American Express Membership Rewards Program has gone through some lean times recently but I am here to say that there are still amazing opportunities for all those Membership Rewards you have been hoarding for a rainy day.
Keep in mind that AMEX does run special promotional transfer rates to certain airlines throughout the course of the year. While it may be hard to time it exactly with when you want to book your trip they do happen about 3 times a year. If you can manipulate your schedule in such a way that would allow you to cash in on the promotional bonuses that can reach as high as 50% I would suggest you do it.
Racking up Membership Reward Points Awesomeness
AMEX is continually refreshing their bonus offers and targeting new consumers with enticing signup promotions I have curated a list of some of the cards you should be watching. Again I am not guaranteeing these are the best current offers or will be so in the future but they are the cards you will want to apply for to earn Membership Reward points. [These are my links that help me keep this site alive. Whenever you use one of the links and are approved for a card it helps me pay my bills and I appreciate your support]
The Platinum Card® from American Express – 25K Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 during your first three months of Card membership. In addition to the bonus points this card gets you all the perks that are associated with the title of “Platinum” before it was diluted by imitators. You get complimentary access to Delta, American, US Airways and Priority Pass airport lounges on your flights but that comes at a cost of a $450 annual fee that is not waived. But they also add on more value to the cardholder by offering up a $200 annual airline fee credit that will be given on your statement to cover all types of fees that airlines can think up. It’s signup bonus offer can have large swings over the course of a year so you should watch it for changes when you are getting ready to apply for it. Also not great with bonus points on certain category of spending that help improve the point earning power of your everyday purchases.
American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card – This is the best AMEX for earning bonus points with triple points on airfare, double points on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations, double points at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets and single points on other purchases. You should use this card whenever you buy your own airfare or fill up your car with gas. The $175 annual fee is waived for the first year and you earn 25K Membership Rewards points after you spend $2K during your first three months of Card membership.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN - The business card currently has a Limted Time Offer of 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of Card membership. It’s signup bonus offer does go away during the course of a year so you should watch it for changes when you are getting ready to apply for it. You get the same complimentary access to over 600 airport lounges, $200 annual airline fee credit and reimbursement of enrollment in Global Entry service just like the consumer card. It also comes decked out with a Business Platinum Concierge is like your own assistant, ready to help you with just about anything personal or professional, 24 hours a day.
The Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN - This card has no signup bonus right but it does earn you bonus points with triple points on airfare, double points advertising in select media, gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations, and shipping and single points on other purchases. It is not as good as the current Platinum Business card offer but the signup bonus offers do change so keep checking to see if it gets one soon.
You have two clear choices of a card that waives the first year fee and gives you bonus points on spending categories or the card that has a big annual fee but it gives you access to lounges and a $200 annual credit to airline fees. You can make the decision on which features compliment your style and financial situation the best. You can even get both cards because they each have such distinct benefits to their cardholders.
The Countdown of Reward Flight Awesomeness
8) El Al First Class to Israel for 250,000 Points. This cabin is outdated and insanely expensive but it is the only way to fly direct in a marketed first class cabin from the US to Israel. Their 747 first class does have 100 inches of seat pitch but it only lies down into 175 degree flat bed making you sleep at a bit of an angle which you would not be happy about after shelling out this much for a flight. The scarcity and uniqueness of this reward flight push it into our top 8 more than anything else. You need 5000 for New York to Tel Aviv and 5400 for Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. You transfer at a rate of 1,000 MR for 20 Matmid Points and there is no shot at a transfer bonus to El Al.
7) Air Berlin Business Class to Europe for 80,000 Points. This is a fairly new addition to oneworld and their reward space is searchable on BA.com. This can also be booked with AAdvantage miles but that would cost 100,000 miles roundtrip instead of the much cheaper 80,000 Membership Reward points plus the added benefit of catching a 30%-50% transfer bonus into Avios. This makes Air Berlin a great catch for transatlantic flights in business class. Award space is a bit rare so I recommend you search using AA.com month by month and then use BA.com to book the flight. Transfers to Avios points are a 1:1 ratio.
6) China Southern Business Class to China for 120,000 Points. China Southern has one of the choicest business class cabins in the sky on their new Airbus 380 flying between Los Angeles and Guangzhou. Unfortunately this is where Delta SkyMiles come up big but also fail hard. The SkyMiles come up big with a good amount of award space but they let you down by not allowing you to book international first class cabins with SkyMiles. Major bummer here as China Southern has some space age looking suites in their new first class, internally called Platinum Private Suite, that I would love to get a chance to break in. You can check award space on Expert Flyer but you have to book it over the phone with Delta because delta.com does not search China Southern award space as of right now. Transfers to Delta are a 1:1 ratio.
5) LAN Business Class to South America for 80,000 Points. This is the best business Class product to South America with fully flat seats on their 767 aircraft and highly rated in-flight service there is no other option that compares. You can search and book all award space directly on BA.com without having to call in to speak with an agent.
4) Star Alliance Business Class to Europe for 90,000 Points. Air Canada’s Aeroplan frequent flyer program has been hit hard by devaluations in the past couple of years but it still represents some of the best options for Transatlantic travel. Aeroplan reward flights allow up to one stopover or open jaw that unleash a fury of value from your next trip to Europe. For example you can fly on Brussels Air from NYC to Brussels, Brussels to Rome and Rome back to NYC for only 90,000 points. You have to use United, US Airways, Brussels Air (pictured below) or Swiss Airlines to avoid paying fuel surcharges on these awards. I would go with Brussels and Swiss as their business class products are top notch and the American carriers lag behind. Transfers to Aeroplan are a 1:1 ratio.
3) Korean Air Business Class to South Korea for 120,000 Points. Now that Delta.com is showing award space on Korean airlines it has become infinitely easier to book a trip with them on their Los Angeles to Seoul route. They still have those crazy blackout dates which stop you from traveling but at least you’ll have an easier time finding a viable flight.
December 07, 2012 – January 6, 2013
February 7, 2013 – February 12, 2013
March 1, 2013 – March 3, 2013
May 17, 2013 – June 30, 2013
July 19, 2013 – August 25, 2013
September 14, 2013 – September 23, 2013
October 3, 2013
October 5, 2013 – October 6, 2013
December 7, 2013 – December 31, 2013
2) Virgin Australia Business Class to Australia for 150,000 Points. Australia is the destination I get the most questions about and it is a hard route to find reward flights on. Luckily Delta’s partner airline Virgin Australia has a good amount of low award space if you are flying in the off season for Australian travel. It is probably not the best business class product on this list but the popularity of this destination has pushed this reward flight to the top of the list. I recommend searching for your reward flight directly on Delta.com segment by segment and utilizing the calendar view to check which dates have low tier reward space available.
1) Singapore Airlines First Class Suite to Singapore for 176,000 Points. By booking on their website you can save 15% of your miles on award redemption all year round with no black out dates. Transfers usually take 24-48 hours so check award space before transferring to make sure that your seats will still be available for you when you finally get your KrisFlyer points. Singapore offers flights originating from coast to coast and the prices are steep but the seats are a holy grail of travel aspirations. Krisflyer points transfer at a rate of 1:1.
Membership Rewards Points offer you maximum flexibility for all types of Aspirational awards across all three major airline alliances. The best choice is to keep your Membership Rewards up until you are going to book your reward flight and not change a day earlier than you have to. This allows you to make sure your travel dates have award space before transferring but also gives you the largest window of opportunity to get a transfer bonus to the frequent flyer program you will be using.
I would love you to share your personal list of best reward flights or if you think my list completely misses the mark let me know. I want you to share all your rants, ideas and aspirations in the comments section below and I’ll personally respond to each one of them.
To Your Frequent Flyer Miles Success!