Is Now the Time to Transfer Amex Membership Rewards to Continental?

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As many of you know, Continental and Amex are “breaking up” effective Sept 30th of this year.  This means, among other things, that you will no longer be able to transfer American Express Membership Rewards from your Membership Rewards account to your Continental Onepass account.  For me that is a huge loss as Continental is my #1 “go-to” airline when I travel with my family.  I have found reward seat availability to be pretty good, the service to be above average, and since I live near a Continental hub it is pretty much a no-brainer to look to them first when I need to book travel.

I still have a decent chunk of Membership Rewards points due to a 100,000 points bonus sign-up offer for my Platinum Amex that I received earlier this year.  The next trip that I plan to book for my family will likely be using Continental miles.  Since I need three seats at 25K miles a pop, I need 75K miles to do the booking, and my Amex miles would get me most of the way there.  Since I pretty much use miles as I earn them, I don’t have tons of miles sitting around anywhere else waiting to be used.

Additionally,  the US Government is still chasing its tail, and the FAA taxes that are normally collected when you do things like book airline tickets and transfer miles have not currently been reauthorized.  What that means is that you don’t have to pay the .0006 cents per mile to transfer Membership Rewards into US based airlines.  To transfer 75,000 miles to Continental, you would normally have to pay $45 in taxes (.0006 x 75,000 = 45) on your Amex for the transaction.  Right now, you would have to pay $0!

That makes me wonder if now is the time to transfer my Amex Membership Rewards points to Continental?  I only have another two months to make the transfer before the chance is gone forever and right now I could save around $45.  Here are the only two downsides I can think of:

1.  (and this is a long-shot)  American Express Membership Rewards runs a transfer promo to Continental before the 9/30 deadline after I have already transferred my miles.  They currently have promos to British Airways and Delta (read more from View From the Wing on the newest Delta promo) where you get anywhere from 40%-67% bonus miles for making a transfer.  If they ran a 50% transfer bonus to Continental, my 75,000 miles could turn into 112,500 miles!  That would be beyond spectacular, but there is zero indication that is going to happen, so this is only a very remote downside.

2.  There is not Continental award seat availability for the trip I want to make.  Since I can only afford to redeem miles at the lowest redemption level, and I need three seats on the same flight, and I need direct flights, this is a greater risk than #1 by far.  However, I will be booking VERY far out from my departure date, have some date flexibility, and I have traditionally had pretty good success booking award seats with Continental.

I’m not 100% sure if now is the time to transfer my miles, but I am getting pretty close to thinking it’s time to pull the trigger.  I hesitate mainly because I LOVE the flexibility that comes with Membership Rewards, and losing that flexibility by sending them into an airline program before I am ready to make my booking makes me stop and think.  However, time is running out to transfer to Continental and not being required to pay taxes is always a plus in my book.

What do you think, is now the time to transfer?


On a completely unrelated note, I am off for a lake weekend.  Little C will be having a fun-filled weekend with her grandparents, and The Man and I will be having a fun-filled time wakeboarding!  Here is C on her first boat ride at about 4 months old.  She was so excited that she passed out!

And here I am waving “Bye for today, have a great weekend!”

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  1. I’m going through the same dilemma. My philosophy is this: even though the probability of a transfer bonus is extremely small, the potential tax savings isn’t worth the risk of missing out on the transfer bonus.

  2. Personally, I’m going to go in to a “holding pattern” with regards to transferring. I’ve got a sizable amount of MR points that I could send to UA (through CO), but a bonus promo would be even better.

  3. Not sure CO transfer is a great way to use CO points. As someone who also tries to redeem for my whole family, I’d say the current BA 50% transfer (quick! ends 7/30) is much more valuable. Domestically you can use on AA which has excellent availability and if you want to go long haul in biz or first class BA is the absolute world leader for open availability. I have seen no other airline with so many open seats in Biz and First across a wide variety of routes.

    Indeed I would say Delta’s promos are also a better use than CO. Transfer 100k to get 150k and 25k MQM if you’ve not done before. I used it last year but that did not stop me transferring 100k to my 9 year old son’s skymiles account. Now he is silver on DL meaning pretty good chance he gets upgraded with me on upcoming short haul flights. And while DL availability is tight domestically at the 25k level it is pretty good at the 32.5k level. So you transfer at 1.5x MR level and redeem quite freely at 1.3x level. So much better trade.

    Enjoy and good luck with the blog!

    • I agree that those bonuses are awesome!! I was very tempted to do that, but the trip that I have up next is direct on Continental and not on any of the others. It was about a 6-7 hour trip with a connection on all other airlines, but with Continental 3.5 hours on one flight and we are there. (more details in an upcoming post) Ease of travel still reigns supreme in my house with my mini-me. Thanks for the detailed comment!

  4. @Phil, I agree BA has good availability, but if you’re thinking of going to Europe, as I would like to, the YQ charges are ridiculous.

  5. @Helicardinal – sadly, agreed. I find I am ok with the YQ if is really long haul first class, but for economy and even biz it makes it hard. Mind you I never fly international economy now I know about miles! Still to the heart of this blog, which is close to my heart, BA are unsurpassed by any airline I can think of in terms of having lots of award seats on one plane.

    • Love the discussion!! The ability to get several international rewards tickets on the same flight (and in first) is a very valuable asset for sure!

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