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.
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).
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)