The Amex Membership Rewards program isn’t the same around the globe – here’s what you’re missing

Jun 25, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information and card offers. 

American Express is a truly global brand, issuing credit cards in over 40 countries. Although some products, such as the iconic Platinum card, may look similar around the world, their perks and fees vary greatly from country-to-country. One of the biggest differences is the value of Membership Rewards points.

If you’ve ever come across advertisements for foreign versions of The Platinum Card® from American Express, you may have raised an eyebrow when seeing the welcome bonus — or lack thereof. For instance, while The Platinum Card is currently offering a 100,000-point welcome bonus in the U.S. (after you spend $6,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of card membership), it’s offering a 480,000-point bonus in Hong Kong and 30,000 bonus points in the U.K.

It’s not that American Express is more generous in one country or another, but rather that the value of the points vary wildly between countries. In the U.S., TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, but every country has a different set of transfer partners and transfer ratios for you to take advantage of.

Today, we’ll discuss exactly how much the value of Membership Rewards points varies based on which country’s program you’re participating in We’ll learn how the nearly 500,000 bonus points offered by the Hong Kong version of the card isn’t as massive as it seems – especially considering the card carries a HK$7,800 (~$1,000 USD) annual fee.

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(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Amex transfer partners and ratios in the U.S.

Let’s start with the current Membership Rewards transfer partners and ratios for U.S.-based cardmembers. Most transfers are instant and at a 1:1 ratio.

Transfer Partner Transfer Ratio
Aer Lingus AerClub 1:1
Aeromexico Club Premier 1:1.6
Air Canada Aeroplan 1:1
Air France-KLM Flying Blue 1:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1:1
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club 1:1
Avianca LifeMiles 1:1
British Airways Executive Club 1:1
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 1:1
Delta SkyMiles 1:1
El Al Matmid 50:1
Emirates Skywards 1:1
Etihad Guest 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles 1:1
Iberia Plus 1:1
JetBlue TrueBlue 1.25:1
Singapore KrisFlyer 1:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1
Choice Privileges 1:1
Hilton Honors 1:2
Marriott Bonvoy 1:1

Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

Amex transfer partners and ratios in Hong Kong

As you can see, there’s a massive difference in transfer ratios with the Hong Kong program. Most U.S. Membership Rewards partners have a 1:1 ratio, while Hong Kong’s program comes in at 15:1. That makes the Hong Kong card’s nearly 500,000-point welcome bonus equivalent to roughly 33,333 American Membership Rewards points — disappointing considering our initial excitement about the offer.

As previously mentioned, at over $1,000 the Hong Kong card has a much higher annual fee than the $695 (see rates & fees) U.S. card. It also lacks some key benefits, like up to $200 annual airline fee statement credit, up to $200 annual Uber Cash (for U.S. services) and up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue annual statement credit. Enrollment required for select benefits.

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

Transfer Partner Transfer Ratio
British Airways Executive Club 15:1
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 15:1
China Airlines Dynasty Flyer 15:1
Emirates Skywards 15:1
Eva Air Infinity MileageLands 15:1
Finnair Plus 15:1
Singapore KrisFlyer 15:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 15:1
Hilton 8,000:1,250
Marriott Bonvoy 9:1

 

Amex transfer partners and ratios in Australia

The Australian Membership Rewards program offers 2:1 transfer ratios to many useful programs. While that ratio might not sound too exciting, it’s pretty solid considering the Australian version of The Platinum Card earns 2.25 points per $1 spent on most purchases. 

Oddly enough, Qantas is not a transfer partner, though there are multiple cards — both Amex and otherwise — that earn Qantas points directly. The Australian Platinum Card offers 80,000 points after $3,000 spent within the first 3 months. At $1,450 AUD (or $966 USD), the annual fee is much higher than the U.S. version

Bonus categories on this card are also not as plentiful.

Transfer Partner Transfer Ratio
 Air New Zealand 200:1
 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 2:1
Emirates Skywards 2:1
Etihad Guest 2:1
Malaysia Airlines 2:1
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 2:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 2:1
Virgin Australia Velocity 2:1
Hilton Honors 2:1
Marriott Bonvoy 3:2

 

Amex transfer partners and ratios in Canada

Many Canadians 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, Cathay Pacific 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 U.S. You do have our sympathy, neighbors to the North.

Transfer Partner Transfer Ratio
 Air Canada Aeroplan 1:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1,000:750
British Airways Executive Club 1:1
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 1,000:750
Delta SkyMiles 1,000:750
Etihad Guest 1,000:750
Hilton Honors 1:1
Marriott Bonvoy 5:6

Related: Can I apply for the same credit card in two different countries?

Amex transfer partners and ratios in India

There isn’t anything particularly great in India’s Membership Rewards program, except that given the current exchange rate, you earn 2.5 points for every 100 rupees spent. That works out to about one point, rather than one dollar, for every 53 cents you spend. Cardholders also earn 3x points on all purchases made abroad.

While the predominantly 2:1 transfer ratio makes sense given the earning rates, it’s hard to swallow given the very low welcome bonuses 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.

Transfer Partner Transfer Rate
 British Airways Executive Club 2:1
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 2:1
Club Vistara 3:1
Emirates Skywards 2:1
Etihad Guest 2:1
Finnair Plus 2:1
InterMiles 2:1
Qatar Privilege Club 2:1
Singapore KrisFlyer 2:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 2:1
Hilton Honors 10:9
Marriott Bonvoy 1:1

Amex transfer partners and ratios in the U.K.

With very reasonable transfer ratios, unique partners like Radisson Rewards and SAS, and a 2:3 Marriott Bonvoy transfer ratio, in certain circumstances the U.K. Membership Rewards program could be called more advantageous than the U.S. version.

The difficulty lies in earning U.K. Membership Rewards points. Welcome bonuses for cards are not nearly as high as in the U.S. and most personal cards don’t have great bonus categories. Still, if you have access to the U.K. Membership Rewards program and spend a lot, there’s plenty of potential value in your stash of points.

Transfer Partner Transfer Rate
Air France-KLM Flying Blue 1:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1:1
British Airways Executive Club 1:1
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 1:1
Delta SkyMiles 1:1
Emirates Skywards 1:1
Etihad Guest 1:1
Finnair Plus 1:1
Iberia Plus 1:1
SAS EuroBonus 1:1
Singapore KrisFlyer 1:1
Qantas Frequent Flyer 1:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1
Hilton Honors 1:2
Marriott Bonvoy 2:3
Radisson Rewards 1:3

Related: The ultimate guide to U.K. Amex Membership Rewards

The U.K. Membership Rewards program has some unique partners like SAS. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Can I apply for the same Amex card in two different countries?

Over the years, we’ve gotten this question from readers who moved to other countries. Amex has strict application restrictions for U.S.-issued cards, which generally only allow you to earn the welcome bonus on a card if you haven’t had that specific card before. 

Fortunately, that only applies to cards issued in the same country, so holding an Amex Platinum card issued in the U.K., for example, won’t count against you if you want to apply for one issued in the U.S. To learn more about applying for the same credit card in two different countries, visit this guide.

Bottom line

Those in the U.S. have an incredible advantage when it comes to travel rewards cards and redeeming their Membership Rewards points. The lower value of rewards outside of the U.S. 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 huge rewards to incentivize customers to use their cards.

It would be fine if some of the other countries had either big welcome bonuses or large bonus spending categories to make up for the poor transfer ratios compared to the U.S. program. Because they don’t, the U.S. version of Membership Rewards is much more valuable than anywhere else in the world.

For rates & fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.

Additional reporting by Richard Kerr.

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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