Hi Travel Junkies,
Last month I promised to help put Hawaii back on the map for you (from a points/miles perspective) and provided an overview of how you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to get there.
Today I want to continue with my quest by introducing you to another very popular rewards program, American Express Membership Rewards.
Less money spent on flights = more money available to swim with dolphins
Let’s get to it.
How to Earn Amex Membership Rewards Points
Like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards points are incredibly valuable because of their flexibility to transfer to a number of different travel partners in multiple airline alliances.
Yes, they can also be redeemed for things like shopping and gift cards but we are not going to cover that in today’s overview. The value of these redemptions is mediocre at best.
Amex Membership Rewards can be earned with a TON of different credit cards but today I want to focus on the most popular ones. The Platinum Card, Premier Rewards Gold Card, and Amex EveryDay Preferred.
The Platinum Card – The Platinum Card by American Express comes with 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months. The card has a $450 annual fee that is not waived for the first year.
Platinum comes with a variety of other travel perks, including lounge access, a $200 airline fee credit, and a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.
Premier Rewards Gold Card – The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (“PRG”) is currently offering a signup bonus of 25,000 points after you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months. You also earn 3x points on airfare, 2x at gas stations and supermarkets, and 1x on all other purchases.
PRG has an annual fee of $195 that is waived for the first year.
There is also a business version of this card that has a signup bonus of 50,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months.
Keep an eye out for targeted offers in the mail for both of these cards. It’s not uncommon to see signup bonus offers of 50,000+ Membership Rewards Points.
I was targeted with an 85,000 bonus point offer. No-brainer.
Amex EveryDay Preferred – The Amex EveryDay Preferred card is currently offering a bonus of 15,000 points after you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months. It earns 3x points at US Supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year) and you get 50% extra points when you make 30 purchases in a billing period (less returns and credits).
Amex EveryDay Preferred has a $95 annual fee, not waived first year.
There is also a no-fee version of this card called the Amex EveryDay card that has a bonus of 10,000 points after $1,000 spend in your first three months.
How to Redeem Amex Membership Rewards
American Express Membership Rewards can be redeemed to book travel through Membership Rewards (~1 cent per point), receive cash back (0.6 cents per point, don’t do this), or transferred to more than a dozen airline and hotel partners.
Here’s the list.
Amex Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners
Like before, I am going to focus solely on the transfer options.
Best Amex Membership Rewards Redemptions for Hawaii
1) Transfer to FlyingBlue to Book Flights on Delta
You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards Points 1:1 to FlyingBlue, which is the frequent flyer mile program of Air France.
Delta is the US-based partner airline (SkyTeam Alliance) and you can search their flights directly from the Flying Blue site.
Flights to/from Hawaii cost only 15,000 miles each way (30,000 round-trip), which is an incredible deal. This is definitely your best option for Membership Rewards points to Hawaii.
Availability is spotty but if you book far enough in advance you should be able to find something that works.
2) Transfer to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to Book on United Airlines:
You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points 1:1 to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Program and use them to book United Saver Award tickets to Hawaii for just 35,000 miles round-trip.
Use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles to book United flights to Hawaii
Singapore Krisflier miles can be used to book any United Airlines Saver award seats other than those that are specifically being specifically set aside for United Elite Members.
(Note that transfers to Singapore Airlines can take more than 24 hours to complete, so there is a risk that the award availability disappears during that time)
Once the transfer is complete you’ll need to call Singapore Airlines to complete the booking. Have the specific flight numbers ready to read to the booking agent.
3) Transfer to Hawaiian Airlines
Like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards can be transferred 1:1 to Hawaiian Airlines.
Amex Membership Rewards can be transferred 1:1 to Hawaiian Airlines
You can book a Coach SuperSaver ticket between Hawaii and North America for just 20,000 Hawaiian miles each way, which is a fantastic use of your Membership Rewards Points.
Hawaiian flies to all the major airports in Hawaii and availability tends to be good right up to the last minute.
You can also book flights between the islands of Hawaii for 7,500 Hawaiian Airlines Miles for a Coach SuperSaver ticket.
Booking is easy, simply go to Hawaiian Airlines’ website and run a standard award search. Then transfer your miles from Amex to Hawaiian and complete the booking.
4) Transfer to Virgin America
Another option to fly to Hawaii would be to transfer your Membership Rewards points to Virgin America.
Note however that the transfer rate is 2 Amex Membership Rewards Points to 1 Virgin America Elevate Point. Not great.
Virgin America also operates a revenue-based frequent flyer program, which means the cost in miles is based on the flight cost in dollars.
So this could be a decent option for cheap Virgin America flights from the West Coast but not so much for longer-distance flights.
You might even consider using miles from another airline such as Southwest to reposition yourself for one of these West Coast to Hawaii flights.
Also, keep an eye out for transfer bonuses from Amex Membership Rewards to Virgin America Elevate.
5) Transfer to British Airways to Book Flights on OneWorld Partners
You can transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points 1:1 to British Airways Avios and use them to book travel on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and other OneWorld Partners.
You can use British Airways Avios to book AA flights to Hawaii
British Airways uses a distanced-based award chart so this is really only practical for anyone flying from West Coast cities.
Flights should be ~12,500 Avios each way, depending on where you are flying from, and availability has to be found on AA.com (for OneWorld availability) and AlaskaAir.com (Alaska Airlines availability).
You’ll have to call British Airways to complete the booking. Don’t forget to ask them to waive the phone booking fee because the flights could not be booked online.
Debating which Amex MR transfer partner I should use for my next trip
And there you have it! A complete overview of how to use your Amex Membership Rewards Points to fly to Hawaii.
As always, feel free to email me with questions.
Photo Credit: AA.com, HawaiianAirlines.com, USAToday.com, VirginAmerica.com