Whoa: Amex Offering A Dozen Transfer Bonuses (Unheard Of)

Whoa: Amex Offering A Dozen Transfer Bonuses (Unheard Of)

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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.

Transfer Amex points to British Airways with a 40% bonus

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.

Transfer Amex points to Air France-KLM with a 25% bonus

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:

Transfer Amex points to Virgin Atlantic with a 30% bonus

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
Aeroplan miles are useful for Lufthansa first class

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
Flying Blue miles are useful for transatlantic flights

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
I’d love to return to Japan, but am trying to be realistic

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).

Bottom line

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?

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  1. Jeff

    You can transfer American express points to ANA directly AND for only 90,000 points to fly business class round-trip from USA TO Philippines.. If you transfer them to Virgin Atlantic to book an ANA flightit costs 130,000 miles to do that. Why does everyone keep saying the transferring your points to Virgin Atlantic to book an ANA fight it's such a sweet spot.? I'm confused can someone help me. Even with the bonus it comes...

    You can transfer American express points to ANA directly AND for only 90,000 points to fly business class round-trip from USA TO Philippines.. If you transfer them to Virgin Atlantic to book an ANA flightit costs 130,000 miles to do that. Why does everyone keep saying the transferring your points to Virgin Atlantic to book an ANA fight it's such a sweet spot.? I'm confused can someone help me. Even with the bonus it comes out to almost exactly the same amount of miles. And if you don't have the bonus you're spending way more points transferring to Virgin Atlantic and booking N ANA flight. There's got to be something I'm missing someone please help me

  2. Mara

    I'd consider transferring points to Marriott.... And then back to an airline taking advantage of the bonus in larger quantities .

  3. Gerd

    Lol Steve - not true. These ARE liabilities. Amex needs to account for the value of hypothetical redemption. They are not paying interest on balances but it's sure showing up in their books that they have liabilities

    1. Steve

      LOL clearly you dont know anything about financial statements or how companies account for things. Read their 10k, it literally states why its not a liability and why they dont have to carry it on their balance sheet.

      They also give the accounting and the formula for the redemption expense (expense not liability). Companies do not care about liabilities right now in this zirp environment, they do care about expenses though as that effects...

      LOL clearly you dont know anything about financial statements or how companies account for things. Read their 10k, it literally states why its not a liability and why they dont have to carry it on their balance sheet.

      They also give the accounting and the formula for the redemption expense (expense not liability). Companies do not care about liabilities right now in this zirp environment, they do care about expenses though as that effects the bottom line! 96% of points are spent so in reality its not a liability its an expense. We in the points community make up such a small fraction of their overall users. Their latest 10-Q explains that people redeeming points for cash and other non-travel related redemptions cost them more. Amex pays less out to travel partners than they do when we use MRs for non-travel. Amex wants nothing more than for us to hoard points and not use them or for us to transfer them all to Hilton , BA etc. Do i need to walk you through how to read audited financials?

  4. Kbulo

    Wondering about YQs on AFKLM/AC(LH)? Are those still imposed, yes?

  5. Sergio

    Hi Ben,

    And currently for Lifemiles there is an extra promotion. You transfer from Amex + 15% and lifemiles will add 15% more of that total transfer. It happens automatic. Promotion is valid thru end of September. This makes the actual bonus 32.5% which I would say make you change probably your thoughts and add some points to that account as well.

    1. David

      @Sergio, thank you! Few websites have mentioned this. Presumably because the two separate promos definitely sound similar. I just transferred my miles and got the 32.25% bonus after stacking.

  6. DCS

    I would have jumped at this AMEX transfer offer in a heartbeat if it included bonus points for transferring MR points to SQ miles, because toward the end of February 2021 I plan to take advantage of SQ's "Unlock Status Credits Without Flying" promo to earn KrisFlyer Gold by simply transferring enough Chase UR and/or AMEX MR points to my SQ account. To see how the SQ promo works, I'd transferred 10K AMEX MR points...

    I would have jumped at this AMEX transfer offer in a heartbeat if it included bonus points for transferring MR points to SQ miles, because toward the end of February 2021 I plan to take advantage of SQ's "Unlock Status Credits Without Flying" promo to earn KrisFlyer Gold by simply transferring enough Chase UR and/or AMEX MR points to my SQ account. To see how the SQ promo works, I'd transferred 10K AMEX MR points my SQ account, and a few days later I was credited 2K KrisFlyer elite status miles designated as for "Unlock Status Credits Without Flying".

    In fact, it could be because of their still-active "Unlock Status Credits Without Flying" promo that SQ might have opted out of this AMEX transfer offer. It would have made it easier for folks to earn KrisFlyer status without flying...

    1. DCS

      Oops! "...toward the end of February 2022..."

  7. Mark

    amex procures mass amounts of points on an annual basis from these partners at preferable rates. They need to use the miles/points or they may end up getting higher rates per point in subsequent years, or end up eating them.

  8. Jeff

    I have no plans to travel any time soon but I also have 2 million Amex points. Does it make sense to transfer points now for the bonus or should I do nothing? Thanks.

    1. Ben Schlappig

      @ Jeff -- That's always tough to say without having more details. How soon do you plan on traveling (other than "not soon" -- are we talking months or years)? What kind of travel are you into, in terms of destination, class of service, etc.? At what pace do you earn Amex points?

  9. PDS

    Airlines are starting to feel the slowdown after the summer, so are looking for cash generating sources once again. The airline typically funds the bonus, so they are taking a hit on CPP to generate the cash, and Amex is happy to take some liability off the books at no incremental cost to them.

  10. Badge

    FYI - Careful these bonuses were showing up on my mobile but then I transferred points and no bonus showed up. Currently fighting with Amex customer service.

    When I check on non-mobile, in my AMEX home page there are indeed no transfer bonuses. Hopefully this is just a simple glitch

  11. Josh

    I transfered Amex points to LifeMiles last night, and I got a 30% bonus instead of the listed 15% bonus! Nice little surprise.

  12. Alan

    Meanwhile in the UK - zero transfer bonuses from Amex as per usual, plus higher card fee for lower benefits and lower earnings rates. I'm not sure if you folks know how good you've got it! (I would say not jealous, but I clearly am )

  13. Bob

    Maybe trying to prop up their next earnings in oct. I imagine Points transferred to vendors = revenue for amex. Of course that means they might have bad earnings coming.

  14. Shlomo

    Interesting that they are not offering a bonus to transfer to Delta Sky Miles - program

  15. Chris

    Any idea if this can be used in Canada? Doesnt show in my account as an option

  16. Joe

    You got me excited, Ben! However unfortunately this only applies to US cardholders it seems. I’m U.K. based and am not seeing any bonuses on the MR portal. Ah well!

  17. Omar

    This shows airlines are expecting an ugly winter and need the revenue badly.

  18. Steve

    Its not the liability of the points its the redemption expense!! There is no issue with the "liability" of all the points, its the spending, and in particular its how people spend their MRs.

    Look at their latest 10-Q (Amex is public so all their financials are availible).
    "shift in redemptions to nontravel-related options contributed to an increase in the Membership Rewards expense for both current periods"

    It cost Amex more money when we...

    Its not the liability of the points its the redemption expense!! There is no issue with the "liability" of all the points, its the spending, and in particular its how people spend their MRs.

    Look at their latest 10-Q (Amex is public so all their financials are availible).
    "shift in redemptions to nontravel-related options contributed to an increase in the Membership Rewards expense for both current periods"

    It cost Amex more money when we redeem points for things that are not travel. So obviously they want us to stop this so hence the blitz of redemption bonuses.

  19. Mike

    Hilton bonus use to be 1:2.8
    Not it is 1:2.6
    Still a good value

  20. Joseph

    Agreeing with Erica and Eric on this one. My company has been pushing people to use up their vacation days so they can shift some of the owed vacation day liability off of their books (of course that's not what it was directly advertised as). Wondering if Amex will roll out a promotion to go with this to push people to use their points (that Amex bought at a large discount).

    Amex wants points off...

    Agreeing with Erica and Eric on this one. My company has been pushing people to use up their vacation days so they can shift some of the owed vacation day liability off of their books (of course that's not what it was directly advertised as). Wondering if Amex will roll out a promotion to go with this to push people to use their points (that Amex bought at a large discount).

    Amex wants points off of their books and airlines want some quick easy revenue (selling points, lines up with all the recent point discounts).

    1. Steve

      Amex isnt required to put Points liabilities on their books, even if they did their long term debt and liabilities are down substantially year over year.

      "MRs liabilities, which are not considered long-term liabilities as Card Members in good standing can redeem points immediately, without restrictions, and because the timing of point redemption is not determinable" -this is from their most recent 10-K

      Also this notion that everyone is hoarding points is incorrect Amex discloses...

      Amex isnt required to put Points liabilities on their books, even if they did their long term debt and liabilities are down substantially year over year.

      "MRs liabilities, which are not considered long-term liabilities as Card Members in good standing can redeem points immediately, without restrictions, and because the timing of point redemption is not determinable" -this is from their most recent 10-K

      Also this notion that everyone is hoarding points is incorrect Amex discloses that 96% of points are spent. Amex isnt concerned about a liability that is not an actual liability, they are concerned with the WAC (weighted average cost) of the 96% of MRs that are spent, that has gone up significantly because people are not converting them to travel. Us redeeming for cash and not travel hurts them.

      "an increase in the WAC per point of 1 basis point would increase the Membership Rewards liability and corresponding rewards expense by approximately $141 million"

  21. Eric

    Airlines are struggling for revenue and looking for additional cash. Amex probably negotiated a low rate to purchase miles from these airlines and amex is passing that off as bonuses to encourage the transfer. Chase is offering a similar BA transfer bonus so i think it's airline driven

  22. BookLvr

    This is probably a dumb question, but I'm going to ask it anyway because I am inexperienced: does transferring miles count for status? In other words, if I am currently Silver on Air France and I transfer miles, am I still Silver no matter how many miles I transferred?

    1. tipsyinmadras

      No, it doesn't, AF/KLM determines program status by "Experience Points" (XP) which are earned by flying and in some cases AF/KLM co-branded credit card spend.

    2. Lee Elm

      Yes. Transferring miles will not count towards your status.

    3. BookLvr

      Thanks, tipsyinmadras and Lee Elm!

    4. Ray

      @Lee Elm: what program will count transfers into your frequent flyer account towards status? ( not being sarcastic or rude, I am seriously curious )

    5. Ethan

      Singapore KrisFlyer has an ongoing promotion: https://onemileatatime.com/transfer-points-earn-star-alliance-gold/ Aeroplan had one too?
      Though this kind of promotion is unheard of before pandemic.

    6. Lee Elm

      I don't know of any that will. Southwest used to count transferred points towards Companion Pass status, but that ended 3 or 4 years ago.

  23. John

    What's the best option for LAX-PPT in Business?

  24. Erica T

    Maybe it is because no one is traveling, everyone has huge balances, and that is a liability for them? I definitely have the largest pool of AmEx points of my life.

    1. DenB

      +1. This is the obvious answer. Another consideration: if they're having trouble getting the MR liabilities off the books (and this bonus doesn't solve it for them), what's next? Even bigger bonuses? A deval? Structural change in MR?

    2. DreadPirateRoberts

      +1 those liabilities are huge and the sign-up bonuses Amex has been offering of late need to be offset or the liabilities would grow out of control.

    3. Steve

      There is no cost to carry the "liabilities", they arent paying interest expense on MRs balances. This is not how liabilities work. Like my post below mentions its the expense of all the MR redemptions that are hurting them. They pay less when MR are redeemed for travel versus other categories like cash back. Read the financial statements and footnotes they explain this.

  25. Nemme

    This would have been helpful 4 days ago when I transferred 100k to Air Canada for Lufthansa first. Oh well. I’ll just have to really value the special duck waiting in FRA.

    1. BryanCX

      I'm in the same boat. Transferred 200K AMEX MRs to Aeroplan two days ago and booked two first-class seats on Etihad. Oh well...

  26. Keith

    ANA award availability sucks right now, so I'm not sure I'd add FlyingClub to the list.

  27. Brutus

    Amex made sure all of the Schwab redemptions were complete before the transfer bonuses appeared.

Featured Comments Load all 43 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Steve

Its not the liability of the points its the redemption expense!! There is no issue with the "liability" of all the points, its the spending, and in particular its how people spend their MRs. Look at their latest 10-Q (Amex is public so all their financials are availible). "shift in redemptions to nontravel-related options contributed to an increase in the Membership Rewards expense for both current periods" It cost Amex more money when we redeem points for things that are not travel. So obviously they want us to stop this so hence the blitz of redemption bonuses.

Steve

There is no cost to carry the "liabilities", they arent paying interest expense on MRs balances. This is not how liabilities work. Like my post below mentions its the expense of all the MR redemptions that are hurting them. They pay less when MR are redeemed for travel versus other categories like cash back. Read the financial statements and footnotes they explain this.

Erica T

Maybe it is because no one is traveling, everyone has huge balances, and that is a liability for them? I definitely have the largest pool of AmEx points of my life.

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