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You've earned a bunch of American Express Membership Rewards points. Now, what do you do with them? While there are several ways you can redeem Amex points, not all of them are created equal. Without a good understanding of the various redemption options, it can be difficult to determine how to get the maximum value from your points.
Although the options can seem overwhelming, put your worries aside. We'll walk you through all the ways to redeem Amex Membership Rewards, highlighting which will generally give you the best value. We'll also illustrate specific uses for many of the transfer partners, where they shine, and what you should avoid.
- How to Redeem Amex Membership Rewards for Max Value
- Fly Singapore Airlines business or first class from the U.S. to Europe or Asia
- Transfer to British Airways to book short-haul Oneworld flights
- Use ANA Mileage Club to fly United Polaris (business class) to Europe
- Use Avianca LifeMiles for domestic, short-haul United flights
- Fly Iberia business class to / from Madrid
- Transfer to Flying Blue for Promo Rewards and other sweet spots
- Book ANA premium cabins Using Virgin Atlantic points
- Fly to Hawaii from the West Coast for 12,500 Aeroplan points
- Fly around the world with ANA in business class
- Take advantage of transfer bonuses
- Use the 35% points rebate from the Business Platinum Card
- Redeeming Amex Points for Mediocre Value
- Other Ways to Redeem Amex Points — Poor Value Options
- Final Thoughts
How to Redeem Amex Membership Rewards for Max Value
At a high level, transferring your points to travel partners will be the best way to redeem your Amex Membership Rewards points. However, the set of transfer partners is large: 21 in total, with three hotel and 18 airline partners.
Not all Membership Rewards transfer partners give you the same value for your points. In general, the following Amex partner airline programs have some high-value uses:
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- Air France–KLM Flying Blue
- All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
- Avianca LifeMiles
- British Airways Executive Club
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Delta SkyMiles
- Emirates Skywards
- Iberia Plus
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
This doesn't mean all of these programs are good in every situation. It's just that each has some uses that will offer good to excellent value for many people.
If you're new to American Express Membership Rewards and need some help with your first transfer, we have a detailed guide on how to link your loyalty accounts and transfer Amex points. Now, let's walk through some of the best ways to redeem Amex points.
Fly Singapore Airlines business or first class from the U.S. to Europe or Asia
Singapore Airlines business, first, and suites class are all top-notch products that are difficult to book except through Singapore's own KrisFlyer loyalty program. While some other programs have access to business-class awards on Singapore Airlines flights, the routes and award space are limited. Redeeming Amex points through KrisFlyer is the way to go. Some great options include:
- Singapore Suites from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) for 97,000 KrisFlyer miles
- Business class from San Francisco (SFO) to Singapore (SIN) for 107,000 KrisFlyer miles
- First class from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) for 120,500 KrisFlyer miles
You can book at singaporeair.com. You must have a KrisFlyer account and must log in to search for award flights. Singapore's search is fairly robust. Saver awards are the way to go, but sometimes an Advantage award may still be worth it if Saver space is unavailable.
Note that multiple flexible points currencies transfer to KrisFlyer. If you don't have enough Membership Rewards points, you can transfer Capital One miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Points to KrisFlyer to have enough for a redemption. All three currencies transfer to KrisFlyer at a 1:1 ratio.
Transfer to British Airways to book short-haul Oneworld flights
British Airways is an excellent option for booking nonstop flights on Oneworld airlines. There's a lot of potential for booking domestic American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights within the U.S. — especially short flights. Here are the first four British Airways award zone prices.
|Zone||Distance (miles)||Avios for Economy||Avios for Business/Domestic First|
One note: British Airways prices all Zone 1 itineraries within North America at 7,500 Avios, but many are still a great deal. Consider this flight from Philadelphia to Bangor, Maine:
It costs $345 but only costs 7,500 Avios and $5.60 one way. Total steal.
The Zone 4 band is excellent for West Coast flights to Hawaii. You'll pay just 13,000 Avios and $5.60 each way.
This is a good deal when flight prices to Hawaii are over $200. However, make sure you check cash prices. You can score a cash ticket for around $150 in each direction. In this case, I'd pay out of pocket rather than redeem Amex points.
Beyond domestic American Airlines flights, here are some other places to consider using British Airways Avios:
- Flights within Australia on Qantas
- Some short flights on Royal Jordanian
- High-cost economy flights within Europe on BA, Iberia, or Finnair
- Flights within Japan or to Korea on JAL (Japan Airlines)
All of these can make Avios a great way to redeem your Membership Rewards points.
Use ANA Mileage Club to fly United Polaris (business class) to Europe
ANA has some extremely good pricing for business- and first-class flights from the U.S. to other regions of the world. One great option is for United Polaris business class to Europe. If you can find Saver business class award space in both directions, you can book a round-trip ticket for just 88,000 miles! It's hard to beat that price. This is hands-down one of the best ways to redeem Amex Membership Rewards.
The key here is that United doesn't levy fuel or carrier surcharges, so the taxes and fees are minimal. Be aware, though, that ANA does pass along carrier surcharges on airlines that assess these fees. ANA also levies these on its own flights. These can really add up, so even though the required number of miles is attractive, you could get hit with over $500 in fees on an award, depending on which airline operates the flight.
Use Avianca LifeMiles for domestic, short-haul United flights
This is a personal favorite of mine. Short-haul economy flights aren't the first thing that typically comes to mind when you think of an excellent award redemption. But LifeMiles' attractive award chart for booking domestic U.S. flights has often given me between 3 and 5 cents per Membership Rewards points in redemption value. The value is so good, that I often top up my LifeMiles account when there is a transfer bonus. We don't typically recommend speculatively transferring points, but this is one time I'm happy to do so.
LifeMiles breaks the U.S. into three award regions. Flights between regions are priced closer to typical Saver award prices in other programs. It's intra-region flights that enjoy substantial savings. You'll often find flights — including connecting itineraries — for around 7,500 miles. Some flights cost a bit more. More rarely, you'll even find a route that prices cheaper.
I live in a rural area served by a tiny regional airport. Airfare is consistently expensive. Consider this one-way ticket to Phoenix (PHX) from Arcata-Eureka (ACV). At the time of writing, United is asking $295.
However, I can book the same ticket for just 7,500 LifeMiles, plus taxes and the award booking fee. The latter ranges from $10 to $25. Subtracting the taxes and fees, I'd get 3.5 cents per Amex point with this award.
Saver award space must be available to get the best pricing. This is often the limiting factor. But if you can find the space, it's an amazing deal. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't redeem Amex points for max value on economy flights! Membership Rewards transfer to LifeMiles at a 1:1 ratio.
Fly Iberia business class to / from Madrid
Like British Airways, Iberia uses a distance-based award chart. The business class pricing is attractive during off-peak dates, which cover a large chunk of the calendar.
Consider that this flight from Madrid to Chicago typically sells for $6,500 but costs just 34,000 Avios + $164.55 per person, each way during off-peak dates. Flying for nearly 10 hours in business class at this price is an absolute steal — if you can find this hard-to-come-by availability.
Transfer to Flying Blue for Promo Rewards and other sweet spots
With Flying Blue, you can access two outstanding redemption opportunities. The first is with Flying Blue’s Promo Rewards. Every month, award flights to/from specific cities are on sale from 25–50% off. With this deal, it’s often possible to book economy flights to Europe for as few as 11,250 miles each way, plus reasonable taxes and fees. Sometimes, you'll be able to book business class flights from U.S. airports served by KLM and Air France at a discount.
Another excellent redemption option with Flying Blue has to do with how the program categorizes countries into regions. Flying Blue, like many frequent-flyer programs, uses a region-based award chart, but it has some unique region definitions. For example, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and the Canary Islands are part of Europe.
In this example, it's possible to redeem miles for a one-way itinerary from New York (JFK) to Marrakech, Morocco (RAK) for only 15,000 Air France–KLM Flying Blue miles.
Other frequent-flyer programs charge many more miles to fly to these destinations. On the same dates, the cheapest flight option (but not the exact same itinerary) offered by Delta costs 75,000 miles one-way.
You can find more destinations where Flying Blue beats the competition in our guide to Air France–KLM award sweet spots.
Book ANA premium cabins Using Virgin Atlantic points
We have a great rundown on how to book ANA business or first class using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, so I won't go into detail here. But we do want to highlight it as one of the best ways to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points. In a nutshell, round-trip flights cost:
- Japan–Australia/Canada/Western USA in business class for 90,000 miles or first class for 145,000 miles
- Japan–Europe/Central and Eastern USA in business class for 95,000 miles or first class for 170,000 miles
Compared to the prices you'll pay in most other programs (except, ironically, with ANA itself), these are amazing deals.
Even better, Amex routinely runs Virgin Atlantic Flying Club transfer bonuses. If you're able to move your points during one of these promotions, you'll get even greater value.
Fly to Hawaii from the West Coast for 12,500 Aeroplan points
Flying to Hawaii from the West Coast in economy is a nice Aeroplan sweet spot. The itinerary must be fewer than 2,751 miles one-way. Unlike flights booked on Alaska or American using British Airways Avios, though, it can include a connection. Here is an example itinerary from my home regional airport.
This works from a good number of regional airports in California, as well as Las Vegas, Reno, and southern Oregon airports. It's a niche redemption, but it provides excellent value.
Fly around the world with ANA in business class
ANA Mileage Club remains one of the only programs offering Round the World award fares at competitive value if you are willing to do your homework. Offering up to eight stopovers, an Around the World award redemption with ANA can be a fantastic way to see multiple destinations in one trip. AwardWallet has a three-part series on how to understand, book, and maximize ANA Mileage Club, click on the links below for more info.
- Understanding ANA Mileage Club Award Charts
- How to Book ANA Mileage Club Award Flights
- Maximize ANA Mileage Club Award Sweet Spots
Many conditions accompany ANA Around the World awards, but it's worth the time invested for the value you’ll receive.
The biggest difficulty with around-the-world trips is always finding award space. But if you're up for the challenge, it's possible to assemble some excellent Star Alliance business class itineraries for 125,000 to 170,000 miles.
Take advantage of transfer bonuses
We've already mentioned Amex transfer bonuses to a couple of airline programs. Amex has historically run transfer promotions to several carriers. If you're able to take advantage of a transfer bonus with any of the above awards, you'll get even more value when you redeem your Amex Membership Rewards. Bookmark and check these pages regularly to check for current offers:
- Air Canada Aeroplan Amex transfer bonus
- Avianca LifeMiles Amex transfer bonus
- Flying Blue Amex transfer bonus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Amex transfer bonus
Use the 35% points rebate from the Business Platinum Card
Another solid strategy is to use the 35% rebate on Pay with Points bookings. This perk is offered by The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Amex will give you 3.5 points back for each 10 points redeemed (as long as you redeem at least 5,000 points) for bookings with your selected airline, which is the same airline that you select to redeem the $200 airline incidental credit. However, the more intriguing option is the ability to receive 35% of your points back when booking first- or business-class flights with any airline. All of these bookings must be made through the American Express Travel website.
Since you normally receive a value of 1¢ per Amex point when using Pay with Points, the 35% back rebate increases this to 1.54 cents per point. It's not fantastic value, but you should also factor in the miles you earn from the flight, as well as any elite status credit, since you are booking a paid flight. Both of these can make Pay with Points bookings well worth it.
The American Express® Business Gold Card offers a 25% rebate on Pay with Points. It works the same way, but the value isn't as good. You receive only 1.33¢ per point.
Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.
Redeeming Amex Points for Mediocre Value
We've covered the best ways to redeem Amex Membership Rewards, including specific ideas through transfer partners. These next options are generally poorer value, although there can be some limited situations where these redemption options make sense.
Transfer to hotel partners
None of the three hotel partners offer exceptional value for your points. Based on actual redemptions made by AwardWallet users, you'll get an average of:
- 0.6¢ per Choice Privileges point
- 0.58¢ per Hilton Honors point
- 0.95¢ per Marriott Bonvoy point
Since points transfer to Hilton Honors at a 1:2 ratio, you'll get 1.2 cents per Membership Rewards point here. This falls far short of the 2+ cents per point you can get from many airline transfer partners. This is why we recommend you redeem Amex Membership Rewards for flights, rather than hotel stays.
That being said, it's nice to have the option to transfer Amex points to hotel programs if you're just a few thousand points short of what you need for an award stay — or if you find a specific use of your hotel points that gives you excellent value.
Lower-value airline partners
There are a handful of airline partners where transfers don't typically offer great value. These include:
- Aeromexico Rewards
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
- Etihad Guest (after gutting its previous sweet spots)
With JetBlue, the value falls within a set range, so you won't be able to get out-sized value. With HawaiianMiles, many of the flights within Hawaii offer mediocre value in terms of cents per point. There are a few situations where you can redeem miles for great value to fly Hawaiian's premium cabins, however.
Etihad used to be an amazing program until very recently. I'm still reeling from its massive devaluation. Don't write the program off entirely, however. There are some redemption options where you'll need to use Etihad Guest miles (e.g., Oman Air First Class). But overall, it'll only offer value for niche carriers or situations. You can find better options with other Membership Rewards transfer partners, however.
Finally, the juice simply isn't worth the squeeze with Aeromexico. I compared award prices with many FlyingBlue and Delta itineraries, and you'll be fine sticking with the latter programs. Not to mention Aeromexico's change and cancellation policies are terrible.
Other Ways to Redeem Amex Points — Poor Value Options
Cashing out points
You can redeem your points as a statement credit, which is as good as cash. However, you'll only get around 0.6¢ per point this way. Compared to other ways to redeem Amex Membership Rewards, it's terrible value.
Redeem Amex Membership Rewards for gift cards
Most gift card redemption options yield 1¢ apiece in value. However, some give slightly worse redemption rates. Unless you have so many Membership Rewards points that you're truly struggling to figure out what to do with them, I wouldn't consider redeeming them this way.
Shopping with Amex points
American Express lets you shop at an online mall using Membership Rewards points. While you can use your points on a vast array of products, redeeming your points this way is terrible value. They're worth just 0.5¢ apiece.
Pay with points at checkout
There is a small set of retailers where American Express lets you pay with points at checkout. These include Amazon, Best Buy, Dell, and Staples, among others. You also can redeem Membership Rewards points through PayPal checkout. I've never seen great value in any redemption offered to me. With Amazon, you always get less than 1.0¢ per point in value.
The only time this makes sense is if you have a targeted offer for 20%–50% off Amazon purchases when using points. These offers tend to work even if you use just one point, so that is an exception to the rule.
Booking travel through Amex Travel
In general, booking travel directly through Amex Travel isn't a great use of Membership Rewards points. It's better than cashing them out, as you get 1¢ per point, but you can do much better than this if you transfer points to travel partners. The one exception is if you're booking travel with the 35% rebate offered by the Business Platinum Card or the 25% rebate offered by the Amex Business Gold.
Bid for flight upgrades
We've covered how to bid for flight upgrades using Membership Rewards in detail. In most situations, this doesn't offer great value. The nominal value you get is 1 cent per point, but the actual value could be greater. It depends on the fare difference between the ticket you booked and the desired upgraded cabin.
You can donate to charity through the JustGiving website. However, rather than get a boost to your value, American Express gives you just 0.7 cents per donated point. While it's great to donate to causes you support, you won't get good value if you redeem Amex Membership Rewards this way.
I'm all for maximizing the value of my points. While this isn't the only factor I consider, it's one of the primary ones. That being said, there are times I'll redeem Amex Membership Rewards in lower-value ways if it saves me a significant amount of money. Or simply allows us to take a trip at all.
Hopefully, you've gleaned some of the best ways to redeem Amex points from the Membership Rewards options we've highlighted. We'd love to hear about some of your best redemption success stories in the comments!
If you're curious about how to earn Membership Rewards points, here are all the American Express cards that do.
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