How to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for United Airlines Award Flights

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Million Mile Secrets readers, Gary Rees and Alan, started a discussion:

Gary commented:

Is there a service that can help me maximize my bank points?

I am new but have over 300,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points saved up and want to do something over-the-top for my 10th anniversary.  What about transferring to Air Canada Aeroplan at the 1:1 transfer rate, and then to United Airlines?  Is that possible?

And Alan replied:

Did you ever come up with a way to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to United Airlines?  Like you, I like United Airlines and was thinking about using Air Canada Aeroplan as the middle step.  I haven’t figured how to move Air Canada Aeroplan miles to United Airlines miles.  Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you both for commenting!  I thought I’d jump in to help.

You can NOT transfer Air Canada Aeroplan miles to United Airlines miles.  In general, you can not transfer airline miles to another airline. 

How To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points For United Airlines Award Flights

You Can’t Transfer Miles From 1 Airline to Another. But It’s Still Possible to Book an Award Ticket on United Airlines With AMEX Membership Rewards Points

But you CAN book United Airlines flights with AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partners.  That’s because a few of them have access to award seats on United Airlines.

I’ll explain your options and point you in the right direction if you need more help!

About AMEX Membership Rewards Points

Link:   American Express Membership Rewards

Link:   American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners

AMEX Membership Rewards has lots of airline transfer partners:

 American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners 
AeroMexicoAir CanadaAlitalia
ANAAsia MilesBritish Airways
Delta AirlinesEl AlEmirates
EtihadFlying Blue (Air France / KLM)Hawaiian Airlines
IberiaJetBlueSingapore Airlines
Virgin AmericaVirgin Atlantic

AMEX Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to most airline mileage programs.

Here are the cards that earn AMEX Membership Rewards points, in case you need more:

Personal CardsBusiness Cards
Premier Rewards Gold Card From American ExpressThe Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
American Express® Mercedes-Benz PlatinumThe Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Enhanced Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN
AMEX EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
AMEX EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
American Express® Gold Card
American Express® Green Card
Blue from American Express® Note: These are the ONLY AMEX cards that earn Membership Rewards points that can NOT be transferred to airline & hotel programs. But you can use these points on the Membership Rewards website for other redemptions. Includes personal AND small business versions of the card.

How to Fly on United Airlines

Gary and Alan both want to fly on United Airlines.  Here’s how they could go about it.

Three AMEX Membership Rewards airline transfer partners are also travel partners with United Airlines:

How To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points For United Airlines Award Flights

Transfer Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA, or Singapore Airlines Miles. And Then Book Flights on United Airlines!

After you transfer your AMEX Membership Rewards points to Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA, or Singapore Airlines, you can use the miles to book flights on United Airlines.  That’s because all 4 airlines are part of the Star Alliance.

How To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points For United Airlines Award Flights

Because All 4 Airlines Are Star Alliance Partners, They Have Access to Each Other’s Award Seats

Which 1 Should You Pick?

I’ve written about how to use Air Canada Aeroplan and ANA miles.  And I showed you how to book United Airlines flights with Singapore Airlines miles.

Depending on where you want to go, it’s worth it to check how much a United Airlines flight would cost on all 3 airlines’ partner award charts.

That’s because each frequent flyer program has different prices for award flights.

1.   Air Canada Aeroplan

Link:   Air Canada Partner Award Chart

Air Canada Aeroplan only charges 90,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles to fly to Europe round-trip in Business Class.

How To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points For United Airlines Award Flights

Fly Round-Trip to Europe in Business Class for 90,000 Air Canada Aeroplan Miles

Note:   Air Canada is updating their partner award chart.  As of December 15, 2015, this award will cost 110,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles, so book soon if this is an award you’ve had your eye on!

You can book most partner award flights on the Aeroplan website.

2.   ANA

Link:   ANA Partner Award Chart

ANA has some sweet spots in its partner award chart.  Flights to Europe in coach are 55,000 ANA miles round-trip.  And Business Class seats cost 88,000 ANA miles round-trip.

How To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points For United Airlines Award Flights

ANA Has Great Prices on Award Flights to Africa, Europe, and South America!

If you want to visit Africa, you’ll pay only 65,000 ANA miles round-trip for a coach award flight.  And award seats in coach to southern South America are well-priced at 55,000 ANA Miles.

You can book United Airlines award flights on the ANA website.

3.   Singapore Airlines

Link:   Singapore Airlines Partner Award Chart

If you want to fly within the US (including Hawaii!), Canada, or Alaska, you can get a fantastic deal with Singapore Airlines miles.

How To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points For United Airlines Award Flights

Business Class Flights to Hawaii on United Airlines Are Only 60,000 Singapore Airlines Miles Round-Trip

That’s because you can book the exact same United Airlines flights using fewer miles with Singapore Airlines.

How To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points For United Airlines Award Flights

Get Discounts on United Airlines Award Flights With Singapore Airlines Miles. Visit Hawaii for Fewer Miles!

When you redeem Singapore Airlines miles for an award seat to Hawaii, you’ll pay:

  • 35,000 Singapore Airlines miles for a round-trip coach award flight
  • 60,000 Singapore Airlines miles for a round-trip Business Class award flight
  • 80,000 Singapore Airlines miles for a round-trip First Class award flight

Compare that to United Airlines miles, which cost:

  • 45,000 United Airlines miles for a round-trip coach award flight
  • 80,000 United Airlines miles for a round-trip Business Class award flight
  • 100,000 United Airlines miles for a round-trip First Class award flight

And remember, you aren’t limited to United Airlines when you redeem Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA, or Singapore Airlines miles.  If another airline flies where you want to go, you can use your miles for an award seat, as long as they’re part of the Star Alliance.

Be aware that some airlines add fuel surcharges to award tickets, which can add hundreds of dollars to the price.

And be sure award seats are available before you transfer your hard-earned AMEX Membership Rewards points!  Because you can’t transfer them back!

Need More Help?

Link:   Award Booking Services

If you still need help booking United Airlines flights with your AMEX Membership Rewards points, consider reaching out to an award booking service.

How To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points For United Airlines Award Flights

If You Feel Stuck, You Can Always Call a Pro for Help!

An award booking service might help you find a more creative or cheaper routing to where you want to go!  Especially if you have a complicated itinerary.

Bottom Line

Remember it is NOT possible to transfer airline miles from 1 airline to another.  But thanks to partnerships, you can book an award seat on United Airlines after you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards to these airlines:

Each 1 has their sweet spots, and all of them price award flights differently.  So always do the math before you transfer your points.

If you need more help, think about contacting an award booking service to put together an award trip for you.

Gary and Alan, I hope that helps!  And to Gary, have a wonderful 10th anniversary trip, wherever you decide to go!

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7 responses to “How to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for United Airlines Award Flights

  1. I was trying to check to see if I can get a “points” flight from smf to oua (sacramento to Burkina Faso) with ANA, and it was not letting me. Do I have to call to make the reservations? I don’t want to transfer American Express points to ANA unless I am sure I can get a flight.

    Thank you for your input

  2. I understand I can use Singapore Airline miles to book flights from the mainland to Hawaii on United Airlines, and that I use the Singapore Award Chart to determine the number of miles needed. On a round trip ticket, do I get the same benefits, i.e., a free stopover and open jaw allowed, that I would get if I booked the flight directly with United using United Miles?

  3. I just used ANA to launder AmEx miles for United flights to/from the UK in the late summer of 2016–worked almost flawlessly! Note that you can’t just do this complex transaction in a single day: I had to create an ANA account (quick and easy), then on the AmEx web site, link the ANA account to your MileageRewards account, wait 2-3 days, then transfer the miles and wait 2-3 days (faster than the 5-7 Amex warns about). In the meantime, do the homework to get a sense of possible flights, and then it should work OK all online to set up the flights. In my case, I wanted business class, but had to settle for economy one way and business return–which you can’t actually do online, but with ANA customer service. Spent 20-40 minutes waiting to talk with agent twice, but the agents worked their tails off finding me alternatives. In the end, Aug/Sep travel to UK for 27.5K economy going, and 44K returning. plus $190 in taxes. Not quite as easy/simple as it was in the good old days with Continental before the United merger, but got it done in the end!!!

  4. The one thing I still don’t understand after reading so many blog posts with using miles is, say I have Krisflyer miles and wants to get a flight on United airlines. When I make my booking, do I call Singapore Airlines because i’m using Krisflyer miles or do I call United?

  5. @Chris – Yes, you’d have to call to make the award ticket arrangements.

    @David – On a round-trip award, you can add one stopover and one open-jaw.

    @Richard Guy – That’s great news! Congrats on your award trip and thanks for all the helpful information! 🙂

    @Fiona – You’d have to call Singapore Airlines to book an award ticket with their miles. Even if you want to fly on a partner airline.

  6. Hi,

    I have around 85000 points with Chase Sapphire Preferred and around 60000 points with Amex. I am planning to travel to Bangalore India combining both with United Airlines.. Is there a way i can do that?

  7. Thanks for this great article. Do you have to get Saver flights to use Singapore to book United? Or can you book with any available flights shown on the United website?