grocery at 2x (vs best case 1.25x on SPG if transfer to airlines). PRG has bigger signup bonuses (as high as 75K MR), plus additional 15K MR with $30K spend. Push $30K at gas/grocery and you’ll get 75K MR (vs a paltry 35K SPG if you transfer at 1.25x for airlines). That’s 40K more MR than SPG for same $ spend, plus you can get significantly larger signup bonus to boot.

    Also many more Amex cards (with attendant signup bonuses) offer MR which allow you to build meaningful points very quickly. Finally, Amex has periodic transfer bonuses to various programs (like recent 35% bonus to BA Avios and current so-so 20% bonus to Hawaiian).

    Not to be forgotten is Amex MRs transfer in 1K increments instantly (vs 20K blocks of SPG which can take a week or two to post – which means you run significant risk of transferring SPG and seeing award space disappear while you wait).

    After Ink 5x at office supply, PRG is the next best card to manufacture spend for airlines…

  • Pierre

    Yes, VIA British Airways. All domestic travel booked through them is on AA.

  • Bryan C

    I don’t understand the point of including “Non-Alliance partners whose miles can be redeemed for awards” in the 2nd chart. For American, you have non-alliance partner Hawaiian listed, but I can’t transfer my MR points to American to book on Hawaiian. If I tranfer MR points to BA (or Asia miles or Iberia), I can fly on American but not Hawaiian. Am I missing something?

  • thepointsguy

    Yes, it sounds like you’re reading it backwards. The chart says you can redeem Hawaiian miles for awards on American, not the other way around.

  • Garrett

    I don’t think transfers to Virgin America are 1:1. I think I looked once, but I could be wrong.

  • Bryan C

    Thanks, that makes sense. I guess I was confused because you can redeem AA miles to fly on Hawaiian, but you can’t tranfer MR points to AA.

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  • Mr. Cool

    бля..вот руссаки понаехали

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  • Bettina

    Hi! Thank you very much for this information. I was wondering if you can help me figure out if I can buy a flight with China Southern Airlines with my AMEX milage rewards. Could this be possible? Thanks!

  • Courtney

    This is a great chart…thank you!

  • Nancy

    I am new to the points game. I have over 50K membership rewards points and want to fly to NYC for a weekend in the next 6 weeks. I live in North Carolina. What airline would be be best/easiest to transfer points for a NYC trip? Thanks for your assistance.

  • Milena

    Hi, I’ve never used points before and feel like an idiot. Would really appreciate if you could help me. My husband has 500,000 Amex points and I would like to book three tickets to Israel from Los Angeles on El Al. How should I go about doing that to maximize the points value? Thank you so much in advance for any help that you can give me.

  • Gh

    How can upgrade us airway tickets to first class with Amex points. I was thinking to move points to aero plan then us airways can I do it that way?

  • Bromo

    A functional tablet uses Numbers.

  • David Zeng

    For me, the best partner is ANA, for example, from JFK to NRT, I usually purchase premium economy B class ticket usually 1300 dollars, I can use 28,000 points to upgrade to ANA business class 3300 dollars. Don’t forget you can earn 100% miles back+ ANA onboard bonus(8000+miles back). SO, you spent less than 20,000 miles and get 2000 dollars value, easily >10 cents per mile.

  • http://www.AdamLasnik.net/ ThatAdamGuy

    David, could you kindly explain what you mean by “earn 100% miles back + ANA onboard bonus)”?

  • Maverick911

    I don’t see emirates mentioned in the Chart.

  • lmccranie

    Sorry, I was not able to open either, and really need to review this info….any way we can get a pdf file for iPad?? Thanks

  • mongo

    LAZY do it yourself is not difficult he is not your concierge just go to amex and check yourself … also NC to NYC is so incredibly cheap come on! save points for a proper international trip

  • cool guy

    Create an account with Air canada’s (star alliance) reward program. Transfer there, then book on any star alliance carrier (United). The only american carrier you can directly transfer to with amex is delta, but their redemption level is almost 3 times star alliance partners, so it is not worth it.

  • Matt

    TPG, you have mentioned that you value AMEX rewards at approx 2 cents a piece, I’m trying to figure out how to get a 2 cents per point benefit. Most everything I find (buying airline tickets or merchandise) have a 1 cent/point or worse rate. Any guidance or help you can offer would be huge! thank you in advance!!

  • simona

    ditto, can’t open in Excel either, tried converting to my older version, says invalid file format

  • Guest

    You say … then book on any star alliance carrier (United). … How do you do this from Aeroplan? I always end up on AC flight with huge costs.

  • Guest

  • Steve Kincade

    You say … then book on any star alliance carrier (United). … How do you do this from Aeroplan? I always end up on AC flight with huge costs.

  • Joseph

    Matt, you only get 2¢ per MR point if you transfer your points to a frequent flyer account, and then buy the airline ticket from there. If you use your MR points to buy an airline ticket (or gift cards) directly from American Express Travel, you are only going to get a penny a point value.

  • Jacks

    Your a total rick head if you change the first letter a little. Who are you to tell anyone anything? If he doesn’t want to be bothered he is able to tell them himself he doesn’t need a rick head like you protecting him.

  • Jacks

    Stupid rick head

  • Tony Eljallad

    I have 30K AMEX Rewards points I want them to transfer to US Airways, Is there in way to transfer them without using SPG as the middleman ?

  • Ryely

    Hi, My mom almost 1 million Amex miles. She is elderly and doesn’t travel much anymore. I am do not have an Amex card and because of a few dings to my credit, I don’t see one in the future. I was recently added as an “account manager” to her account. My question is if something should happen to her and I need to transfer all those miles, what would be the best option for me? Thank you!

  • http://imdb.me/richkeith Rich

    If you have a blue card, they won’t let your transfer point AT ALL. It’s really crappy. They just let you buy stuff through them or get a statement credit. So… NOT ideal.

  • Keith

    Newbie here. Is it better to transfer AMEX gold rewards points to an airline to purchase tickets, rather than just purchasing via the Amex rewards portal?

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