Transfer AmEx Membership Rewards Points To Other Accounts No Longer Possible

One of the best things about American Express Membership Rewards points is that you can transfer points to any of their roughly two dozen transfer partners, including 18 airlines.

Membership-Rewards-Partners

The terms of the Membership Rewards program have long stated that you can only transfer Membership Rewards points to frequent flyer accounts in your own name:

Points are not your property. You can’t transfer points to any other person or program account. Additionally, points can’t be transferred by operation of law, such as by inheritance, in bankruptcy or in connection with a divorce.

However, in practice it has been possible to transfer points to others’ frequent flyer programs as well. You would simply link their frequent flyer account to your Membership Rewards account by adding their name and frequent flyer number.

It looks like American Express has finally started enforcing the rules, and Membership Rewards will now only let you transfer points to a frequent flyer account with your name on it (or at least your last name).

Amex-Membership-Rewards

If you link an account with a different last name then the transfer will be denied. Now when you try to transfer points you’ll see your name in the drop down menu, with no option to add a different name.

We certainly can’t blame American Express for enforcing the rules they’ve long published, though I know a lot of people found it extremely valuable to be able to:

  • “Top off” someone else’s frequent flyer account
  • Transfer points to a frequent flyer account of someone else with status in a program to avoid fees
  • Transfer points to someone else’s frequent flyer account to extend their mileage expiration

As a point of comparison, Chase Ultimate Rewards has the following policy when it comes to transferring points to frequent flyer accounts:

Ultimate Rewards point transfer features are designed to allow our cardmembers to take advantage of the rewards they earn. The features are not intended to allow transfers to third parties other than a spouse or domestic partner of the cardmember. Transfers to unauthorized third parties or any other abuse of the Ultimate Rewards program may result in suspension or termination of the ability to participate in the program and forfeiture of points already earned.

So the only other person that Chase will let you transfer points to is a spouse.

(Tip of the hat to Gary)

Comments

  1. i thought you could transfer Ink UR to your “employees” if they have an employee card…

  2. “So the only other person that Chase will let you transfer points to is a spouse.”

    Well, it says spouse or domestic partner.

    But how does one “register” a domestic partner with Chase? (I’m not asking you to answer this, Ben, I’m just asking rhetorically)

  3. @ TravelinWilly — They don’t verify in practice. They seem to care most when you start transferring point to multiple accounts in a short period of time, which would be suspicious.

  4. WRT MR’s is/was it possible by linking accounts with same name to transfer MR’s to an SPG account for the 25% bonus?

  5. When you say transfer from a spouse to a spouse/domestic partner, do you mean transferring from husband UR account to wife’s UR account? and vice versa?

    Would transferring from my UR account to another person’s Hyatt account be okay? Or does this fall under the spouse/domestic partner rule too?

    Thx Lucky =)

  6. Just tested it with our Amex Plat. If you have multiple authorized users you get a drop-down with all the cards/users so you aren’t just limited to transferring to the main cardholder’s account.

    @ Lucky – do you think this was done to combat point brokers? They sell points for MR and UR partners; MR partner airlines cost (used to cost?) less than UR ones.

  7. Lucky – for Chase in practice, couldn’t you do the following:

    person A has the UR X-fer CC card, and B doesn’t have it.
    1.) X-fer the UR points from person B to person A.
    2.) Person A purchases the award tix or whatever on behalf of person B using person A’s account but on Person’s B name (e.g. United)

    The only scenario this wouldn’t work is for account top off, but if you’re trying to purchse a full award tix… I think it would work just fine within the guidline of chase’s note

  8. Lucky, what about SPG, do they still allow transfer to friends and family mileage accounts ? Thanks

  9. In Canada, when you registered a FF number to transfer points, it was always hardcoded with the person’s name – though in practice, as long as the last names matched, there have been no issues in transferring. I suspect it’ll be the same.

  10. @Ang – technically, transferring UR to a non-spouse/domestic partner Hyatt account is against the rules, but in practice it hasn’t been enforced. There’s a whole thread about this in the Chase forum on FlyerTalk.

  11. Ben, if you book awards for your parents/siblings do you recommend creating a FF account for them? I’m looking to book an Air Canada award for them.

  12. @Steve, with Chase you could actually then transfer from person A to person B’s FF account if they are in the same household. I’ve done this for children and spouse.

    Now, with this MR change, does that mean I can’t transfer to my child’s account? That is a hit for us since it is hard to build up their accounts through flying only.

  13. @ pssteve — Well keep in mind the transfer ratio from Membership Rewards to Starwood isn’t 1:1, so you loose quite a bit of value doing that.

  14. @ Ang — According to rules you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to mileage account or Ultimate Rewards account of a spouse/partner.

  15. @JRL – AmEx is enforcing their rules. It’s only a “fucking disaster” if you were breaking the rules.

  16. If they are checking last names only, couldn’t you transfer points to a sibling(with the same last name)?

    I and my sister are in this game together and we help each other out with top-offs.

  17. Oh well I guess I should try harder to convince my fiance to change her last name when we get married or I may never be able to get any of the MR points from her dowry…

  18. Actually, Chase made us fax in our registered domestic partnership documentation when we tried to transfer points to each other. So, be ware that they do sometimes ask to verify.

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