Up until June 2014 you could transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to whomever you wish. At that time they instituted new restrictions without warning: they would only allow transfers of your points to people who have an authorized user card on your account.
That was always the rule but the website never enforced it up until that time. You could link anyone’s frequent flyer account to your Membership Rewards account and transfer points to it.
Here are Membership Rewards transfer partners:
- Star Alliance: Aeroplan, ANA, Singapore, Avianca
- oneworld: AsiaMiles, British Airways, Iberia, Qantas
- SkyTeam: Aeromexico, Alitalia, Air France KLM, Delta
- Non-alliance: Etihad, Emirates, El Al, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic
- Hotels: Choice, Hilton, Marriott
Now American Express is introducing a further restriction: starting September 1 an authorized user card must be 90 days old before the person with that card will be eligible to receive points transfers. (HT: Travel With Grant)
Just as people were buying and selling Membership Rewards points prior to June 2014, no doubt that still continued — get a free authorized user card (from cards that offer this feature), never actually give the card to the authorized user, and transfer points into their account. The 90 day restriction should shut that down, there are very few people with travel booking needs willing to pay for points who will wait 3 months to get access to those points to (possibly be able to) book a ticket.
This also is a good incentive not to wait on getting authorized user cards for family members whom you’d like to transfer points to, but to get the card now — whether you give them the card or not — so that their card will be 90 days old at the time you wish to make a transfer.
Of course most frequent flyer programs will let you transfer points into your own account (allowed by Amex) and make a redemption in someone else’s name.
There are restrictions. For instance American Express transfer partner ANA limits redemptions to family members. And there are times you’d prefer to give points to someone rather than redeeming for them — for convenience so they can do the redemption work, or because they have some miles already and you just need to top off their account versus transferring all the points to your own account for a reward.
This policy change is unfortunate, but understandable, and fortunately it remains possible to transfer points to authorized users on your American Express card — there’s just going to be a waiting period after getting someone an authorized user card to do so.