Transferring Amex Membership Rewards Points to Etihad Guest

Apr 19, 2016

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As of today, the American Express Membership Rewards program has one additional transfer partner: Etihad Guest. The Middle Eastern carrier is the 17th airline partner available for MR transfers, and it represents a great opportunity to book award flights — particularly on American Airlines following the recent devaluation. Read on for the full details.

First thing’s first: Membership Rewards points will move to Etihad Guest at a 1:1 ratio, unlike other carriers like British Airways that have less favorable transfer rates. In the TPG team’s experience, transfer times for all Membership Rewards partners are very quick (Amex has confirmed that Etihad transfers should be instant), so you shouldn’t need to plan too far in advance if you want to use MR points toward an award flight.

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When to Transfer to Etihad Guest

Naturally, you could move Membership Rewards points over to Etihad Guest to book a flight on the carrier’s own metal. However, it could be a better option to book Etihad flights using American AAdvantage miles instead. For example, it costs 87,736 Etihad Guest miles to book a seat in the First Apartment one-way from London to Abu Dhabi, while it’s 62,500 AAdvantage miles for the same award. Unfortunately, American isn’t a Membership Rewards partner, but you can earn miles with a variety of credit cards or transfer points from Starwood Preferred Guest with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 points.

You can still use Etihad miles to book ANA first-class award flights, but it’s no longer an amazing deal.

Where Etihad Guest offers excellent value is with partner redemptions. Up until last year, you could book flights between the US and Asia in ANA first class for just 48,100 miles each way. Unfortunately, Etihad caught on to how amazing of a deal that was, and the airline has since significantly bumped up the number of miles you’ll need for that award. There are still some gems in the airline’s chart — Brussels to New York on Brussels Air is just 36,620 miles round-trip (if you can find an agent who can figure out how to book it) — but that ANA deal is long gone.

If you’re looking for a more straightforward (and widely available) redemption, it often makes sense to book American Airlines flights using Etihad miles, so this could be a good reason to transfer MR points over to Etihad Guest. While the carrier isn’t the only Oneworld partner that’s also part of the Membership Rewards program, it’s often cheaper than using British Airways Avios or Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.

You can get an amazing return by using Etihad miles to book AA flights.
You can get an amazing return by using Etihad miles to book AA flights.

For example, here’s what you’ll need to redeem for a one-way flight from New York to Los Angeles:

Program Economy (Miles) Economy (MR Points) 2-Cabin Business/First (Miles) Business/First (MR Points)
Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) 20,000 20,000 30,000 30,000
British Airways Executive Club 12,500 15,625 37,500 46,875
Etihad Guest 12,500 12,500 25,000 25,000

Etihad doesn’t necessarily come out ahead with short-haul redemptions. For example, here’s New York to Boston:

Program Economy (Miles) Economy (MR Points) 2-Cabin Business/First (Miles) Business/First (MR Points)
Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) 10,000 10,000 20,000 20,000
British Airways Executive Club 7,500 9,375 30,000 37,500
Etihad Guest 12,500 12,500 25,000 25,000

Though its fixed-rate redemptions make it less advantageous for very short flights, Etihad is a solid option for longer domestic flights — especially compared to British Airways Avios, since the carrier’s transfer ratio with Membership Rewards is a less-favorable 5:4.

You can also come out far ahead with a redemption to Asia. Here’s a comparison for one-way premium-cabin travel between New York and Hong Kong:

Program Business Class (Miles) Business Class (MR Points) First Class (Miles) First Class (MR Points)
Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) 85,000 85,000 130,000 130,000
British Airways Executive Club 105,000 131,250 140,000 175,000
Etihad Guest 55,000 55,000 67,500 67,500
American AAdvantage 70,000  — 110,000  —

As you can see, you’ll get a great deal by transferring Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest compared to Amex’s other partners, especially for longer flights from the US.

Cards That Earn Membership Rewards Points

Amex's 16 other airline transfer partners.
Amex’s 16 other airline transfer partners.

You can earn Membership Rewards points with several popular American Express cards, including The Platinum Card, Premier Rewards Gold, and the no-fee Amex EveryDay Credit Card . With Etihad now available as a Membership Rewards transfer partner, you’ll earn enough points for a round-trip economy flight anywhere within the US after receiving the standard 25,000-point welcome bonus available after you spend $2,000 within the first three months with the Premier Rewards Gold card. (Note that you may be targeted for a higher welcome bonus via the CardMatch Tool.)

Bottom Line

While it’s been possible to transfer points from Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest to Etihad Guest for quite some time, it’s fantastic to see American Express adding the program as a Membership Rewards partner. Membership Rewards points can be very easy to earn (especially if you own a small business), putting many premium-cabin redemptions within reach.

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