Amex Fixed Points Travel Program (Canada)

Filed Under: Awards, Canadian Credit Card Reviews
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As a Canadian, it’s sometimes frustrating to see all the options available to our southern neighbours (that’s right, with a “u”, get used to it) to redeem Amex reward benefits. On this side of the border, Amex only has eight airline and hotel transfer partners, and of those, only Air Canada’s Aeroplan and British Airways Avios (and arguably Marriott Bonvoy) really provide good value.

However, Amex Canada has made an effort to compensate for the dearth of options with its Fixed Points Travel Program. Launched in response to similar offerings on the popular RBC Avion and CIBC Aventura cards, the program can offer excellent value – if you know how to use it.

How the American Express Fixed Points program works

As the name implies, the Fixed Points Travel Program offers cardholders the opportunity to redeem a fixed number of points for a fixed amount of cash to spend on airline base fare. Of note, this program can be used with either Amex Membership Reward Points (which are earned with cards like The Platinum Card®) or Amex Membership Reward Select Points (earned with the American Express Cobalt™ Card).

Redemption options range from 15,000 points for $300 towards an economy flight on popular routes such as Calgary-Vancouver and Toronto-New York), to 250,000 points for $4,500 to spend on a business class ticket anywhere in the world. Redemption is easy, with a search and booking tool built into the Amex Membership Rewards website.

There are no blackout dates for this program, as it’s just a fixed amount of cash to spend on a ticket, but higher pricing during busy travel times means ticket prices may exceed the limit for your route, leaving you to pay the remainder.

The Fixed Points Travel Program doesn’t cover taxes or fees, so redemptions will cost you at least some cash unless you use the Flexible Points Travel Program to cover them (which you should not do, as it’s a terrible value at 1 cent per point).

One disappointing limitation is that the Fixed Points Travel Program only applies to round-trip tickets, so no one-way or multi-city fares are available when using it. If you search for a non-eligible trip on the Amex website, it will return options using the Flexible Points Travel Program, which as noted, is awful.

Another benefit of the Fixed Points Travel Program is that you are applying your points towards a paid ticket, which means your reward travel can earn you qualifying miles. A great perk for anyone looking to top off their requalification.

The nitty-gritty

Here are the full award charts (in Canadian dollars, of course) — I’ve added notes about the maximum value you can get with each redemption option:

Economy award chart

Business/First award chart

Values range from a low of 1.5 cents per point to a high of 2 cents per point, with most falling in the 1.6 – 1.8 cent range. Given that Ben values Aeroplan miles at 1.85 cents (1.4 USD), and Avios at 1.73 (1.3 USD), these redemptions represent a decent use of Canadian Membership Rewards points, even without taking bonuses into account.

You can find the fine point details on the program on the Amex Canada website.

The best fixed points redemption values

Bigger numbers are better when we’re talking value, and therefore the highest value possible from the Fixed Points Travel Program is Popular Route redemptions, giving a maximum of 2 cents per point. However, regardless of route, that maximum value only occurs if you are redeeming when the base ticket price is at or above the spending limit, allowing you to utilize the entire amount.

As an example, here are 3 different redemption options for Calgary-Vancouver, a Popular Route which has a redemption limit of $300.

Option 1 — the base fare is $242, so your 15,000 points are only worth 1.61 cents each:

The second option has a base fare of exactly $300, so your points are worth the maximum 2 cents each possible on a Popular Route redemption:

The last option has a base price of $484, so you’ll also get the full 2 cent value, but also need to pay the $184 in additional base fare beyond the $300 limit. In each case, you also need to pay the taxes and fees on the ticket.

As you can see, the value of redemptions can vary greatly depending on the pricing of the underlying ticket you’re looking to purchase. The best thing you can do is keep the program in the back of your mind every time you’re booking a trip, and be alert when booking higher-priced to trips to high-value destinations.

Making the fixed value program work for you

Where the program really shines is in combination with the Amex Canada Cobalt Card, which offers a variety of point multipliers and bonus opportunities that can greatly increase the possible return.

The most generous Cobalt point multiplier is the 5x points on food and beverage spend, up to $30,000 per card year. Multiplied by the base redemption value, you’re looking at a return of 7.5 to 10 cents per food-and-beverage-dollar spent towards your next trip.

That’s a solid option for simple redemptions, and is well-worth considering as a way to reduce travel expenses without having to get too deep into the world of miles and points.

Canadians, have you ever used the program before? And Americans, is this something Amex USA should look at?

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  1. Not best use. Best use is to buy a ticket in full Y for just under the allowance.
    Then call the airline and change it to the itinerary you want using the value of the ticket.

  2. I have used it a couple times this year for trips to the west coast when airfares were expense, so used close to the full $700 limit with 40,000 points. Because 100% of my MR points come from 2x spending categories, it worked out to close to a 3.5% return, which is pretty good. I wish non-round trips were an option; then I’d be able to use it more.

    I find their search engine very limiting, not showing all possible options (and in particular not the specific flights I want). I tried calling and the person told me that for the fixed points option it has to be booked online with the itineraries presented. You can limit the search to a particular airline, which can be helpful, but you can’t filter on multiple airlines (it’s either one airline or all airlines), so for example it is annoying when trying to book a combined AC-UA itinerary because there is less chance it will show up in the limited search results when all other airlines are included too.

    One interesting thing that you didn’t mention is that the airfare gets charged to the AmEx as if you are buying the ticket normally, then they credit back the redemption amount separately, so you actually earn additional MR points on the entire ticket value.

  3. Might be worth putting the notes about the maximum value in a separate column. I can’t make out any of the letters even after magnifying the page 200%.

  4. Best use is to Hawaii. 50,000 pts to basically buy a ticket for a date and time you want. Aeroplan is 40,000 and you have to find availability and then take the milk run to get there (especially with a family).

  5. Asking for a Canadian:

    Earning via the Cobalt, are these points separate from the MR points the card earns?

    You mentioned the MR points are different than the standard points earned by the Canadian AMEX Platinum. Would appreciate an explanation of the differences.

  6. Thanks for this post. Super useful. Based on @Bob’s comment I’m curious if it might be good to buy full Y to somewhere with low YQ and then change it into the ticket that you want.

  7. Cobalt earns MR-S / MR-Select points which you cannot transfer to airline partners, however, you can transfer to Hilton (1:1) and Marriott Bonvoy (1:1.2).

  8. I’ve used this profitably a few times. I’m in YYC, ladyfriend is out in YVR for the next little while. For visits/weekends I know about long in advance, it’s easy to find some inexpensive trips that I pay for in cash, but for trips taken with much shorter notice, the 15K MR Select fixed points redemption from my Cobalt really shines. It’s easy to get full value ($300) airfare out of that, and it takes the nice bite out of higher fares close-in to travel dates. I’ve also used the 40K MR redemption to fly to a wedding in YUL on a weekend where, for whatever reason, prices had spiked to much higher than normal fares, meaning I extracted the maximum value ($800) rather easily. If you’re strategic about your Cobalt card use, it doesn’t take long to accumulate 15K or even 40K Select MR points. All told the Fixed Points program has been a great option for me to keep on the backburner when other mileage redemptions, hacks, and even just paying the fare outright aren’t favourable.

    That said, one annoying part about booking AC flights especially through Amex is that it’s not obvious which “fare family” you’re booking into. There’s often a mismatch between the initial Amex Travel reservation, which has often showed me booked into Flex on AC’s site, and whatever happens when the ticket is actually processed/issued, at which point I’m downgraded to Standard (I can’t be the only one who detests that “Standard G” is now a thing). It still bites a bit (even if you learn to expect it) that you initially think you’ve booked Flex and only later realized you’ve gotten Standard in the end (or, even worse, Standard to Basic). My *G status mitigates many of the worst effects of that, but others without that benefit could be in for an unpleasant surprise. Amex has told me that they are trying to redesign their website so that such fare options are clearer and can be actually be selected just like on AC’s website, but they don’t seem to be in a hurry to put it out.

    One positive thing I can say is that Amex Travel customer service has been very good when I’ve needed to deal with them regarding my reservations (airline schedule changes, fare basis codes, etc.). Those guys know their stuff and are on the ball.

    So overall booking via Amex Travel is a mixed bag, but it still leans quite favourably towards using MR Select points for the Fixed Points Program.

  9. Just to echo what was mentioned by @[email protected] above and missed in this post…

    I find it interesting that Amex claims (and the author repeats) “No blackout dates, no seat restrictions, and no surprises. You have the freedom to book and travel when and where you want”. Not entirely true.

    Fixed points redemptions are through Amex Canada Travel. They do not have access to all flights that are available from the airlines. For example, while they show some options for WestJet, Air Canada and Alaska Air when searching – but not all options/possible combinations from the airlines are presented or available.

    It’s been my experience that most times what is presented are for less desirable flights, red eyes etc. A quick search for any flights from Hawaii to Canada shows this. A call with an Amex Canada Travel Rep confirms it. They say that the airline “only lets them sell certain flights”.

    So fellow Canadian Cobalt card fans… You have been warned… don’t expect that you can book just anything. This limitation means this might not the “easy to redeem” “solid” option it is portrayed to be. Please keep this in mind if this is going to form part of your strategy.

    Kate, so glad to see you here with content for Canadians but please consider revising your post with this important information as you continue to build your credibility here.

    Amex, if you are reading this (which I assume you probably are)… please fix this!

  10. I assume one still collects Aeroplan miles and AQM/AQS/AQD for Air Canada flight purchased through this program? Can anyone confirm?

  11. I assume one still collects Aeroplan miles and AQM/AQS/AQD for Air Canada flight purchased through this program?

    Can anyone confirm?

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