If you’re sitting on a heap of American Express (AMEX) Membership Rewards points and looking to use them for your next flight on American Airlines, you’re at the right place. The American Express Membership Rewards program offers various options to use your points for travel rewards, including flights, hotel stays, and more.
American Airlines isn’t a direct transfer partner of AMEX, however, with the beauty of airline alliances, you can transfer Membership Rewards to an AA travel partner and book directly through them.
I don’t have a great way of earning American Airlines miles since most of my flexible currency is with AMEX Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards. So, when I need to book an AA flight, it’s convenient to be able to transfer my AMEX points to an AA partner to book those flights.
In this article, I’ll explain how to use AMEX Membership Rewards points to book an American Airlines flight.
Can you Transfer AMEX points to American Airlines?
No, you cannot directly transfer AMEX points to American Airlines. However, you may transfer AMEX points to an American Airlines partner, including British Airways, Qantas, Iberia, Eithad, or Cathay Pacific, and then use those respective program points to book directly from the partner’s website (or by calling in some cases).
American Airlines has Travel Partners that you can Transfer AMEX Points to
The way you book American Airlines flights with AMEX points is by transferring Membership Rewards to an airline that both 1) is a transfer partner for Membership Rewards and 2) is a travel partner of American Airlines.
There are 5 of them, all of which are part of the Oneworld Alliance, except Etihad. Etihad has a direct partnership with AA.
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
As long as there is award availability through one of these partners to book an American Airlines flight, You can transfer AMEX points to these programs to book the AA flight directly with the partner airline.
All of these programs offer a 1:1 transfer ratio from AMEX Membership Rewards. Note that while British Airways, Iberia Plus, and Qantas allow you to view and book online, for Etihad and Cathay Pacific, you need to call to view and book AA award space.
|Airline||Transfer Ratio with AMEX||Availability of Award Seats||Online Viewing & Booking of AA Award Space|
|Etihad||1:1||Limited||No, must call|
|Cathay Pacific||1:1||Limited||No, must call|
How to Transfer AMEX points to book an American Airlines Flight
I’ll outline the steps I take to book an American Airlines flight using AMEX points.
Step 1: Search for an American Airlines Flight that has Award Availability
The first step is to find an American Airlines flight that has award space. Airlines limit the number of award tickets they sell on each flight, so it’s not always guaranteed.
I always start my flight searches with Google Flights to get a benchmark on all flight options and their cash prices. You want to make sure that the cost of the award ticket (value in miles) is better than the cash rate.
Next, you’ll need to search for award space. I like using a service like Point.me, a paid service that searches for live award availability across dozens of airlines. Or you can do it the old-fashion way—by going to each of the partner airline websites and searching for flights to see if they are selling award tickets for that.
I’ll walk through an example booking of Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (HDN), Feb 3, 2024, 9:50 a.m. – 3:05 p.m.
Start with American Airlines. Go to the American Airlines website and search for your flight. Make sure to check “Redeem miles” in the search. If you find a flight that can be purchased with AAdvantage Miles, you know AA is selling award space, and it’s possible to find tickets on the partner airlines.
Step 2: Search for American Airlines on Qantas
The next step is to search all 5 transfer partners to see if they are selling award space for that same American Airlines flight. I like starting with Qantas. Typically if there’s award space showing on Qantas, chances are there are awards for at least some of the other partners.
Go to the Qantas website, sign up for their loyalty program, and search for flights. Be sure to toggle “Use points” in the search interface.
Look for the American Airlines flight that you found in Step 1 and see if there are any award tickets. You’ll see in the example below there are economy seats for 31,500 points plus tax and fees.
Step 3: Search for American Airlines Flights on British Airways, Iberia, Etihad, and Cathay Pacific
Now search for the same flights on the other programs. Create loyalty accounts with each and follow the same steps as you did with Qantas.
Note that you can only view and book online for Qantas, British Airways, and Iberia. Etihad and Cathay Pacific’s websites do not allow you to search for partner flights, so you will need to call their customer service to check award availability and book if you choose to.
Below is a sample search on British Airways. Be sure to go to “Book with Avios” from the website’s top navigation.
Step 4: Transfer AMEX points to the AA Partner Program with the Best Rate
By this point, you should know which program is the cheapest to book. Go to your AMEX Membership Rewards account and transfer points to the partner.
Warning: Be absolutely sure you want to book this flight before you transfer points. There’s no way to revert the transfer after it’s completed.
In my example booking (broken down below), you’ll see that Iberia turns out to be the best rate. You have to be extra careful when booking international flights, as partner programs will charge taxes, fees, and carrier charges which will cost you hundreds of dollars out of pocket. This is not the case with domestic flights.
The results are as follows. Clearly, booking AA direct from their program is the best because it’s only $5.60 in fees versus $324.70, but again, you can’t transfer AMEX points to American Airlines. I’ve included that in the list just for comparison purposes.
- American Airlines: 35,000 + $5.60 (taxes, fees, and carrier charges)
- British Airways: 25,750 + $329.20
- Qantas: 31,500 + $325.00
- Iberia: 25,750 + $324.70 (best value for MR points)
- Etihad: No award space
- Cathay Pacific: No award space
Step 5: Book Flight with Chosen AA Partner Program
Finally, book your American Airlines flight from the partner program of choice. Remember, Qantas, British Airways, and Iberia allow you to book direct on the website. Etihad and Cathay Pacific require you to call to make a booking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I directly transfer AMEX points to American Airlines?
No, you cannot directly transfer AMEX points to American Airlines. However, you can transfer your AMEX points to American Airlines’ partner airlines and then book an American Airlines flight through them.
Which airline partners can I transfer AMEX points to for booking American Airlines flights?
British Airways, Iberia, Qantas, Etihad, and Cathay Pacific.
How long does it take for AMEX points to transfer to airline partners?
AMEX claims that its estimated transfer time for all partners can take up to 48 hours, although I’ve also experienced instant transfers. Be safe, allow yourself up to 48 hours, just in case.
Do transferred AMEX points to airline partners expire?
Once transferred to airline partners, the points’ expiry will be subject to the terms and conditions of the respective frequent flyer program. For example, in the case of British Airways, your Avios stay valid as long as you collect, spend, purchase, or share at least one Avios every 36 months.
Are there any transfer fees when converting AMEX points to airline partner points?
When you transfer your AMEX points to a U.S. airline frequent flyer program, American Express charges an excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point, up to a maximum of $99. This fee is levied to cover the federal excise tax that American Express has to pay due to the point transfer. The fee may not directly correspond to the actual excise tax paid on an individual transfer, meaning it could be higher or lower. See their terms for additional information.
Can I reverse a points transfer from AMEX to an airline partner?
No, once points have been transferred from AMEX to an airline partner, the transaction cannot be reversed.
Can I use AMEX points to upgrade my seat on an American Airlines flight?
Generally, seat upgrades are subject to the rules of the airline where the points were transferred. Some airlines allow the use of points for upgrades, but it’s best to check with the specific airline for their policy.
What happens to my transferred AMEX points if I cancel my American Airlines flight?
If you cancel a flight booked with transferred AMEX points, the points typically go back into the airline partner’s frequent flyer program, subject to the airline’s cancellation policy and fees. They will not return to your AMEX account.
In summary, while you can’t directly transfer AMEX points to American Airlines, several alternative methods allow you to use your points to fly American. Each method has its unique advantages and drawbacks, so it’s essential to consider factors like point value, convenience, and availability when making your decision.
To maximize your AMEX points for AA flights, consider checking multiple partner airlines, as availability and costs can vary. Tools like Point.me can help you find the best redemption options. Lastly, be on the lookout for promotions or discounts from AMEX or their transfer partners, as these can help stretch your points even further.