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Do You Pay a Fee to Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points to an Airline?

Do You Pay a Fee to Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points to an Airline?

Million Mile SecretsDo You Pay a Fee to Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points to an Airline?Million Mile Secrets Team

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Million Mile Secrets reader Julie commented:

I transferred 50,000 points to Delta from my American Express Gold and they charged me about $30.  I’ve never heard you (or anyone else) mention that they do this.  Is this your experience also?

Do You Pay A Fee To Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points To An Airline
Was Julie Correctly Charged a Fee When She Transferred American Express Membership Rewards Points to Delta?

Julie wants to know why she was charged a fee when she transferred her American Express Membership Rewards points from her Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express to Delta Airline miles.  American Express charges a fee to transfer miles because they have to pay an excise tax to transfer the miles.  So they pass along the costs to you, the cardholder. 

American Express Membership Rewards Points

Link:   American Express Premier Rewards Gold card  

Link:   American Express Membership Rewards  

Julie earns American Express Membership Rewards points when she uses her American Express Premier Rewards Gold card.  Julie could also earn American Membership Rewards points from the American Express Mercedes-Benz Platinum card, The Platinum Card from American Express, and The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN cards.  As always, terms and limitations apply with American Express cards.

Julie can use her American Express Membership Rewards points to:

Turn Points Into Miles

Julie can transfer her American Express Membership Rewards points to ~17 airlines, including Delta Airlines.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK
Transferring American Express Membership Rewards Points to Airlines Can Give You Big Travel With Small Money

There is no limit to the number of American Express Membership Rewards points Julie can transfer.  But American Express Membership Rewards points must be transferred in 1,000 point increments.

Julie will pay an excise fee when she transfers her American Express Membership Rewards points to US airlines.  Because the fee is a federal fee taxed on US airlines, Julie would pay the fee even if she lived in another country.

Do You Pay A Fee To Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points To An Airline
A Fee Applies When Transferring American Express Membership Rewards Points

There is no fee to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to hotels.  Julie can transfer her American Express Membership Rewards points for free to these hotels:

  • Best Western
  • Choice
  • Hilton
  • Starwood

Julie will be charged a fee of 0.06 cents per point up to a maximum of $99 when she transfers her American Express Membership Rewards points to a US airline.

So Julie will pay a fee when she transfers American Express Membership Rewards points to these US airlines:

  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Virgin America

The 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points she transferred to Delta Airlines cost $30 to transfer (50,000 points x .06 cents per point transfered).

Do You Pay A Fee To Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points To An Airline
American Express Charges an Airline Excise Tax Offset Fee of .06 cents per Point

The most Julie will pay to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points is $99, even if she transfers 500,000 American Express Membership Rewards points!  Because that’s the maximum amount American Express charges to transfer points.

Do You Pay A Fee To Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points To An Airline
There Is a Maximum Transfer Fee of $99

But there is no fee if Julie transfers her American Express Membership Rewards points to foreign airlines, like British Airways.  Julie can transfer her American Express Membership Rewards points for free to these airlines:

 American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners 
AeroMexicoAir CanadaAlitalia
ANAAsia MilesBritish Airways
Delta El AlEmirates
EtihadFlying Blue (Air France / KLM)Hawaiian Airlines
IberiaJetBlueSingapore Airlines
Virgin Atlantic
Do You Pay A Fee To Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points To An Airline
Julie Won’t Pay a Fee Transferring American Express Membership Rewards Points to Foreign Airlines

American Express Membership Rewards points usually transfer within ~2 days but can take longer depending on the airline.

Interestingly, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Starwood Preferred Guest points to US airlines for free.  I’m not sure if these airlines get around the excise fee, or if they incur the fee on behalf of their cardholders.

Bottom Line

Julie paid a $30 fee to transfer 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta Airlines.

American Express charges an excise tax recovery fee when you transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to a US airline.  Julie will pay .06 cents per point to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points.  The maximum fee that Julie will pay is $99.

Julie won’t pay the fee if she transfers her American Express Membership Rewards points to a foreign airline.

 

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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In the table of airlines you CAN transfer to, for free, you list Hawaiian, Delta, Jet Blue and Virgin America. Are they not American owned? Or are they exceptions? A wealth of info here, thanks!

wait, so you have to book on aircanada using their rewards?

Author
Million Mile Secrets

@josh – Yes, but you can transfer Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan.

What is the best way to transfer Amex points into United Miles? I currently have a platinum amex and am looking to get a business class international flight with miles on united – If I were to transfer to aeroplan (air canada) would I than be able to transfer those to United miles without a fee or with a good conversion?

Also, I am going to Asia and I saw that ANA is a partner but that they charge all the taxes ($600+) so what work around if any is there to book a United flight (codeshare ANA) without paying the taxes that ANA requires but United does not?

Author
Million Mile Secrets

@josh – You can’t transfer from Aeroplan to United, but you can use Aeroplan miles to fly on United. They don’t charge fuel surcharges for awards on United, but do charge on other airlines.

I get the following message when clicking on some of your AMEX links:

“You have been identified as a current American Express Card Member. You may have seen an offer advertised for this product previously, but the offer is not available to current American Express Card Members.”

Is there a way to get around this?

@Will – Yep, Chase eats the tax when you transfer to United or Southwest. It’s something that you don’t see a lot in blog posts, but if you’re like me, and are transferring hundreds of thousands of points into programs each year, the savings add up. For the annual fees that most MR-earning cards demand, passing the excise tax on to cardholders is just stingy.

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