How long do American Express Membership Rewards transfers take?

Oct 16, 2020

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American Express Membership Rewards points are one of the most useful, flexible loyalty currencies out there. While not your only redemption option, you’ll generally get the most value from your points by transferring them to a travel partner. The program offers 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners, including at least one useful option in each of the major alliances — SkyTeamStar Alliance and Oneworld. All but three of the partners have a 1:1 point-to-mile transfer ratio.

Transfer times vary by partner, so the TPG team routinely performs tests for each one. Not leaving yourself enough time to transfer points from your Membership Rewards account to the affected program could leave you high and dry.

Fortunately, transfers do not seem to be slowing down due to the pandemic. Your experiences may vary, but here’s what we found. 

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In This Post

American Express Membership Rewards transfer times

Program Ratio Transfer Time
Aer Lingus AerClub 1:1 Instant
Aeromexico Club Premier 1:1.6 24 Hours
Air Canada Aeroplan 1:1 Instant
Air France-KLM Flying Blue 1:1 Instant
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1:1 Instant
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club 1:1 48 Hours
Avianca LifeMiles 1:1 Instant
British Airways Executive Club 1:1 Instant
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 1:1 48 Hours
Delta SkyMiles 1:1 Instant
Emirates Skywards 1:1 Instant
Etihad Guest 1:1 Instant
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles 1:1 Instant
Iberia Plus 1:1 48 Hours
JetBlue TrueBlue 1.25:1 Instant
Singapore KrisFlyer 1:1 Less than 24 Hours
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1 Instant
Choice Privileges 1:1 Instant
Hilton Honors 1:2 Instant
Marriott Bonvoy 1:1 Instant

Note that the times listed above represent our personal experiences and shouldn’t be taken as hard-and-fast rules. However, others have reported a similar timeline when transferring points from Membership Rewards. Your transfers may be faster or slower, but you can use these times as guidelines when planning your trips.

Instant transfers are obviously always preferred, and Amex does a good job of making that happen compared with competitors like Citi ThankYou. If you haven’t done so already, link all of your different transfer partner accounts to your Membership Rewards account. This prevents delays in the future, when you may need to make a quick transfer.

Related: How long do Citi ThankYou Points take to transfer?

Before transferring Membership Rewards

The greatest risk when transferring points is that award availability can change while you’re waiting for points to show up in your account. Transfers are irreversible, so in the worst-case scenario, you’ll be stuck with thousands of points in a program you have little use for beyond your originally-intended award ticket or hotel night. Here are a few tips for how to avoid that situation:

1. Put your award reservation on hold before transferring. Not all programs allow you to put award tickets on hold, but those that do make things much easier. For example, Singapore KrisFlyer allows you to hold an award reservation so long as you have 50% of the necessary miles in your account.

2. Choose flights that have more than one available award seat. This is helpful in case someone else books before your miles show up. Use tools like ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to find out how many award seats are available on a flight. You can also do a single search for three or four passengers — that way, you can determine precisely how many seats are available.

3. Select uncommon routes. You can improve your chances of finding award space by choosing less popular routes or originate from non-hubs. Those often have better award availability. One example is a transatlantic flight from Raleigh-Durham to London on American Airlines. For a transpacific flight, check out ANA’s flight from San Jose to Tokyo-Narita.

4. Let availability determine your destination. If your original itinerary is no longer an option because availability has dried up and you have some flexibility, one solution is to choose your destination based on which awards are still bookable. If you want to fly six people in business to Hawaii for Christmas, I’d keep in mind the difficulty of that task and search for other destinations with availability — perhaps finding a diamond in the rough.

If your original flights have disappeared, don’t panic. Remember that award availability changes frequently and can increase dramatically as you get closer to your departure date. Check regularly and be ready to act quickly when seats do open up.

(Photo by Nicholas Ellis/The Points Guy)
Redeem your Amex points for an Upper Class seat on Virgin Atlantic. (Photo by Nicholas Ellis/The Points Guy)

Can you transfer Membership Rewards points to someone else’s account?

Unlike Chase and Citi, American Express doesn’t allow for transferring Membership Rewards points to other accounts, even for family members living under the same roof. However, there is a workaround for this: add them as an authorized user.

Although you won’t be able to transfer the points to another Amex account, you can transfer points to someone else’s travel loyalty account by adding them as an authorized user. American Express allows authorized users to be added to all of its Membership Rewards-earning cards. You can add practically anyone as an authorized user on your account — even if you don’t share the same address — but you will be responsible for their spending.

The Platinum Card® from American Express charges $175 to add authorized users to an account (see rates and fees). In addition to being able to transfer points to their loyalty accounts, authorized users receive all of the card’s benefits, like lounge access and hotel elite status. However, if the benefits don’t matter and all you want is the ability to transfer points, you can also add up to 99 Gold Card authorized users (on a Platinum account) for no fee (see rates and fees).

On the American Express® Gold Card, the first five authorized users are free to add, costing $35 for each person after that (see rates and fees). The American Express® Green Card doesn’t charge any fees to add authorized users (see rates and fees).

The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Everything you need to know about authorized users

Is there a fee for transferring Membership Rewards points?

American Express usually charges an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point (capped at $99) when you transfer points to a U.S. airline. For example, if you transfer 30,000 Membership Rewards points to Delta, you’ll need to pay an $18 fee. This is in addition to any taxes and fees you may be charged by the airline when redeeming your miles. However, thanks to the CARES Act, Amex is waiving all excise taxes on transfers made through Dec. 31, 2020.

To minimize these fees and maximize your Amex points, transfer your points to foreign frequent flyer programs like Avianca LifeMiles or British Airways Avios.

(Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy)
Amex charges a fee when transferring points to U.S. airlines like Delta. (Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy)

Which cards earn Membership Rewards points?

You have a few strong options for earning Membership Rewards points on a variety of common spending categories. The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express earns 3x points at U.S. supermarkets on the first $6,000 spent annually, along with 2x points at U.S. gas stations and 1 point per dollar on everything else. During each month you make 30 eligible transactions, you receive a 50% point bonus.

The American Express Gold Card earns 4x points at restaurants. On the first $25,000 spent each calendar year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1x) and 3x points on all airfare purchased directly with the airline, in addition to 1 point per dollar on everything else. If you’re purchasing flights and want to earn Amex points, however, your best bet is the Platinum Card from American Express, which earns 5x points on airfare purchased directly or through Amex Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).

Related: The ultimate guide to Amex Membership Rewards

Here’s a quick glance at the welcome bonus, bonus category structure, annual fee and benefits for some of the most valuable Membership Rewards credit cards. The points earned with each of the cards below are fully-transferable. You can click on the card names to learn more about the benefits they offer or visit this guide for more information.

Card Welcome Offer Bonus Categories Annual Fee Perks
The Platinum Card® from American Express 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership, although you may be targeted for up to 100,000 bonus points through the CardMatch Tool (subject to change at any time). Terms apply. 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)

5x points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.

10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.

Terms apply.

$550 (see rates & fees) Up to $200 annual airline fee credit; up to $200 total in annual Uber credits; a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; Global Lounge Collection
American Express® Gold Card 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first six months, although you may be targeted for up to 75,000 bonus points through the CardMatch Tool (subject to change at any time). Terms apply. 4x points on worldwide dining; 4x at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases (then 1x thereafter); 3x on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. Terms apply. $250 (see rates & fees) Up to $120 total in annual dining credit at participating partners; no foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees)
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express 10,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months 2x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1% thereafter). Terms apply. $0 Make 20 or more purchases with your card in a billing period and earn 20% extra points on those purchases, less returns and credits
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express 15,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months 3x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1% thereafter); 2x at US gas stations. Terms apply. $95 Make 30 or more purchases with your card in a billing period and earn 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits
American Express® Business Gold Card Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on eligible purchases with the card within the first 3 months of card membership 4x points on two select categories where you spend the most each month, up to $150,000 in combined purchases from these two categories each calendar year (then 1x thereafter). Terms apply. $295 (see rates & fees) 25% points back after you book a flight using Pay With Points
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of Card Membership. Terms apply. 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com; 1.5x on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to one million additional points per year). Terms apply. $595 (see rates & fees) Up to $200 annual airline fee credit; a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; Global Lounge Collection; complimentary Hilton Honors Gold and new Marriott Gold Elite status
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express 0.0% APR on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening; then a variable APR rate of 13.24% – 19.24% applies (see rates & fees). Terms apply. 2x points on everyday business purchases up to $50,000 each calendar year with no category restrictions (1x thereafter). Terms apply. $0 (see rates & fees) $0 annual fee for adding employees (see rates & fees)

The information for The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express and The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Choosing the best American Express credit card for you

Bottom line

American Express Membership Rewards transfers are instant for the vast majority of partners. Even the laggards only take 48 hours at most to transfer, which is significantly better than some other programs. Just remember that the transfer times listed above are based on what we saw and may vary from one person to another.

With the large variety of Membership Rewards transfer partners, it’s tough to pick out just a few of the best options. Some sweet spots include transferring 70,000 Membership Rewards via Singapore KrisFlyer to fly Singapore-Tokyo on the A380 Suite. Transferring to Choice Privileges for award stays in Europe and Etihad Guest to book flights on partners such as American will also get you terrific value. Check out our guide on redeeming Amex points for maximum value for all of the best-value transfers.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Card, please click here.

Featured image by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 75,000 Points Terms Apply.

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,500

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Annual Fee
$550
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.

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.