Ways To Use American Express Membership Rewards Points To Book Free Travel

American Express Memership Rewards points are earned by using certain American Express cards.

Once you have earned the points, how do you then use the points for free travel?  I have listed the methods below.  Also, you can click here to read about how The Points Mom used American Express Membership Rewards points for free travel to Israel, Vancouver, the Canadian Rockies, Las Vegas, Florida, Denver, Portland and Italy.  (So far) 

1. Transfer points to participating frequent travel programs

At the time of this post, the frequent traveler programs include:

FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAMS

AeroMexico, Aeroplan, Alitalia Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Asia Miles, British Airways, Delta Air LinesEL AL Israel Airlines, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Flying Blue, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Plus, JetBlue Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin America,Virgin Atlantic Airways.

HOTEL LOYALTY PROGRAMS

Choice PrivilegesHilton HHonorsStarpoints.

At the time of this post, one point equals one partner’s mile or point with the following exceptions:

British Airways: 250 points = 200 avios

El AL Israel Airlines: 1,000 points = 20 Matmid points

Starwood Preferred Guest®: 1,000 points = 333 Starpoints®

Hilton®: 1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors™ points

Virgin America: 200 points = 100 Elevate points

Transfers can be made with no transfer fee to the hotel programs.  However, when you transfer points into a U.S. airline frequent flyer program, your card account will be charged an excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99).  American Express states that they charge this fee to offset the federal excise tax that they must pay when you transfer points and Amex offers you the option to use points to pay this fee.

2. Pay With Points

Book Travel (Airline Tickets, Hotels, Cruises, and Vacation Packages) through American Express Travel and pay for your trip with points.

You can also Pay With Points for your travel.  Most of the time when booking and paying with points on Amex Travel, one Membership Rewards point equals $0.01 incremental ticket value on travel. For example, 20,000 points can be redeemed for a $200 airline ticket.  However, if you have a American Express Business Platinum, you can get 50% Membership Rewards points back when you use the Pay with Points feature for all or part of a flight with the airline you select.  The selected airline will be “the qualifying airline” with respect to this 50% back benefit and the $200 Airline Fee Credit.  Note, Business Platinum members can also receive this benefit when booking a first or business class ticket with ANY airline.Unknown

To use Pay with Points, you must charge your purchase through amextravel.com to a Membership Rewards program-enrolled American Express Card. Points will be debited from your Membership Rewards account, and credit for corresponding dollar amount will be issued to the American Express Card account used. If points redeemed do not cover entire amount, the balance of purchase price will remain on the American Express Card account. There is a minimum redemption of 5,000 points.

Click here to see how Amex compares to other banks when using points to book travel.

Is one method better than the other?

It depends? I always start out by going to the website of the airline/hotel, etc and seeing how many points are required for a free night or flight. If I feel the point redemption is too high, or if I do not have enough American Express Membership Rewards points to transfer to the partner, I may go to American Express Travel and use my points to book my travel there. I have found that American Express travel offers the same rates as the rates offered by the airlines, hotels, etc.

Keep in mind, when booking the travel through the travel site, your travel counts as a paid fare. You’ll earn frequent flyer miles with the booked airline on your paid fare. Note however, the case is likely different with hotel points. When you book hotels through American Express Travel, it is like booking the stay through an online travel agency. You will most likely not earn the hotel loyalty points.

For me, if I will use less American Express Membership Rewards points by transferring them to the partner and booking my travel through the partner’s program, then I will transfer my Membership Rewards points to the applicable program, having taken into consideration that, in the case of flight, I will not be earning miles.

It comes down to the fact that you need to do the research.  But in any event, you have flexible options when using American Express Membership Rewards to book free travel!

3. Additional Information About Using American Express Membership Rewards

I offer additional information about using American Express Membership Rewards for free travel.