#JetSetLife: Redeeming AmEx Membership Rewards for Flights
If you are like me and love to travel, or maybe would like to travel more, then you've probably at least heard of using miles and/or points to book travel. We see the advertisements everywhere: 50,000 bonus miles when sign up now, etc...
But how do we actually USE these miles?
I just spent the past few days looking into the best way to redeem my American Express Membership Rewards points for a flight to Europe...Read on to find out how I did it and got an AMAZING value for each mile.
First things first... IF you are just starting out and are looking to rack up some seriously valuable miles, here are my TOP recommendations from personal experience (I am not a financial adviser and do not endorse specific credit cards, only sharing this information from personal experience):
The Card I Used to rack up Miles/Points:
This card has a seemingly low sign-up bonus of just 15,000 points after you meet the minimum spend, but for me, this card has been a powerhouse. I have had it for 2.5 years and use it for ALL of my business expenses. After you meet a minimum number of transactions in a billing cycle you also start earning a 20% bonus on all your membership rewards. I use it and pay it off completely every month and the variety available in terms of transfer partners for AMEX is incredible. If you want to know more, you can tap the photo of the card.
OK so here we go....
I have hit the 20% bonus every single month as far as I know, so granted I am earning Amex membership rewards points at 1.2x the 'normal' rate, but here is the best part:
To activate this, you don't need to spend a certain about of money. It's just the number of transactions! So don't be afraid to use your card on small purchases to make sure you've activated your 20% bonus and then keep going for the whole cycle!
Redeeming Membership Reward Points
So you can book travel directly through the membership rewards portal, but it's not usually the best deal. They do sometimes have promos that are great, including transfer partner promotions (sadly, I missed the Flying Blue 25% bonus earlier in the year, which would have been amazing!) so keep an eye out!
I had nearly 180k membership rewards points saved up, as I had only used a few here and there for gift cards and a couple nights in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale before the cruise earlier this year.
I knew I had more than enough miles for a round trip ticket to Europe if I transferred them to basically any airline partner with a 1:1 transfer ratio (that means 1 membership reward point = 1 airline program mile). But I also thought I could do better than spending 60-90k miles on a round trip economy ticket (that would likely only cost about $600-800 anyways).
So I decided to try to book a business class ticket.
The best deal I could find in economy was about $650 round trip, or 60,000 miles (or more). That means AT BEST my miles would be worth just over 1 cent each ($650/60,000).
A business class ticket, however (non-stop LAX to CDG Paris) was $5,876, or 135,000 miles. Granted I would not have ever considered spending almost $6k on a ticket to Paris, but that made the miles worth 4.35 cents each.
These figures came from AirFrance's site directly, where I researched the availability of flights as well as the cost in dollars and miles before deciding to transfer my Amex points.
Once I knew it was available and the price in miles was a great deal (compared to other airlines, etc) I went through and created a Flying Blue account. It was fast and easy and I was able to link it quickly with Amex in the membership rewards portal.
Once I asked to transfer my points and convert them to Flying Blue miles, the transfer was instant. I was able to book the reward flight right away and just paid the taxes and fees.
It's important to note that the fees and taxes are more expensive, because a. the surcharges are more for flying to Europe (Delta seems to be an exception), and b. the cost of the ticket was more. However, they were still less than the cost of an economy ticket, and included baggage (2), pre-boarding, and a seat that reclines into a totally flat bed, I think it was more than worth it. #treatyoself, right?
Let me know in the comments if you are interested in more posts about reward travel, travel hacks, booking tips, etc!
I can't wait to tell you guys what I think about flying Business Class on the Boeing 777 with Air France in February! I will also be visiting Stockholm on this trip and can't wait to see what fun we can get into!
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