How to Transfer American Express Points to American AAdvantage – Or Book Star Alliance Awards Without Fuel Surcharges

A trick we used to use sometimes with our award booking service to help a client top off a US Airways frequent flyer account if hey had American Express Memnbership Rewards points was to transfer the Amex points to Air Canada’s Aeroplan and from Aeroplan to US Airways via Points.com. Those transfers were offered at 1 Aeroplan point to 0.84 US Airways points.

Sometimes the client would have enough Aeroplan points for their ticket, but didn’t want to pay the fuel surcharges that Aeroplan imposes on about half of their partners. This worked out best for awards where US Airways charged fewer points than Aeroplan did, but sometimes even the loss in points with the transfer was worth it for the cash savings.

The option went away from the Points.com website several months ago, but now it is back – and just to show the outstanding transfer ratio wasn’t a mistake, it’s back at the same rate (some accounts see a slightly lower rate, especially Points.com accounts with addresses outside the U.S.). (HT: Canadian Kilometers)

US Airways isn’t an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner (it used to be, until US Airways and America West merged and Barclays got an exclusivity deal that caused US Airways to pull out of the Amex relationship). Aeroplan, Singapore Airlines, and ANA are — all airlines that add fuel surcharges to many or most of their partners. So there can be real value in having the points over at US Airways for making the same Star Alliance reservations that the other airlines could book but for more money.

Of course,

  • US Airways charges more for some awards, for instance 160,000 miles for first class to South Asia.
  • US Airways has trouble seeing certain award space — especially Lufthansa but not just Lufthansa.
  • US Airways is leaving Star Alliance, the last day to book Star Alliance awards with US Airways Dividend Miles is March 30th. (Note that tickets booked before then, that you want to change after March 30, will presumably have to be re-booked on oneworld airlines or airlines that US Airways has a direct partnership with.)

But here’s another place where the transfers become interesting. US Airways and American Airlines are now owned by a single parent entity, and will eventually be combined into a single airline. My best guess is that the Dividend Miles program ‘goes away’ between mid-February and early March 2015. But sometime before then I would expect it to be possible to move Dividend Miles to American AAdvantage (and vice versa).

As a result, you can currently transfer American Express points to Aeroplan, and on to US Airways (with ~ 16% loss in points) via Points.com. And shortly those US Airways points will be able to become American AAdvantage miles.

So there’s an arbitrage opportunity that allows you to top off an American frequent flyer account with American Express points, even though American is not an American Express transfer partner.

The minimum number of Aeroplan points you can move out via Points.com is 15,000. You can transfer up to 50,000 per transaction and 100,000 per year.

So you’re not going to get the most lucrative awards with this technique alone. The new maximum allowable amount is 100,000 American Express to 100,000 Aeroplan to 86,000 US Airways points. It takes 90,000 US Airways miles for business class roundtrip between North America and Hong Kong, it’s more for other great awards. But it’s a good top off option for some.

Points.com transfers between Aeroplan and US Airways are not instant, they can take several days, longer in fact than US Airways will let you keep an award on hold. So I like this more for the eventual arbitrage play of moving Amex points to an American account for future use, rather than for booking a current award.


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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

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Comments

  1. Of course there is always the more convoluted and Canadian-only way of doing it. MR -> AP -> Esso Extra -> RBC Rewards/Avion -> AA. If you wait for one of the yearly RBC transfer bonuses you can come out nearly 1:1.

  2. Thanks, Gary, for this useful tip. But I would advise folks interested in AAdvantage miles to wait until the US-AA transfer option goes live (nobody knows when, likely in a few months). In the meantime, this trick would be good for those interested in picking off the likely-to-disappear gems in the Dividend Miles award chart (mostly premium cabin non-Europe int’l). Of course, most folks who know of these gems and want to redeem for them have already bought miles in the recent US promos!

  3. With no redemptions likely in the next few months, would you speculatively transfer 100k to US Air (eating the 16% points loss) with the idea of making better use of the points in the future with the merger?

  4. Is this considered “a good use of MR points” cpm-wise?

    I could use more AAdvantage miles but I don’t know enough about MR redemptions to know whether I’m shooting myself in the foot by transferring at that rate.

  5. @Jake, ha! I was just about to say the same thing. “Interesting way to do something” and “arbitrage” are not synonymous.

  6. Thanks for this post. A few years back I wound up with a stack of about 35K Aeroplan miles after converting them from BoA Worldpoints. (Aeroplan was Worldpoints’ only transfer partner, and converting them seemed like a good idea at the time.) I’ve never found a decent way to use them, and Aeroplan miles have only gotten less valuable in the meantime. It might be worth it to bite the bullet and convert these to Dividend Miles, which I actually have use for.

  7. I want to take advantage of this so I created a US airways account but for some reason I can’t register the dividends mile account. Points.com keeps on saying the account number is invalid. Has anyone had issues like this before? Do I need to wait a couple days after dividend miles creation to register with points.com?

  8. Can you give me the steps to transfer my aeroplan points into U.S. Airways? I can’t see how to do this on the aeroplan site. Many Thanks, Mary

  9. Hi Gary,

    Where is the tool? Can you tell me where to find it on Aeroplan’s site so I can see if it is there? Thanks, Mary

  10. Gary,

    We havn’t see a transfer bonus from amex to avio for almost half a year, do you expect that we will see one soon?

    Thanks!

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