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If you have an American Express credit card and travel frequently, there may be a new option for you to upgrade to a better seat when you book your next flight. American Express launched its “Upgrade with Points” program on May 1, 2019. The new program allows you to upgrade your seat by using the Membership Rewards® points or a combination of points and dollars. The program is available to cardholders with an eligible U.S. consumer, business, or corporate card that are enrolled in the Membership Rewards program.
Upgrade with Points is in partnership with Plusgrade, which is a platform used by many airlines to allow travelers to bid on upgrading their seats.
The basis of Plusgrade is to fill up premium seats that would otherwise be empty. So, a last-minute bid to fill them would make sense for airlines.
How the Membership Rewards® program works
In order to use the Upgrade with Points feature you need to visit upgrade.americanexpress.com/airlines and choose your airline.
Enter your reservation details to see if your itinerary is eligible to upgrade.
If eligible, use your Membership Rewards points (or a combination of points and dollars) to place an offer towards an upgrade.
Your offer will be accepted or declined by the airline, usually within 5 days of your flight. Whatever the airline’s decision, American Express will communicate the result to you via email prior to your departure.
If your offer was accepted, visit your airline’s website or call your airline to obtain a copy of your updated itinerary.
As explained above, the process is pretty simple as long as you plan ahead.
What are the 21 airline partners?
American Express currently works with the following airlines:
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air Mauritius
- Caribbean Airlines
- Etihad Airways
- Fiji Airways
- Gulf Air
- Kenya Airways
- Malaysia Airlines
- Silk Air
- Singapore Airlines
- TAP Portugal
As you can see, there are plenty of options, particularly for international flights and travel credit cards.
Is it worth it to use Upgrade with Points?
When it comes to Amex rewards cards, 1,000 points is around $10 of value that goes towards an upgrade. With the Upgrade with Points program, the points are on a fixed value, which is 1 cent per Membership Rewards point.
If you know a thing or two about points, you’ll know that 1 cent per point isn’t horrible, but it isn’t the best either. A better way to get more value for your points is to simply transfer them to one of Amex’s partner airlines and then book a premium ticket or upgrade. Perhaps this is the way you’ve been using your Amex points to book flights.
So, all things considered, using the Upgrade with Points probably wouldn’t be the best option. But, it’s an option, nonetheless.
What you should know about Upgrade with Points
Know the rules before you decide to upgrade your seat. Therefore, here are important things to understand.
Once your bid to upgrade has been accepted, it can’t be changed. However, you can use Upgrade with Points regardless of the credit card you used to purchase the ticket.
The following cards are not eligible for to transfer points:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Blue for Business® Credit Card
- Blue for Students®
- Some Blue from American Express Cards
- A Business Management Account
- Gold Optima® Card
- Optima® Credit Card
- Optima® Platinum Card®
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- ZYNC® Card
Therefore, it is important to understand these rules, do a bit of research, and plan ahead to get the most out of this program and out of your travel credit cards. So, are you planning on using Upgrade with Points?
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.