American Express points are our favorites among the dozens of types of rewards we earn. They’re also a favorite of most travel rewards pros in Canada. They’re so versatile… but more importantly, they’re so valuable. Amex points are really must-haves, especially if you want to maximize your free travel!
(You can also join our free webinar for beginners on September 12!)
Basics of Amex points
Among the current incredible offers, some of the most valuable cards earn Amex points, which can be transferred 1 to 1 to Aeroplan points (spoiler alert: often the best use), but are way more flexible.
That’s because they can be used as a simple travel credit (for the many travelers who always prefer things that are more simple rather than more valuable) and in a few other ways instead (while Aeroplan points can only be used as Aeroplan points). It gives you more choices.
Best credit cards for
Amex MR points
Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $7k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1781
Card Fee: $499
Platinum Card® from American Express
Bonus: spend $6k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1910
Card Fee: $699
American Express® Business Gold Rewards Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1125
Card Fee: $199
American Express® Gold Rewards Card
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1165
Card Fee: $250
American Express Business Edge™ Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $750
Card Fee: $99
American Express Cobalt® Card
Bonus: spend $500/mo for 12 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $900
Card Fee: $156
American Express® Green Card
Bonus: spend $1k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $165
Card Fee: $0
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In short, you can get 71,000 American Express points (Amex Gold Card or a bit more with the Amex Business Gold Card). Or even 61%-67% more if you choose the premium cards with the amazing unlimited airport lounge access perk (Amex Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card).
The Amex Cobalt Card‘s 60,000 points aren’t bad, it’s just that it’s the regular offer — while the others currently have massively increased offers compared to their normal offers. The Amex Business Edge Card gives you 59,000 points, a bit higher than usual, but isn’t as interesting as the others — unless you want a lower fee instead of doing what you should do, which is looking at the total value.
The Amex Green Card has no fee, so there’s no upside for those who want to earn fast, as usual! And as a reminder: no need to have a business for Amex “business” cards, but the minimum spend requirements are higher though.
How to use Amex points
Amex points are hybrid rewards since they can be used as both of the 2 only types of rewards that exist: variable-value rewards (more complicated, more value) or fixed-value rewards (less complicated, less value).
But as I said, Amex points are very flexible so they can be used in more than just 2 ways!
So we will divide the article into the 6 different ways that Amex points can work:
- Transfer to Aeroplan (18 good uses)
- Transfer to Avios (12 good uses)
- Transfer to Flying Blue and others (1 good use)
- Transfer to Marriott or Hilton (1 good use)
- Reward flights with the Amex price chart (1 good use)
- Travel credit to erase any travel expense (1 good use)
1. Transfer to Aeroplan (18 good uses)
This is almost always going to be the best use, because Aeroplan is such a great program since it was revamped in November 2020.
We’ve put together an article that lists 18 great uses of Aeroplan points to give you plenty of easy-to-see real-world examples.
Note that 60,000 Amex points = 60,000 Aeroplan points (1 to 1 transfer rate).
This option can give you up to 12 one-way short-distance reward flights (okay almost; that requires 72,000 points)!
2. Transfer to Avios (12 good uses)
The Avios program is not as simple (and has fewer good options), but depending on your travel preferences, it can be very valuable too.
We’ve put together an article that lists 12 good uses of Avios points.
Again, 60,000 Amex points = 60,000 Avios points (1 to 1 transfer rate).
This option is very similar and can also give you 10 one-way short-distance flights, but with much fewer options compared to Aeroplan.
3. Transfer to Flying Blue and others (1 good use)
Okay, there is more than 1 good use with the other airline partner programs, but it’s really a lot rarer that it’s a good value. So we’ll say 1 good use for now: for a sweet spot with other partners.
The 4 other Amex airline transfer partners are:
- Air France / KLM Flying Blue
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Etihad Guest
- Delta SkyMiles
Sweet spots are less common with these 4 partner programs in large part because they have a worse transfer rate! It’s a 1 to 0.75 rate… instead of the 1 to 1 rate for Aeroplan and Avios. So 71,000 Amex points = 53,250 points from these programs.
We’ll discuss it in more detail, but one of the sweet spots is when Flying Blue has monthly promotions like in February: only 32,250 Flying Blue points for Montreal-Paris roundtrip. So 71,000 Amex points would give you 3 one-ways to France, which is not bad despite the sometimes higher taxes with Flying Blue.
The Asia Miles, Etihad Guest, and Delta SkyMiles programs can be interesting too, but it’s just a lot less frequent. More details to come.
4. Transfer to Marriott and Hilton (1 good use)
On the hotel side, the value is not exceptional compared to how valuable Amex points can be for flights.
I’d very rarely recommend this, so again we’ll say 1 good use: if you find a good sweet spot to really maximize hotel points (most likely Marriott points).
We’ve put together an article that lists 5 countries where you make good use of Marriott points. For example, with your 71,000 Amex points, you’d get 13 completely free hotel nights! At the other end of the spectrum, hotels that are very expensive with cash can be an even better use, in terms of monetary value. Even if you get fewer nights.
It depends on what you want to maximize: the amount of trips you get or the amount of money you save! Our ultimate guide to the Marriott Bonvoy program is one that’s ready and it explains everything.
But you really must understand that it’s far from certain that transferring to hotel partners is a good use of Amex points.
This time, 71,000 Amex points = 85,200 Marriott points (1 to 1.2 rate). That seems like a much better transfer rate, but no: hotel points are worth much less than airline points.
As for Hilton, the other hotel transfer partner, that’s almost never a good use (71,000 Amex points = 71,000 Hilton points… and those are worth less than Marriott points on top of that). We’ll have an overview of all the other major hotel rewards programs soon.
5. Reward flights with the Amex price chart (1 good use)
We’re now at the first of the 2 uses of Amex points that don’t involve transferring to another program. The Amex price chart is officially called the Amex Fixed-Points Travel Program.
I’ll do a separate article for you soon, but basically, the Amex price chart has only one good use: when airline tickets are very expensive in cash.
The thing is the price chart will give you a ticket for a fixed number of points, regardless of the cash price (with a maximum price though).
It’s harder to maximize than airline partner programs, at least for those who don’t normally buy expensive flights. And it’s much more restrictive: you have to book flights only departing from Canada and you can only book roundtrips (compared to the RBC price chart that also allows one-ways and USA departures for example).
Here is the Amex price chart for roundtrip reward flights (directly through the Amex program instead of having to transfer points).
So for example, let’s say you use 60,000 of your Amex points for 4 roundtrip flights that cost 15,000 points… you could “save” $1200 ($300 x 4)!
That would give a great value of 2¢ per point (and the Amex Gold Card‘s welcome bonus would be worth $1270 instead of ≈ $915 at our always conservative Flytrippers Valuation).
However, that means you’d be paying for very, very expensive tickets. So it’s just a good use if you were really going to pay a lot of money for those flights (if you didn’t have any flexibility for example). And when the plane ticket’s base fare is as close as possible to the maximum ticket price in the Amex price chart.
When used this way, Amex points only cover the base fare, so not the taxes and some other fees. The maximum ticket price in the price chart is also only for the base fare (the same as the RBC price chart for reward flights).
Remember that what’s important is not how much you pay out of pocket, but how much you SAVE in total, at least if you know how to do the math and if you want to get the most value with your rewards.
So the RBC price chart can still be interesting if you have to go somewhere and the flights are very expensive. For example, if you are going to a European destination that is very expensive for your dates, that can easily cost $1600, especially if you’re not in Toronto or Montreal (which is sad considering we often spot deals to Europe in the $400s roundtrip).
With 65,000 RBC points (the 5,000 missing after the welcome bonus are pretty easy to earn), you could save $1300, a great use on paper. But it’s not a good use if the alternative is a flight to Europe paid with cash that has just a $300 base fare.
To give you an idea, I’ve used airline reward programs for dozens and dozens of flights in the past 10 years, and I haven’t used the bank price charts even once. Because I usually don’t buy expensive flights so it’s less beneficial for me.
In short, the value you can get with the Amex price chart really depends on your personal situation and how good you are at finding cheap flights. As is always the case in the world of travel, you have to compare!
6. Travel credit to erase any travel expense (1 good use)
Finally, the only option that has a fixed value… isn’t really a good use at all in fact.
It’s a “good” use only if you want to keep it simple and are willing to get a lot less value in return, as so many people are.
Instead of being worth ≈ $915, the Amex Gold Card‘s welcome bonus is worth a flat $560 net if you use it like this. Because as a travel credit, 71,000 Amex points = $710.
But it’s much simpler: you can apply the points to any travel expense.
You don’t have to think anything through, you don’t have to maximize anything, you don’t have to take any specific flights, you don’t have to book on any particular site… it’s really as simple as it gets.
Any travel expense. Very simple.
That’s why the other options are about 50% more valuable… but even $560 for free is pretty good!
The American Express Gold Card has the best offer in Canada on a non-premium card. These examples may give you a good idea of what you could do with the increased welcome bonus, while you wait for our more comprehensive guides.
Have any questions about American Express points? Ask me in the comments below.
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