This little trick was shared with me some months ago in confidence (thanks S.S.!) so I never blogged it, but now it’s out in the frequent flyer forums and on blogs (e.g. today at The Points Guy).
So now that it’s out, it’s no longer a secret, I can pass this along.
American Express Membership Rewards is a great currency. I love flexible currencies because you can choose where to move points to when you know what award you want and further when you know who has award availability for that itinerary. It increases your ability to get the award redemption you want when you want it.
But American Express has its drawbacks. Last year their partner Aeroplan started adding fuel surcharges onto most of their award tickets, you now often come out of pocket an extra $700 or so per person. And they lost transfer partner Continental when that airline merged with United. Together that meant that — though Aeroplan, All Nippon, and Singapore Airlines remain transfer partners — the ability to book Star Alliance awards at both a reasonable mileage cost and without paying fuel surcharges (on itineraries where such surcharges are included in paid fares) was for the most part gone. (Aeroplan doesn’t add surcharges to all partners, but they do now to most.)
As such, it’s useful to know that you can move Aeroplan points over to US Airways via Points.com. You lose about 15% of your points in the process.
But US Airways has some awards where their pricing is favorable (especially after Aeroplan increased the cost of many awards last year as well), you can even come out ahead, like business class from the US to North Asia (eg Hong Kong) for 90,000 miles.
And it may be worth the reduction in points to save on fuel surcharges, which US Airways doesn’t add onto awards.
Now that this is ‘out’ it’s possible that the transfer ratio over at Points.com changes. So it’s a good idea to verify that Aeroplan is still transfering to US Airways at about 1 to 0.85 before you do this.
But for now you can move points one-to-one from American Express to Air Canada Aeroplan instantly, and then move the Aeroplan points via Points.com over to US Airways.
Points.com usually offers terrible ratios on converting points. (Note this is not where you trade points in their marketplace with another member for large fees, this is where you exchange points between your own accounts for no fee but usually while losing most of the points in the process.) I almost never use Points.com, although it can be useful to keep an account active by moving a single mile into a program where your points would otherwise expire, and it can be useful to move a few points when that counts as partner activity for a bonus promotion (such as the US Airways Grand Slam we’re all hoping comes back). This just happens to be another exception to the rule that transferring points via Points.com is never worth it.