How I’m using Amex’s transfer bonuses to book 3 premium trips

Sep 12, 2021

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.

The best ways to maximize your points and miles are to leverage airline and hotel transfer partners and to do so when there are solid transfer bonuses. And right now, American Express Membership Rewards is offering a record number of transfer bonuses. Specifically, you can currently get up to a 40% bonus when transferring points to a whopping 12 partners, including Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles and British Airways Executive Club. This means that many of the best Membership Rewards redemptions can be booked for fewer points than usual.

We normally discourage speculative transfers since your points will become stuck with the program once completed and will lose the flexibility of being transferrable to other partners. However, there are a couple of potential redemptions I have in mind that seem too good to pass up.

Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.

In This Post

Luxurious getaway to Anguilla

Zemi Beach Resort, LXR Hotels
Zemi Beach Resort, LXR Hotels (Photo courtesy of Zemi Beach House)

Ever since the Zemi Beach House in Anguilla was brought into the Honors program in 2019, I’ve had my eyes set on a trip there. It’s one of just a handful of properties part of Hilton’s luxury collection brand LXR. It sits right on the water on Anguilla’s tranquil Shoal Bay East and has just 76 rooms and suites, which will be a nice change of pace from some other Caribbean resorts that have hundreds, if not thousands, of rooms.

Standard award nights here typically cost 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night. We normally don’t advise transferring Amex points to Hilton, since the standard ratio is 1:2 and TPG values Amex points at 2 cents apiece and Hilton Honors points at just 0.6 cents apiece. However, it could make sense with the current 30% transfer bonus.

With the 30% bonus, you’ll get 2,600 Hilton Honors points for every 1,000 Amex points you transfer. That translates to about 37,000 Amex points per night, which is worth $740 based on TPG valuations — not bad considering the cash rate is often around $900 per night. But it gets even better. As a Hilton Honors Diamond member, I get a fifth night free on award stays. So, my nightly rate will effectively be 30,000 Amex points per night ($600 based on TPG valuations). Plus, I still have an up to $250 resort credit from my Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to burn on incidentals.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.          

Related: 3 Caribbean island getaways to book with points — and 2 you might skip

Amex Hilton 30% bonus
(Screenshot courtesy of americanexpress.com)

To get there, I’ll book American Airlines’ nonstop flight from New York-JFK to Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) — which is slated to resume later this year — via British Airways Executive Club. BA charges 22,000 Avios each way in business class for this route. However, with the 40% bonus currently available, that price drops to just 16,000 Amex points each way. That’s worth about $320 based on TPG valuations, which is great considering the cash rate is usually around $800.

American Airlines plane landing at Sint Maarten Airport (SXM)
American Airlines plane landing at SXM (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Related: 5 ways you can maximize the current transfer bonuses to Avios

Delta One to Europe

Next, I’d like to plan a trip to Frankfurt, Germany to reconnect with family members I haven’t seen since the start of the pandemic. I could take advantage of the transfer bonuses to Air Canada Aeroplan or Avianca LifeMiles to book Lufthansa first class, but those flights will come out to at least 150,000 Amex points round-trip. While that’s a pretty good deal, I need to be a bit more conservative with my points. Instead, I’ll book Delta One business class through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for well under 100,000 points round-trip.

Delta One business class
(Photo by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy)

Virgin recently transitioned to a distance-based award chart for most Delta redemptions. However, nonstop flights from the U.S. to Europe (non-U.K.) still cost a flat 50,000 points each way in Delta One, plus minimal taxes and fees. That’s a good deal by itself, but the rate drops to an even more attractive 39,000 Amex points when factoring in the 30% transfer bonus, which is terrific. It’s a bummer that Delta doesn’t fly its new Delta One suites to Germany, but I’ll still take it.

JFK-FRA Virgin Delta award
(Screenshot courtesy of virginatlantic.com)

Related: How to save thousands of miles on Delta One awards to Europe

Cross-country flights in United Polaris

After catching up with family in Germany, I’ll need to visit my relatives in Los Angeles. There are lots of ways to fly from the New York City area to L.A., but if I want to get the most value out of my points, I’m going to need to book United business class through Air Canada Aeroplan.

Air Canada charges just 25,000 miles each way for transcontinental business class awards. That equates to just 21,000 Amex points when factoring in the 20% transfer bonus — worth $420 based on TPG valuations. To maximize my experience, I’m going to be strategic and pick a flight operated by one of United’s 787s or 767s with the true Polaris business class pods. United is a bit stingy with releasing saver award availability on the Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX) route, but I’ve had good luck booking these awards close-in. Aeroplan is also one of the few programs I wouldn’t mind “parking” some of my points with since it offers plenty of other great redemption options and historically hasn’t devalued miles unannounced. 

United 767-300 Polaris
(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

How to earn Amex Membership Rewards points

If you want to take advantage of transfer bonus offers with American Express like these, you’ll need Membership Rewards points. Here are a couple of Amex cards that could help you earn these points:

Related: Credit card transfer bonuses currently available

Bottom line

Amex’s current round of transfer bonuses is the perfect opportunity to stretch the points I’ve racked up over the last year-and-a-half and make up for lost time. Although I normally wouldn’t transfer points without a specific use, there are some loyalty programs, such as Air Canada Aeroplan, I’m tempted to break that rule for. If you’re thinking about taking advantage of the current bonus opportunities, keep in mind that the airline transfer bonuses are slated to run through Sept. 30, while the hotel ones are through Oct. 31, 2021.

Featured photo courtesy of Zemi Beach House.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.