American Express partners with a variety of airlines and hotels, but if you’re hoping to use your points to book a flight with United Airlines, you might be disappointed – at first. American Express has direct partnerships with 16 airlines, but United Airlines isn’t one of them. However, if you’re a United loyalist with a ton of American Express Membership Rewards Points, there is hope.
Though United Airlines isn’t a clear option when it comes to American Express rewards, cardholders can take another route to redeem their points by transferring them to a Star Alliance member – such as Air Canada, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Singapore Airlines – all of which currently offer a one-to-one transfer rate for American Express Membership Rewards Points.
Compare American Express Cards
American Express® Gold Card
- Earn 4X membership rewards points at restaurants
- 4X points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1X)
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year then 1%
- Earn 3% Cash Back on transit and 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel
- Earn 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
Transferring Your American Express Rewards Points to United
To successfully convert your American Express Membership Rewards Points to United Airlines, you’ll need to make an initial point transfer from your Membership Rewards account to one of the airlines mentioned above. The process is fairly simple. Here is a quick outline of the steps required:
- Step 1: To begin, log into your American Express account, and select Rewards from the main menu. Then select the Membership Rewards, and finally Use Points.
- Step 2: Once on the Membership Rewards page, select Transfer Points from the Explore Membership Rewards drop-down box, and click Go. A list of current American Express travel partners will be displayed. Select the airline of your choice. If it’s not visible, select View All Airlines.
- Step 3: Finally, determine the number of points you’d like to transfer and enter them into the required field. Keep in mind it is beneficial to check flight availability and point requirements prior to transferring as all transfers are final.
(Note: If you have not previously linked your American Express Membership Rewards program with the airline or travel program of your choice, you will be prompted to do that before entering the desired number of points to be transferred.)
Once the points have been transferred, you can log into the Star Alliance airline you selected and book travel via that program. In many cases, you may be able to book travel with United through the travel partner site; however, if the flight is not available, you will need to use the newly transferred rewards points to book directly on the United website.
What to Watch Out For
When transferring your points to any of the Star Alliance members, your points should maintain a one-to-one ratio. However, each airline partner is different, and so the pros and cons vary based on the chosen partner and your travel plans. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
When booking through Aeroplan (Air Canada), the number of points required for a trip is dependent on the region. Short, round-trip flights within the Continental U.S. and Canada currently cost as little as 15,000 miles, and round-trip flights to Europe run between 60,000 and 75,000 miles. Membership rewards transfer to Air Canada at a one-to-one rate, and those booking through Aeroplan don’t have to cough up the extra cash for fuel surcharges.
Can’t find a flight via Air Canada? You’ll also be able to use your points to book indirectly with United. The only catch is that to use Aeroplan miles, you’ll need to book a Saver award seat, and if that’s not available, then you won’t be able to book that United flight.
When booking United flights with ANA, you’ll also be able to secure that one-to-one transfer ratio and freedom from fuel surcharges. Passengers are also restricted to the same Saver award seat limitation. However, keep in mind that miles cannot be used to book one-way flights, but many travelers find the company’s two open jaws per itinerary make up for that limitation.
Transferring your points and booking United travel on Singapore Airlines is another popular option, and the rules and regulations are similar to those of ANA. However, many find the interface can be a bit less than intuitive. Experienced travelers recommend reviewing rewards flights on United’s site and then looking for them on the Singapore Airlines website.
American Express Rewards Points can give cardholders an opportunity to take advantage of free or low-cost travel, even on United. Though you can’t use your points directly on the United Airlines site, you can transfer to the Star Alliance rewards program and book your travel there, making the most of your points on your airline of choice.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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