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American Express Membership Rewards has a total of 22 different transfer partners — 19 airlines and three hotel chains. One unique feature of the American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner program is that it charges an excise tax fee of 0.06 cent per point transferred if you transfer Membership Rewards to any U.S.-based airline partner (Delta, JetBlue or Hawaiian).
Ways to earn American Express Membership Rewards points
You can earn American Express Membership Rewards through credit card welcome offers and spending with the following cards:
Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for paid travel
Before we talk about transferring Membership Rewards to partner airlines and hotels, it’s worth noting that you can also redeem Membership Rewards through the American Express travel portal. You’ll get 1 cent per point value booking flights when you do this...
...and 0.7 cent per point on hotels.
Generally, this is not a great use of your Membership Rewards. The one exception is if you have the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. One of the benefits of this card is a 35% rebate when you pay for flights with points through the American Express travel portal. Terms apply.
In that Delta flight example above, you would pay 17,360 points, then get 6,076 points back, making your net cost 11,284 points. Note that this rebate only applies on economy flights on your selected airline, or on any paid business or first class flights.
The 5 best American Express transfer partners
Now let’s take a look at five of the best American Express transfer partners:
Singapore KrisFlyer: If you’re looking for great redemptions using Singapore KrisFlyer miles, you’ll want to check out our post on the best Singapore Airlines sweet spots, including booking premium cabin travel like Singapore Suites or flying from the U.S. West Coast to Hawaii for 12,000 KrisFlyer miles.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue: The best use of FlyingBlue miles is booking monthly Promo Rewards. These Promo Rewards are for a limited time, but while they’re available, you can get up to 50% off award flights.
British Airways Executive Club: The current distance-based award chart allows you to redeem as few as 9,000 Avios one-way for flight distances under 1,151 flown miles within North America.
Avianca LifeMiles: Avianca is a Star Alliance member, meaning that you can use your LifeMiles to book travel on United, Lufthansa and other Star Alliance carriers.
Delta SkyMiles: With Delta’s great route network within the United States and their frequent promo sales on award flights, transferring Membership Rewards to Delta can be a great option. Depending on the route, you can sometimes find cheaper awards on Delta by using Virgin Atlantic miles (see below), so make sure to check that out before transferring to Delta.
Other decent partner redemptions
The next set of American Express transfer partners is not quite as lucrative, but you can still find some pretty good situational value here:
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: Virgin Atlantic is a Delta partner, which means it’s sometimes possible to find the same Delta flights for fewer miles through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club than using Delta SkyMiles. Using Flying Club miles to fly ANA premium cabins can also be a great value.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: You can definitely find value with the Asia Miles award chart, but it takes a bit of work. This is because Cathay has a strange award chart that depends in part on whether you’re flying only Cathay or including additional Oneworld partners. Look for redemptions of 7,500 Asia Miles for intra-Asia flights under distances of 750 miles.
Emirates Skywards: If you’re looking for how to best use Emirates Skywards miles, check out our post on Emirates Skywards sweet spots.
Etihad Guest: Etihad has different award charts for all of its different travel partners, and you can find value on Brussels Airlines, Czech Airlines, Royal Air Maroc and (interestingly enough) American Airlines flights.
Choice Privileges: American Express has three hotel transfer partners, but Choice Hotels is the only one we recommend for most people. In the U.S., people often think of their low-budget brands like Rodeway Inn, Comfort Suites or Quality Inn, but internationally Choice has some great options.
Qantas Frequent Flyer: The Australian flag carrier airline has a distance-based award chart where flights up to 600 flown miles cost only 8,000 miles to book.
Iberia Plus: Similarly to British Airways, Iberia uses the Avios program as its award currency. There are times when Iberia can provide exceptional value.
Air Canada Aeroplan: Aeroplan used to be a much better partner since you could book United flights with Aeroplan miles and avoid United’s $75 close-in booking charge. But with United removing that charge, Aeroplan’s value lies in it sweet spots. An example of a strong redemption is a one way business class award ticket between the U.S. and Europe for only 55,000-57,500 Aeroplan miles.
ANA Mileage Club: ANA has brought back excessive fuel surcharges, which makes using its miles significantly less attractive.
8 transfer partners that aren’t a great value
And finally, we come to the bottom of the barrel: The eight AmEx transfer partners that we would not recommend under any but the most extreme circumstances.
Aer Lingus AerClub: Because AerLingus is now owned by the same company as British Airways and Iberia (also AmEx transfer partners), you’ll almost always be better off with one of those other programs.
JetBlue TrueBlue: TrueBlue is a revenue-based mileage program, so it’s usually best to pay for your flights through the AmEx travel portal as outlined above.
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles: No award chart sweet spots here.
AeroMexico Club Premier: No award chart sweet spots.
Alitalia MilleMiglia : No award chart sweet spots to speak of.
El Al Matmid: No award chart sweet spots.
Marriott Bonvoy: Unlike Choice Hotels, there will almost never be a reason to transfer your AmEx Membership Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy. Between the inflated award chart and peak/off-peak pricing structure, you’ll almost always be better off paying cash.
Hilton Honors: Similar situation to Marriott, but Hilton has an even more inflated award chart.
All information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card