You Can No Longer Transfer American Express Points to Whomever You Wish

For years the official rule with American Express Membership Rewards has been that you could only transfer your points to your own loyalty program accounts, or to loyalty program accounts of people who had linked cards on your Membership Rewards account.

In other words, if you had an American Express Platinum account and earned membership rewards and you had secondary cardholders, you could transfer points to accounts in the name of those secondary cardholders.

And you’d probably have that rule enforced if you called American Express to make the transfer.

But on the Amex website you could always link anyone’s account you wished — it would ask for the accountholder name and account number — and then once linked transfer points into that account.

No longer. The American Express website has changed. It appears you may still be able to transfer points to any loyalty program account no matter whose that is already linked to your Membership Rewards account. But you can no longer link accounts of any ineligible cardmembers.

In fact, you no longer have the option to just enter a name of anyone you wish. Your own name defaults onto the account when you try to do the linking.

Here’s the new process:

And there’s a warning that you can only transfer to your own loyalty accounts.

Instead of entering first name, last name, and account number you now enter your account number and verify details off of your credit card (something you only used to be required to do to actually make a transfer).

And enter an account number that isn’t yours? Denied.

Looks like it may be the end of an era, and the end of a great convenience that’s persisted for many years.

I’ll cop to giving points to friends to keep their accounts active. And while I can book award tickets for friends out of my own accounts, I’ve liked the ability to just top off their accounts towards an award rather than spending all of my own points. So it’s been great to do.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is a major PITA for couples with unequal spending habits. I don’t think Amex thought this through completely….

  2. Seem like only a minor inconvenience for couples with unequal spending. You can still book travel for your spouse/significant other. You just can’t transfer points to their account.
    This was most probably intended to stop the points/mileage dealers from buying, selling, and transferring points.

  3. They did this because of ticket brokers. This makes it much more difficult to do. because the card holder has to book the tickets themselves.

  4. Just linked my SG account to my partner’s MR account with no problem. Haven’t done a transfer yet to verify, but they appear to be successfully linked.

    At first I was confused because you are talking about the MR program but then showed a graphic of SPG, but then I realized you are transferring from MR to SPG. I am really dense some days…

    Why has no one written about this? Why would I ever transfer MR points directly to an airline partner when I could first transfer to SPG and then to the same airline partner for 1.2X the miles? Virtually every MR airline transfer partner is also an SPG partner. I am such an idiot for not knowing this! I just transferred 180K MR points to SG – which means I gave up 45K miles by not first transferring to SPG first.

    Am I wrong, or did I completely screw myself on this?

  5. Ditto: does this exclude spouses? I am on my husband’s card, I would think he can transfer points to me. However, I also have my own card in my own name and it sounds like I cannot transfer my points to him. Clarification is needed!

  6. @R. @Fun Well, of course I didn’t check that 🙂 Until now. Okay, so I’m still an idiot, just a different kind than I thought 30 minutes ago.

    Thanks for clearing this up for me!

  7. This is bad for people with hyphenated last names. My name is spelled differently with every program. I am probably going to be denied using my own points!

  8. @Jon – because MR transfer to SPG at a ratio of 3:1. So for each 1000 MR points transferred, you will only end up with 333 SPG points. So the subsequent 25% bonus isn’t going to make up for the 67% decrease using this method!

  9. If you want to transfer to friends you will need to add them as AU’s, which would require their SSN?

  10. Anh, I’ve had Amex issue authorized user cards to people without SSNs.

    There are segments of US citizens who don’t have a SSN, and at least one of those segments has people who have AU cards in their own name that were issued by Amex. I am not sure if they later provided a SSN for the AUs or not, but they did make some communications about wanting the SSN for AUs who were already issued cards without being given a SSN for the AU.

  11. Add another voice wondering about couples with different last names – presumably they still intend to let spouses transfer to each others’ accounts. There are certainly valid reasons why it might make sense to transfer points accrued by one to another’s account for redemption (e.g., status).

  12. @Matt

    Say I want to book 2 tickets with a given airline that cost 100k each. I have 150k in my account and my domestic partner has 50k in hers. Despite having enough points, we can’t make it work because:
    -She can’t transfer her 50k into my account to book both tickets
    -I can’t transfer my excess 50k into her account so we can book separately

    So now we need to wait until my account has 200k or hers has 100k. That sucks.

  13. @ Justin — why don’t you add your partner as an authorized user? That would allow you to draw from one MR point pool. For example, you can have two Plat cards (1 main + 1 AU); account holder can elect to allow authorized user (2nd cardholder) to redeem/use MR points. When you go to link accounts, you’ll have a drop-down with two cards which allows you to link your card to your airline/hotel programs and your partner’s card to her programs. That’s what I did this morning and it worked fine; haven’t tried to make a transfer though.

  14. aside from adding AU, if family member have same last name – is having same last name sufficient for creating a new linked account? or does both first and last name have to match exactly?

    another issue is hyphenated name convention with diff airlines – some airlines use a space, some use hyphen, some collapse the space altogether. hence same person could have diff spelling with diff airlines when doing the amex name match. ugh.

  15. besides adding AU option, the other could be telephone. telephone agents may not process the name check the same way.

    anyone wanna try and report back?

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