American Express Points Transfer Partners

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Of all the bank travel programs in Canada, American Express Membership Rewards is the best. Not only do they have multiple credit cards that allow you to earn points quickly, they also have many ways for you to redeem your points.

Although you can use your points on any travel purchase for the same value, one of the best ways to maximize your return is to take advantage of the American Express points travel partners. That’s where you’d transfer your points to airlines or hotel loyalty programs. The advantage here is that you can typically get a higher cost per point (CPP) than the standard 1 CPP that Membership Rewards points give you.

This feature is so valuable that most American Express cards earning Membership Rewards are on my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada. To be clear, this article is specific to Amex transfer partners in Canada. U.S. cardholders get access to even more partners

American Express airline transfer partners

American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to seven airline partners. While this may not seem like a lot, each program has access to multiple carriers, so you actually get access to quite a few airlines. More importantly, besides Avion Rewards and HSBC Rewards, no other bank points program allows you to transfer your points to airline programs. Even then, the partners they have are limited. That’s why American Express points transfer partners are so valuable.

Aeroplan

The first thing to understand is that you can transfer 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to 1,000 Aeroplan points. This is a straight 1:1 transfer.

Aeroplan is Air Canada’s frequent flyer loyalty program and is the most popular American Express points transfer partner. This shouldn’t be a surprise since Aeroplan gives access to any available seat operated by Air Canada. In addition, you get access to reward seats from 40+ partner airlines, such as Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, Avianca, Copa, Egyptair, Ethiopian, EVA, Lot, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore, South African, Swiss TAP Portugal, Thai, Turkish, and United.

With Aeroplan, you have access to over 1,300 destinations in the world. That said, Aeroplan uses dynamic pricing for flights on Air Canada. That means it’ll cost you more points if the cash fare is high. On the flip side, when prices are low, it’ll cost you fewer points. Fortunately, partner airlines have a fixed price for award redemptions, which is outlined in this reward chart published by Air Canada.

Dynamic pricing makes it hard to predict how many points you need for a specific flight, as it will vary based on demand. For example, a direct Toronto to Miami one-way flight during March break may cost 35,000 points, while the same flight would cost 9,000 points in April.

A good rule of thumb for economy flights on Air Canada is to aim for a CPP of 1.4 to 2. That means a redemption of 25,000 Aeroplan points should give you a real value of $350 to $500. To calculate your CPP, you’d use the following formula:

(Value of the redemption − surcharges) x 100 / points required = CPP

You can get more value by redeeming for business class on partners airlines, but beware that availability is much scarcer and you would often need to redeem a year in advance.

To be clear, Aeroplan was completely overhauled in 2021. You can now redeem your points for any seat available on Air Canada, and it’s not hard to get a value of 1.5 CPP. That’s higher than the 1 CPP that Membership Rewards offers, so transferring your points to Aeroplan is a no-brainer.

British Airways Executive Club

Another one of the most popular American Express points travel partners is British Airways Executive Club. The transfer ratio is 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards to 1,000 British Airways Executive Club Avios miles.

While you can’t use Avios miles to book as many flights from Canada as Aeroplan can, converting Membership Rewards into Avios miles can be beneficial for international travel and even within North America.

Avios miles is the loyalty program of British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia, but you can also redeem Avios miles for the airlines in the OneWorld alliance. This includes American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Malaysian Airlines, Qantas, Qatar and a few others.

The Avios redemption chart is distance-based and the number of miles required for a trip depends on miles flown between 2 cities. Here are some examples of possible redemptions.

Admittedly, airport fees and carrier surcharges can be on the higher side with Avios. That means you’ll be paying more cash out of pocket even when using points. Despite these extra surcharges, Avios can be valuable as they offer off-season pricing on select routes where you can fly across the Atlantic at a reasonable price.

Air France KLM Flying Blue

Air France KLM Flying Blue is the newest addition to the list of American Express points transfer partners. The points transfer ratio is 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to 750 Flying Blue miles.

KLM Flying Blue uses dynamic pricing for Air France and KLM. However, it often has promotions where you can get reward seats at a fixed price.

For example, you can find flights from Toronto to Paris (one-way) for 15,000 points + $133. Even though the transfer ratio is less favourable at 1:0.75, you can still get to Europe for 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which is a great deal.

While Air France KLM Flying Blue can be a great option for specific redemptions, I wouldn’t recommend transferring points to the program unless you have a specific redemption that would give a decent value for your American Express Membership points. With the program, you can also redeem your points on SkyTeam and partner airlines including Delta Airlines and Westjet.

Delta Skymiles

Speaking of Delta, you can transfer 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to 750 Delta SkyMiles.

Delta SkyMiles is often overlooked as one of the Amex transfer partners. This is probably because Delta SkyMiles redemptions are dynamic and there are fewer available flights from Canada.

Delta is a member of SkyTeam, so you can use your SkyMiles to redeem flights on Delta (obviously). You can also use your miles on Air France, KLM, AeroFlot, AeroMexico, Alitalia, China Eastern, Korean Air and several other airlines. While WestJet is not a member of SkyTeam, you can redeem Delta SkyMiles for WestJet flights.

Delta SkyMiles is a great program, but it’s only relevant to major Canadian cities (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary). Even then, WestJet has reduced the number of flights available outside of Alberta and Ontario, so there’s less of a value proposition if you live in one of those provinces.

Although prices frequently change, it’s not hard to find flights from Toronto or Montreal to Paris or Amsterdam for 50,000 SkyMiles round-trip with reasonable fees on Delta, Air France or KLM. A round-trip to Miami would be in the 22,000 – 40,000 SkyMiles round-trip range. Vancouver-Seoul can be found round-trip for 75,000 SkyMiles.

Alitalia MilleMiglia

1,000 American Express Membership Rewards convert into 750 Alitalia MilleMiglia

Alitalia MilleMiglia can be redeemed on Alitalia (the only route they fly in Canada is Toronto-Rome) and for SkyTeam partners. Generally speaking, this American Express Transfer partner is not very attractive unless you specifically need to fly from, say Toronto to Rome or if you want to use Alitalia while in Italy. If you are interested in Alitalia MilleMiglia, you can transfer 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for 750 Alitalia MilleMiglia.

Asia Miles

Asia Miles is another one of those Amex transfer partners that is underrated. Asia Miles is the loyalty reward program of Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong based airline which is one of the best carriers in the world. Not only can you use your Asia Miles for Cathay Pacific flights but also on One World partner airlines. The transfer ratio is 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to 750 Asia Miles.

While Asia Miles does have some sweet spots where you can get some great value, finding reward seats has become difficult over the years. It can even be hard to get economy class seats on popular routes, so the value of Asia Miles may not be great, even though it’s an underrated program.

Etihad Guest

Etihad Guest is the loyalty reward program of the United Arab Emirates-based airline. You can use the miles to book on Etihad, but also a list of eclectic partners, including some members of Star Alliance, One World and SkyTeam. To get these miles, you can transfer 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for 750 Etihad Guest miles.

Transferring points to Etihad to redeem on partner airlines is not easy, but their reward charts have some sweet spots. One popular route is redeeming from North America to Morocco on Royal Air Maroc for 44,000 miles round-trip in economy or 88,000 miles in business, which is considerably cheaper than other award programs. Royal Air Maroc has a direct Montreal-Casablanca route, which is handy for people based in Montreal since it’s a great way to experience business class. Unfortunately, Etihad Guest has no other partners, so you really need to have a specific redemption in mind before you transfer your points.

American Express hotel transfer partners

Besides airlines, some of the best American Express points transfer partners are hotel chains. Generally speaking, Canadians are best served with Marriott Bonvoy properties, but Hilton can also be good some situations.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott has the most properties in the world, with more than 7,500 hotels in 120+ countries. That means regardless of where in the world you’re visiting, there’s likely a Marriott property nearby. That’s good for American Express cardholders since you can convert 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to 1,200 Marriott Bonvoy points.

Although Marriott Bonvoy abandoned hotel categories a few years ago, each property still has a loose, undisclosed category. That means each specific property has a rough price range for reward redemptions. To complicate things, Marriott Bonvoy uses dynamic pricing, so the cost of hotels changes frequently. On a positive note, when you book five nights on points, you’ll only pay for four nights.

Generally, you want a value of at least 1CPP when redeeming your points at Marriott properties. This ensures that you’re getting a better value when transferring your points from American Express.

Hilton Honors

1,000 American Express Membership Rewards convert into 1,000 Hilton Honors points

Hilton Honors is a good hotel program, and the American Express Platinum card gives Hilton Gold Elite status which grants some additional benefits all Hilton hotels. That said, the value of Hilton points is around .5 cents each, so converting Membership Rewards into Hilton Honors is a terrible value. You’re better off paying for your stay and then applying your Membership Rewards as a statement credit to offset this travel expense at 1CPP.

Transferring your points is only worth it if you’re short a few points for a redemption. That said, it’s difficult for Canadians to earn Hilton Honors points, so it’s unlikely you’d ever be short just a few points.

Final thoughts

It’s clear that some of the American Express points transfer partners offer incredible value. While transferring your points can give you a higher return, you should always have a specific redemption in mind before making the switch. The last thing you want is to transfer your points to a program for value but then you can’t actually make a redemption.

To earn Membership Rewards points, consider getting the American Express Platinum Card. It comes with a generous welcome bonus and is easily one of the best travel credit cards in Canada.

American Express Platinum Card

  • $799 annual fee
  • Earn 70,000 Membership Rewards points when spending $10,000 in the first 3 months
  • 30,000 additional points when making any purchase in months 14 – 17
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on dining and travel, and 1 point on all other purchases
  • $200 annual travel credit
  • $200 annual dining credit (per calendar year)
  • Unlimited airport lounge access
  • MESSAGE ME FOR A REFERRAL LINK

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

1 Comment

  1. […] fee of $699 which is quite high, but it comes with a huge signup bonus, amazing benefits, and plenty of airline and hotel transfer partners which gives you different options when it comes to redeeming your […]

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