American Express is Testing Just Buying You Business and First Class Tickets When Awards Are Available on American and United

The new American Express Points Match program is a targeted test which allows some small business cardmembers to redeem their Membership Rewards points for travel on United and American without transferring points to a partner frequent flyer program like Aeroplan or British Airways.

When awards are available on American or United, targeted members can call American Express and Amex will go ahead and book revenue tickets on those flights and deduct the number of Amex points that American or United would have taken from your AAdvantage or MileagePlus account.

The steps are:

  1. Find award space with American or United.
  2. Write down the airline and flight number(s), travel date(s) and time(s), total number of miles required, and taxes and fees.
  3. Call American Express with this information.

Eligible Amex small business cardmembers can make reservations for up to 7 passengers per booking, and up to 15 bookings during the test period which runs through June 30.

The program is limited to one-way and round-trip tickets (you’re not going to be able to add stopovers except at additional one-way points-prices), and you have to book at least 3 days prior to travel.

Presumably this ‘test’ period will:

  • Help American Express determine how the promotion is received. Is it heavily used? Does it drive cardmember retention and increased involvement?
  • Test the costs of the current model. How do members use it? How expensive is it to offer?
  • Help identify changes that American Express would need to make if they rolled it out more broadly, such as limiting the offer to economy awards.

In any sort of broad roll out I would be surprised if the offer remained this generous.

The ability to redeem Amex points at United and American saver prices and get paid business and first class tickets that count towards elite status and earn miles is huge but will also be very expensive for American Express if more than a small subset of members redeem their points this way.

It’s quite conceivable that you’ll wind up booking premium cabin international awards that earn more miles with United or American than you’ll spend for the ticket via American Express. If you were targeted for this offer, you were lucky indeed.

You may need a big credit line in order to use points for premium class tickets with this offer because,

The total price of the ticket inclusive of taxes and fees will be charged to your Card account, but you will receive a statement credit, less the award ticket taxes and fees.

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Gary,
    How do I find out if I’m targeted for this promotion? What does the email look like?


  2. it’s very targeted. I spend over $500,000 a year on Amex and I couldn’t talk them into letting me into the test. It’s focused on Open Business cards and not Platinums. When I called Amex nobody even knew about the program until I told them about it. Nice of Amex to keep their employees in the dark! They had to do research on it while they put me on hold for awhile. It just started on the 18th.

  3. Genius. It could save them money to not have to set up all agreements, point transferring interfaces etc ahead of time. Plus these airlines can’t/won’t work with them anyway…how much business are they losing by not having these two as point transferring partners? I was in the LAS United Club Sunday and it was awfully dead in there….I am sure the Centurion Lounge was hopping down the hall…that place is nice. It was Genius to just open their own lounges too…but I am sure it is more expensive that just paying for access like the old days to the United/Continental lounges.

  4. @blanca – the Centurion Lounges also represent an investment in the Amex brand so they probably get a better return on it that way than paying for access to airline operated clubs.

  5. I have mileage on United and BA and I have amex point and for 2 years I have tired to purchase a FIRST class seat with either of the above and the airlines even though the seats are available, they refuse to release them for First class as the business compartment get bigger and bigger with dozens of others and it is more like economy only with a bigger seat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.