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 read about how The Points Mom used American Express Membership Rewards points for free travel to Israel, Vancouver 1X, Vancouver 2X, the Canadian Rockies, Las Vegas, Florida 1X, Florida 2X, Denver, Portland, Italy, Aspen and Morocco. (So far)
1. Transfer points to participating frequent travel programs
At the time of this post, the frequent traveler programs include many airlines and hotels. You can see the complete list here on the Amex site.
Some noteworthy airline loyalty programs include Aeroplan, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, EL AL Israel Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Virgin Atlantic Airways and the latest one Aer Lingus Aer Club.
At the time of this post, one point equals one partner’s mile or point with some of the following exceptions:
El AL Israel Airlines: 1,000 points = 20 Matmid points
Starwood Preferred Guest: 1,000 points = 333 Starpoints-I do not recommend this transfer, the transfer rate is too unfavorable.
Hilton: 1,000 points = 2,000 Honors 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) through American Express Travel and pay for your trip with points.
You can also Pay With Points for your travel. Amex has made things a bit complicated in that the number of points required depends on the type of travel you are booking.
Flights-When booking flights 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 35% Membership Rewards points back when you use the Pay with Points feature for all or part of a flight with the airline “you select” or when you purchase a business or first class ticket. The selected airline will be “the qualifying airline” with respect to this 35% back benefit and the $200 Airline Fee Credit. Note, this rebate bonus used to be 50% and was reduced on June 1, 2017.
Hotels-When booking hotels and paying with points on Amex Travel, the value of your Membership Rewards points decreases?!?!?! For hotels, one Membership Rewards point equals $0.007 incremental ticket value on travel. For example, 20,000 points can be redeemed for a $140 hotel stay. (Compare that with what 20K points got you for a flight above-you are much better off paying for flights with points).
In general, 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 a 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.
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!