How to get a 30% bonus on your Membership Rewards balance – but why it isn’t always a great idea

One of the downsides of the fall of Sterling against the Dollar and the Euro has been to destroy, pretty much, the generous arbitrage that used to be available if you held the American Express International Dollar Card.

In the past with Sterling at $1.60, you could use this to get a 60% bonus on your existing UK Membership Rewards balance.  This is especially interesting if you have thought about booking a Singapore Airlines redemption because it reduces the cost substantially as you will discover below.

The fall in the US$ to 1.30 to the £1 means that this option is less exciting than it was as you are now only getting a 30% bonus.  There are still reasons for doing it however which I will discuss below.

Please note this is ‘PhD level’ points collecting. It is unsuitable for anyone with an Amex Membership Rewards balance of under 50,000 points and/or no experience of airline programmes apart from Avios.

Let me explain in simple terms how you can benefit from this:

Amex Green

Amex issues (from the UK) an International Dollar Card. They come in Green, Gold and Platinum.   For the purposes of this discussion we are only interested in the Green card which has an annual fee of $100 and an additional $36 annual fee to access Membership Rewards.

This card bills in US$ and you must pay the bill in US$ by bank transfer.  Most UK online banking systems can handle this – I do it via HSBC with no problems.  

As a US$ card, any Sterling transactions you make on it are hit with a 3% FX fee plus you have to pay whatever charges your bank makes for transferring money to Amex in $ to pay your bill.  This means there is no point getting this card for general day to day spending due to the FX fees unless you have a US$ bank account and spend a lot of money in the US

However, once you have the card, you can transfer your UK Membership Rewards balance to your IDC card Membership Rewards account. Your balance is grossed up by the £/$ exchange rate, so currently you get 1.3x your UK balance.  100,000 UK MR points will turn into 130,000 points in your IDC MR account.

You are only allowed one transfer from the UK to IDC scheme every 12 months (rolling 12 months)

However, most Membership Rewards products for IDC cardholders are more expensive (see here). Avios transfers are 3:2 instead of 1:1 from the UK scheme.  This makes it pointless as you would actually end up worse off.

However, a number of airlines – including Singapore Airlines – allow 1:1 transfers, so you are effectively getting a 30% bonus on transferring to them.

There are also partners in the IDC Membership Rewards programme who are not in the UK programme.  These include Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Jumeirah Hotels.

Getting an IDC card used to be very complex, including bank references.  Amex appears to be taking it easier these day if you are an existing cardholder, which you would be.

How can I benefit from this?

The following airline partners let you transfer 1:1 from the IDC Membership Rewards programme into your airline account. This means (because of the 30% uplift when you move your points from the UK to IDC MR programmes) you effectively get a 30% transfer bonus.

  • Alitalia (SkyTeam)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (oneworld)
  • Finnair (oneworld)
  • Malaysia Airlines (oneworld) (not in the UK MR scheme)
  • Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance)

The following airlines and hotels are also IDC Membership Rewards partners but are NOT worth transferring to because they have adjusted their transfer rate compared to the UK scheme:

  • Avios (BA and Iberia) 3:2 (UK 1:1)
  • Club Carlson 2:3 (UK 1:3)
  • Delta Skymiles 3:2 (UK 1:1)
  • Emirates Skywards 3:2 (UK 1:1)
  • Etihad Guest 3:2 (UK 1:1)
  • Flying Blue 3:2 (UK 1:1)
  • Hilton HHonors – 4:5 (UK 1:2)
  • SAS EuroBonus 3:2 (UK 1:1)
  • Starwood 3:1 (UK 2:1)
  • Virgin Flying Club 3:2 (UK 1:1)

The following are not in the UK scheme but are in the IDC scheme:

  • Jumeirah Sirius – 4:1
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club – 3:2
  • Malaysia Airlines – 1:1

I have used transfers to the Jumeirah Sirius scheme to pay for our regular Dubai holidays for the last couple of years.


You should only consider an IDC American Express card if you are interested in moving your Membership Rewards points to Alitalia, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Singapore Airlines, Malaysian, Qatar Airways or Jumeirah Hotels.  The first four have attractive 1:1 rates whilst the last three are not UK Amex partners.

Singapore Airlines is likely to be the most popular option because Singapore is SUBSTANTIALLY more generous with award seats for its own members than it is for other Star Alliance partners.  I booked my Singapore flights via this route when we went there on holiday last year.

The good news is that all three major alliances are covered here, so you can access the bulk of the major global airlines.

You would, of course, have to look carefully at each programme before transferring. You could book a BA flight via Finnair, Cathay or Malaysian, for example, but you would need to pick a route for redemption and then see which carrier needs fewest miles. You also need to consider cancellation and change fees and whether one-way awards are possible.

As I said, this is definitely not something for beginners. If you know what you’re doing, however, there could be real value to be had.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Another benefit for Marriott members joining Starwood - dining discounts
250 free Avios still available if you pre-register for Aer Lingus AerClub
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  1. The US points and miles blogs I read often report on Amex transfer bonuses to various partners, including BA and VS as I recall. I’ve never taken much notice of these posts so I haven’t got a feel for whether the bonuses come up with enough frequency to make it worth factoring in to the decision to get one of these cards. Could you comment Rob?

    • I have the US dollar card, I’m pretty certain you can’t get the US Amex transfer bonus, the reason being the card is issued from the UK. I got mine 3 years ago and the process took some time, however just one transfer of MR points at 1.5 made it all worthwhile as they were transferred on to Singapore Airlines.

      • Amex has stopped doing bonuses from the UK it seems.

        Note that any US bonuses you see are NOT available on the IDC card. It has its own unique Membership Rewards scheme.

        • I find it odd that the MR points accrued in different countries can vary so much. I get 3 MR points in supermakets and restaurants Per $ in Oz and can still transfer them to Singapore at 1:1. That works out at 5.1 per £

          • Great isn’t it! And of course if you have cards in both the UK and Oz you can transfer from the UK at the current exchange rate, as for the (US) dollar card. If only the rate would go back to the 2.2 I got when I transferred points last year….

            • Hi louie

              I have an amex card in Australia… how can I transfer my English MR points over to my Australian card and get the bonus?

            • Simply ring up Amex in Brighton. As with the dollar card which this article is about, they transfer your UK points to your Australian MR account at the current UK:Oz exchange rate.

            • Wayne Phillips says:

              Careful to check the partners in Oz, and the transfer rates. They’re shockingly poor in NZ, the impression is they’re better in Oz

     has good coverage

        • That’s a shame, as at the moment I am seeing a 50% BA bonus on the US-issued AmEx card.
          Normal US rate: 5 MRs to 4 Avios. However due to the bonus they are currently offering 5MRs to 6 Avios conversion (hence at the moment, a 1.56 Avios for a UK MR point assuming $1.30 rate).

  2. Transfer bonuses to BA miles/Avios used to be common with the UK card too, but those days seem to be long gone, and it’s been a few years now since I’ve seen one.

    I believe I got 100% bonus last time there was an offer.

    • I am in the same boat. Have been sitting on amex gold rewards card points for over 12 months, I’ve been patiently waiting for an Amex to Avios conversion bonus…. Any idea if it will happen?

  3. I did exactly that last year and had my UK MR balance grossed up by 1.5. I think you can only do it once per annum too. Whether that’s a calendar year or a rolling 12 months I don’t know!

    I used it to transfer to Singapore Airlines and managed to snag 4x business seats to New Zealand. Admittedly 355 days in advance and at 3am when they were released. and I’ve only got 3 more weeks to wait for our trip :-).

  4. Rob: I am confused by the above.
    Take the IDC card only if you want to convert to …., Qatar Airways, …
    But earlier above, you stated …. Not Worth transferring to … Qatar Airways.
    So I am confused by the Qatar Airways bit.

    • [There are also partners in the IDC Membership Rewards programme who are not in the UK programme. These include Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Jumeirah Hotels.]

      ie you can’t get points to them via the UK program but you can this way if you are points-rich

      • It’s a shame etihad have adjusted their program as I use MR points in their scheme, however last year I got a 20 % bonus from Amex and HSBC to etihad guest.
        This article is great if we want to fly east in the future!

  5. OT; Tesco have actually considered their customers and made cc points on gift cards more accessible to their everyday customers 😉
    Shock horror :)
    What will they think of next ….nice customer service !!!!!

    • It will be interesting to see how many clubcard points are awarded from today for those buying gift cards. Wouldn’t be surprised if tesco includes a ” not applicable when purchasing gift cards etc” clause.

    • 75 points for £25 spend until mid October.
      Either a soft landing – or more likely an invitation for people to start the habit, and then revert to 150 for £50 spend for xmas (along with a magazine voucher)
      Seems like an over reaction from the doom mongers, and surprised this hasn’t already been covered on Shopper points, given all the constant recent reminders.

  6. I wonder can I transfer UK Amex Points to a third person (not connected by surname or address) Avios or Virgin Flying Club.

    • not directly (in principle) but you could transfer them to another scheme that allows you to gift them to A.N.Other (usually for a fee)

  7. I am currently saving Kris Flyer miles for a future trip to Oz. DO they allow one way redemptions. Looking to do Singapore to Brisbane leg in Business for 55k each.

    • Consider that Saver awards on SilkAir, and Saver or Standard awards on Singapore Airlines currently enjoy a 15% discount when you redeem online.

      • Not ready to buy at the moment as I am still saving – just wanted to make sure I was ok for a one way redemption and not have to change plans to save for a return leg too.

  8. Does the euro card offer similar opportunities.
    Not sure it’s worth the effort just for the points but as my husband works in Amsterdam and we have a Euro bank account there it will probably save us a fortune on exchange fees too.

  9. Can you use Transferwise to pay off your bill in usd? I presume this would be way cheaper than a bank transfer.

    • No you can’t – the bank setup at the Amex end isn’t just a normal account so Transferwise can’t handle it. I always use Caxton FX to pay my IDC bill, their fees are pretty low and a decent exchange rate. To use my own bank would have been ludicrously expensive (Raffles has the benefit of HSBC ex-staff rates IIRC!)

      • +1 Canton FX, only restriction is I think it has to be a minimum of £100 si your account may go into surplus

    • Probably as long as it can transfer to a Standard Chartered account in New York. As all I put through the card each year is $136 (the fees) I just pay it from HSBC and swallow any miniscule loss compared to using a specialist.

      • Nope if definitely doesn’t work, Rob – they can’t cope with the extra information that has to go in the transfer.

  10. OT:

    I note on the Amex website they are stating that some UK universities accept Amex payments for fees.
    Does not help me but if theres no extra fees for card usage would be a easy way to drop ~£9K onto a card..

    easy way to 30K of points for anyone without a gold card.

    sorry if this has been mentioned elsewhere.

    • [•Please note the University of Exeter does not accept American Express or Diners’ Cards.]

      probably a bit hit & miss at the moment

    • A lot of universities don’t accept American Express but if the university you’re paying does, go for it as there wouldn’t be a more fees on your end and you’d reap a nice handsome amount of MR.

      • As i said it’s of no use to me, i wish it still was…

        A quick scan of the major uk universities and payments

        Manchester – Yes
        Leeds – No
        Liverpool – Yes
        Newcastle – Yes
        Birmingham – No
        Nottingham – Yes
        UCL – No
        Sheffiled Hallam – No
        Cardiff – No
        Edinburgh – Yes
        Manchester Met – No

    • Also you can pay using multiple cards to make up the final amount.
      Did this with Edinburgh Uni last week with a new Platinum card (to get sign up bonus) and put the reminder on my BAPP.

  11. Rob, to clarify if one took out the IDC, could you still churn the UK platinum card and retain the sign up bonuses or would holding the IDC mean that Amex see you as already having a MR account?

  12. O/T I never received the targeted offer from Amex of 10k Avios for spending £10k. Emailed Amex over the weekend asking if i was eligible as i had already spent the £10k. I knew i wasn’t but worth a try. Today i received the following

    “Thank you for writing to us.

    I would like to inform you that the offer of 10,000 Avios is for those Cardemembers only who received the email from our Marketing Team. However, you do not need to worry at all.

    As you have already spent £10,000, I have immediately applied 10,000 Avios on your account. You can view these Avios online right away. ”

    Boom – can’t fault Amex’s level of customer services.

  13. OT – apologies, but can’t seem to find the answer using the search function on here – can anybody tell me how it works with the card fee if I upgrade from the Gold card to the Plat? My year started in August, so I’ve already paid the Gold fee – will this amount be taken off the £450 I would pay for the Plat if I upgrade, or is it an extra expense?
    Many thanks!

    • When I upgraded via the link somewhere in this site to get 20000 bonus MR, I was not charged the £450. It is not certain if you will be charged though I have seen reports on here if people have £450 charged straight away.

  14. Could the bill beard off with eg Revolut?

    • I believe Revolut is a card. Unless Revolut offers bank transfers then I don’t think so.

      • Guesswho2000 says:

        Revolut does offer bank txfers, so it might work? You enter your IBAN etc., and it takes a couple of days to turn up in your foreign account.

        I’ve only used it to transfer to NAB, not Amex, so it might be different with businesses, but I don’t see why.

        • The problem would be the same as trying to use Transferwise, I think – the Amex ICC payment setup is more complex than a normal bank transfer. It’s also not an IBAN, you need to input SWIFT, bank A/C number and Fed Reserve ABA along with your card number as payment reference. TBH I found it painless with Caxton and very reasonable fees so have just used them each year (I have the Plat one as they still cover >70s on the travel insurance, so handy for my folks)

    • No

      • Sorry, another OT question.
        Those who uses Revolut card, I was wondering if you all have done the ID verification through the app?
        The reason I am asking is that I am not too keen about this verification process but they don’t seem to offer another way, or is there another way around?
        Thank you.

  15. beard = be paid

  16. Sussex Bantam says:

    OT – new Accor competion here

    Bizarre mini-game – but the correct choices to make are left, left, right (that will make sense if you load up the game!)

  17. Any other HFP tears here in Galleries North ATM? Heading to Dublin..

  18. Wish I’d transferred more across to my IDC card when the exchange rate was 1.6! The risk however was that SQ transfer rate would have worsened but of course given what has subsequently happened with exchange rates I could have just transferred them back to the UK account at a profit!

    Still got a bit of a stash in IDC MR account – the benefit to holding them there rather than in SQ is it means you don’t start the expiry clock until they hit your SQ KF account!

    Suites class return from LHR to AKL was bloody fantastic – even better that I had the whole cabin to myself on the SIN-AKL leg – had a separate double bed to sleep in and they’d already opened both types of champagne so I felt I had to drink plenty of them both 😀 (they serve Dom and Krug)

  19. OT – Just on the off chance weed to book a journey with Virgin West trains in the couple of weeks, anyone aware of any discounts or up coming sales worth holding out for.

  20. O/t. I have a low limit on my virgin credit card. If I over pay it will I still earn my normal miles and bonus miles? I’ve got a big VAT bill to pay


    • Yes. However (not that it matters in this case) if you go into credit you lose Section 75 protection if the retailer goes bust, as you are paying with your own money and not MBNA’s.

      • Never knew that Raffles so thanks. I’ll stop forward loading my Lloyds Amex (due to their stingy credit limit not seen by me for some 20 years) now then!

      • Is that still the case when you purchase using a credit balance from a refund?

      • Ben Davies says:

        Would it look really suspicious with a £1500 limit and an £11000 VAT bill? Maybe it is too much of a risk? I’ve heard that they may only authorise up to the credit limit

        • MBNA will only authorise up to the credit limit, so you would only be able to have £1500 in pending regardless of the credit balance on your card (Tested recently and confirmed by phone). With Lloyds you could prepay and do higher than the limit purchases.

        • Why don’t you just split it into 8 tranasactions over 8 weekdays? Pay the balance by debit card online each day which will free up the credit again after 21:30 each weekday (weekends are out). Bit long winded but doable.

    • TRied this paying into credit with double glazing for a house.

      IT would only take 2 transactions at the credit limit, but the MBNA security choked for some reason, and triggered one of those secondary verification schemes for future online transactions.

      BIt of a sod to sort out, but now seems OK I hope. And I ended up paying with a debit card,

  21. OT Have a voucher code for 25% off National Express coachcard if anyone wants it (think it’s targetted so might only work once) – can get 1 adult 1 child for £6, or 2+2 for £12
    Voucher ID FC1610-4778-01
    Security Code 8161D53A4B

    redeem at

    Anyone got a code for discount on family railcard?

  22. Are there any sign up bonuses on the IDC?

  23. I moved to Canada just before Brexit and literally doubled my MR points and still got a 50k signup bonus. Not bad going. The only sad thing is that there are less partners but Aeroplan is proving to be very useful.

  24. Raffles, hi. Do you know if there’s a way to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card for UK residents? I’m dying to get one -it’s soooo good.
    Thank you

    • There’s lots of nice deals in the US card arena, sadly not an option unless you’ve got a US Social Security Number (plus some sort of credit file there!)

  25. The right redemption can really work well via this method with CX too.
    2 pax LHR-HKG-LHR in BA Club (peak) would require 180k + a 241 voucher. At 1.33 exchange rate, convert the 180k MR to Cathay = 240k, with which you can book exactly the same 2 seats on BA yet no need to burn the 241 voucher. If you choose to fly Cathay instead benefit from lower taxes/fees and a better experience. I’m doing exactly this for a Vietnam trip next year, and the connecting flights from HKG-DAD//HAN-HKG were included free on the same booking thanks to the CX distance based (rather than segments) reward chart.


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