American Express Membership Rewards is a great program. The best redemptions by far are on airlines. For that, your home base really matters. I’ve redeemed many times from my home base of Boston, and share my tips below.
What are AMEX Membership Rewards?
American Express Membership Rewards are credit card reward for spending money on a number of American Express cards. Some of the best ways to earn include using an AMEX Gold to spend money on advertising (3 points per dollar). Generally American Express Membership Rewards are worth up to 3 cents per mile for a great redemption, giving you 9% back on your spend!
Bad Uses of American Express Membership Rewards
You can technically redeem American Express Membership Rewards in Boston for a variety of products that are not airlines. This includes Amazon, Just Giving, and statement credits – these are generally poor options. They are cash equivalents, and value each point at around 1 cent, much lower than the best possible redemption.
Low value for cash redemptions makes sense. Redeeming AMEX Membership Rewards for cash is easy, so you have to pay for that convenience. On the vendor side, it makes sense too because, for example, it costs Amazon nearly 1 cent to redeem your point for 1 cent on it’s side.
Best Uses of American Express Membership Rewards
Conversely, redeeming for flights generally is high value. First, it takes a lot of work to find a flight with reward redemption, so you’re paying by bargain hunting. Second, a lot of sites claim high redemption value, but then compare against the “cash value” of the redemption – which is often ridiculous since you would never pay that cash value to begin with. Finally, if there is a flight that is not booked out, airlines would lose out on the revenue away. The marginal cost of having you fly Boston-Madrid on Iberia Business Class is probably $50 in fuel costs. This is why redeeming American Express membership rewards for flights is most worthwhile.
Given that redemptions for flights are most worthwhile, then a lot of the redemption possibilities are based on which airport you’re from. If you’re based on Boston’s Logan Airport, like I am, your selection with AMEX MR is very different from the average American. And a guide like this, that focuses on Logan, will help you most efficient find the best flights.
Aside: why you should trust me.
You should trust me because I have over a million American Express Membership Rewards miles. I’m an enthusiast in airline point redemptions. I have redeemed hundreds of thousands of these miles across more than a dozen airlines. A lot of guides are written by people who never tried redeeming the majority of the routes themselves. This leads to terrible advice like “transfer your points to Aeromexico and then use it on their partners”. Anyone who has ever tried to transfer to Aeromexico for partner rewards knows the system essentially doesn’t work.
The Best Redemptions from Boston Logan Airport (BOS) of American Express Membership Rewards
That said, what are the best possible redemptions, informed by my actual redemptions (on the majority of the routes below) as well as theory:
- AA Flagship First, LAX-BOS via Etihad. This is bar none, my favorite redemption that I have used my self a number of times. Flagship first in American Airlines comes with its own semi-enclosed suite that has both window and aisle access. You basically get half the width of the entire plane. Normally, the ticket on this would cost upwards of $1000, but you can redeem it via Etihad for 25,000, or more than 4-5 cents a mile. More than that, this will actually be a route you could see yourself buying even without the points. This is not some esoteric round-the-world high-theoretical-point-value redemption that you would have never paid cash for anyway!
- Delta via Virgin Atlantic. One way flights from US to Europe through Virgin Atlantic on Delta One is just 50,000 points, and doesn’t have fuel surchargers. Delta One has their suite experience, and there are a number of Delta flights to Europe from Boston, like to Rome. This is a wonderful redemption because US to non-UK Europe is still one of the sweet spots left in the Virgin Atlantic chart.
- Boston to Hawaii on United (via Avianca Lifemiles). One great transfer for American Express Membership Rewards in general is to Avianca Lifemiles, which lets you access all the United reward inventory with minimal surcharges. This opens up all of the US, and the Avianca Lifemiles program is distance and stop based, so direct United Flights are a huge sweet spot. The dollars per mile is only good but not stellar, but again, these are flights you would actually otherwise pay for.
- Fly to Madrid or Barcelona in business class on Iberia. This is one I’ve personally done many times. For 34,000 miles off-peak, you can get a lie-flat business class flight to Madrid, which is an excellent deal. Enjoy the great food, people, and architecture in Spain.
- Fly American Airlines short haul. You can fly from Boston to New York, Philadelphia, and DC for just 6,000 points by transferring to Iberia’s Avios. This is especially useful to check if you were going to buy the flight anyway, and were doing so last minute. Last minute flights to NYC can easily cost $200 with cash, and be available for just 6,000. If you like flying business class for even short haul, this becomes an especially good deal. For more savings, pair this up with sleeping in your car in NYC.
To conclude, American Express Membership Rewards is a great program. The best redemptions by far are on airlines, and for that, your home base really matters. I’ve redeemed many times from my home base of Boston, and hope that my tips help you with many happy journeys!