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Membership Rewards cardholders can now upgrade their flights with points

American Express just launched a new upgrade with points program with more than 20 partner airlines

Summary

American Express Membership Rewards cardholders can now bid on seat upgrades with partner airlines, but prices may be too high to justify using the feature.

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Last week, American Express announced a new perk for Membership Rewards cardholders – offering them a new way to redeem their rewards. With the new “Upgrade with Points” program, eligible cardholders can use Membership Rewards points to bid on seat upgrades with 21 airline partners.

This new redemption option adds even more flexibility to Membership Rewards points – but is it a good deal? Read on to learn how you can take advantage of the new perk and if it is a good choice for your next vacation.

Eligible airlines

Unfortunately, not all American Express airline partners allow you to upgrade with Membership Rewards points. Only the following 21 airlines qualify:

  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air Mauritius
  • Avianca
  • Caribbean Airlines
  • Ethiopian
  • Etihad Airways
  • Fiji Airways
  • Gulf Air
  • Icelandair
  • Kenya Airways
  • LATAM
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Norwegian
  • Qantas
  • Silk Air
  • Singapore Airlines
  • TAP Portugal

How does upgrading with points work?

To be eligible to upgrade a flight with Membership Rewards points, you’ll need to have a reservation with one of the partner airlines. Then, you can visit the upgrade with points landing page to see if you are eligible for an upgrade.

Once you choose the airline you are flying on, you’ll be prompted to enter your reservation information and be notified if you qualify to upgrade your booking. If you do, you’ll be able to big on all eligible flights (i.e. departure and return).

For each upgrade bid, there will be a minimum amount of points you can offer. You’ll also be able to view an estimate on how strong your chances are of getting an upgrade for your proposed price. If you don’t have quite enough Membership Rewards points for a strong bid, you can add cash to any offer to boost your chances. However, you’ll still need enough points to meat each deal’s minimum. You won’t be able to bid in cash alone.

After you place your offer, you’ll be notified within five days of your flight if it was accepted.

Is upgrading with points worth it?

The current list of American Express upgrade with points airline partners is fairly limited – with no major airline on the list. Additionally, The Points Guy reports that upgrading with points can be more expensive than a round-trip plane ticket. If you are paying that much more to upgrade, it might be a better use of your points to save them for another trip.

Plus, bidding on a flight upgrade with points only gets 1 cent per point of value. Since you can often get a better point value out of Membership Rewards by transferring to one of several American Express partner airlines, this is not the most lucrative redemption option for your rewards. You might even be able to find a better deal on an upgrade by transferring your points to a frequent flyer program and using the airline’s upgrade system.

Nevertheless, this new redemption option adds to the flexibility of Membership Rewards points. If you already have a flight scheduled with an eligible airline, it’s worth checking out the new option.

What’s up next?

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Published: May 9, 2019

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