It’s well known that the American Express Membership Rewards program allows you to transfer points to frequent flyer miles on a number of airlines. But don’t forget about the hotel transfer partners, too.
As I write this (May 2013) the list of participating hotel programs are:
- Best Western: 1,000 Membership Rewards Points = 1,000 Best Western Rewards Points. [From my experience their points are worth about 1/2 cent each]
- Choice Hotels: 1,000 Membership Rewards Points = 1,000 Choice Privileges Points. [These typically have a value ranging from 0.6 cents to 1.0 cent per point]
- Hilton HHonors: 1,000 Membership Rewards Points = 1,500 HHonors Points. [Especially after the recent devaluation, these can be worth as little as 0.3 cents per point, which arguably makes them the worst of all the hotel loyalty reward programs]
- Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts: 2,300 Membership Rewards® Points = 100 Sirius Points [after July 31st 2013 they will no longer be a transfer partner]
- Starwood Starpoints: 1,000 Membership Rewards Points = 333 Starpoints. [Just about everyone agrees that SPG has the most valuable point program, which can yield up to 2 cents per point. However given the poor conversion ratio from Membership Rewards, you would be better off to apply for the Starwood card instead.]
As with anything in life, more options are always better, but the hotel partners aren’t exactly AmEx’s biggest strength.
You may want to also consider Chase’s hotel partners…
With certain Chase cards, you can transfer to any of those airlines and hotels at a 1 for 1 point conversion.
However the biggest advantage is that Chase lets you pool your points from multiple credit cards. For example, if you have a Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus, you can combine the points into one big windfall.
The Freedom, Slate, Ink Cash, and basic Sapphire do NOT let you transfer points to travel partners. The cards that DO let you transfer to travel partners are:
If you apply for a couple of those at once, you can score a ton of points to use. The most generous promotion is for the Ink Plus…
Individuals CAN apply for this even though it’s a business card. Doing so would be under the “sole proprietor” option and you would enter your SSN instead of a business tax ID. That’s how I opened my account. The Sapphire Preferred also has a good bonus offer, but chances are you already know about it since this card is more heavily advertised than the Ink Plus.
When to get an AmEx? Cash back and other benefits
The American Express cards that let you transfer points to hotel programs are the ones which use the Membership Rewards program. All of those have annual fees; $95 for the Green, $175 for the Premier Rewards Gold, and $450 for the Platinum. Because of the fees, it would not make a lot of sense to get any of those cards just for their hotel partners. On the other hand, the hotel benefits you get with them (which are separate from the rewards program) are another story – those perks can pay off big. However AmEx’s greatest strength, in terms of rewards, are their cash back programs.