How Long Do American Express Membership Rewards Take to Transfer?

Nov 8, 2018

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With American Express Membership Rewards partnerships seemingly changing every month, it can be difficult to keep track of all the latest cut-off/effective dates. Not leaving yourself enough time to transfer points from your Membership Rewards account to the affected program could leave you high and dry.

The TPG team and I did some research for each of the program’s transfer partners. I transferred 1,000 points from my Membership Rewards account to each of Amex’s partners and tracked how long it took for them to show up. Here’s what I found:

Program Transfer Time
Aer Lingus AerClub Instant
Aeromexico Club Premier 24 Hours
Air Canada Aeroplan Instant
Air France/KLM Flying Blue Instant
Alitalia MilleMiglia Instant
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club 48 Hours
Avianca LifeMiles Instant
British Airways Executive Club Instant
Cathay Pacifc Asia Miles 48 Hours
Delta SkyMiles Instant
El Al Matmid Instant
Emirates Skywards Instant
Etihad Guest Instant
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles Instant
Iberia Plus 48 Hours
JetBlue TrueBlue Instant
Singapore KrisFlyer Less than 24 Hours
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Instant
Choice Privileges Instant
Hilton Honors Instant
Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott) Instant

Note that the times listed above represent my personal experience, and shouldn’t be taken as hard and fast rules. However, others have reported a similar timeline when transferring points from Membership Rewards. Your transfers may be faster or slower, but you can use these times as guidelines when planning your trips.

Instant transfers are obviously always preferred, and Amex does a good job of making that happen compared with some of the transferable points competition like Citi ThankYou points. If you haven’t done so already, link all your different transfer partner accounts to your Membership Rewards account. This prevents delays in the future when you may need to make a quick transfer.

Of course, the greatest risk when transferring points is that award availability can change while you’re waiting for points to show up in your account. Transfers are irreversible, so in the worst-case scenario you’ll be stuck with thousands of points in a program you have little use for beyond your originally intended award ticket or hotel night. Here are a few tips for how to avoid that situation:

1. Put your award reservation on hold prior to transferring. Not all programs allow you to do this, but those that do make things much easier. For example, Singapore KrisFlyer allows you to hold an award reservation so long as you have 50% of the necessary miles in your account.

2. Choose flights that have more than one available award seat. This is helpful in case someone else books before your miles show up. Use tools like ExpertFlyer or KVS to find how many award seats are available on a flight. You can also do a single search for three or four passengers — that way, you can determine precisely how many seats are available.

3. Select uncommon routes. You can improve your chances by flying routes that are less popular or originate from non-hubs, since those often have better award availability. For a transatlantic flight, one example is from Raleigh-Durham to London on American. For a transpacific flight, check out ANA’s flight from San Jose to Tokyo-Narita.

4. Let the availability determine your destination. If you have some flexibility and your original itinerary is no longer an option because availability has dried up, one solution is to choose your destination based on which awards are still bookable. If you want to fly six people in business to Hawaii for Christmas, I’d keep in mind the difficulty of that task and search for other destinations with availability — perhaps finding a diamond in the rough.

If your original flights have disappeared, don’t panic. Keep in mind that award availability changes frequently and can increase dramatically as you get closer to your departure date. Check regularly and be ready to act quickly when seats do open up.

Best Ways to Earn and Best Transfer Options

You have a few strong options for earning Amex points on a variety of common spending categories. The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express earns 3x points at US supermarkets on the first $6,000 spent annually, along with 2x points at US gas stations and 1 point per dollar on everything else, and for each month you make 30 eligible transactions, you receive a 50% point bonus. The American Express® Gold Card earns 4x points at US restaurants and on the first $25,000 spent each year at US supermarkets (then 1x) and 3x points on all airfare purchased directly with the airline, in addition to 1 point per dollar on everything else. If you’re purchasing flights and want to earn Amex points, however, your best bet is the Platinum Card® from American Express, which earns 5x points on airfare purchased directly from the airline.

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I’ve used 30,000 Membership Rewards to fly round-trip to Hawaii. Image courtesy of Richard Kerr.

With the variety of transfer partners Membership Rewards offers, it’s tough to pick out just a few of the best transfer options. We went in detail earlier this year on redeeming your points for maximum value. With recent changes in mind, here are a few of the best-value transfers:

  1. 65,000 Membership Rewards to Singapore KrisFlyer to fly Singapore-Tokyo on the A380 in a suite.
  2. Transfer to Choice Privileges for award stays in Europe.
  3. Transfer to Etihad Guest to book flights on partners such as American.

As I mentioned above, transfer times may vary from one person to another.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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