The Best Ways to Use American Express Membership Rewards [2019]

American Express LogoTransferring to an airline program is the best use of American Express Membership Rewards. Additionally, American Express routinely offers transfer bonuses. (e.g., 25% bonus to British Airways, which means that 1,000 Membership Rewards equals 1,250 British Airways points instead of only 1,000). If you read our airline guides and destination guides, you can usually get at least 2 cents per point in economy or at least 5 cents in business class. 


1 to 1 Airline Transfer Partners

For Delta, Jetblue, or Hawaiian Airlines, you will be charged a tax of $0.0006 per point up to $99 to transfer (i.e. 50,000 points would be taxed at $30). 

Other Transfer Partners

  • Aeromexico (1 MR: 1.6 Aeromexico)
  • El Al (1000 MR: 20 EL AL)
  • Jetblue (250 MR: 200 Jetblue). 
  • Choice Hotels (1 MR:1 Choice)
  • Hilton Hotels (1 MR: 2 Hilton)

Membership Rewards Transfer Time

  • Instant: Aeroplan, Air France, British Airways, Delta, El Al, Emirates, Hawaiian, JetBlue, LifeMiles, Virgin Atlantic, Choice, Hilton, and Starwood Preferred Guest.
  • 24 hours: Aeromexico and Singapore.
  • 48 Hours: ANA, Cathay Pacific, and Iberia.

History of Membership Rewards Transfer Bonuses

You can also maximize your Membership Rewards with American Express’ transfer bonuses. American Express does not have a set schedule for these bonuses, but you can look at the history below to determine if you may want to wait. You would feel awful if you transferred 100,000 with no bonus and then American Express announces a 25 to 50% transfer bonus shortly thereafter. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are good transfer partners that usually have at least one transfer bonus per year, but our favorite program ANA has never had a transfer bonus. 

  • 2018- JetBlue (20-30% depending on the person); Air France (25%); British Airways (40%); Aer Lingus (40%); AirFrance (25%); Hawaiian (25%); Iberia (40%); Virgin Atlantic (30%); Hilton (30%); AeroMexico (25%); Aeroplan (10-20%).
  • 2017- Aeroplan (20%), British Airways (40%), Hawaiian (25%), Iberia (40%), JetBlue (25%), and Virgin Atlantic (30%).
  • 2016-British Airways (50%), Etihad (30%), Hawaiian (25%), Iberia (50%), and Virgin Atlantic (30%).
  • 2015- Air France (30%), Hawaiian (25%), Iberia (25%), JetBlue (30%), and Virgin Atlantic (30%).
  • 2014- Air France (30%), British Airways (40%), Hawaiian (20%), JetBlue (25%), and Virgin Atlantic (30%).

Recommended American Express Airline Transfer Partners

The best overall program to transfer without a transfer bonus is All-Nippon Airways (ANA). ANA offers a good points discount for flying on ANA and they also have a great round the world award.

Other good options are:

  • British Airways– They have a distance-based award chart, which makes short, but expensive flights very lucrative. However, in the future, they will switch to a revenue-based award system, which will eliminate this sweet spot.
    • Other Transfer Partners: Chase and Marriott 
  • Virgin Atlantic– They have award charts for each airline. There are some nice awards on ANA, Air New Zealand, and South African. You can also book Delta’s amazing Suites for a reasonable cost using Virgin Atlantic miles.
    • Other Transfer Partners: Citi, Marriott, and Chase.
  • Singapore– Singapore has some sweet spots for inter-region travel and travel on Alaska Airlines.
    • Other Transfer Partners: Citi, Marriott, and Chase.
  • Air Canada Aeroplan– Requires more points than ANA for Star Alliance Partners, but you can save a lot of money on fuel surcharges for flights on SWISS, Air India, South African, Ethiopian, Turkish, and Brussels Airlines. 
    • Other Transfer Partners: Marriott
  • Cathay Pacific– They have a distance based chart that allows up to six stopovers. Cathay beats ANA for some of the long distance trips in our distance-based comparison chart
    • Other Transfer Partners: Marriott and Citi.
  • Etihad– Etihad has award charts for each partner, but there are some great deals if you can find award space on American or Royal Air Maroc.
    • Other Transfer Partners: Citi and Marriott
  • Avianca/LifeMiles– The big advantage of LifeMiles is that they do not pass on a partner’s fuel surcharges. This can save you $500+ if you want to fly Lufthansa, Austrian, or SWISS. 

Other Ways to Use American Express Membership Rewards

Charles Schwab Platinum– If you have this card, you can use points to deposit cash into your Schwab account at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. I am not a big fan of cashing out Membership Rewards at only 1.25 cents. But it is fairly popular if you don’t plan to fly anywhere or don’t to learn how to use an airlines’ points.

Business Platinum– If you have this card, you can get 35% of your points back on AmexTravel.com. So in this case, points are worth about 1.35 cents. 


Not Recommended Uses of American Express Membership Rewards

Shop With Points– Using points to purchase goods on the American Express Website. You usually only get 0.5 cents of value.

Using Points as Statement Credit– You only get 0.6 cents of value

Gift Cards– You only get 1.0 cent of value.

Uber– You only get 1.0 cent of value.

Pay with Points on Amex Travel– You only get 1.0 cent of value.