Planning your honeymoon with American Express Membership Rewards® points

Mar 11, 2020

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Your honeymoon will not be just your first trip together as a married couple, it could also be the greatest vacation that you’ve ever taken. Yet when you combine the cost of taking an amazing trip with that of your wedding itself, the total price can be overwhelming.

Part of the solution to planning an affordable honeymoon can be your credit card rewards. If one or both of you have a balance of American Express Membership Rewards® points, then you can redeem them for travel rewards that can, in many circumstances, lower the cost of your trip.

How Membership Rewards points can be redeemed directly for award travel

The American Express Membership Rewards program offers numerous ways to redeem your points for rewards such as gift cards, merchandise or to pay for charges. But these points are perhaps most valuable towards award travel, making them ideal for planning your honeymoon.

There are several ways to redeem your points for travel, and some offer you more value per point redeemed. First, you can redeem your Membership Rewards points directly for travel reservations by using Expedia. Link your Expedia account to your eligible American Express card, and use your points to pay for your reservations at checkout. This strategy can offer you the advantage of using an online travel agency that you’re familiar with, and one that offers an incredible number of airline, hotel and activity options. Unfortunately, you’ll also probably receive the lowest value for your points using this option when compared with most other point redemption options.

Alternatively, you can book reservations directly through American Express, either by going to Amextravel.com, or by calling an American Express travel advisor. This option allows you to pay for your reservation with your Membership Rewards points. And in this case, the estimated worth is one cent each towards airfare, hotels, rental cars and cruises. Platinum Card® Members can also use this option to take advantage of premium class airfare savings through the International Airline Program.

Booking hotels through Amex Travel also allows you to save money through the Fine Hotels and Resorts program, which is available to Platinum Card Members, or The Hotel Collection which is available to Platinum and Gold Card Members.

Transferring your Membership Rewards points to travel partners

Another way to redeem your Membership Rewards points is to transfer them to airline miles or hotel points. US-based Card Members can transfer their Membership Rewards points to numerous frequent flyer programs and hotel programs.

Once transferred to a travel partner, your points or miles can be redeemed according to the terms of that program. While this can be a more complicated way to book travel, it potentially offers you much more value per point redeemed. For example, the Air Canada Aeroplan program is a Membership Rewards transfer partner that offers round-trip, business class award flights to Europe for just 110,000 – 115,000 miles. If a ticket like this would normally cost about $5,000, you would be receiving over four cents in value per point redeemed (divide $5,000 by 110,000 miles). That’s an excellent value.

Other top transfer partners include Delta SkyMiles, British Airways Executive Club, Avianca LifeMiles, JetBlue True Blue and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. Transfer to most programs are on a 1:1 basis of Membership Rewards to the corresponding loyalty program currency, and transfer times tend to be instant for most programs.

And when booking a hotel, you can transfer your points to the Marriott Bonvoy, and Choice Privileges programs at a 1:1 ratio, and the Hilton Honors at an even better 1:2 ratio.

Air Canada
Air Canada’s premium economy is a crowd pleaser. Photo courtesy of Air Canada.

Tips for transferring points to book a honeymoon

1. Find available reservations before transferring your points. Since award seats and rooms can be limited, you’ll want to confirm the price and availability before you transfer your Membership Rewards points to travel partners. Once a transfer is complete, it can’t be reversed. Some airline programs, such as AirFrance/KLM-Flying Blue may allow you to hold an award while you transfer points.

2. Look for transfer bonuses. American Express often features transfer bonuses that can allow you to stretch your points even further. Some are targeted to individual Card Members, while others are available to everyone.

3. Don’t stress out about premium class seats and rooms. While you might enjoy the fantasy of flying in business class or staying in a large suite, don’t get too caught up in it. Ironically, many business and international first class seats are now configured to allow maximum distance and privacy from other passengers, which you may not even want on your honeymoon. And the same is true about staying in an extra-large hotel suite. If you have the opportunity to stretch your points further by accepting less luxurious travel reservations, it may be worth it.

Couple near Machu Picchu. (Photo by dislentev/Getty Images)
Couple near Machu Picchu. (Photo by dislentev/Getty Images)

General honeymoon planning advice

15 years ago, my wife and I took an amazing three-week trip to Brazil for our honeymoon. And since then, I’ve helped many other couples plan theirs. Here are three pieces of advice that I always give:

1. Select a destination that’s new to both of you. Your honeymoon is symbolic of your new journey together, and exploring a new place together will only enhance the excitement. And besides, you’ll never have as much fun visiting your favorite place the second time.

2. If traveling outside the US, look for favorable exchange rates. There are few things that takes the joy out of your honeymoon like worrying about the cost of it. When you pick a pricey foreign destination with an unfavorable exchange rate, every purchase will feel like a rip-off. But when you visit one of the many countries where your dollar goes further than it does at home, everything feels like a bargain.

3. Avoid visiting hurricane zones during the storm season. Did you know that there’s not just a pre-defined storm season, but there’s also fairly well defined zones? While you might take a chance for a regular vacation, it’s not worth the stress for your honeymoon. That’s is why we decided against visiting Cancun for our honeymoon during July, which ended up being struck by a massive hurricane (Emily) when we would have been there. For more information about storm seasons and zones, see NOAA’s page on hurricanes.

Further Reading: How to Create a Wedding Budget

Bottom line

While we certainly hope you have many memorable trips throughout your lifetime, none may be as special as your honeymoon. American Express Membership Rewards points have plenty of flexibility to help you plan almost any type of honeymoon. You get to pick how you want your dream honeymoon to be structured. With 19 different airline partners, you can fly in economy to Tokyo or business class to Brazil. With the option to choose to utilize Fine Hotels and Resorts or a transfer partner, you can also find a whole host of lodging options. Don’t be afraid to plan the perfect trip for your honeymoon, with the Membership Rewards program a key to making it happen.

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.

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