You Won’t Believe Amex’s Targeted “PointsMatch” Promotion

No, that’s not a click-bait headline. You really won’t believe this. 😉

Let me start off by clarifying that this is a targeted pilot program/promotion for select Amex OPEN small business cardmembers. I wasn’t targeted for the promotion but a friend was, and he forwarded me the below details. Usually I don’t write about targeted promotions, but this one is so interesting that I can’t not.

The promotion is called PointsMatch, and through it American Express is basically letting you redeem one Membership Rewards point in place of one American AAdvantage or United MileagePlus mile, towards travel on either airline.

Amex-points-match-01

The idea is simple. Membership Rewards doesn’t partner with American AAdvantage or United MileagePlus, but if you find award availability on either carrier you can submit it to American Express and be charged the same number of points that either airline would charge. It’s worth clarifying that the travel needs to be on American or United metal, so travel on one of their partner airlines wouldn’t qualify.

Amex-points-match-02

Only it’s better than that.

The kicker here is that American Express would basically be paying cash for the ticket, so presumably you’d be earning miles and status for it. Per the terms & conditions:

For the avoidance of doubt, American Express does not book the Qualified Ticket as an award travel ticket under or through an Eligible Airline’s loyalty program. The Qualified Ticket will be booked as a non-award ticket under the fare type designated by the Eligible Airline and, therefore, it may be refundable or non-refundable.

For example, take a ticket between Los Angeles and Tokyo, which costs 62,500 AAdvantage miles in first class:

American-Awards-3

Outright purchasing that ticket would cost $11,000+:

American-Awards-4

So presumably you could end up redeeming 62,500 Membership Rewards points for a paid ticket in first class on this flight, and would earn full mileage.

Of course this is on the extreme end of redemptions. American and United both aren’t great about releasing saver level premium cabin award space on their own metal, so the promotion isn’t as crazy as it would be if you could redeem miles for travel on their partner airlines.

Beyond that, presumably they’re banking on people redeeming miles primarily for economy, in particular on domestic flights, where the value of doing this is marginal at best. In many cases you’d even come out behind.

But on the extreme end of the promotion, this is outrageously lucrative.

The other basic terms of the promotion are as follow:

  • Valid through June 30, 2015
  • Valid for one-way or roundtrip travel on American or United only
  • You must contact American Express at least three days before your desired travel date
  • Each offer recipient can book up to 15 itineraries during the offer period

Bottom line

This is an extremely innovative promotion on the part of American Express. They lost United MileagePlus as a transfer partner a few years back and scaled back their partnership with American last year on the lounge access front, so this is a great way to add value for frequent flyers of either airline.

Like most promotions, presumably 99% of people will be sub-optimally redeeming. But for those few that were targeted and are willing to maximize this promotion, it has the potential to be outrageously lucrative.

The only “red tape” here is the booking process, as it has to be done over the phone, which seems like a bit of a pain.

So, who was targeted for this promotion? And even if you weren’t targeted, would you use this promotion if you were?

(Tip of the hat to Mac)

Comments

  1. If they can expand this promotion to every Membership Rewards personal card, it will be the only card I ever use.

  2. Nice if you can find premium cabin space. But probably better off just use Avios for AA and UR for United if short haul than going through booking process

  3. I posted about this on Flyertalk last night – my brother was invited. I see this as a great mileage run tool. BOS-DFW-HKG is 19730 miles. As an EXP, I’d get 29595 EQP’s towards qualification with a 110K mile business class ticket, plus 39460 base RDM’s + 9865 class of service RDM’s + 24,000 bonus miles for 2015 (if in J/R/D fare code, 7,000 if not) = 59,325 to 73,325 RDM’s.

    That’s a pretty insane deal – about 35K for a roundtrip in J to Asia. Throw in two SWU’s (or more miles) and you’re in F.

    Now of course, AA never releases DFW-HKG in award space, but I’m wondering if Amex will even go through the process of confirming if space is available. I’m going to try today and find out. Even if they do, doing this to PEK/PVG/NRT, which often has premium cabin award space, can be almost just as lucrative.

    Can requalify for EXP in 3-4 trips easy based on EQP’s, at a relatively minimal cost.

  4. @ Dan — Agree, awesome indeed. That being said, I’d be willing to bet they will verify availability. Please do report back with your experiences, if you don’t mind.

  5. A way to work around the availability issue is to search a date with open award space on your desired route and than book that exact itinerary once booked switch it to your date

  6. @ Jon — Presumably you would’ve gotten an email. But I guess you can also phone up the number on the site and ask if you’re targeted.

  7. @ Dov — Yeah, that does raise an interesting question as to what would happen if you changed or canceled your flight. Would you then have an $11,000+ airline credit?

  8. Wow. Wow. Wow.
    I’m going to apply for an Amex Biz card right now just in hopeful thinking. I think I’m still eligible for one of the Amex Gold cards.

  9. This is also very lucrative once UA starts awarding miles based on spend. And best of all, if your UA revenue ticket was going to cost so much that you hit the 75K points/ticket cap, you could just split it up into two one-ways, which wouldn’t cost any more points, but would potentially cost Amex a lot more cash (and might force them into higher fare buckets, thus ensuring you earn more miles).

  10. I just called about a dummy booking that I found on AA.com. The flight was only available in First but I told the agent I wanted Business (and I implied that I found business class space via the EXP desk). He put me on hold and came back saying it was good to go, for the 110K miles roundtrip that I told him. He then told me I had to say my name as verbal confirmation that I am not misrepresenting the cost or availability of the award ticket (which I didn’t do as I didn’t want to ticket).

    He confirmed this was in D class, which earns the extra 12K miles / leg for the new AA promotion to earn more miles on premium fares.

    Sounds like they do not check anything manually, and are relying on the honor system. I can’t see how this will last.

    For 110K miles, I’d earn 75K from AA and fly business class to Asia. That is absolutely ridiculous.

  11. I just called and was told that neither my nor my wife’s accounts are targeted. The rep said the invitation was sent out to 30,000 cardmembers completely randomly, with no regard to spending levels, point balances, or anything else.

  12. I just called and my Amex Biz Plat card was NOT selected. The agent claimed they are still planning to send out more but it is a front line agent so I’m not sure I trust what he says. Would LOVE to take advantage of this offer and I have 100,000 MR that I was thinking I’d turn into 140,000 Avios but this would be A LOT better.

  13. Lucky

    Just called and I do qualify for this offer. What do you think would be some of the sweet spots here?

  14. Just an update – I did call again with a different flight that does not have award space at all except in economy. This time, they did check with AA.com to confirm availability, and since it did not match, I wasn’t able to book. Not surprised, and I wasn’t going to book even if they could find it, just wanted to satisfy intellectual curiosity.

    Looks like they are going to AA.com to verify. They did say that a screenshot of the AA website with the lower mileage requirement would also be accepted.

  15. Ben, any idea if Canadian cardholders are being targeted for this? It would be nice if we could partake of some of the offers that American cardholders seem to get all the time…

  16. “You Won’t Believe Amex’s Targeted ‘PointsMatch’ Promotion”

    Rejected post subtitles include:

    “Travel Agents Hate It!”
    “What Happens Next Will Surprise You!”
    “Find Out This Great Secret That Chase and Citi Don’t Want You To Know About!”
    “This One Weird Trick Gets You Plane Ticket For Better Than Free!

    😉

  17. If I understand this promotion correctly, I can’t see,how this will last more than two weeks, without American Express going bankrupt, or you getting shut down first.
    keep us updated. This is interesting. Also, what the FT thread for this?

  18. Amex has access to many types of bulk and contract fares that are not available to the general public. Those fares can be significantly lower than fares found in all the usual distribution channels. I wonder if they are using those fares?

  19. @ Polk — Are there international first class consolidator fares that don’t earn miles? If so, that’s news to me.

  20. Any consolidator/tour company fare on UA shows BULK and does NOT count towards MQD – including tickets issued by United Vacations. (trade off is a $4K ticket vs. an 8K ticket!) FYI Delta Vacations fixed this issue a few months back for SM MQD.

    Also – doesn’t UA show better award availability to premier members? Does the award availability have to be there for general inquiries (vs. a 1K member?)

    This test will fail….?

  21. Booked an J AA ticket costing $10k. Will cancel in about a week. Already confirmed with AA that I will be getting a 10k voucher. Amazing promo.

  22. @ Lucky – I suspect that one of the things Amex will use this pilot for is to learn about the outliers like these uber-expensive J/F tickets and if there’s a wider rollout they will have more restrictive terms . Do you agree?

  23. I was targeted for this promotion–looks like they just extended it–but I’m a noob on the points front. Is there a primer someone might be able to point me to that will help me best take advantage?

    Cheers!

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