The complete guide to American Express Membership Rewards partners

Mar 11, 2021

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It’s no secret that American Express Membership Rewards points are my favorite transferrable points currency. This is in large part due to its huge list of transfer partners.

You can transfer your Amex points to some of the world’s most powerful airline loyalty programs, like Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles and Etihad Guest. You can also transfer to three hotel programs: Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy.

I’ll run you through all of the Membership Rewards partners in this article. I’ll start by discussing each of the program’s transfer partners and then dive into a small list of earning partners. Each section will give some background of the program, an example of when you’d want to use the program and its transfer rate.

Let’s dive in!

In This Post

Cards you can use to earn Amex Membership Rewards

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Before we start, it’s important to understand that you need an eligible American Express card in order to earn Membership Rewards points. This includes most Amex-branded cards, like the American Express® Gold Card.

That said, this doesn’t include cobranded credit cards like the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card or Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, as these cards earn partner currency. Additionally, cashback cards like the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express do not earn Membership Rewards points.

Several popular Membership Rewards-earning cards have higher heightened welcome offers — here’s a look:

Look through our list of the best Amex cards and find one (or more) that work best for your purchases. I use a combination of Amex cards daily to earn the most possible rewards on all of my purchases. For example, I use the Amex Platinum to earn 5x points on flights and the Amex Gold to earn 4x points on dining and groceries.

Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners

Now, let’s get to the fun part: transfer partners.

American Express has 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners. These partners include at least one useful option in each of the major alliances — SkyTeamStar Alliance and Oneworld. Each partner has a variety of use cases, and I’ll highlight a couple of them below for each partner.

Related: How long do American Express Membership Rewards take to transfer?

Here’s a quick look at each transfer partner:

Aer Lingus AerClub

Aer Lingus AerClub is the loyalty program of Aer Lingus, an Irish airline based in Dublin. Unfortunately, there aren’t any great uses of these points and you can get a better deal on Aer Lingus flights when you transfer Amex points to British Airways.

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Dublin’ down: A review of Aer Lingus’ new A330 business class

Aeromexico Club Premier

Aeromexico 787
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Aeromexico Club Premier is the loyalty program of Mexico City-based Aeromexico. This currency is best used on round-the-world itineraries that let you make multiple stops as you travel the world. These tickets can easily be worth tens-of-thousands of dollars when booking in business class.

Aeromexico prices award tickets a little differently than other airlines, using kilometers instead of miles. These tickets cost 224,000 kilometers in economy and 352,000 in business class. Since points transfer from Amex to Aeromexico at a 1:1.6 ratio, you’d need just 140,000 or 220,000 Amex points for economy or business class respectively.

Transfer time: 24 hours

Transfer ratio: 1:1.6

Related: What you need to know about Aeromexico’s dynamic award pricing

Air Canada Aeroplan

Air Canada Aeroplan was completely revamped in 2020 and quickly became one of Amex’s most valuable transfer partners. The new program kept standard award charts, lost fuel charges and added awesome stopover rules. Some of the best uses include maximizing this stopover to see two cities in one trip.

For example, you can book this flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) to Mumbai (BOM) for just 105,000 points in business class. Plus, you can stopover in Hong Kong for as long as you’d like. Take a look at the Aeroplan award chart and see if it makes sense to transfer Amex points to Air Canada for your next redemption.

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

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

Air France-KLM Flying Blue

Air France and KLM Planes
(Image courtesy of Markus Mainka/Shutterstock)

Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines share a joint loyalty program called Flying Blue. This SkyTeam loyalty program dynamically prices all awards but frequently offers great deals on international award tickets. For example, you can often find flights from the U.S. to Europe in business class for 53,000 points one-way.

PRG JFK Flying Blue Price
(Screenshot courtesy of Air France)

Unfortunately, you’ll pay moderate fuel surcharges ($250-400) on most international business class routes. That said, always check Flying Blue to see if it makes sense for your next international SkyTeam redemption. It’s often cheaper than booking similar awards with Delta SkyMiles or Alitalia MileMiglia.

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Complete guide to Flying Blue monthly promo rewards

Alitalia MilleMiglia

Speaking of SkyTeam, Alitalia’s MileMiglia loyalty program is another Amex transfer partner. That said, we haven’t found a time when it makes sense to use it over Delta SkyMiles or Flying Blue. You’ll want to stay away from transferring points to Alitalia unless you’re topping up an existing mileage balance for a specific award ticket.

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Good seat, bad screen: Alitalia premium economy on the A330 From New York to Rome

All Nippon Airways Mileage Club

ANA Mileage Club is one of the more unknown Amex transfer partners, but it’s quickly become one of my favorites. The carrier only allows round-trip award bookings, but you can often find great deals. For example, a trip from the U.S. to Europe in business class costs just 88,000 miles round-trip on Star Alliance partners.

EWR AMS CPH ARN ANA Award Ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of ANA)

Further, you can use ANA Mileage Club miles for an excellent deal on off-peak ANA flights. These start at just 75,000 miles round-trip for an off-peak, round-trip ticket from the U.S. to Asia on ANA metal. Plus, you can add a stopover on your trip, giving you two cities for the price of one.

SFO to MNL Mileage Club Ticket
(Image courtesy of ANA)

The last great way to redeem ANA Mileage Club miles is on round-the-world tickets. Pricing is reasonable and the routing rules are remarkably easy to work with. Check out this article I wrote on booking my own ANA round-the-world trip for more details.

One thing to note: unfortunately, ANA does pass on fuel surcharges to the consumer. This means you’ll pay $1,000+ for a business class round-trip ticket to Europe on partners like Swiss and Lufthansa. Thankfully, carriers like ANA, United and LOT Polish Airlines — amongst others — charge low or no surcharges, so you can skirt the surcharges if you know where to look.

Transfer time: 48 hours

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: TPG Lemonade session: ANA Mileage Club

Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca plane landing
(Photo by Markus Mainka/Shutterstock)

Avianca LifeMiles is another excellent Star Alliance transfer partner. Like ANA, the airline has kept a standard award chart, so there’s no dynamic pricing to worry about. You’ll find the best deals on one-way business and first-class flights to Europe, domestic flights on United, but there are other good redemptions out there too.

On the U.S. to Europe side, you’ll pay 63,000 LifeMiles for most business class flights. You can get this price down a little by choosing to fly in economy on the short leg of an economy ticket. For example, if I book this Lufthansa flight from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Prague (PRG) via Frankfurt (FRA) in business class but book Frankfurt to Prague in economy, the flight drops to just under 61,000 LifeMiles one-way.

ORD to PRG via FRA LifeMiles award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of Avianca LifeMiles)

Again, domestic United flights are another excellent deal. The LifeMiles award chart is split up into three regions that roughly correspond to East Coast, Midwest and West Coast. The more regions you fly, the more points you’ll pay. We’ve found the cheapest domestic awards cost just 6,500 LifeMiles one-way in economy.

EWR to PIT LifeMiles award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of Avianca LifeMiles)

Unlike ANA Mileage Club, Avianca LifeMiles doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges. You’ll pay the standard taxes and fees plus a $25 booking fee. This makes it a great option for booking tickets on high-surcharge carriers like Lufthansa.

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: What does Avianca’s bankruptcy filing mean for the LifeMiles program?

British Airways Executive Club

British Airways Executive Club is one of the most common Amex transfer partners. You can use its currency — dubbed Avios — to book flights on all Oneworld carriers. You’ll want to avoid using them on British Airways flights as they add huge fuel surcharges, but you can get a great deal when booking partner flights.

The British Airways award chart is distance-based, so longer flights cost more points. In the U.S., one of the best ways to redeem British Airways Avios is on domestic American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights. You’ll pay just 9,000 Avios for a one-way flight that’s 1,151 miles or less in the physical distance with minimal taxes and fees.

ORD to PVD British Airways award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of British Airways)

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: 18 ways to earn more British Airways Avios in 2021

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is another Oneworld transfer partner. You’re best using your points on Cathay Pacific flights. You’ll get a solid redemption value and you have access to Cathay Pacific award space that’s not bookable with partner miles. The airline has a standard award chart for its own flights — you can see it on the Asia Miles website.

As discussed, the award chart is reasonable on Cathay Pacific flights. This business class flight from Hong Kong (HKG) to Los Angeles (LAX) costs just 70,000 points and $121.77 after taxes and fees when Standard award space is available. Longer flights from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and New York-JFK, on the other hand, cost 85,000 points one-way.

HKG to LAX Asia Miles award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of Cathay Pacific Asia Miles)

Transfer time: 48 hours

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Best websites for searching Oneworld award availability

Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles is one of the few domestic transfer partners on this list. Delta is a SkyTeam member, but you’ll generally get the best deals on domestic tickets. This is because the airline has a dynamic award chart that charges exorbitant amounts of miles for international tickets — especially in business class.

You can score some excellent deals on SkyMiles award tickets too. You can often find award tickets starting at just 5,000 SkyMiles one-way in basic economy, which can be a great deal depending on the flight’s cash cost. I always recommend running a quick SkyMiles search when you’re looking for a domestic ticket to see if you can find a good deal.

ORD to DTW Delta award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Oddly enough, Delta still prices partner award tickets based on standard (yet unpublished) award rates. Most redemptions from the U.S. have been hugely devalued over the past year, but one great redemption remains: U.S. to the Middle East in business class.

You can book these tickets for just 85,000 SkyMiles and minimal taxes one-way. These tickets can be operated by any of Delta’s SkyTeam partners, even if the ticket requires a transfer in Europe or another region. Keep an eye out for these award tickets the next time you plan to visit Dubai (DXB) or another Middle Eastern city.

JFK to DXB Delta award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Best sweet spots with Delta SkyMiles

Emirates Skywards

Transferring your Amex points to Emirates Skywards is by far the best way to book Emirates award tickets with your Amex points. You can use this to book everything from Emirates’ fifth-freedom routes from New York to Europe to first-class tickets from Los Angeles (LAX) to Dubai (DXB).

EWR to ATH Emirates award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of Emirates)

The program has standard, distance-based award pricing for all of its award tickets. You can use its mileage calculator to find how many miles the program requires for each of its routes. Be sure to check out our full guide to Emirates Skywards before you book, as there are some nuances to keep in mind.

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: The best programs for booking Emirates awards

Etihad Guest

Etihad Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner landing
(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Etihad Guest is one of the most interesting Amex transfer partners. The airline isn’t a member of an airline alliance, but it has individual partnerships with over a dozen airlines worldwide. Some of these include American Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Czech Airlines and Royal Air Maroc. Each has its own award chart with unique sweet spots.

Etihad’s American Airlines is one of the most useful. It’s kept pre-2016 AAdvantage devaluation award pricing for years now, meaning it’s actually cheaper to book American flights with Etihad points. Some great examples of award pricing include the U.S. to Europe and transcontinental domestic flights in Flagship first 62,500 points and 32,500 points one-way, respectively.

Etihad Guest American Award Chart
(Image courtesy of Etihad)

You can also use Etihad Guest miles to book flights from the U.S. to Brussels (BRU) in Brussels Airlines business class for just 44,000 points one-way. This is an exceptional deal and by far one of the best ways to fly to Europe using your points and miles.

Using Etihad Guest to book Etihad flights, however, is not such a great deal. Award space is hard to find and pricing on saver flights is high. So that said, I recommend sticking to partner flights if possible.

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Here are 9 of our favorite ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points

Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles

HawaiianMiles are best used on economy-class flights to Hawaii. The airline prices its award tickets based on a standard award chart, but each award has multiple tiers. You’ll pay the lowest price on awards with saver award space, while flights with more demand cost more points.

Prices are reasonable too. For example, a one-way ticket from Honolulu (HNL) to Los Angeles (LAX) costs 20,000 points in economy class and 40,000 points in business class when saver space is available. This is a reasonable cost if you want to try HawaiianAirlines. However, you may be able to get a better deal using Avios to fly American or Singapore miles to fly United.

HNL to LAX Hawaiian Airlines award
(Screenshot courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines)

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Best ways to redeem points and miles on Hawaiian Airlines

Iberia Plus

Like British Airways, Iberia Plus uses Avios as its loyalty currency. The airline has a standard award chart for all Iberia and partner flights, and prices can be pretty reasonable.

Your best bet for using Iberia Plus Avios is redeeming for off-peak awards on Iberia flights from the U.S. Midwest and East Coast to Madrid (MAD). These flights cost just 17,000 Avios in economy, 25,500 in premium economy and 34,000 in business class one-way.

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

Transfer time: 48 hours

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Three versions of Avios: When to use Aer Lingus, Iberia and British Airways

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue’s TrueBlue loyalty program prices award flights based on the cost of a cash flight. So the more a flight costs, the more points you’ll pay to book it. The TPG team has found that you’ll get roughly 1.3 cents per point when redeeming miles, but you may get slightly more or less depending on your specific flight.

Three JFK to LAX JetBlue award tickets
(Screenshot courtesy of JetBlue)

I don’t usually recommend transferring Amex points to JetBlue because of the limited value you’ll get from your miles. Additionally, points transfer at a weak 1.25:1 transfer ratio. This means that 10,000 Amex points transfer to 7,500 Jetblue points, so you’ll lose value in the transfer too.

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1.25:1

Related: How to earn points in the JetBlue TrueBlue program

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Qantas Frequent Flyer is another popular Amex transfer partner. Qantas is a Oneworld member that has non-alliance partnerships with a handful of airlines around the world. Like many international airlines on this list, Qantas has a standard award chart for award flights.

One time you may want to transfer Amex points to Qantas is to book El Al award tickets. Amex recently lost El Al as a transfer partner, but Qantas is a great way to book flights on the Israeli airline. In fact, El Al awards booked with Qantas actually require fewer points than if you were to transfer Amex points to El Al in the past.

JFK to TLV Qantas award ticket on El Al
(Screenshot courtesy of Qantas)

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: A review of Qantas first class on the A380, Melbourne to LAX

Singapore KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines A350-900
(Photo by Fasttailwind/Shutterstock)

Singapore Krisflyer is another Star Alliance transfer partner. It has two award charts: one for Singapore Airlines awards and another for Star Alliance award tickets. You can also use the airline’s points calculator tool to view how many points a Singapore-operated award flight costs.

On the Singapore side, you’ll pay a fair amount of points for these flights. That said, it’s the only program you can use (sans Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan) to book premium cabin awards on Singapore Airlines flights. This includes Singapore Suites first class and business class on the world’s longest flight.

SFO to SIN Singapore Airlines award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

Some partner tickets are reasonable too. One of the best uses is spending 17,500 miles for a one-way ticket from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii on United Airlines. Just note that the program does tack on fuel surcharges for partner awards, if applicable. Thankfully, this is not the case for United award tickets.

LAX to HNL Singapore Airlines award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

Transfer time: Roughly 24 hours

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points can be used for Virgin Atlantic flights and flights operated by its various partners. We generally recommend staying away from booking Virgin Atlantic flights with these points as you’re subject to high fuel surcharges. That said, partner redemptions open up a handful of interesting redemptions.

For example, you can use 50,000 points to book a one-way flight from the U.S. to Europe in Delta One business class with minimal taxes and fees. Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic devalued other Delta awards in early 2021, but the Europe sweet spot has remained.

ATL FRA Virgin Atlantic Delta Award
(Screenshot courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

You can also use Virgin Atlantic points to score a great deal on ANA first and business class. First-class awards start at just 110,000 points round-trip from the U.S. to Tokyo, which is an excellent deal. You can see Virgin Atlantic’s full ANA award chart below.

Virgin Atlantic ANA Award Chart
(Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Transfer time: Roughly 24 hours

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Can I book an open jaw or stopover on ANA with Virgin Atlantic miles?

Choice Privileges

Choice Privileges is one of Amex’s hotel transfer partners. Choice Hotels is known for its budget-friendly hotels around the world. Its portfolio includes well-known brands like Cambria Hotels, Comfort and Sleep Inn, amongst others.

Award prices vary by property and date. I’ve found that you’re generally best off paying cash for most Choice awards instead of transferring in Amex points. This is because you’ll get a relatively small amount of value from your points compared to Membership Rewards’ 2.0 cent per point valuation.

For example, a one-night stay at The Carvi Hotel New York costs $187.73 after tax in May 2021. The same night can be booked for 16,000 points, giving you a cent per point valuation of just 1.17 cents per point. In this case, I’d recommend either using existing Choice points to cover the stay or book the cash rate instead.

Booking Carvi Hotel New York with Choice points
(Screenshot courtesy of Choice Hotels)

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: 6 ways Choice Privileges should improve its loyalty program

Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors is another Amex hotel transfer partner. Points transfer to Hilton at a favorable 1:2 transfer ratio, so 10,000 Amex points equals 20,000 Hilton points. Hilton also prices awards dynamically, and prices can be astronomical when booking on high-demand peak dates. For example, this New Year’s Eve stay at the Hampton Inn Manhattan Grand Central costs 70,000 points.

Hampton Inn Manhattan Grand Central award night
(Screenshot courtesy of Hilton)

You can still get solid deals when booking stays on standard and off-peak dates. At the same time, it generally isn’t worth transferring Amex points to Hilton to do this. You’re likely to get a low redemption value, so you’ll want to focus your efforts on earning Hilton points outright if you plan to redeem points for Hilton stays.

For example, a one-night stay at the Hampton Inn Chicago Downtown costs $150.57 after taxes and fees this September. You can book the same stay for 32,000 Hilton points, which requires 16,000 points transferred from Amex to Hilton. This gives you just 0.94 cents per point in value for your Amex points.

Hampton Inn Chicago Downtown one night stay
(Screenshot courtesy of Hilton)

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:2

Related: Maximizing redemptions with Hilton Honors

Marriott Bonvoy

Finally, we have Marriott Bonvoy. This program has kept a standard award chart for all stays but has implemented on- and off-peak pricing for award nights.

Like Choice and Hilton, however, we rarely recommend transferring points to Marriott. Redemptions cost a relatively high number of points compared to the value you’ll get from a free night. This will often cause you to get a low cent per point value, so like Hilton, consider earning Marriott points elsewhere to fuel your hotel redemptions.

Transfer time: Instant

Transfer ratio: 1:1

Related: Best ways to redeem Marriott Bonvoy free nights

Amex Membership Rewards earning partners

You can earn bonus Amex points when you shop online with Rakuten. (Photo by AsiaVision/Getty Images)

More often than not, you’ll earn Amex points with a credit card. That said, Amex has a single earning partner you can use to earn bonus points on everyday expenses. Here’s a look.

Rakuten

Rakuten is a cash-back shopping portal that lets you earn rewards when you make purchases with select merchants. Simply click through the Rakuten portal before you make a purchase online and you’ll receive a portion of your purchase back in the form of a check, PayPal transfer or Membership Rewards points.

That’s right; you can earn Amex points with Rakuten. After signing up for an account, choose Membership Rewards points as your payout currency. You’ll get 1 point per $0.01 cent earned, which can add up depending on how often you shop.

As a reminder, the number of points you’ll earn varies by merchant. At the time of writing this article, Apple purchases earn 2 points per dollar spent while Levi’s purchases earn 5 points per dollar. Rakuten often runs promotions that boost earning rates for select merchants as well.

Apple Store listing on Rakuten
(Screenshot courtesy of Rakuten)

You can earn a ton of extra Amex points with Rakuten, so I recommend signing up if you don’t already have an account.

Related: The beginner’s guide to airline shopping portals

Bottom line

American Express Membership Rewards points are some of the most valuable loyalty points on the market. This is in large part due to its extensive list of airline and hotel transfer partners. Here, I gave you a quick look at each partner — refer to this list as you decide how to best redeem your points.

Feature photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy

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Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.