How To Redeem American Express Membership Reward Points

How To Redeem American Express Membership Reward Points

Objective:

Learn how to redeem American Express Membership Reward points for a statement credit towards qualified travel purchases, and how to transfer points to participating travel partners (frequent flyer and hotel programs).

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Learning Outcomes:

  • How to access your Membership Rewards account through your online profile, and how to view recent point activity
  • Understand the different travel partner programs, both hotel and airline, and which offer good value for reward transfers.
  • Learn how to transfer points to various travel partner programs, limitations and restrictions of various transfer partners, and expected transfer time
  • Learn which purchases qualify as travel purchases, and how to redeem points for a statement credit towards purchases charged to your card

Introduction

American Express Membership Rewards is one of my favourite rewards currencies in Canada for a number of reasons:

  • American Express offers some of the most generous welcome bonuses in the industry, including cards with no annual fee for the first year of membership
  • Earning potential on everyday purchases with an American Express card can net a substantial amount of points over time
  • Membership Reward points are flexible, meaning points can be used in a variety of ways

For the best value, Membership Reward points are best used by transferring to a participating partner travel program. For ultimate flexibility and ease of use, MR points can also be redeemed for a statement credit for qualified travel purchases charged to the card at a fixed rate.

American Express Transfer Partners

There is one area of the Membership Rewards page that is useful and potentially good value, and that is how to transfer MR points to participating travel programs.

Current American Express airline transfer partners include:

  • Aeroplan
  • Alitalia
  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific frequent flyer program)
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Delta Skymiles
  • Etihad Guest

 

Current hotel transfer programs include:

  • Hilton Honors
  • Starwood Preferred Guest

 

Transfer rates vary, and most of the programs offer very little value for Canadians when transferring MR points. From the above list, the only programs I would consider for maximum value are:

  • Aeroplan (1:1 transfer, instant)
  • British Airways Executive Club (1:1 transfer, up to 5 business day wait)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest (2:1 transfer, up to 5 business day wait)

 

While the SPG transfer rate doesn’t look good in print, SPG points are generally very valuable and there are many instances where 1 SPG point is worth far more than 2 MR points. To find the transfer partners, simply click on the travel tab, and find ‘frequent travel participants’.

Here you’ll find the complete list of transfer partners, along with brief overviews of the program, transfer times, minimum transfer amounts and transfer ratios.

How To Access Your American Express Points Balance

To find out your Membership Rewards balance, simply login to your American Express online profile for a snapshot of your points balance, located on the upper right hand side of the screen. *Note that if you have multiple American Express cards, your MR balances could be combined under one of your account summaries, or kept separate. In my experience, it’s most convenient to have your points all merge into one account, which can be done easily by calling into American Express.

If your points are all merged into one account, you will see the following message when you select a different card:

To view your points account in detail, simply click on ‘View and Redeem Points’ from the snapshot with your current points balance. By clicking on the link, the Membership Rewards home page will open.

From there, you have a variety of options, including accessing your account details and recent points activity through the ‘your points account’ link in the top right corner.

This is also where you can redeem your points in a variety of ways, though most are not good value and not recommended. Options for poor value redemptions include:

  • Shopping the catalogue for merchandise and gift card purchases
  • Redeeming points for fixed value travel (essentially a revenue based program)
  • Redeeming points for travel booked through American Express Travel*

 

*Redeeming points for travel purchases and using points to pay for travel booked through American Express Travel are not the same. Essentially with the above method, you search and book travel using points as the payment method. If you’re going to use points this way, I would highly recommend you first charge the travel purchase to your American Express card, and after the transaction has been posted, use your points towards a statement credit. This is beneficial for two reasons:

  • You get the points for the travel purchase, which can be significant
  • You get all of the insurance benefits (trip interruption, lost baggage etc) by paying for the purchase first and then redeeming points for a statement credit

 

We will cover in detail how to redeeming points towards a statement credit further on.

How To Link Your Airline or Hotel Loyalty Program To Your American Express Account

To transfer your points, you will first need to link your frequent flyer account with your Membership Rewards account. To do this, find the transfer partner you wish to use and click ‘Transfer my points’. You will need to provide your program account number, along with some identity information such as address, date of birth, etc. To successfully link the account, the identifying information must match.

Once the account is successfully linked, you will notice a check mark in the top corner of the program picture on the transfer partner homepage. In my experience, Aeroplan links relatively easy and quickly, but SPG can take a day or two for the systems to crosscheck the identity of the account holder.

How To Transfer American Express Points

Once the accounts are linked, the transfer process is relatively simple. Select your program of choice and choose the number of points you would like to transfer.

In order to complete the transfer, you will need to have the CID and CSC numbers from any of your American Express cards. When you hit ‘transfer my points’, one last screen will ask you to confirm, showing the number of points you can expect to receive in your frequent flyer account.

Again, transfer times vary from program to program, with Aeroplan transferring within a couple of minutes, and British Airways and SPG taking up to 5 business days (though in my experience the points usually post in a couple of days).

How To Redeem American Express Points For A Statement Credit

Using points for a statement credit towards travel purchases is relatively simple compared to the transfer partner options. First, if you plan to use this option, make sure your charge your travel purchase to your American Express card.

Once the purchase has posted (not pending), simply login to your American Express online account and select ‘Use points for eligible purchases’

American Express will open a new page with all of your purchases, showing which are eligible for a statement credit using points. Be careful to note the rate being applied, as Amex has recently introduced an option to pay for purchases with points at a rate of 1000MR = $7 credit. They will separate your purchases into different categories (if applicable) and show which are eligible for the more favourable rate of 1000MR = $10 credit.

To apply your points, simple select which purchase you would like to apply points against, and press ‘use points’. When you do, a new window will come up with a sliding bar, allowing you to choose how many points you would like to redeem, up to the entire purchase cost.

The top right hand side of the screen will show your updated points balance with the total statement credit to be issued. You are able to select multiple purchases in a single transaction.

To finalize the transaction, simply hit next and review the final page before submitting. Once complete, the transaction is non-reversible and your statement credit should show on your account within a 1-2 business days.

 

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About the Author:

Champagne taste on a beer budget has always been reminiscent of Tyler’s travel style. Raised in British Columbia, Tyler has an unquenchable thirst for more adventure, which is fueled by leveraging airline and hotel loyalty programs to travel the world in luxury and style.

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