American Express started offering Membership Rewards-earning card members a new feature, Upgrade with Points, that gives travelers the ability to bid for an upgrade with more than 21 airlines.
Flyers can use Membership Rewards points to cover all or a portion of points and cash for a seat upgrade bid on an existing reservation in economy, premium economy or business class for premium economy, business class and first class, respectively (when available).
Participating airlines include:
- Aerolíneas Argentinas
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air Mauritius
- Caribbean Airlines
- Ethiopian Airlines
- Etihad Airways
- Fiji Airways
- Gulf Air
- Kenya Airways
- Malaysia Airlines
- Norwegian Air Shuttle
- Scandinavian Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- TAP Air Portugal
To begin the bidding process toward an upgrade on a revenue fare with one of the aforementioned airlines, log in to your American Express account and click on the “Book or Upgrade Travel” tab, select the airline from the list and enter your reservation details to locate the itinerary.
If the fare is eligible for an upgrade, you can make an offer and wait for the airline to either accept or reject your bid. In either case, you should hear back within five days prior to your flight’s departure. Points are deducted from your Membership Rewards account only if your bid is successful. Once your offer is accepted, the transaction is final and can’t be reversed.
To make this new feature possible, American Express partnered with Plusgrade, a travel technology company that provides upgrade solutions in the airline space. Although several dozen airlines partner with Plusgrade directly, only 21 are available for upgrade bids to Amex cardholders.
When bidding for upgrades, Membership Rewards points are worth one cent each. In other words, every 1,000 points will net you $10 toward a bid. However, Membership Rewards are worth a lot more when transferred to one of the airline partners and used for a business-class international flight. If that’s the goal, then Upgrade with Points isn’t how you want to acquire that upgrade. While the new feature does offer another option of redeeming Amex points, and having choices is typically a good thing, it’s not a good option in this case.
What do you think of the new way of redeeming Membership Rewards points through Plusgrade?
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