Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With AMEX Membership Rewards Points: Part 3 – Best Ways to Fly Within Continental US

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You get lots of travel flexibility with AMEX Membership Rewards points.  Because if you don’t have set travel plans for a future trip, these transferable points give you the option to choose from multiple airline partners when the time comes.

Folks in the miles & points hobby know earning transferable points, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, are the best way to get Big Travel.  

The AMEX Membership Rewards points program has 20 direct airline and hotel partners.  Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well!  So you’ll have lots of choices when planning flights within the continental US.

Or you can keep it simple and use AMEX Pay With Points to book flights through the Membership Rewards travel portal and get a fixed amount per point.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

There Are Plenty of Ways to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for Flights Within the US!

I’ll show you the best ways to use American Express Membership Rewards Points for US Flights!

The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points:

American Express Membership Rewards Points for US Flights

Link:   Which Miles & Points Should You Collect for Award Flights?

In a moment, I’ll share a few airlines that are great for flights within the US that you can book using AMEX Membership Rewards points.  Even though the airlines might not be direct AMEX transfer partners, you can still book award flights thanks to alliances and partnerships.

The best transfer partner will depend on:

  • Available award seats
  • Which airlines fly from your home airport
  • Your airline & alliance preferences
  • Where you want to travel

If you don’t have the time or don’t want to book your own award tickets, you can consider using an award booking service.

1.   Delta

Delta is the only direct AMEX airline transfer partner based in the continental US with a 1:1 transfer ratio.  This means selecting Delta is the simplest way to book award flights within the US.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

It’s Easy to Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Delta to Book Award Flights Within the US

But this does NOT mean it’s the cheapest!

You’ll have to pay an excise fee to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Delta because it’s a US airline.

And Delta no longer publishes an award chart!  This means you’ll need to search specific routes and dates to find the price of an award ticket.

But Delta offers many non-stop award flights from their hub cities:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Cincinnati
  • Detroit
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis
  • New York
  • Salt Lake City
  • Seattle

Other cities like Houston, Newark, and San Francisco also have non-stop award flight options.

Generally, the cheapest one-way US award flights you can find in coach cost:

  • 5,500 Delta miles for short-haul flights (i.e. Los Angeles to San Francisco)
  • 10,000 Delta miles for medium-haul flights (i.e. New York to Atlanta)
  • 12,500 Delta miles for long-haul flights (i.e. New York to Los Angeles)
American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

You Can Regularly Find Medium-Haul One-Way Award Flights for 10,000 Delta Miles. For Example, on a Sample Route From Atlanta to New York

And for one-way Business Class award seats, the cheapest award flights cost:

  • 25,000 Delta miles for short-haul and medium-haul flights
  • 32,500 Delta miles for long-haul flights

The good news is there are no close-in booking fees or fuel surcharges.  And Delta award flights are easy to book online after you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points.

You can also transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue to book Delta award flights because both are part of the SkyTeam alliance.

One-way coach award flights within the US cost 12,500 Flying Blue miles.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Flying Blue to Book Delta Award Flights

You’ll likely only want to book Delta award flights through Flying Blue if you already have miles built up in your frequent flyer account.  Then, you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to top off your account and book an award flight.

2.   United Airlines

Link:   How to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for United Airlines Award Tickets

United Airlines is NOT a direct AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partner.

But you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Star Alliance partner airlines Air Canada or Singapore Airlines.  Then book United Airlines award flights within the US.

United Airlines offers lots of non-stop flights out of their hub cities, including:

  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles
  • Newark
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, DC

But you can only book “Saver” level United Airlines award flights using Air Canada Aeroplan or Singapore Airlines miles.  So I recommend searching the United Airlines site first before transferring points to either of the partner airlines.

Using partner airline miles for one-way United Airlines flights within the US, you’ll pay:

  • 12,500 Singapore Airlines miles or Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 20,000 Singapore Airlines miles or 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class

So the sweet spot is using Singapore Airlines miles to book United Airlines Business Class award flights.  But it can be difficult to find available “Saver” level award seats.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

Using Singapore Airlines Miles for One-Way United Airlines Business Class Award Flights Can be a Great Deal! Especially on Routes With Lie-Flat Seats!

Between the 2 airline partners, it’s easier to use Air Canada Aeroplan miles for United Airlines award flights because you can book online.

For example, I searched the Air Canada website for a one-way flight from Denver to Aspen.  There are coach award seats available for 12,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

You Can Book United Airlines Award Flights Directly Through the Air Canada Website

To book via Singapore Airlines, you’ll have to call 800-742-3333 and provide the agent with your flight details.

Neither Air Canada or Singapore Airlines add fuel charges or close-in booking fees to United Airlines award bookings.

3.   American Airlines

Link:   Save Miles!  Book American Airlines Awards With Etihad Miles

Similar to United Airlines, American Airlines is NOT a direct AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partner.  But you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to British Airways or Etihad and then book American Airlines award flights.

You can find lots of good non-stop flight options from American Airlines hub cities like:

  • Charlotte
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Washington, DC

British Airways and Etihad use different systems for pricing award flights on American Airlines.

British Airways has a distance-based award chart.  So the amount you’ll pay depends on the length of your flight.

For example, one-way coach award flights cost:

  • 7,500 British Airways Avios points for flights under 1,151 miles
  • 10,000 British Airways Avios points for flights between 1,152 and 2,000 miles
  • 12,500 British Airways Avios points for flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles

So using British Airways Avios points for short flights within the US can be a terrific deal.  For example, I found a one-way award flight from Miami to Atlanta for 7,500 British Airways Avios points.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

Using British Airways Avios Points for Short American Airlines Flights Is a Great Deal!

For one-way Business Class award flights, you’ll pay:

  • 15,000 British Airways Avios points for flights under 1,151 miles
  • 20,000 British Airways Avios points for flights between 1,152 and 2,000 miles
  • 37,500 British Airways Avios points for flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles

Meanwhile, Etihad charges a flat amount for one-way flights within the US.  You’ll pay:

  • 12,500 Etihad miles in coach
  • 25,000 Etihad miles in Business Class
  • 32,500 Etihad miles in First Class

The trick to using British Airways Avios points or Etihad miles for American Airlines flights is to find available award seats.

You can only book American Airlines award flights using partner airline miles if there are low-level “MileSAAver” seats available.

Here’s how you can check available seats and book using partner airline miles.

Step 1.   Search American Airlines Award Calendar

First, search your desired American Airlines route on the airline’s website.  In this example, I searched one-way non-stop award flights from Los Angeles to Miami.

To view the lowest level “MileSAAver” awards, you can click on “Economy MileSAAver” or “Business/First MileSAAver”.

I wanted to see if there were any available Business Class award seats.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

Filter the Award Calendar to View Available “MileSAAver” Award Seats

As the calendar shows, it can be extremely difficult to find low-level Business Class award seats.  There’s only 1 date in March or April 2017 that’s available.

Note:   It’s much easier to find available seats in coach.

Step 2.   Book American Airlines Award Flight Using Partner Airline Miles

After you confirm award seats are available, you can use British Airways Avios points to book online.  Or you can use Etihad miles, but you’ll have to call to book.

For example, I searched the flight on the British Airways website and found the available seats.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

Search and Book the American Airlines Award Flight Using British Airways Avios Points Through the British Airways Website

You can quickly book this flight online after you transfer in AMEX Membership Rewards points.

Because this flight is between 2,001 and 3,000 miles, you’ll pay 37,500 British Airways Avios points, which is more than 25,000 American Airlines miles you’d use if you booked directly.

As an alternative, you can call Etihad at 877-690-0767.  Then, book using 25,000 Etihad miles, which is the price for all Business Class flights within the US.

The good news is you won’t pay any extra booking fees or charges when you redeem partner airline miles to book American Airlines award flights.

Use AMEX Pay With Points for Simplicity

Link:   AMEX Pay With Points 

Link:   Now Get 50% of Your Points Back With AMEX Business Platinum

Instead of transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to airline partners, you can redeem points for airfare using Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal.

When you use your AMEX Membership Rewards points towards air travel, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket.  And folks with the AMEX Business Platinum card can effectively get 2 cents per point using the Pay With Points perk to get 50% of points back.

For example, I searched the AMEX Travel Portal and found a one-way Frontier Airlines flight from Chicago to Los Angeles, which costs $59 or ~5,800 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For US Flights

Use AMEX Pay With Points for Simplicity to Get 1 Cent per Point Towards Paid Airfare

The benefit of redeeming points this way includes the option to book flights on airlines that are not direct or indirect AMEX transfer partners.  And you earn frequent flyer miles on the flights.  Plus, you don’t have to worry about blackout dates!

But you’re better offer transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to a partner airline if you can get more than 1 or 2 cents per point.

Bottom Line

American Express Membership Rewards points are very flexible for award flights within the US.

Between direct transfer partners and award flights through partner airlines, you can use AMEX Membership Rewards points for award flights on American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines.

The best transfer partner depends on available award seats, where you want to travel, and the departure airlines from your home airport.

For simplicity, you can redeem AMEX Membership Rewards points for paid airfare using Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal.  This will give you more options beyond the direct and indirect AMEX airline transfer partners.

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8 responses to “Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With AMEX Membership Rewards Points: Part 3 – Best Ways to Fly Within Continental US

  1. Just one thing to note…Not all United Saver level awards are bookable via SQ.

    I saw saver economy award on United, but when I called SQ, they were not able to see that particular award, and instead offer other routings that I cannot find on United. I tried HUCB but same result. Suggest to call the program you are transferring points to to make sure they can actually see.

  2. is there any difference by using IberiaPlus instead of BA ?

  3. I just received the 100k miles from the Amex platinum offer. Even though my spend was all organic, I am afraid AMEX might try to make up some bs reason and claw my points back. I am based out of Boston, which airline partner would you recommend transferring my points to? I know this is potentially a complex question but I’d rather transfer the points sooner than later.

  4. Hey Daraius, I have a question: Amex is coming up with our preferred flight (Knoxville – Budapest, return from Dubrovnik) for $1458 on Delta/KLM… or 72K points RT for each of us if we pick Delta for our airline choice. Not bad, but google flights has the identical flight for $1182 direct from KLM. Have you ever argued the price with Amex or worth talking with a travel rep there as to why there would be such a variance in price. We would rather use points and if we pick Delta, that would be under 60K points. Thoughts?

    • In my experience, you don’t always find the cheapest airfare through the AMEX travel portal. I’d recommend speaking with an AMEX travel rep before booking just in case they see a cheaper fare on their end.