Amex is waiving transfer fees: Should you transfer points even if you’re not planning travel?

Jun 17, 2020

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The CARES Act is turning up some unexpected benefits, such as private-jet operators offering lower prices. In addition, it’s making credit card point transfers cheaper.

American Express is temporarily waiving all excise taxes on Membership Rewards point transfers to U.S. airlines, citing the CARES Act. As first spotted by Travel with Grant, this applies to all domestic airline transfers made through Dec. 31, 2020. Additionally, Amex is retroactively refunding fees for previous transfers made this year.

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The following message appears on Amex’s website when requesting to transfer points to a U.S. airline:

“As a result of COVID-19 and the subsequent CARES Act passed in the United States on Mar. 28, 2020, we are temporarily waiving all excise tax offset fees on point transfers to [airline’s name] through Dec. 31, 2020.”

(Photo by American Express)
(Photo by American Express)

American Express typically charges an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point (capped at $99 for any single transfer) when you transfer points earned with a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express to a U.S. airline. Amex’s U.S. airline partners include Delta, JetBlue, and Hawaiian.

That usual fee may seem insignificant but equates to $60 on a 100,000 point transfer. This is in addition to any taxes and fees you may be charged by the airline when redeeming your miles.

Related: How long do American Express Membership Rewards transfers take?

Bottom line

It’s nice to see that Amex is passing on some of its savings from the bailout to consumers. We typically recommend only transferring miles when you have a specific redemption in mind, as transfers are irreversible. However, this tax holiday can save you a decent amount of cash. Depending on your redemption patterns or goals, it might make sense to transfer the points anyway.

The waiver will be available through the end of the year, so you could also wait in hopes that a transfer bonus will be offered.

Remember that you’ll never pay any fees when transferring your Amex points to foreign frequent flyer programs like Avianca LifeMiles or British Airways Avios. Additionally, you’re never charged any fees when transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou points to any airlines.

Featured image by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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Regular APR
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

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