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Should I Use Amex Pay With Points or Transfer to Partners?

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TPG reader Victoria tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy- “How do I determine whether it’s better to use the Pay with Points option or transfer my Amex Membership Rewards points to a frequent flyer program?”

I love Amex Membership Rewards points, and I use them almost exclusively for transfers to airline partners, because that’s where I can get the most value. However, you can also use the Pay with Points option on the Membership Rewards website to purchase airfare at 1 cent per point, or 1.25 cents per point if you have the Amex Business Platinum card (which I do).

The answer to this particular question is fairly simple. When you redeem via Pay with Points, you get a fixed return of 1 cent per point, and because your ticket counts as a paid fare, you’ll also earn frequent flyer miles and elite qualifying credit for your flight, which adds to the overall value.

I think 1.25 cents is a reasonable threshold, so if transferring to a partner offers you less than 1.25 cents per point, then stick with the Pay with Points option. If you can surpass 1.25 cents per point in value by transferring, then that’s the better option. (I’d adjust that threshold to 1.5 cents per point if you have the Amex Business Platinum card.) Transferring to a partner often makes the most sense for Business or First class tickets, as those redemptions typically offer the greatest value on a per point basis.

Transferring you Amex points to a partner airline will usually offering you more bang for your buck, but it always depends on the situation. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Transferring Amex points to a partner airline is the best value, but it depends on the situation. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

For example, if you transfer 90,000 points to Aeroplan for a $5,000 international Business class flight, you’re getting well over 5 cents/point in value. Using Pay With Points you’d need to redeem 500,000 points for that same flight,  so transferring to a partner airline and booking an award flight  is clearly the better option in that scenario, as it tends to be with more expensive tickets. You wouldn’t earn any miles on the flight, but you’d save 410,000 Membership Rewards points!

Run the numbers for yourself and see what your options are before booking. If you’re desperate for some elite qualifying miles, then Pay With Points will be more worthwhile. It all depends on your circumstances!

If you have any other questions, please tweet me@thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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