Why the only thing better than transferable points is INSTANTLY transferable points

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One of the key ideas I push on Head for Points is that transferable, or convertible, points are better than non-transferable points.

The best way to explain this is via American Express Membership Rewards points, earned from Amex Gold, Amex Platinum and the Amex Rewards Credit Card.

You can transfer 1 American Express Membership Rewards point into 1 Avios.  You might think, therefore, that 1 Amex point is worth the same as 1 Avios.  IT ISN’T.

1 American Express Membership Rewards points is worth MORE than 1 Avios.  This is because, as well as converting to 1 Avios, it will also convert into 1 Virgin mile, 1 Etihad mile, 1 Flying Blue mile, 2 Hilton points, 1.5 Marriott points, 3 Radisson points, 0.5p of shopping vouchers, 0.45p of statement credit etc etc.

As well as giving you more choice, transferable points are also defensive.  Even if you intend to convert your Amex points to Avios, it makes sense to keep them with Amex until the last minute.  If you move them to Avios and BA moves the goal posts in terms of points needed or availability then you’re stuffed.

Other convertible points currencies include:

  • HSBC Premier credit card points (four airline partners plus shopping vouchers)
  • Tesco Clubcard points (Avios and Virgin plus many non-travel partners)
  • Heathrow Rewards (various airline partners as well as shopping discounts)

So …. convertible points are worth more than non-convertible points.

However ….. INSTANTLY convertible points are worth more than all other convertible points.

Instant transfers from Membership Rewards to Delta SkyMiles

One – sensible – argument against not converting your points until you need them is that the transfer takes time.  Even transfers which are quick, such as American Express transfers to Avios, still require you to wait overnight.  It is possible that the redemption seat you wanted may have gone when they arrive.

Some American Express Membership Rewards partners have INSTANT transfers, however.  The only caveat is that you need to have already linked your accounts.

This is your dream result.  You can look for the seat you want and, when you find it, move the points and immediately book without any risk of losing the seat.

There are no HSBC Premier, Tesco Clubcard or Heathrow Rewards miles partners which allow instant transfers.  This is a unique Amex feature.

Which American Express partners offer INSTANT transfers?

As far as I know, the list is:

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Here is an example

The reason I thought I’d write this article is that I just made such a redemption.  I was looking for an interesting way to get to the Middle East which I haven’t written about before.  I thought Air France was worth a look as you will soon be able to redeem Virgin Flying Club miles on Air France.

Flying Blue, Air France’s own frequent flyer scheme, is also an American Express partner but does not offer immediate transfers.  As both Delta and Air France are members of the SkyTeam alliance, however, I could book the same seat via Delta SkyMiles with an immediate transfer.

This is how easy it was.  Stage 1 was to find the flight on the Delta website (click to enlarge).  Note – in the top right hand corner – that I have a zero mileage balance.

Booking Air France with Delta miles

Happy to book this flight – 42,500 miles plus £321 of taxes was a fair deal compared to 50,000 Avios plus £348 on BA – I went into my American Express Membership Rewards account and transferred 42,500 points:

Amex tells you to wait 30 minutes.  In reality, if you log out of your Delta account and log back in again, the points will be there immediately.  I completed my booking and my seat was sorted.

Even if transfers to Flying Blue were instantaneous, booking via Delta would still have been a better deal than using KLM’s own programme.  My flight would have needed 45,000 Flying Blue miles compared with 42,500 Delta SkyMiles and the taxes were the same.


Transferable points, such as American Express Membership Rewards and HSBC Premier points, are more valuable than non-transferable points.

The most valuable points of all, however, are those that transfer instantly.

PS.  Whilst 42,500 Delta SkyMiles is a better deal to Dubai than 50,000 – 60,000 Avios, it is worth a reminder that this is NOT the best deal to the Middle East.  I booked it because I wanted to try Air France.  The best option is to transfer 25,000 Amex points to the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer scheme which is all you need for a one-way Business Class flight from the UK to the Middle East.  As a Star Alliance partner you’d be flying SWISS, Lufthansa or Turkish.

(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.)

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  1. Ahop – it’s was MCO-MAN just after Xmas, ground staff and aircrew were awesome.


    Original post here…

  2. OT: I’ve just churned the Starwood Amex, but I don’t see the sign-up bonus in my Amex account – usually there is a graphic to show the target spend. My previous SPG card/account was closed 13-Jun, so it’s definitely been six months. Is it worth calling Amex to query whether they have awarded the bonus?

    • I wouldn’t worry about it, the spend trackers tend to come and go. Give it a few days and it should be back!

    • Ive just done the same. Never had a progress bar. Spent exactly £1,000 and now showing 36,000 Starwood points ready to move over at end of month….

  3. One thing you never explicitly mention about Amex points, but which I find extremely useful: they’re the easiest way way of keeping hotel balances alive for programmes where I don’t stay frequently. Much easier than mattress runs!

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Agreed, I sent 3x MR points to Radisson a few months back for exactly this!

  4. I sent some Amex MR to KrisFlyer at 5pm for a redemption to oz, and was surprised that the points posted by midday the next day.

  5. A bit off topic..
    I’m returning to this game after about 18 months out and catching up on some reading. One thing I notice immediately is that there appears to be more generous referral opportunities. I currently hold a BAPP (for @ 8months) and recently hit the £10k target for companion voucher. I have just referred my wife for a BAPP and received 9k referral bonus.
    I’m interested to understand if there is an optimal strategy to maximise referral bonuses between the two of us by churning BAPP, Amex Platinum and SPG. (If I understand the terms correctly, it seems best to make 3 or 6 referrals from one account to maximise the points and perhaps then move to a different account?)
    Thanks in advance for any feedback

    • Genghis says:

      Referrals from Amex Platinum (to any of the referred card options of any currency) are the most rewarding at 18k MRs.

      • Ah, OK thanks.
        So its probably best that at any one point in time one of us holds a Platinum card and work out a schedule to refer and churn the others cards from that point.
        Thanks for your help

        • Subject to an annual limit of 5 referrals or 90k MR points.

        • per calendar year, so best to hold over new year.

        • Yeah the per calendar year is a big one! I had done my 5 last year and was going to cancel. Then I checked with Amex if it was a limit of 5 per year based on the card opening date or calendar year. Was very happy to discover it’s per calendar year! 180k of points in the space of a few weeks if you have enough friends to refer.

  6. OT – The hotel status you get with AMEX. Does it renew or is it a one off? My Radisson account is showing i will downgrade to Silver at the end of next month. Will AMEX upgrade me back to gold and is this automatic?

    • Has always autorenewed for me OK.

      • When did this happen? Should i expect it to lapse and then renew or not actually downgrade at all?

        • With Radisson (and prev Club Carlson) I never dropped. Don’t use them much but excellent upgrade on redemption at Park Inn Oslo Airport earlier this week.

  7. Lady London says:

    Hey Rob I suggest you go back and change this booking immediately.

    Change it to First Class and I believe you might experience the very special First Class Lounge service Air France offers in Paris (if there’s time – make sure you get it).

    That’s apparently even better than the Lufthansa First Class terminal and much more your style 🙂
    Plus wouldn’t we all want to hear about it?

  8. chetas patel says:

    SPG are closed for new members being allowed to transfer their points to emirates skywards

    “If you linked accounts prior to 15 July 2018, you’ll continue to earn and receive benefits with Your World Rewards™.
    If you’re interested in joining Your World Rewards, continue to check back on updates to see when registration returns”

    Sad times as i really want to keep building up my emirates points. wish i still had my mbna emirates.

    • Weirdly I got 554 Emirates miles dropped in my account during the SPG/Marriott IT crisis – even though I have never had Emirates status and therefore do not qualify for earning EK miles!

  9. Steve O'Hara says:

    The ps at the end was interesting and made me think – is there a resource where you could find which is the best program to use points for flying to certain locations? Eg to stop noobs like me dishing out 45k avios when I could go to the same place via a different scheme for 25k (assuming points equivalent) ! I would personally find this an absolutely invaluable tool!

  10. Would EU261 cover if a less than 3 hours delay in the first flight, if this causes the connecting flight to be missed and a more than 3 hours delay to the final destination? Flight to Paris delayed in Rob’s case causing more than 3 hours delay in landing in Dubai?

  11. Qwerty Bertie says:

    Partially on-topic. Thinking of closing the Platinum card to reset the clock and have it again in the 2nd half of the year, but I would prefer to keep the MR points I have built up because of their flexibility.

    I’ve read previously they can be sent to a dollar card, but also that the MR transfer rates are worse with those. However, would it be possible to later transfer them back to a MR-based pound card, whether leaving the dollar card open (if possible) or closing it?

    • Charlieface says:

      Yes apparently it’s one transfer every 12 months. Don’t forget you may be better or worse off depending how exchange rate moves.

      • Yeah was 1.5 USD:GBP when I first got the card – that made Krisflyer transfers amazing value!

        • 1.59 last time I transferred 🙂

          • LOL has clearly been a while 😉 Those were the days!! I’m in Oz on holidays now and am just glad I left some cash here given what’s happened to the GBP…

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