When transferring Amex Membership Rewards Points to Airpoints might not offer best value

GUIDE: Using Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 3 minutes
POSTED: January 3, 2020
UPDATED: January 3, 2020
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: American Express Membership Rewards, Air New Zealand Airpoints

I once had a family member tell me that they planned to transfer their American Express Membership Rewards Points (MRP) to Air New Zealand Airpoints to make a flight reward redemption on Air New Zealand.

I knew that this person didn’t currently have an Airpoints Dollars balance, and that they were starting fresh in the world of points.

The secret is that if you’re planning to use MRP to make an Air New Zealand any seat reward redemption, then there could be a better way.

Airpoints vs Amex Travel

You can convert 10,000 MRP into 66 Airpoints Dollars. These are worth $66 when redeemed on flights with Air New Zealand, though the value can feel slightly less on international flights when you take into account the additional fees/taxes you will need to pay.

This is based on a transfer rate of 150 MRP : 1 Airpoints Dollar.

However, those same 10,000 MRP will convert into $75 that can be spent with American Express Travel Online.

This is a transfer rate of ~133 MRP : $1 NZD.

You might be able to see where I’m going with this, in terms of value proposition.

This doesn’t even take into account the fact that you will earn points and status credits booking with Amex Travel – you won’t earn these if you redeem using Airpoints Dollars.

You also won’t need to wait the 2 business days for your MRP to transfer to Airpoints.

Below are two scenarios showing where Amex Travel comes out ahead of Airpoints, based on the presumption that you have no current Airpoints balance.

Scenario #1 – Domestic

This one-way seat+bag fare from Auckland to Wellington cost $59, or 59 Airpoints Dollars, when booked directly with Air New Zealand.

Air NZ Booking

You would need to transfer 8,850 MRP to Airpoints to redeem for this flight.

If you booked this same fare through Amex Travel, while the cost of the fare was slightly higher at $63, you would have only needed 8,400 MRP.

You would have also earned 1 Airpoints Dollar for the flight.

Air NZ Booking

The fare difference between Air New Zealand and Amex Travel is due to the card payment fee that the airline passes onto Amex ($4 for domestic).

Scenario #2 – Trans-Tasman

This one-way Business Class fare from Auckland to Sydney cost $649, or 582 Airpoints Dollars and $67.72 in taxes and charges.

Air NZ Booking

You would need to transfer 87,300 MRP to Airpoints to redeem for this flight, plus pay the taxes and charges.

If you booked this same fare through Amex Travel, while the cost of the fare was slightly higher at $654.72, you would only need 87,296 MRP, and this would cover the entire cost of the fare, including the taxes and charges.

You would also earn 40 Airpoints Dollars for the flight.

Air NZ Booking

If you choose to pay taxes and charges like you’d otherwise have needed to pay if you made an Airpoints Dollars redemption, this reduces the number of MRP required to 77,466, a saving of 9,834 MRP compared to an Airpoints redemption.

This is because Amex Travel let you mix points and cash for a redemption. This is without any added fees or reduced points and status earn like with Air New Zealand Flexipay.

The MRP saved here is the equivalent of the one-way flight to Wellington that we looked at in Scenario 1. The Airpoints Dollars earn on the booking would also be enough for a domestic Grabaseat fare.

The fare difference between Air New Zealand and Amex Travel is due to the card payment fee that the airline passes onto Amex ($6 for Trans-Tasman).

Amex Travel booking, change and cancellation fees

Amex Travel does charge additional change and cancellation fees for flight bookings on top of the airline’s own fees and the difference in fare. Assuming that changes are permitted for your fare type, these fees are:

  • Amendment Fee: $33.00 per person, per change
  • Cancellation Fee: $55.00 per person

If you are looking to make a flexible reservation and minimise the cost of any flight changes, then this may tip the scales in favour of a direct redemption with Air New Zealand.

Important reminder

If you have an existing Airpoints Dollars account balance, then you might still be better off doing a transfer.

This is because American Express have recently improved the transfer rate to Airpoints. This has narrowed the gap in value between Airpoints and Amex Travel.

As a result, you should only consider using Amex Travel for your redemption over Airpoints where you:

  • currently have no Airpoints Dollars, or where the status point and Airpoints Dollars earn on a revenue booking would otherwise compensate;
  • don’t intend to make changes (and incur more fees); and
  • there is no cheaper standard award availability through a partner programme like KrisFlyer.

Summing up

Using your Membership Rewards Points with Amex Travel for the purpose of booking flights with Air New Zealand can work out to be better value than a transfer to and redemption through the Airpoints programme.

This is a consequence of both MRP and Airpoints Dollars being tied to the cost of the fare.

However this will generally only be the case for those who have no existing balance with Airpoints, and cannot find a cheaper standard award through a partner programme.

When transferring Amex Membership Rewards Points to Airpoints might not offer best value was last modified: January 3rd, 2020 by Daniel Kinnoch