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TPG reader Tim

“I would love to see you address best ways to use of Amex points to book domestic travel this summer. I’m sitting on a lot of points, but obvious avenues like using Avios to book flights on American (via British Airways) seem worthless as all flights seem to show no availability. I am looking to go LAX to New York or Boston or even Atlanta.”

The good news is that American Express Membership Rewards has a lot of different transfer partners where you can get the most value when redeeming Amex points.

The program’s 21 airline and hotel transfer partners include:

Star Alliance:
Air Canada Aeroplan, Singapore, All Nippon Airlines
Oneworld: British Airways, Iberia, Cathay Pacific
Skyteam: Delta, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia, Aeromexico
Other: Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, El Al, Frontier, JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines

Starwood 3:1
Hilton 1: 1.3
Best Western 1:1
Jumeirah 23:1

The other option you have is Pay With Points where you can book any flight you want at a rate of 1 cent per point (you actually get 1.25 cents per point if you have the Business Platinum card) and the great thing about these redemptions is that you actually earn mileage and elite credit and you can enjoy any elite benefits you normally would like if you just purchased the ticket. While I generally can get more value with my points when transferring directly to the airline partners (especially during transfer bonuses), Pay With Points can come in handy when you have points to burn and are looking to save money while still earning elite status.

Amex Membership Rewards has 16 airline transfer partners including Delta, British Airways, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines
Amex Membership Rewards has 16 airline transfer partners including Delta, British Airways, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines

In terms of transferring points to one of the program’s partners, here are the key ones that you should consider:

Although United and US Airways are not transfer partners, other Star Alliance carriers including Air Canada, Singapore and ANA are, and you can use those miles to book tickets on United or US Airways. I personally use Aeroplan the most because transfers are instant, the fees are somewhat low, and it’s 25,000 miles roundtrip for coach and 50,000 for business class for domestic roundtrip redemptions.

Singapore is also a Star Alliance airline and though economy awards using their miles also requires 25,000 for roundtrip economy tickets, a business class ticket on United or US Airways will only cost you 40,000 Singapore miles, so that’s potentially a very good deal – especially if you’re redeeming for a transcontinental ticket where business class could cost you north of $2,000 – and first class will cost you 60,000 miles.

ANA is also an option, but their award chart is based on distance, so a transcontinental roundtrip economy award will be 38,000 miles while business class will be 63,000 miles and first class will be 90,000 miles, so I’d generally stay away from it based on the routes you mentioned.

Apart from Star Alliance partners, Delta has limited award availability at the low levels on those transcontinental routes, so I wouldn’t spend a lot of time looking into these awards, though it’s worth a shot to do some searching and see what you can turn up.

You could also consider transferring to JetBlue and Virgin America, but here’s why I would suggest not doing that. That’s because Amex points transfer to JetBlue at a pretty dismal ratio of 250 Amex points to 200 JetBlue points. JetBlue points are redeemable at one cent apiece, so you’re only getting 0.8 cents in value from each of your Amex points. Much better just to book your flights using Pay With Points where you’re getting 1-1.25 cents per points depending on what card you have and you still earn TrueBlue points.

Amex points transfer to JetBlue at a dismal ratio.
Amex points transfer to JetBlue at a dismal ratio.

The same goes for Virgin America. Virgin Elevate points are worth about 2 cents apiece at most, but you can only transfer Amex points to Elevate points at a ratio of 2 Amex points to 1 Elevate point, so even at best, you’re only getting about 1 cent per point in value so you might as well use Pay With Points, earn points/miles on your fare and have the flexibility to book whatever flight you want.

If your heart is set on flying Virgin America, there is a workaround thanks to the airline’s partnership with Hawaiian (another Amex transfer partner), where you can redeem Hawaiian Miles for award seats on Virgin America, though roundtrip domestic economy awards of 2,000 miles or over cost 40,000 miles, 65,000 miles for Main Cabin Select, and 90,000 for first class. That could make sense if you are redeeming for first class on an expensive route where tickets can cost in the thousands of dollars.

In general, I’d suggest doing some searching with the Star Alliance partners, and don’t discount British Airways. I know it can be a pain to search for American awards on the website, but especially with transfer bonuses like the 35% one that expired Friday, Avios can offer huge value on certain flights. For more info on maximizing British Airways Avios, check out my series: The posts in my series include: Master FAQ Post on British Airways 100,000 Mile Offer, Distance-Based Awards,Spotlight on Taxes and FeesTravel Together Companion TicketHousehold AccountsUsing Avios to Upgrade Paid TicketsThe Avios and Cash OptionSave Money on Fuel Surcharges by Transferring British Airways Avios to IberiaUsing Avios For Non-Flight Redemptions.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
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Annual Fee
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Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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