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It's not as easy to combine American Express Membership Rewards as other currencies, but we walk you through your options.
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If you’re earning points and miles with a spouse or significant other then you may find you have different amounts of points between you.
When trying to book an award flight or hotel stay, you may not have the right amount of points in just one account. Although most hotel programs now allow you to pool points, airlines often charge you a fee to transfer points between accounts. That’s why it is important to know how to consolidate your points so you can transfer them to the right accounts as needed.
It’s easy to combine Chase Ultimate Rewards, but other programs don’t make it quite as simple. Thankfully, there are workarounds that will allow you to combine points without much effort.
Let’s take a look at how you can combine American Express Membership Rewards.
How Membership Rewards Work
Before you combine Amex Membership Rewards points, you need to understand how earned Membership Rewards work.
Unlike Chase, your Membership Rewards aren’t associated with a particular card. Instead, your Membership Rewards earned are tied to your American Express account as a whole. You won’t lose your Membership Rewards when you close a card as long as you still have one Membership Rewards earning card.
What does this mean for combining points across your own cards?
It’s already done!
It’s only when combining points between different people that there’s a small hiccup.
What Do We Mean By “Combining” Membership Rewards?
Before getting into the weeds, let’s talk about what we mean by combining Membership Rewards right now. Combining Membership Rewards is a little different from combining other types of points. Unfortunately, you can’t combine Membership Rewards between two people’s accounts.
Instead, let’s focus on the goal of combining Membership Rewards. The goal is to be able to transfer them to an airline or hotel account that doesn’t belong to the primary cardmember.
How to “Combine” Membership Rewards
Although you can’t transfer Membership Rewards from one person to another, you can transfer them to the airline program account of another person. To do so, that person must be an authorized user one one of your cards that earns Membership Rewards points
Once you add someone as an authorized user, you’ll be able to transfer your points to their airline program accounts.
Although this isn’t as simple as combining Chase Ultimate Rewards points, it’s a great workaround to use two people’s Membership Rewards accounts to consolidate points into one airline account.
Let’s take a look at an example showing how this works.
Say you want to fly to Japan in first class from the west coast by transferring Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic. You’ll need 110,000 points, but you only have 75,000 Membership Rewards and your partner has 40,000 Membership Rewards. Alone, you don’t have enough miles to book this trip. You’ll need points from both accounts to book the ticket.
When you go to transfer points, you’ll see American Express requires the cardmember name to be the one on the frequent flyer account you’re transferring to.
However, as soon as another person is added as an authorized user on any of your Membership Rewards earning cards, you’ll be able to transfer to them as well.
By simply adding the other person as an authorized user you’ll get access to transfer to their frequent flyer account.
How to Add an Authorized User
American Express makes it easy to add an authorized user to your account.
One important thing to keep in mind is you can only transfer your points to another person’s airline account if they are an authorized user on a personal account. You won’t be able to transfer points to an employee card on a business account.
After logging into your account, be sure you’ve selected one of your personal cards. If you’re on a business card, you’ll see different options as you proceed through the following steps.
First, you’ll need to select “Account Services” from the main menu at the top.
Sometimes these options change spots or won’t appear. If that happens, select “Manage Other Users” from the menu on the left and select “Add Someone to Your Account” from that menu.
You’ll be taken to a screen to input the person’s information so they can be added as an authorized user on your account.
After adding them as an authorized user, you may not immediately see the ability to transfer points to their account. You may need to wait for the authorized user card to arrive and be activated before seeing the option to transfer to them.
Authorized User Card Options
When adding an authorized user, not all cards are treated the same. Different cards allow you to add different authorized user levels.
The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express allows you to give authorized users either another Platinum Card or a Gold Card (different than the American Express Gold Card).
Choosing to add an authorized user with their own Platinum Card will cost $175 per year for up to three cards. Each additional authorized user costs another $175 per year.
Instead, you can add authorized users with a Gold Card. Again, this is different from the Amex Gold, which earns 4X on dining. As an authorized user on a Platinum Card account, Gold Cards have the same Platinum Card bonus categories.
Although there is a cost to add Platinum Card authorized users, there are some compelling benefits for authorized users that don’t come with the Gold Card.
Platinum Card authorized users will get access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status and Hilton Honors Gold Status.
If you’re just adding an authorized user to be able to transfer points to their account, stick with the free Gold Card.
Other Amex Cards
If you have an American Express Gold or an American Express Green Card, you can add authorized users for no additional fee. Authorized users won’t be able to use any of the benefits such as airline or dining credits on the American Express Gold Card, but they will earn bonus points at the same rates as the primary account holder.
Both cards are good options if you’re just looking for the ability to transfer points to another person’s frequent flyer account.
Adding an authorized user works on any American Express card that earns Membership Rewards. If you have the Amex EverDay Credit Card or the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card you can add an authorized user to these cards to transfer to their frequent flyer accounts too.
Authorized User Considerations
Before adding an authorized user, one of the biggest things to remember is that American Express does report authorized users to credit bureaus.
If the account you’re adding an authorized user to is less than 24 months old, it will appear to count towards the authorized user’s 5/24 status. Although there are ways around it if it pushes them over 5/24, it’s an inconvenience.
Additionally, if the primary cardholder carries a balance or misses a payment, that history will also likely be reflected on the authorized user’s credit report. That’s why it is important to understand how credit works and only agree to be an authorized user if you trust the person to be a responsible credit user.
The good news is, if you run into any of these problems, you can remove the authorized user at any time and ask that the credit history be removed.
Keep An Eye Out for Authorized User Bonuses
If you don’t need to transfer the points immediately, keep an eye out for authorized user bonuses.
From time to time, American Express will offer 5,000 points to add an authorized user to your account. While it isn’t worth waiting for if you need to transfer right away, it’s worth the wait if you’re not in a rush.
Don’t Transfer Points Speculatively
As always, I simply must advise that you don’t transfer points speculatively. Only transfer points when you’re ready to book travel.
I’ve seen it time and time again when someone transfers points expecting to book a trip in the next few weeks. In that time, award space may not be available on the airline that you hoped it would be. Be sure to understand the basics of award bookings before doing any transfers, and be sure the award space is there.
Even more disheartening is if you transfer points and then the airline or hotel program devalues their award program. When a devaluation occurs, you’ll need more points to book the same flight or hotel. When this happens, the program you chose to transfer points to may not be the best choice anymore.
Although you can’t directly combine Membership Rewards between Amex accounts, you can easily accomplish the same end goal by transferring the points into one airline or hotel account.
All you have to do is add someone as an authorized user to one of your Membership Rewards-earning cards (a personal card, not a business card) and you’ll be ready to go.
While there are a couple of factors to consider – the impact on the authorized user’s 5/24 status – these are mostly minor issues and you can work around them.
Cards in This Article
Membership Rewards® Points
after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.