I have been saying it for years, American Express Membership Rewards is the best credit card program in Canada. It’s the best for earning points, the most valuable and the easily most flexible. This article will focus on one of its best features which is the Amex transfer partners or Frequent Travel Participants as Amex names it.
Most travel credit cards will give you points for the credit card’s program but often these points can’t be transferred or converted (some have limited partners such as RBC Rewards). That means you’re usually quite restricted with how you use your rewards. American Express also allows you to redeem your points on the Amex portal for merchandise, gift cards, book travel or use Amex fix point flight program. But one of the features that make Amex Membership Rewards better than the rest is the American Express transfer partners. What that means is that you can transfer your points to other loyalty programs.
This feature is so valuable that all four American Express cards earning Membership Rewards are on my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada and it’s a one of the main reason I consider the American Express Platinum card the best card in Canada.
Frequent Travel Participants
American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to 6 airlines and 2 hotel loyalty programs. The list of Amex transfer partners include:
Airline loyalty programs
- Alitalia MilleMiglia
- Asia Miles
- British Airways Executive Club
- Delta SkyMiles
- Etihad Guest
Hotel loyalty programs
- Hilton Honors
- Marriott Bonvoy
At first glance, 8 transfer partners may not seem like a lot, but as mentioned above, besides RBC, no other points program has any transfer partners at all. In addition, the American Express transfer partners include Aeroplan and Marriott which is arguably the best airline and hotel loyalty programs available to Canadians. Let’s take a look at all the Amex transfer partners to see why they matter to you.
1,000 American Express Membership Rewards convert into 1,000 Aeroplan miles
Aeroplan is Air Canada’s frequent flyer loyalty program and is arguably the most popular transfer partner from American Express Membership Rewards in Canada. It’s the most popular because it gives access to award flights on Canada’s largest airline, but also to the 28 airlines that are part of Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance. This means you can redeem Aeroplan miles for flights not only on Air Canada but also on 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, United and many others. This gives you have access to over 1,300 destinations in the world!
The Aeroplan reward chart is zone based which means all flights cost the same amount of miles if they are to and from the same zones. Here are some examples of possible redemptions (these are the miles required for a round-trip redemption, for one-way you can divide by two):
- 15,000 miles can be redeemed for a Canada/USA short-haul award flight like Toronto-Chicago, Montreal-Moncton, Vancouver-Edmonton or any intra-province flight
- 25,000 miles can be redeemed for a Canada/USA long-haul award flight which means a flight between any 2 cities in Canada and continental USA like Toronto-New Orleans, Winnipeg-Orlando or Halifax-Vancouver
- 40,000 miles can be redeemed for a Canada to Mexico or Caribbean round-trip
- 50,000 miles can be redeemed for a Canada/USA long-haul round trip in business class
- 60,000 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip to western Europe
- 75,000 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip to China, Japan, Korea or any cities in Asia 1 zone
- 90,000 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip to anywhere in Asia
- 165,000 miles can be redeemed for a mini round-the-world trip in business class
Note that you need to pay for airport fees and carrier surcharges on top of miles. Carrier surcharges vary by airlines, flights and destinations. Generally speaking, Lufthansa and Air Canada international flights are the ones with the highest fees.
British Airways Executive Club
1,000 American Express Membership Rewards convert into 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 really useful 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 (these are the miles required for a round-trip redemption, for one-way you can divide by two):
- 9,000 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip of less than 651mi on British Airways like London-Paris
- 12,000 miles can be used for a round-trip of less than 651mi on partner airlines such as Melbourne-Sydney on Qantas or Tokyo-Sapporo on Japan Airlines
- 15,000 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip of less than 651mi in North America on American Airlines like Toronto-New York or Montreal-Philadelphia
- 22,000 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip Toronto-Miami on American or Hong Kong – Singapore on Cathay Pacific
- 26,000 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip Vancouver- New-York on Cathay Pacific
- 40,000 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip Toronto-Dublin on Aer Lingus
- 51,500 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip Vancouver-Tokyo on Japan Airlines
- 61,000 miles can be redeemed for a round-trip Montreal-Doha on Qatar Airlines
Airport fees and carrier surcharges due apply on top of miles you deem. Carrier surcharges vary by airlines and countries. Generally speaking, British Airways has very high surcharges while their partners have more reasonable ones. It’s worth noting that American Express had a 30% conversion bonus to Avios last year so stay alert for these promotions.
1,000 American Express Membership Rewards convert into 750 Delta SkyMiles.
Delta SkyMiles is often overlooked as one of the Amex transfer partners. This is probably due to the fact that Delta SkyMiles redemptions are dynamic and not fixed like Aeroplan (zone based) or Avios (distance based). This means that the number of miles required for a Delta SkyMiles redemption varies since it depends on the actual price of the ticket making this almost impossible to plan far in advance. For example, the cost of a flight can be 30,000 miles one day and 150,000 another day.
Delta is a member of SkyTeam so you can use your SkyMiles to redeem flights on Delta (obviously), but many people don’t realize you can also use your miles on Air France, KLM, AeroFlot, AeroMexico, Alitalia, China Eastern, Korean Air and a dozen of 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 for major Canadian cities (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary). Since you can use your miles to redeem for WestJet flights and the fact that Delta also flies to Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Saskatoon makes Delta SkyMiles an interesting (if underrated) option for Canadian.
I can’t publish examples of redemptions since costs vary daily but it’s not rare to find flights from Toronto or Montreal to Paris or Amsterdam for 50,000 miles round-trip with reasonable fees on Delta, Air France or KLM. A round-trip to Miami would be in the 22,000 – 40,000 miles round-trip range. Vancouver-Seoul can be found round-trip for 75,000 miles, etc.
A good thing about dynamic pricing is that Delta have usually has more award availability than Aeroplan or Avios. They also have flash sales so you can get great deals like a round-trip ticket from Montreal to Bogota for 12,000. It’s often worth checking Delta SkyMiles before redeeming (or transferring your points) since it could be your best option.
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.
1,000 American Express Membership Rewards convert into 750 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. That said, it’s usually better to convert to Avios for One World airlines since Membership Rewards convert 1:1 to Avios while you only get 0.75 Asia Miles per Membership Rewards.
Asia Miles does have some sweet spots and can be a better value than Avios for business and first class award tickets. A popular redemption in Canada is the New-York (JFK) – Vancouver route on Cathay Pacific that can be redeemed for 50,000 Asia miles round-trip in business class.
1,000 American Express Membership Rewards convert into 750 Etihad Guest miles
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 on a list of eclectic partners including some members of Star Alliance, One World and SkyTeam. Transferring points to Etihad to redeem on partner airlines is not the easiest way to redeem 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.
1,000 American Express Membership Rewards convert into 1,200 Marriott Bonvoy points
Marriott Bonvoy is my favourite hotel loyalty program. Marriott has the most properties in the world with more than 7,000 hotels in 115+ countries. The number of points it takes to claim a free night depends on the hotel category, but it’s worth noting that Marriott Bonvoy offers the 5th night free when redeeming with points (e.g. book 4 nights, get the 5th night free). At 1:1.2 ratio, you can definitely find good value in transferring Membership Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy points, but sometimes it’s actually cheaper to keep your points as Membership Rewards since you can redeem hotels at a 1 cent per point. Read my full review of the Marriott Bonvoy program here for more details on the program.
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 free breakfast in all Hilton hotels. That said, the value of Hilton points is around half a cent 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 $0.01 per point. I would only consider transferring to Hilton Honors if I was missing a small number of points for a redemption.
The American Express Membership Rewards Frequent Travel Participants is definitely the best transfer program in Canada. Out of the 8 transfer partners, Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club and Marriott Bonvoy and Delta are the ones you want to pay the most attention to. By transferring to these programs you can potentially get a greater value than redeeming Membership Rewards at $0.01 per point on the American Express travel portal. Although the American Express Platinum Card comes with an annual fee of $699, it’s easily one of the best travel credit cards in Canada and it’s the best card to earn you membership rewards fast.