American Express has launched a new bidding for upgrades feature. In essence you can use Membership Rewards points instead of cash when bidding on last minute upgrades on airlines that use Plusgrade to support upgrade auctions.
This is available for Aerolineas Argentinas; Aeromexico; Air Canada; Air China; Air Mauritius, Avianca; Caribbean Airlines; Ethiopian; Etihad; Fiji Airways; Gulf Air; Icelandair; Kenya Airways; LATAM; Malaysia Airlines; Norwegian; Qantas; SAS; Singapore Airlines (including SilkAir); and TAP Air Portugal.
- Enter your reservation, determine if you’re eligible to bid for an upgrade
- Use Membership Rewards (or points and cash) to place a bid
- Find out in the days prior to flight whether your bid was accepted
Etihad Business Class
I’ve helped plenty of folks identify usual low upgrade prices by searching for past bidding experience that passengers have had. This is for ‘leftover’ premium cabin seats that are going unsold. It’s a function airlines offer anyway to try to monetize those seats through their own website. American Express is partnering with Plusgrade to offer a new way to pay for those bids.
This is a shockingly bad deal. You’re using points either wholly or partially in lieu of cash, which means you’re basically buying back the cash cost of an upgrade with points. Redeeming American Express points in this way will get you either one cent per point in value or just half a cent per point depending on the card.
Platinum cards get just half a cent per point. (Update: Platinum credit cards get half a cent per point, premium Platinum charge cards get a penny.)
For most American Express Card Members with a Membership Rewards account, 1,000 points = $10 of value through Upgrade with Points, except as noted below.
For the following Cards, 1,000 points = $5 of value through Upgrade with Points:
American Express® Platinum Credit Card
Blue for Business® Credit Card
Blue for Students®
Some Blue from American Express Cards
Business Management Account
Gold Optima® Card
Optima® Credit Card
Optima® Platinum Card®
Platinum Business Credit Card®
Qantas A380 Business Class
More options with points is better, I suppose. However if all you’re getting is a penn in value for your redemptions you’re doing it wrong.