The Amex Membership Rewards program occasionally offers transfer bonuses, usually one at a time, but we’ve never seen anything like this before. As I wrote about a few days ago, Amex is offering a dozen transfer bonuses right now. In this post I wanted to recap that opportunity, and then share how I’m thinking about this promotion, and whether I plan on making any speculative points transfers.
Amex transfer bonuses galore in September
At the moment the Amex Membership Rewards program in the United States is offering bonuses on transfers to a dozen airline and hotel partners all at once. Here are the transfer bonuses I’m seeing for the month of September:
- Transfer Amex points to Aer Lingus AerClub with a 40% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Aeromexico Club Premier with a 25% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Air Canada Aeroplan with a 20% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Air France-KLM Flying Blue with a 25% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Avianca LifeMiles with a 15% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to British Airways Executive Club with a 40% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles with a 25% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Iberia Plus with a 40% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Qantas Frequent Flyer with a 20% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club with a 30% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Hilton Honors with a 30% bonus
- Transfer Amex points to Marriott Bonvoy with a 30% bonus
If you’re going to transfer points, make sure you double check that you see the transfer bonus you’re expecting reflected at the time that you make the transfer. See here for how long Amex points transfers take.
Some cards earning Amex Membership Rewards points offer multiple points per dollar spent in some categories, so when you combine that with transfer bonuses, points will add up really quickly.
What’s Amex’s motivation for offering so many bonuses?
I have to be honest, I’m a bit puzzled. Like I said, in the past we’ve maybe seen one or two transfer bonuses at a time, but we’ve never seen a dozen at a time. The bonuses we’re seeing right now are most of the bonuses we’ve ever seen, except all at once.
We’ve confirmed that this promotion isn’t a glitch, what are the possible explanations? I can come up with a few, though this is purely speculation on my part:
- Could Amex have some major financial incentive right now to have people transfer points out of Membership Rewards and to partners, even though Amex has to pay for these transfers? I’m not sure if there’s some accounting benefit at play here, or something, given that it’s a strange time for the industry
- I know Amex sometimes buys points in bulk from partners in advance, so did Amex buy a ton of points, but not many people are transferring them, so Amex wants to encourage people to do that, since those rewards are already paid for?
- Does Amex want to make a big competitive push to get people involved in Membership Rewards cards right now, and/or has Amex worked with partners to encourage transfers and more mileage activity in a mutually beneficial way? After all, it’s going to be a challenging several months for airlines, as the summer travel season is coming to an end, and travel restrictions continue to be in place
I don’t know what the answer is (yet), but we’ve never seen anything like this before.
Which of these transfer bonuses are worth it?
Very broadly speaking, here are some of the programs to consider transferring points to, factoring in the general value of the programs plus the transfer bonuses:
- Air Canada Aeroplan — fantastic for Star Alliance and other partner redemptions, as I love having stopovers on one-way awards for 5,000 additional miles, and we don’t often see transfer bonuses to the program
- Air France-KLM Flying Blue — great for transatlantic business class redemptions on Air France and KLM, as other SkyTeam partners don’t have access to nearly as much award space
- Avianca LifeMiles — useful for simple Star Alliance routings, especially in markets where pricing is better than through Air Canada Aeroplan
- British Airways Executive Club — great for short haul redemptions, and the 40% transfer bonus is huge, though the program is also known for devaluing without notice
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club — most useful for All Nippon Airways first and business class redemptions, which is a real sweet spot of the program
Will I make speculative Amex points transfers?
Above I shared my take on which transfer partners are most valuable, though how am I personally approaching this offer, with no immediate need for transfers in mind? I do plan on making some speculative transfers, as I have a healthy balance of Amex points at the moment, and I can see myself getting value from these promotions.
However, I don’t intend to make any points transfers until later in the month, since there’s no reason to limit my flexibility for the time being. I think there are two speculative transfers I plan on making.
First of all, I think I’ll transfer a good number of points to Air Canada Aeroplan:
- It’s not often we see transfer bonuses to Aeroplan, so this opportunity is pretty special
- My balance of Aeroplan miles is low right now, though in the past year I’ve transfered points from Amex several times without a transfer bonus
- Aeroplan is valuable not only for the ability to redeem on Star Alliance partners, but also for the ability to redeem on other Aeroplan partners, like Air Serbia, Etihad, Gulf Air, and more (and the list keeps on growing)
- The new Aeroplan program launched at the end of 2020, so I don’t think any partner award devaluations are imminent
- While there are all kinds of creative routings and stopover opportunities, if nothing else a transatlantic first class redemption on Lufthansa will typically cost 100,000 Aeroplan miles, so that’s ~84K Amex points with the bonus, which is great
I also think I’ll speculatively transfer a smaller number of points to Air France-KLM Flying Blue:
- Flying Blue is so useful for transatlantic business class redemptions on Air France and KLM, which is often readily available when other programs don’t have availability
- I’ve burned through a lot of Flying Blue miles in the past year, so my past redemption patterns suggest I’ll need more of these miles
- While we see a fair number of transfer bonuses to Flying Blue, a 25% bonus is solid
There are two other transfer partners I considered, but decided against:
- While I would also transfer some Amex points to British Airways Executive Club for short haul redemptions, I still have several hundred thousand Avios, so don’t have a need to do that right now
- While I’m tempted to transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, it’s anyone’s guess when we can once again travel to Japan, so that’s too niche for me to make a speculative transfer
In general I’d only recommend making a speculative transfer if you think you’ll be able to book travel within six months or so (though it depends on your exact situation).
At the moment the Amex Membership Rewards program is offering a dozen different transfer bonuses, including to some of my favorite Amex transfer partners. It could make sense to speculatively transfer some points here (that’s exactly what I plan to do), given the opportunities available. However, you have a few weeks to make a decision, so I wouldn’t necessarily make transfers just yet.
Do you plan on taking advantage of these Amex transfer bonuses? Which partners are you interested in?