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