The best ways to use 75,000 American Express Membership Rewards points

Nov 16, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

Earning welcome offers from the top travel rewards credit cards is the best way to boost your points balance quickly. The Platinum Card® from American Express is doing its part, with a welcome offer of 75,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases on your new card in the first six months of account opening.

This card is one of the best on the market for frequent travelers. The $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) may be tough to swallow, but it comes with a huge list of benefits. This includes extensive lounge access, an up to $200 airline incidental fee credit, free Global Entry/TSA Precheck and other benefits. Plus, the new welcome offer gives you at least $1,500 in value per TPG’s most recent Membership Rewards valuation of 2 cents apiece.

Related: Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards points for maximum value

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

You can transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to 19 airlines and three hotel partners, which means you can fly and stay just about anywhere on points. Some partners are significantly more valuable than others, so you’ll want to know which partners to use for specific redemptions.

Here, I’ll show you the best ways to use 75,000 Amex Membership Rewards points. Use this article to find the best ways to redeem your Membership Rewards points — whether you’re just earning them with a new Platinum Card or if you already have a stash in your account.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

In This Post

1. Round-trip flights to Hawaii

View from a mountain in Oahu
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy)

A TPG crowd favorite is using Membership Rewards points to reach Hawaii for cheap. Flying to Hawaii with points and miles is getting easier all the time, thanks in no small part to Membership Rewards. There are several different options for reaching Hawaii for 30,000 points or less.

West Coast residents will have the least expensive prices for reaching Hawaii and there are multiple options. One of our favorite strategies is transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer. Many West Coast cities offer nonstop Alaska Airlines flights to Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Kona. You can fly round-trip in economy for as little as 24,000 Singapore Airlines miles, which is an excellent deal.

Those not based on the West Coast can use Singapore miles to book round-trip tickets from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii on United. These tickets cost 35,000 miles round-trip in economy class and 69,000 in business class. These include long-haul nonstop flights from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Newark (EWR), and Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Hawaii, as well as connecting tickets.

Newark to Honolulu Price Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
(Image courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

Another option is transferring your points to British Airways to fly on partners American Airlines or Alaska Airlines for 26,000 miles round-trip in economy. British Airways uses a distance-based award chart, so if you fly from Los Angeles (LAX) and Phoenix (PHX) on American as well as nonstop flights from Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN), Oakland (OAK) or Bellingham (BLI), you should have no problem.

Unfortunately, British Airways prices award tickets by leg, so you’ll pay more for connecting tickets. For example, a San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL) itinerary with a stop in Los Angeles costs 22,000 Avios as the SFO to LAX and LAX to HNL legs are priced separately. We only recommend using Avios to book tickets to Hawaii if you can find a nonstop ticket from your home airport to Hawaii.

Regardless of how you book, the Platinum Card’s welcome offer is more than enough for a round-trip ticket from the Mainland U.S. to Hawaii in business or economy class. Just be sure you’re using the most cost-effective booking option so you can save points for a future redemption.

Related: 11 times it’s better to book American Airlines flights with British Airways Avios

2. Business-class to Spain for two

Want to fly to Europe once travel reopens? Consider starting your trip in Madrid.

When you transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to Iberia — Spain’s national airline — you can reserve a business-class seat between New York-JFK, Boston (BOS), or Chicago for just 34,000 points transferred to Iberia Plus. That’s an excellent deal and one of the absolute lowest prices you’ll see for a transatlantic lie-flat seat.

Iberia business class seat
At 34,000 Iberia Avios, Iberia’s business class is a steal. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.)

It’s important to note that you’ll only receive this price if you book a nonstop flight on an actual Iberia plane (not one of their partners, like British Airways). Likewise, you need to book during off-peak dates. These are listed on Iberia’s website and, thankfully, make up a good chunk of the year. You should expect to pay about $100 in taxes.

Iberia JFK to MAD Iberia Price Off-Peak
(Image courtesy of Iberia)

Iberia flies from other U.S. cities, including Miami and Los Angeles, but you’ll be charged more because of Iberia’s distance-based award chart. For example, a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Madrid costs 42,500 Avios in business class, which is still an excellent deal considering how long the flight is.

(Image courtesy of Iberia)
(Image courtesy of Iberia)

3. Book a ton of Domestic flights

United A319 at The Gate in Chicago
You can use your Membership Rewards points to book a handful of domestic tickets. (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)

Planning domestic travel? You can use your 75,000 Membership Rewards points to book a ton of short-haul domestic flights using three transfer partners: Avianca LifeMiles, British Airways Avios and Delta SkyMiles. These three partners span the major airline alliances, so you have plenty of options for booking flights around the U.S.

Booking United flights with Avianca LifeMiles

Let’s start with Avianca LifeMiles. Avianca is a Star Alliance carrier, so it’s partnered with United. Avianca has distance-based pricing for United awards and short-haul tickets start at just 6,500 LifeMiles one-way with roughly $30 in taxes and fees. This includes flights like Newark (EWR) to Boston (BOS), Pittsburgh (PIT) and Washington-Dulles (IAD).

EWR IAD LifeMiles Pricing
(Image courtesy of Avianca LifeMiles)

Things get more expensive when booking longer trips, but prices are still reasonable. For example, Newark to Chicago costs 7,500 LifeMiles and Newark to Los Angeles and Denver (DEN) costs 12,500 LifeMiles. These are all solid rates for booking economy class United flights and are generally your best bet for booking United flights with Membership Rewards.

EWR LAX LifeMiles Pricing
(Image courtesy of Avianca LifeMiles)

Related: 3 reasons your family needs LifeMiles for domestic travel

Booking American flights with Avios

Like flights to Hawaii, you can use British Airways Avios to book mainland U.S. tickets on Alaska and American.

All the same rules apply, so connecting flights cost more than their nonstop counterparts. That said, there are some excellent deals to be had.

Domestic U.S. flights 1,151 miles or less fall into the 9,000 Avios price-point. One flight in this category is New York to Miami — a flight that can get extremely expensive when booking during holidays or at the last minute.

LGA to MIA Avios Pricing
(Image courtesy of British Airways)

You can also use Avios to score cheap tickets to Canada and Mexico. This flight from Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) to Vancouver (YVR) costs just 11,000 Avios one-way. Again, this flight can be prohibitively expensive on peak dates, so it’s nice to have this option available to you.

DFW YVR Avios Pricing
(Image courtesy of British Airways)

Related: Here’s why you should care about British Airways Avios

Booking Delta flights with SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles got rid of its award chart years ago and adopted dynamic award pricing. This means that the ticket price varies by route, day and even the flight frequency you book. This means some flights are very expensive, while some are excellent deals. We’ve found that the best deals, however, are domestic flights.

These flights start as low as 4,500 points in basic economy. I’ve found flights this low on a handful of short-haul routes, including this flight from Minneapolis (MSP) to Chicago-Midway (MDW). Remember, this price varies by date, but it isn’t too hard to find this price on short-haul routes.

MSP MDW Delta SkyMiles Cost
(Image courtesy of Delta)

Longer flights have reasonable prices too. A transcontinental flight from Boston (BOS) to Los Angeles (LAX) starts at just 8,000 SkyMiles on a handful of dates in early 2021. This means the Amex Platinum card’s welcome bonus can take you from coast-to-coast nine times, and you’ll still have points to spare. That said, this pricing can change at any moment.

BOS to LAX Delta SkyMiles Pricing
(Image courtesy of Delta)

Related: 5 things you need to know about Delta SkyMiles

4. Book a multi-stop business class ticket

Lufthansa 747-8 Business Class on the lower deck.
A Lufthansa business class cabin. (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

Air Canada recently revamped its Aeroplan loyalty program, adding one of the industry’s most flexible stopover options in the process. In short, a stopover is when you stop in a city for longer than 24 hours before flying to your final destination. Aeroplan is now allowing one stopover on a one-way ticket and two on a round-trip ticket, so you can effectively book a mini-round the world ticket on the cheap.

You’ll pay 5,000 points per stopover on top of the ticket price. This is a small price to pay for adding an extra flight just about anywhere in the world. With 75,000 points in your account, you can book a handful of interesting tickets with your point balance.

For example, you can book Boston (BOS) to Frankfurt (FRA), stay a few days, and then continue to Cairo (CAI) for just 75,000 points in business class. This is an excellent deal for a mini-round-the-world trip that spans two continents. Plus, you can experience Lufthansa business class along the way — one of my personal favorites.

BOS FRA CAI Flight Map
(Image courtesy of GC Map)

Alternatively, you can book a European tour for even fewer points. This New York-JFK to Lisbon (LIS) to Madrid (MAD) itinerary costs just 65,000 points, and you can stay in Lisbon for as long as you’d like.

JFK LIS MAD Flight Map
(Image courtesy of GC Map)

If you save up your points, you can book some even more interesting itineraries. For example, New York-JFK to Stockholm (ARN) to Bangkok (BKK) clocks in at 90,000 miles in business class. Again, this is an incredible deal for such a long-haul itinerary.

JFK ARN BKK Flight Map
(Image courtesy of GC Map)

Check out our guide to booking Aeroplan stopovers for more information. It has the potential to unlock some serious value for your Membership Rewards points when international travel reopens, so keep it on your radar.

Related: Pros and cons of the new Air Canada Aeroplan loyalty program

5. Fly to South America in style

American Airlines 787 aircraft
(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

South America is home to some of the world’s most vibrant cities, including São Paulo, Lima and Santiago. American Airlines runs a huge South American flight network from its Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) and Miami (MIA) hubs. This allows you to travel from the U.S. to major South American cities with ease.

Your best bet for booking these flights with Membership Rewards points is transferring to Etihad Guest. Etihad and American Airlines have long been non-alliance partners, and Etihad offers incredible redemption rates on American flights.

Further, Etihad Guest prices American awards based on a standard award chart, so you’ll pay a predictable amount for all awards. The Etihad American award chart splits South America into two regions: South America Zone 1 and 2.

South America Zone 1 includes Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela. This means you can fly to Belize City, Bogota, Lima, Liberia and a handful of other amazing cities. You’ll pay 17,500 one-way in economy and 30,000 in business class on any of these routes.

Related: 7 best ways to get to Peru on points and miles

The rest of South America — including Chile and Brazil — fall into the South America Zone 2 camp. You’ll pay 20,000 or 30,000 points for a one-way ticket in economy, depending on if you’re booking on or off-peak. Alternatively, you can book a business class seat for 50,000 points one-way.

Unfortunately, you can’t book these tickets online. Instead, find American award space using your favorite Oneworld search tool and call Etihad Guest to book your ticket. We’ve found that Etihad phone representatives are generally knowledgeable, so the whole process won’t take a ton of your time.

Regardless of where you travel, these are excellent deals for luxury travel to South America. Your 75,000-point welcome offer is more than enough for a round-trip ticket to any city in South America Zone 1.

Related: The ultimate guide to Etihad partners

How to transfer Membership Rewards points

Amex Transfer Partner Screen
(Image courtesy of American Express)

Transferring your Membership Rewards points to partners is easy. Here’s a quick step-by-step:

  1. Login to your account at americanexpress.com.
  2. Click on your Membership Rewards-earning card (if necessary), then click on Explore Rewards
  3. Select the Transfer Points option and click View All
  4. Click on the partner whose account you want to link
  5. Select a cardholder, verify your card details, enter the corresponding program’s account number, then click Link Account

Important: Before you transfer points to an airline or hotel, ensure there is award availability. Transferring points is a one-way street; once you transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to a partner, you cannot convert back into Membership Rewards.

Most transfers process instantly, but some partners — like Singapore Airlines Krisflyer and ANA Mileage Club — take more time to process. Check out our full guide to Membership Rewards transfer times for more info. If you’re transferring to a partner that takes a day or two to process, try to put your ticket on hold before initiating the transfer.

You’ll also pay an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point (capped at $99) for transferring your points to a U.S. airline. For example, if you transfer 30,000 Membership Rewards points to Delta, you’ll pay $18 as well. Thankfully, this fee is waived for the remainder of 2020.

Related: Move over Sapphire: Why I almost always go for Membership Rewards instead of Ultimate Rewards

Bottom line

The Membership Rewards program can provide immense value, especially when transferring points to its many useful partners.

Your points are worth 1 cent each when you redeem them for flights through the Amex Travel Portal, but that value skyrockets if you transfer your points to the right partner. With the 75,000-point bonus from The Platinum Card from American Express, you open a world of travel possibilities.

For rates and fees of the The Amex Platinum Card, please click here

Additional reporting by Joseph Hostetler

Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy

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.