American Airlines’ AAdvantage frequent flyer program offers some good-value redemptions for New Zealand-based travellers, and this trick to transfer your Amex points can come in handy when you need to top up your AAdvantage balance.
This guide has been updated to reflect the rewards program changes following the completion of the SPG and Marriott merger.
How to get your hands on the points in the first place
For Kiwis there is only one way to earn AAdvantage miles from credit card spend: earning points with American Express Membership Rewards cards and transferring them first to Marriott Rewards and then onto AAdvantage.
The sign-up offer for 80,000 Amex Membership Rewards points for the American Express Platinum Charge would get you 31,666 AAdvantage miles through this transfer method, plus an ongoing effective earn rate of 0.83 AAdvantage miles per $ spend on the card.
Transferring Membership Rewards points to Marriott
The transfer rate from Amex Membership Rewards is 1 Membership Reward point = 1 Marriott/SPG point, with a minimum transfer of 330 Membership Rewards points.
You’ll need to link your Marriott/SPG account to your Membership Rewards account when logged into the American Express Membership Rewards website before making the transfer.
Transfers can take up to 14 business days, with the points arriving in your Marriott account reliably around this time.
There’s no need to transfer a specific amount of points from Membership Rewards over to Marriott to maximise any bonuses – the transfer rate is a simple 1:1, and I have never seen a bonus promotion from Amex over to Marriott in recent years, so transfer them whenever you have need to move them – don’t hold off.
For this case study, let’s say we start off with 60,000 Membership Rewards points, transferring over to 20,000 Marriott points.
Transferring from Marriott to American Airlines AAdvantage
This is where things get a little more complex.
Marriott points ordinarily transfer to AAdvantage at 3 points = 1 AAdvantage mile – a simple conversion rate.
On top of this, a 60,000 point transfer to AAdvantage will also earn an additional 5,000 bonus miles – like with Marriott’s many other frequent flyer partners.
This is a bonus you won’t want to miss by making transfers of less than 60,000 points, unless you absolutely have to.
Also, you can only transfer a maximum of 240,000 points to miles every 24 hours out of your Marriott account.
Because the 5,000 mile bonus only kicks in for transfers of 60,000 Marriott points, that means four transfers of 60,000 points per day is the sweet spot – for a total of 240,000 Marriott points transferred to 100,000 airline miles.
Here are some example transfer figures:
30k Marriott = 10k airline miles
60k Marriott = 25k airline miles (20k + 5k bonus)
90k Marriott = 35k airline miles
120k Marriott = 50k airline miles (40k + 10k bonus)
150k Marriott = 60k airline miles
180k Marriott = 75k airline miles (60k + 15k bonus)
210k Marriott = 85k airline miles
240k Marriott = 100,000 miles (80k + 20k bonus)
You’ll also need to consider that the name on the Marriott account has to match the name on your frequent flyer account – no swapsies with friends or family member accounts here.
Combining the two transfers to convert American Express Membership Rewards points to AAdvantage Miles
Back to our 60,000 Membership Rewards point example.
- 60,000 Membership Rewards points will transfer to 60,000 Marriott points.
- 60,000 Marriott points will transfer to 25,000 AAdvantage miles
- Therefore, the effective transfer rate of American Express Membership Rewards points to AAdvantage miles is ~0.42 AAdvantage miles per Membership Reward point.
This allows us then to look at the effective earn rate of American Airlines miles from spend on the two different Membership Rewards cards.
Effective AAdvantage mile earn rates on Membership Rewards cards
Here’s how the two Membership Rewards cards stack up in terms of effective AAdvantage mile earn rates.
The American Express Platinum Edge earns 3 Membership Rewards points per $ at supermarkets, 2 points per $ on fuel, and 1 point per $ everywhere else.
The American Express Platinum Charge earns 2 points per $ everywhere.
For comparison purposes, I’ve assumed that you maximise your AAdvantage miles properly by only transferring Marriott points out in 60,000 point chunks.
|Membership Rewards Card||Spend category||Membership Rewards earned per $||Marriott/SPG points earned per $||AAdvantage miles earned per $ (maximised)|
|Platinum Edge||All other||1||1||0.42|
As you can see, it’s possible to get an effective 1.25 AAdvantage mile per $ at Supermarkets with the Platinum Edge.
And of course, if you purchase gift cards at the supermarket for other retailers, this will extend your earning reach. You can read more about this in our gift card guide.
The same maths of course applies for other airline programs which transfer out in a 1:1 ratio from Starwood, but these aren’t the focus of this guide, so I haven’t listed them explicitly.
Redemption comparisons when using this method
This table shows some example best price redemptions for oneworld airlines and frequent flyer programs. The first number is how many Membership Rewards Points you’ll require, and the number in brackets is how many points/miles this will equal with the airline. For AAdvantage, we have assumed that you are transferring Marriott points out in 60,000 point chunks to take advantage of the 5,000 mile bonus.
It’s by no means complete – the intention is to highlight the cheapest redemption options (in red) for the example routes, across Asia Miles, Qantas Frequent Flyer, and AAdvantage when transferred over via Marriott.
|Asia Miles (MR 1:0.5)||AA Miles (via Marriott with bonus @ 1:0.42)||Qantas FF (MR 1:0.5)|
|one way||one way||one way|
|Cathay Pacific||Business Class|
|Auckland||Hong Kong||130,000 (65,000)||96,000 (40,000)||156,000 (78,000)|
|Auckland||Tokyo||170,000 (85,000)||96,000 (40,000)||208,000 (104,000)|
|Auckland||Shanghai||130,000 (65,000)||96,000 (40,000)||184,000 (92,000)|
|Auckland||Seoul||130,000 (65,000)||96,000 (40,000)||184,000 (92,000)|
|Sydney||Los Angeles||240,000 (120,000)||264,000 (110,000)||288,000 (144,000)|
|Sydney||New York||270,000 (135,000)||264,000 (110,000)||384,000 (192,000)|
|British Airways||First Class|
|London||New York||150,000 (75,000)||204,000 (85,000)||156,000 (78,000)|
|London||Tokyo||220,000 (110,000)||216,000 (90,000)||268,000 (134,000)|
|London||Sydney||270,000 (135,000)||276,000 (115,000)||406,000 (203,000)|
|Auckland||Hong Kong||140,000 (70,000)||96,000 (40,000)||168,000 (84,000)|
|Auckland||Singapore||140,000 (70,000)||96,000 (40,000)||144,000 (72,000)|
|Auckland||London||180,000 (90,000)||204,000 (85,000)||256,000 (128,000)|
|Qantas Trans-Tasman||Business Class|
|Auckland||Sydney||60,000 (30,000)||60,000 (25,000)||72,000 (36,000)|
|Christchurch||Melbourne||60,000 (30,000)||60,000 (25,000)||72,000 (36,000)|
|Queenstown||Sydney||60,000 (30,000)||60,000 (25,000)||72,000 (36,000)|
|American Airlines||Business Class|
|Auckland||Los Angeles||150,000 (75,000)||192,000 (80,000)||168,000 (84,000)|
|Auckland||New York||180,000 (90,000)||192,000 (80,000)||224,000 (112,000)|
As can be seen, Business Class flights to Asia are particularly competitive when booked through AAdvantage, as well as Trans-Tasman.
Asia Miles is a 1:0.5 transfer partner of Membership Rewards and do come out better than using AAdvantage in some cases (e.g. on American Airlines between Auckland and the US, ironically enough!), but they’re pretty close on most routes.
What should be obvious though is that it’s usually always better value to redeem through AAdvantage or Asia Miles for Qantas award flights, than Qantas themselves.
Summing up: why you should know about Membership Rewards → Marriott → AAdvantage transfers
The Membership Rewards → Marriott → AAdvantage transfer route is a bit convoluted, but once you understand how the earn and transfer rates work for your specific card and each program, that can help make a better call on how you redeem your points.
The key takeaways are:
- That you have access to a wide range of overseas frequent flyer programs through your Membership Rewards-linked card and the Marriott/SPG program
- That these overseas Frequent Flyer programs, like AAdvantage, often offer lucrative miles purchase programs, meaning these accounts can be topped up from your Membership Rewards balance if needed
- AAdvantage has some redemption sweet spots for Kiwi travellers
- Different Membership Rewards cards have category-specific spend bonuses that, if taken advantage of, increase your Marriott and AAdvantage earn opportunities
- Try to take advantage of the 5,000 mile transfer bonus for transfers of 60,000 Marriott points
Links to American Express cards mentioned in this guide
The American Express Platinum Edge Card has 20,000 Membership Rewards Bonus Points on offer along with a complimentary domestic Air NZ return flight.
- 20,000 Membership Rewards points
- Earn 3 Membership Rewards Points per dollar spent at supermarkets, 2 Rewards points at major petrol stations and 1 Rewards point on all other purchases
- Complimentary annual direct domestic return flight
- Annual fee: $149 p.a.
- Ability to transfer points to any of their seven airline partner rewards programs
- Minimum spend of $750 within the first 3 months to receive bonus points. Available to new American Express cardholders only
Point Hacks receive a maximum of $80 per applicant for this card. More about this →
The American Express Platinum Charge card has 80,000 Membership Rewards Bonus Points on offer with a $1,250 fee, along with a lot of perks and benefits. Read the Point Hacks guide for the full rundown.
- 80,000 Membership Rewards Bonus Points
- $200 travel credit annually
- Complimentary Priority Pass membership
- Complimentary Accor Plus programme membership extended to April 2021
- $1,250 p.a. annual fee
- Earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar
- Spend $1500 within the first 3 months to get the bonus
Point Hacks receive a maximum of $180 per applicant for this card. More about this →