TPG reader question: When is the best time to transfer my American Express Membership Rewards points?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a weekly column to answer your credit card, points and miles and general travel questions. If you would like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguyuk, message us on Facebook or email us at email@example.com.
Membership Rewards, the points currency of American Express are very valuable.
That’s because they are what we call a ‘transferrable currency’ — you can transfer them to twelve different airline loyalty programmes including key U.K. airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, as well as three hotel programmes (Hilton, Marriott and Radisson).
You’re not locked into a single transfer partner meaning today you could transfer some Membership Rewards to Singapore KrisFlyer and tomorrow decide to send some points to Emirates Skywards. That kind of flexibility is fantastic and why we hold these points in such high regard.
But when and where to transfer?
That brings us to this week’s TPG reader question of the week.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
We have over a million Amex points and we want to take our family to Florida. We are a bit scared to redeem them in case we mess up. Should I transfer them to an airline programme, or book through Amex Travel?
When is the best time to transfer the points? Are there ever transfer bonuses?Mike, TPG reader
Unfortunately unlike in the United States I can’t recall ever seeing a transfer bonus offered by American Express U.K. to transfer Membership Rewards points to airline or hotel partners, so the standard transfer rates should be considered the rates at which you will transfer now, or in the near future.
As for deciding whether to transfer the points or use them to book directly through Amex Travel — assuming Mike is looking for flights to Florida — he will generally get better value by transferring to airline or hotel partners compared with booking directly through Amex Travel and using your Membership Rewards to pay for a cash ticket.
You are unlikely to obtain more than 0.5p per point through Amex Travel, meaning Mike’s million point balance would only be worth £5,000 at best.
Transferring those points to British Airways Executive Club, or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club on he other hand would likely allow Mike to get at least 1p per point value. One million Avios or Virgin Points would be more than enough for four people in business class return — definitely, more than £5,000 in value, though there will be a big chunk of fees, taxes and surcharges payable.
In terms of the best time to transfer, it is critical to remember you cannot reverse a Membership Rewards points transfer once it’s done. Mike will need to be comfortable with whatever transfer option he is planning before transferring any points.
With the flexibility of Membership Rewards he could wait until he finds the seats he wants before doing any transfers. If he found four seats to Florida flying Virgin Atlantic he could transfer some points to Flying Club and then later if he found some seats on British Airways flying back to the U.K. he could transfer points to Avios to book.
Mike can search for availability on either airline before transferring any points, either directly through the airline programmes own websites, or using a handy third-party tool like SeatSpy, or ExpertFlyer (ExpertFlyer is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures). I would recommend he do these searches before making any Amex transfers so he has a good idea of availability before making any of those non-reversible transfers. He does not need to have a single point or mile in his airline loyalty programme account to be able to search for availability.
Photo by Matteo Colombo / Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!