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TPG reader Sergio sent us an excited email about an offer for the Hong Kong version of the Platinum Card from American Express, which immediately made many of us raise an eyebrow and head to Google:

It appears Hong Kong residents who have this version of the Platinum Card receive 600,000 points eight weeks after approval and another 100,000 points also eight weeks after the account has been open (for some reason they’re listed separately). The card carries a HK$7,800 (~$1,000 USD) annual fee. (Offer is no longer available). We dug in to see the value of a Hong Kong Amex Membership Rewards point, and what we found wasn’t too pretty. Today, I’ll discuss exactly how much the value of Membership Rewards points varies based on which country’s program you’re underneath.

As a reminder, here are the current transfer partners and transfer ratios for US-based American Express Membership Rewards members:

Transfer Parnter Transfer Ratio
Aeromexico 1:1.6
 Aeroplan 1:1
 Alitalia 1:1
 ANA 1:1
 Asia Miles 1:1
British Airways 1:1
 Delta 1:1
 El Al 1,000:20
 Emirates 1:1
Etihad 1:1
Flying Blue 1:1
Hawaiian 1:1
Iberia 1:1
JetBlue 250:200
Singapore Airlines 1:1
Virgin Atlantic 1:1
Choice Privileges 1:1
Hilton 1:1.5
Starwood Preferred Guest 1,000:333

There are basically two things that can vary wildly as you go country to country with American Express Membership Rewards, as they relate to redeeming for travel: the transfer ratio and transfer partners.

Here are the Hong Kong Membership Rewards airline and hotel transfer partners and transfer ratios :

Hong Kong

Transfer Partner Transfer Ratio
Asia Miles 15:1
British Airways 15:1
China Airlines 15:1
Emirates 15:1
Finnair 15:1
Malaysia Airlines 15:1
Singapore Airlines 15:1
Virgin Atlantic 15:1
Hilton 8,000:1,250
Starwood Preferred Guest 8,000:330

As you can see, there’s a massive difference in transfer ratios with the Hong Kong program; most US Membership Rewards partners have a 1:1 ratio, not a measly 15:1 rate. That makes the Hong Kong card’s 700,000-point sign-up bonus worth roughly 47,000 American Membership Rewards points — disappointing considering our initial excitement about the offer.

Let’s look at a few more of the most popular American Express-using countries and their Membership Rewards programs:

Australia

Transfer Partner Transfer Ratio
 Air New Zealand 100:1
 Asia Miles 1:1
Emirates 4:3
Etihad 1:1
Malaysia Airlines 1:1
 Singapore Airlines 1:1
Thai Airways 1:1
Virgin Atlantic 1:1
Virgin Australia 1:1
Hilton 1:1
Starwood Preferred Guest 10:5

The Australian Membership Rewards program offers solid 1:1 transfer ratios to many useful programs. The 4:3 Emirates conversion is a bad deal given the surcharges required for any Emirates award booking. And oddly enough, Qantas is not a transfer partner, though there are multiple cards — both Amex and otherwise — that earn Qantas points directly. There are 100,000-point sign-up bonuses for Amex cards in Australia, but card annual fees are higher (the Amex Platinum card has a $1,200 AUD annual fee, about $913 in US dollars) and bonus earning categories are not as plentiful. 

Canada

Transfer Partner Transfer Ratio
 Aeroplan 1:1
 Alitalia 1,000:750
 Asia Miles 1,000:750
British Airways 1:1
 Delta 1,000:750
 Etihad 1,000:750
Hilton 1:1
Starwood Preferred Guest 10:5

I know many Canadians who are just as points and miles-crazy as us Americans, and they are often distraught with the above chart compared to the American program. Not even being allowed to transfer to Delta or Etihad at a 1:1 ratio is tough to swallow, and card bonuses are not as high nor as plentiful as here in the US. The one relative upside is the ability to transfer to SPG at a 2:1 ratio — not too bad considering the high value of Starpoints. You do have my sympathy, neighbors to the North.

India

Transfer Partner Transfer Rate
 Asia Miles 2:1
 British Airways 2:1
 Emirates 2:1
Etihad 2:1
 Finnair 2:1
 Jet Airways 2:1
 Qatar Airways 2:1
Singapore Airlines 2:1
Virgin Atlantic 2:1
Hilton 10:9
Starwood Preferred Guest 3:1

There isn’t anything particularly great in the Indian Amex program, except that given the current exchange rate you earn a point for about every 75 cents you spend (1 point per every 50 rupees spent), rather than for every dollar. A 2:1 transfer ratio on every airline is hard to stomach given the very low sign-up bonuses available for Indian American Express cards, and the lack of bonus categories on the available cards. Plus, transactions like fuel, insurance and utilities are specifically excluded from earning points on the American Express Gold Card in India. I don’t see anything engaging in this country’s program.

United Kingdom

Transfer Partner Transfer Rate
Alitalia 1:1
Asia Miles 1:1
British Airways 1:1
Delta 1:1
Emirates 1:1
Etihad 1:1
Finnair 1:1
Flying Blue 1:1
Iberia 1:1
SAS 1:1
Singapore Airlines 1:1
Virgin Atlantic 1:1
Club Carlson 1:3
Hilton 1:2
Starwood Preferred Guest 2:!

With very reasonable transfer ratios, unique partners in Club Carlson and SAS, and a 2:1 SPG transfer ratio, in certain circumstances this could be called more advantageous than the US program. The difficulty lies in earning UK Membership Rewards. Welcome bonuses for cards are not nearly as high as in the US, and the personal cards I reviewed don’t have great bonus categories for earning more than 1x. If you have access to the UK Membership Rewards program and spend a lot, there’s plenty of potential value in your stash of British Membership Rewards point.

Bottom Line

The lower value of rewards outside of the US can be tied back to lower credit card interchange rates and fees charged by other countries. The card-issuing banks elsewhere make less money and therefore do not offer the huge rewards or incentivize customers to use their cards like programs do here in the states.

It’d be fine if some of the other countries had earning mechanisms — either via huge sign-up bonuses or large bonus spend categories — to make up for the poor transfer ratios and lack of partners compared to the US program. Because they don’t, the US version of Membership Rewards is head and shoulders more valuable than anywhere else I’ve seen in the world.

Featured image of Hong Kong by Maria Swärd via Getty Images.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy 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 with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are 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.