It’s understandable if you’re shaking your head at the headline. American Airlines offers co-brand cards with Citi and Barclays, but there’s no direct relationship between the airline and American Express. You can’t transfer American Express Membership Rewards to your AAdvantage account. Only Bilt Rewards offers American AAdvantage as a transfer partner.
So how can American Express cardholders save money on American Airlines flights?
Since I have plenty of American Express Membership Rewards, I wanted to see the process for booking flights with points. Of course, transferring points to partner airlines, like I did to book flights with Hawaiian Airlines, is the way to get the most value for points. But that’s not always possible, and sometimes it makes sense to book a flight and pay with points through a travel portal, which is how I booked flights to Iceland with Citi ThankYou points.
I logged into my AMEX account and went to the Membership Rewards section. From there, I was able to select “flights” and enter my itinerary. I’m still looking for flights to Las Vegas since the non-stop options are not appealing.
I’m using this as an example as it’s the route I’m currently researching. I’m sure you can replicate the results with another set of city pairs.
For reference, here’s the flight on American’s website.
When I’m logged into my AMEX account, the flight shows the same $215 price but shows a discounted price if I pay for the flight with points.
AMEX points are worth 1 cent each for bookings through the Membership Rewards portal, but this flight costs about 5% fewer points than it should. That’s because it’s listed as an “Insider Fare.”
Insider Fares are available to all AMEX cardmembers when using Membership Rewards to cover the entire airfare. Pretty cool, huh? Still not a reason to use Membership Rewards to book tickets, but if you were going to do it anyway, it’s nice that AMEX provides a discount.
However, this wasn’t the only discount I found. The next fare was listed as a “Recommended Flight” available for Platinum Card Members.
This flight was available for revenue booking of $197 ($18 discount off the regular price) of the equivalent number of Membership Rewards points. In this case, you didn’t need to book with points to get the discount.
I have the option of paying $195 with my Platinum Card (and earning 5X points for airfare) or I could pay 19,562 Membership Rewards.
While neither of these programs offers huge savings, remember that this is only a $215 one-way ticket. If you’re shopping for an international fare with a reasonable price, why not see if you save some extra cash by booking through the AMEX portal.
Even though I’ve been collecting points and miles for almost two decades and I thought I knew everything about AMEX Membership Rewards. However, I’m always learning new things about using my points.
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