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INSIDER SECRET: You get the most value from your Amex Membership Rewards points by transferring your points to airline partners — but not all partners are created equal. British Airways is our favorite transfer partner for short flights, with flights starting at 4,500 British Airways Avios each way.
If you’re a free-travel junkie, it’s hard to go wrong with Amex Membership Rewards points. Right now, they are easy to earn with cards like The Business Platinum® Card from American Express and The Platinum Card® from American Express.
But what’s the best way to use them? That’s for you to decide based on your specific travel goals, but I’ll give you 9 of the top ways to squeeze as much value from your points as possible. It’s how us miles & points veterans use our Amex Membership Rewards points!
Best Ways to Use Amex Membership Rewards Points
Amex Membership Rewards points give you the flexibility you need to fulfill almost any travel goal by with Amex transfer partners: 16 airlines and 3 hotel chains.
You can redeem Amex Membership Rewards points for lots of different things — paying for Amazon purchases, redeeming for statement credits, buying merchandise through the Amex shopping portal, and more. These are not valuable ways to use your Amex points. You will do better by transferring your points to an airline.
But that isn’t the only way to get the most out of your rewards!
1. Avoid Blackout Dates by Paying With Points
That’s because you’ll get a 35% points rebate on all flights booked with your airline of choice (you’ve got to choose a specific airline each year and stick with it until next year) through the Amex travel portal. You’ll get the same rebate on all business class and first class flights booked through the Amex travel portal.
You’ll also get up to a $200 airline fee credit per calendar year by selecting one airline from the following nine carriers:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
If you take advantage of the 35% Pay With Points rebate, you can get some serious value from your points.
Note: If you want to use your Amex points for an airline you can’t search on the Amex travel portal, like Southwest, you’ll have to call (800-297-2977) to redeem your points. Check out this post to learn our trick for using your American Express points to book Southwest flights.
2. Fly to Japan and Back for Dirt Cheap
ANA (the largest airline in Japan) is a 1:1 Amex transfer partner, and they have a great award chart if you want to get to Japan.
You can fly round-trip in coach from North America to Japan for as little as 40,000 ANA miles per person during the low season.
But you’ll pay 50,000 to 55,000 ANA miles per person for a round-trip coach seat during other times of the year (still not bad).
Note: With ANA, you can only book award flights for yourself and certain family members.
3. Fly to Hawaii Using Singapore Airlines Miles
Singapore Airlines is a Star Alliance partner with access to great award flights. You can convert points to Amex transfer partner Singapore Airlines at a 1:1 ratio.
From the West Coast, you can use Singapore Airlines miles for Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii. Prices start at only 24,000 miles round-trip in coach.
And, if you don’t live on the West Coast, you can still use Singapore Airlines miles to save money on flights to Hawaii with United Airlines for only 35,000 miles round-trip in coach. That might not always be the best deal, but it is 10,000 miles less than what United Airlines charges for the same flight.
4. Transfer Amex Membership Rewards Points to British Airways for Short-Haul Partner Flights
British Airways has a distance-based award chart, so the cost of your award will vary depending on the distance of the flight.
In North America, you can book partner awards of up to 1,150 flight miles for 7,500 British Airways Avios points one-way. This can be a great way to book domestic American Airlines awards.
For example, if I want to fly from Chicago to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I could book a round-trip coach award ticket on an American Airlines flight for only 15,000 British Airways Avios points, which is 10,000 fewer miles than I would pay with American Airlines for the same flight!
And, if you’re overseas, you can book awards of up to 650 flight miles one-way for only 4,500 British Airways Avios points. This is a great way to get around Europe or book cheap flights within Japan. You’ll be saving lots of Amex points this way because British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner.
5. Getaway to Tahiti on Air France
Depending on where you want to go in the South Pacific, you’ll have plenty of transfer partner options to get there. You could fly to the South Pacific and beyond using Delta miles (transferred from Amex Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio). But round-trip coach award seats from the US to those destinations would set you back at least 90,000 Amex Membership Rewards points.
You can save your Amex points by transferring them to Flying Blue (at a 1:1 ratio) instead.
Currently, you can book a Flying Blue award flight with Air France from Los Angeles to Tahiti starting at only 51,000 Flying Blue miles round-trip.
With the new Flying Blue award prices, you’ll be able to book all available seats with miles, but the prices will increase as the seats become more scarce. I’m interested to see how many award seats will be available at the new lower prices.
6. Transfer to Choice Hotels for Award Stays Overseas
The one area where Amex Membership Rewards points aren’t very strong is for free hotel stays. But recently Choice Hotels made a small step in the right direction by allowing you to book free nights up to 100 days in advance. And, yes, that is terrible compared to other hotels, but it is an improvement from what they used to allow for non-elite members (just 30 days in advance!!).
Choice Hotels probably aren’t going to be your first choice when you’re traveling domestically, but they can be a good deal depending on the country you’re visiting. If you’re traveling to Norway, Sweden, or Japan, you’ll find lots of Choice Hotels located where there aren’t many other options. You should be able to find good deals too.
When I was in Stockholm a few years ago, I stayed at a Choice Hotel for only 8,000 points per night. Any other hotels would have set me back quite a bit more. Likewise, in New Zealand, Choice Hotels were the only accommodations that could be booked with hotel points outside of major cities.
Choice Hotels is a 1:1 transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards. Award nights cost between 6,000 and 35,000 Choice points (excluding Australia, where they can cost up to 75,000 points per night), but they often have cheaper nightly cash rates. Be sure to compare the cash price for when you want to stay and decide whether it’s better to book with points or just pay cash.
7. Book American Airlines Award Flights to Europe
American Airlines isn’t an Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner, but several American Airlines partners are. One of the best airlines for booking partner awards on American Airlines to Europe is Etihad Airways.
Etihad has a different award chart for each partner airline, and its prices for American Airlines awards are great. You can book a round-trip flight from North America to Europe in coach in the off-peak season for only 40,000 Etihad miles. Or, you could splurge on a round-trip first class American Airlines flight to Europe for only 125,000 Etihad miles.
Both of these options are significantly less (20,000 to 45,000 fewer miles) than what you would pay if you used American Airlines miles for the same flight.
8. Hilton Hotels Fifth Night Free
Amex Membership Rewards points transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio. Hilton no longer publishes an award chart, but the cheapest hotels in the US go for 10,000 Hilton points per night and there are hotels overseas that you can book for as little as 5,000 Hilton points per night.
One of the many perks you’ll get with the Amex Business Platinum card is automatic Hilton Gold status. Hilton elite members get every fifth night of an award stay free (up to 20 nights or a total of four free nights).
You can book five nights at a 5,000 Hilton point hotel like the DoubleTree Sighisoara-Cavaler in Romania for only 20,000 Hilton points. Paying only 10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points (10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points x 2 for Hilton transfer) for a five-night stay that could cost $500+ during the summer is a steal.
The biggest drawback of this deal is that most of the hotels that are 5,000 Hilton points a night are in either Eastern Europe or scattered throughout Southern Asia. So you’re probably more likely to get more use out of the 10,000-point-per-night locations, which can still be a great deal.
Note: Hilton calculates the fifth free night based on the average cost of all five nights.
9. Take Advantage of a Transfer Bonus
Amex Membership Rewards regularly runs transfer bonus promotions with their partners. For example, in the past, there was a 25% transfer bonus to Flying Blue. So for every 1,000 Amex Membership Rewards points transferred, you’d get 1,250 Flying Blue miles.
And there have been other good transfer bonuses for many of Amex’s airline partners including Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue, and British Airways.
The Amex Business Platinum card is a great option for stockpiling Amex Membership Rewards points that can get you almost anywhere.
You’ll need to have a small business to qualify, which might be easier than you think. If the deal isn’t the right one for you, there are lots of other Amex credit cards you can earn Amex Membership Rewards points with.
What is your favorite way to redeem Amex points? Let me know in the comments! And check out these posts for more details on Amex Membership Rewards points:
- American Express Points Review
- Amex Points Value
- Best Way to Use Amex Points
- Amex Transfer Partners
- Best Credit Cards to Earn Amex Points
- How to Setup an American Express Membership Rewards Account
- How to Use American Express Points
- Do American Express Points Expire?
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