How To Upgrade Your Flight Using AmEx Membership Rewards Points

by Chris Dong

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American Express has announced the ability to use Membership Rewards points as currency to bid on upgrades for flights. Note that the airlines that AmEx is working with will likely already have these upgrade bid offers loaded onto their own websites — this though provides an opportunity for customers to use Membership Rewards points instead of cash. In that respect, choice is good.

This is how to use AmEx points to upgrade flights.

Bidding On Flights?

As background, many airlines will offer customers the ability to bid on an upgrade if there happens to be remaining seats available. This is a way for airlines to make some extra revenue without having the seats go out empty. If you win the bid, you pay up and get the upgrade. If your bid isn’t accepted, you stay in your seat and lose nothing.

American Express notes that they are the only U.S. credit card loyalty program to offer such an offer using points.

How American Express Upgrade With Points Works

First, you do not need to purchase the flight directly with American Express. AmEx is working with an existing software called Plusgrade to integrate with 20 airlines to obtain the upgrade information. That means you can have booked anywhere, including directly with the airline.

You can also pay with points exclusively or a mix of points and cash to bid for upgrades to first, business, or premium economy.

Once logged into your account, click on “Book or Upgrade Travel” and select the airline you’re flying with. Then, enter your reservation details to see if you’re eligible for an upgrade bid.

a screenshot of a website a screenshot of a website a screenshot of a computer

The offer you entered will be accepted or declined by the airline, usually within five days of your flight. American Express will communicate the result to you via email prior to departure. If your offer was accepted, you can then visit the airline’s website or call the airline to obtain a copy of your updated itinerary.

Is It Worth It To Use AmEx Points To Upgrade A Flight?

It depends how you value your points.  For most cards, American Express is pegging the value of one Membership Reward point to one cent. The value in a transferrable currency like MR’s is being able to transfer points to partner airlines and hotels and being able to nab higher than one cent valuations.

While true that Membership Rewards points can be way more valuable than one cent per point, I know people that have a large stash of points and would appreciate having this option to place a bid.

For certain American Express cards, the upgrade offer value is for one Membership Rewards point to equal half a cent. I would not use points to bid for an upgrade if you were using MR points from the following cards providing that ratio:

  • American Express Platinum Credit Card (not the Platinum Charge Card)
  • Blue for Business Credit Card
  • Blue for Students
  • Gold Optima Card
  • Optima Credit Card
  • Optima Platinum Card
  • Platinum Business Credit Card®
  • ZYNC® Card

Here’s a full video on how the program works: 

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Alex May 1, 2019 - 12:10 pm

You link to the Platinum Charge Card and yet the text clearly says “Platinum Credit Card”. I don’t think those are the same thing, especially coming straight from AmEx.

Chris Dong May 1, 2019 - 12:24 pm

Alex, you’re totally right. Thanks for catching that!


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