fbpx
Amex Membership Rewards: Transferring Between US and Canada Ricky June 17, 2019

Amex Membership Rewards: Transferring Between US and Canada

If you’ve gotten involved with US credit cards, chances are that you have an account with American Express US, perhaps as a result of initiating an American Express Global Transfer from the Canadian side. 

One common misconception about the Global Transfer process is that the originating Canadian card gets closed as a result, and the points moved over to the US. In reality, your Canadian Amex relationship is merely being used to assess whether you’re creditworthy enough to be granted a US credit card with no existing history, so your Canadian card and points will very much remain intact.

But what if you did want to convert your Amex MR points between countries? Is it possible to convert your Canadian Amex MR points into US Amex MR points, and vice versa? 

The answer is YES – and it unlocks an entire world of new opportunities. 

In This Post

The American Express International Transfer

Now, American Express doesn’t seem to publish any information on this topic on either their Canadian or US sites. However, if we turn to other regions – specifically, a set of Membership Rewards T&Cs from Amex UK (try using incognito mode if the link doesn’t work) – we can learn more about the process of transferring MR points between countries.

American Express describes the process as an “International Transfer”, which allows cardholders with another American Express card account, which is under the same name but denominated in a different currency, to transfer points from one account to the other. 

Note the terminology here: an American Express Global Transfer refers to using an existing Amex card to establish a new Amex relationship in a different country, while an American Express International Transfer refers to transferring Membership Rewards points between accounts domiciled in two different countries. 

Importantly, there is a timeframe restriction: you’re only allowed one International Transfer within a 12 month period. Furthermore, International Transfers are subject to an exchange rate conversion at the prevailing FX rate, and can take up to two weeks to complete.

The Transfer Process

Our summer intern, Andrew, recently went through this process, converting his Amex MR points from Canada to the US. He shares his experience below.


The first step in this process was to call Membership Rewards to begin the International Transfer procedure. It’s best to call the receiving country – in this case, that’s the Amex US call centre.

Their Customer Service phone number is 1-800-297-3276. They operate with generous business hours, offering service for the majority of the day on weekdays, with more limited operating hours on weekends.

I spoke to a representative, who took a moment to research the procedure; after that, she began the process to initiate the transfer. She took down my information, including the receiving card number, sending card number and country, the amount of points to be transferred, and my phone number.

Before concluding the call, I asked the representative how often an International Transfer could be done. She didn’t know the answer and went to look it up for me. She came back and read from their guidebook that it could be done once every 12 months. I later learned that this is on a per-cardmember basis, with the 12-month period beginning from the last time an International Transfer was done. So in my case, I wouldn’t be eligible for another transfer until around June 2020.

Three days later, a rep from the US side called to confirm the transfer. She communicated that the transfer process has begun and relayed a few more details about the expected timeline. True to her word, points were deducted from the Canadian side on the same day, appearing as an “Adjustment” on my Membership Rewards transaction log.

pasted image 0 (3).png

After seeing no sign of the points for a few weeks (although it was still within the timeline the rep had provided), I received another call from American Express, which went to voicemail. However, when I checked my Amex US account, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the points had shown up under “Canada Consolidation”!

The exchange rate applied to the International Transfer worked out to be 1.34836 CAD/USD, which roughly matched the prevailing foreign exchange rate at the time.

Something to be aware of is that American Express will call you many times throughout the process. They called to confirm the transfer has begun, they called when the transfer was complete, they called the next day to follow up, and then they sent me a secure message to let me know it’s all been taken care of. The reps that you deal with were all very willing to help, and would check their resources or with a supervisor if they didn’t know the answer to something (since the process is somewhat uncommon).

Overall, the procedure was very smooth, and while it took a few weeks to complete, I never felt that my points disappeared into a black hole, or anything like that.


So, now that we know how to transfer your Amex MR points between countries, let’s zero in on the Canada–US axis and figure out when it would beneficial to convert your MR points from one side to another.

Remember that every cardholder is limited to one International Transfer per 12-month period, so you should definitely approach this opportunity with a specific redemption goal in mind.

Comparing the Transfer Ratios Between US and Canada

First of all, let’s take a look the airline and hotel partners that are common to both countries’ Amex MR programs, to tease out any opportunities where it would be beneficial to transfer your points via the other country’s MR program first. 

Let’s say you applied for the Canadian-issued American Express Business Platinum Card and earned 75,000 Amex MR points. If you transferred those points directly to partners, you’d get:

Points Program

Transfer Ratio
from Canadian Amex MR

75,000 Canadian Amex MR points
would equal...

1:1

75,000 miles

Alitalia MilleMiglia

1:0.75

56,250 miles

1:1

75,000 Avios

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

1:0.75

56,250 miles

Delta SkyMiles

1:0.75

56,250 miles

Etihad Guest

1:0.75

56,250 miles

1:1

75,000 points

1:1.2

90,000 points

Meanwhile, we can see from Andrew’s experience that 75,000 Canadian-issued Amex MR points would equal 55,623 US-issued Amex MR points at the prevailing exchange rate (of course, you should do your own math using the exchange rate at the time you’re converting points). 

And if we were to transfer those 55,623 US-issued Amex MR points to the same airline and hotel partners, we’d get:

Points Program

Transfer Ratio
from US Amex MR

75,000 US Amex MR points
would equal...

1:1

55,623 miles

Alitalia MilleMiglia

1:1

55,623 miles

1:1

55,623 Avios

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

1:1

55,623 miles

Delta SkyMiles

1:1

55,623 miles

Etihad Guest

1:1

55,623 miles

1:1.2

66,748 points

1:1

55,623 miles

We can therefore conclude that:

  • Aeroplan and British Airways Avios, which have a 1:1 transfer ratio in both countries, are best transferred-out from the Canadian side due to the exchange rate difference

  • Marriott Bonvoy has a stronger transfer ratio (1:1.2) in Canada compared to the US (1:1); along with the exchange rate factor, that makes transferring from the Canadian side by far the superior option

  • Alitalia, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Etihad, and Hilton Honors have a weaker transfer ratio in Canada compared to the US, which seems to somewhat mirror the difference in exchange rate; overall, you’d get a marginally better return by going through the Canadian side at the moment, though this analysis could change along with movements in the exchange rate

Knowing this, we can then examine the specific reasons why you might find it worthwhile to convert points across the 49th parallel.

Converting Amex MR Points from US to Canada

Canadian points collectors who have done an Amex Global Transfer to the US will likely find themselves with a stash of US-issued Amex MR points at some juncture. You have the ability of converting these US Amex MR points into Canadian ones – but why would you?

Well, as we showed above, if you were planning to use your US Amex MR points for any of the above eight programs, then it’s in your best interest to transfer those points to the Canadian side first, and then convert them into your chosen loyalty program.

You’d end up with a higher amount of miles in your chosen program than if you just transferred the US Amex MR points directly. The increase could be as high as 34% for Aeroplan and Avios, or even a whopping 62% for Marriott Bonvoy!

Earn 62% more Marriott Bonvoy points by converting your US Amex MR points through the Canadian program instead

Earn 62% more Marriott Bonvoy points by converting your US Amex MR points through the Canadian program instead

In fact, if any US-based Amex cardholders are reading this, and you frequently convert your Amex points to one of the above eight partners (but especially the three I’ve just highlighted), then it could well be in your interest to find a Canadian mailing address and do a Global Transfer up to Canada!

This would open the door to Canadian MR conversions, instantly boosting the value of your US-issued MR points by a cool 34–62%.

Meanwhile, if you don’t plan to use your US Amex MR points for one of the above programs, then there’s no real reason to convert them into Canadian MR points. After all, there are no additional airline or hotel partners up here in Canada compared to the United States; instead, all of the fun partners seem to be concentrated down in the US, which brings us to…

Converting Amex MR Points from Canada to US

If you hold Amex MR points in both countries, why might you want to convert points in the southbound direction?

By far the most compelling reason to do so is that you’d gain access to another 12 frequent flyer programs via the US Amex MR program, which unlocks a whole new world of redemption possibilities. These 12 programs are:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub (1:1)

  • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1.6)

  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue (1:1)

  • ANA Mileage Club (1:1)

  • Avianca LifeMiles (1:1)

  • El Al Matmid (1000:20)

  • Emirates Skywards (1:1)

  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles (1:1)

  • Iberia Plus (1:1)

  • JetBlue TrueBlue (5:4)

  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (1:1)

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (1:1)

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 12.57.53 AM.png

We could spend a whole day talking about all the new award chart sweet spots that Canadians would unlock through these programs. To pick a few of the most outstanding ones:

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club lets you fly to Europe in Delta One Suites for significantly fewer miles than Delta themselves; moreover, Virgin’s partnership with ANA lets you fly ANA First Class round-trip from North America to Japan for a staggeringly low 120,000 miles (as a point of comparison, Aeroplan would charge 210,000 miles for the same redemption)

  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer allows you to book Singapore Airlines’s coveted premium cabin redemptions on flagship routes, which are most often not available at all to partner programs

  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue often has Promo Rewards between Canada and Europe, allowing you to fly in business class on non-stop flights for as little as 45,000 miles one-way

Moreover, Amex US seems to implement conversion bonuses much more frequently than Amex Canada. For example, until July 1, 2019, you can earn a 30% bonus on transfers to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, which sweetens the deal on the aforementioned ANA First Class redemption even further!

Fly ANA First Class round-trip for just 92,308 US Amex MR points (with 30% conversion bonus)

Fly ANA First Class round-trip for just 92,308 US Amex MR points (with 30% conversion bonus)

(Oh, and on top of the 12 new airline partners, US Amex MR points can also be transferred to one more hotel partner: Choice Privileges.)

As you can see, for Canadians, the ability to transfer points to the US takes the already highly versatile Amex MR program to a whole new level. Instead of only eight airline and hotel partners, you really have an unbelievable TWENTY-ONE partners at your fingertips – with the caveat that you must plan your redemptions with the 13 US-based partner programs very carefully, as a result of the once-in-12-months rule surrounding International Transfers.

Conclusion

The American Express International Transfer, a strategy that hasn’t received much attention in Miles & Points circles thus far, can open up a wealth of new opportunities for points collectors on both sides of the border.

For Canadians, it’s all the more reason to get started with US credit cards, as it allows you to easily supplement your US Amex earnings with a Canadian points transfer and benefit from a vastly expanded pool of airline transfer partners. Meanwhile, American cardholders could consider setting up a presence in Canada as well, since they’d receive a huge boost when transferring points to a few select partners as a result. I look forward to hearing about how you’re all planning to take advantage of this!

Top Offers

HSBC World Elite MasterCard

100,000 HSBC Rewards points
20,000 HSBC Rewards points upon approval +
80,000 HSBC Rewards points upon spending $5,000 in the first 180 days

  • 6x points on travel purchases; 3x points on other purchases
  • Points transfer to British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and Singapore KrisFlyer
  • $100 Travel Enhancement Credit
  • Total offer worth $600+

Offer lasts until December 28, 2020. Offer for non-Quebec residents only; Quebec residents are eligible for a different offer.

Signup bonus
100,000 HSBC Rewards points
Annual fee
$0 for the first year, then $149
48 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Brian

    I used to travel from Milwaukee to Toronto every year using either Air Canada or United pre Covid. I expect to earn 75000 US MR points in the next few months after completing minimum spend for the Amex Gold Card (this was before the all time high offer for the Amex Platinum). When travel returns, I will be making yearly trips to Toronto and other parts of Canada, and hope to travel to Nunavut and other parts of the Canadian North. I intend to convert the US MR points to Aeroplan miles and Avios.

    Since I have a US and not Canadian address, I would like to know if I can convert US MR points to Canadian MR points, then use the Canadian MR Points to convert to Aeroplan and Avios without a Canadian mailing address. Are there forwarding services that can be used in Canada to do this? I am also afraid that Amex may shut me down and say I was gaming the system

  2. Avatar
    LuxErus

    Can additional cardholders transfer points to their account in Canada? E.g. my wife is an additional cardholder on one of my US cards, could she transfer points to one of her Canadian Amex cards.

  3. Avatar
    Dino

    Hi Ricky, I initiated a transfer from Mrs to MR 2 weeks ago. Got an email today saying the transfer was failed. Call the US MR customer line and was told Canadian MRs cannot be transferred to US MR anymore. Only Canadian MR can be transferred to US MR. Do you have any DP whether this is dead or should I try again later? thank you,

  4. Avatar
    Craig Westcott

    Is the way to earn and transfer alluded to still in play?

  5. Avatar
    Joe Blow

    Well, that is interesting.
    Wonder how long this will be in play.

  6. Avatar
    Jules

    AMEX MR (US) offers some great transfer bonuses, including the currently available 40% bonus for BA Avios (this is offered about once a year). Thus, it doesn’t make sense transfer MR from the US to Canada for BA Avios redemptions.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Sure, but Amex Canada has 30% bonuses every now and then to BA as well. If you’re waiting around for transfer bonuses, you might as well wait from the Canadian side to get a ~70% bonus (accounting for FX) rather than 40%.

  7. Avatar
    Steve

    I think I see 2 things going on there…but for sure 1

  8. Avatar
    Shav

    I’ve been racking my brain trying to understand this and i’m still not sure what the unbelievable opportunity is. Especially looking at the screenshots. could someone possibly give me a hint? I’m feeling really daft here.

    1. Avatar
      Andrew

      Shav,

      The opportunity is fairly specific and could be considered niche, depending on your experience with cards in more than one country. I only provided 3 screenshots so there’s not a whole lot to look at. Try to think about what’s in my wallet.

      1. Avatar
        shav

        I think what’s confusing me is the QP and the Sobeys. But some quick multiplication/division and i think i got it.

        Also the bonus points threw me off, what’s up with that? I don’t think I’ve seen any promo like that.

        1. Avatar
          Nikki

          It’s the default promo for 2500 bonus points when you spend $500 in a month.

  9. Avatar
    Jules

    Be careful people. Like manufactured spending, this kind of activity is A sure fire way to draw attention to your account and potentially get reviewed and your accounts closed.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Why would transferring points to the US get your account closed?

      1. Avatar
        Jules

        I assume many Canadian-based readers here are likely using mail forwarding services with a virtual mailbox for their "US address". If the AMEX rat team happens to review your account and realizes you don’t actually have a physical residential or business address, you could be asked to provide further documentation proving your US residency (e.g. valid US-issued driver’s license, etc.). If you’re willing to take this risk, then by all means…go for it.

        1. Avatar
          Face de poil

          There are countless Canadians with nothing more than a condo in Florida. You don’t have to be a US resident to have a US address.

          1. Avatar
            Jules

            True, but you need to be US resident to have a US credit card. The point is if you repeatedly attempt to do these AMEX global transfers to benefit from this points arbitrage opportunity, you risk having to eventually prove your US residency to AMEX which can be a real issue for Canadians that are masquerading as US residents.

            1. Avatar
              Gros Jambon

              You do not have to be an American citizen or resident to have a US credit card.

            2. Avatar
              Ricky

              Best not to do it too often, then – certainly no more than once every 12 months.

        2. Avatar
          Ricky

          I see. I’d agree with you about the inherent risk in getting US credit cards for Canadians. I’d say that risk is all part of the game for those of us looking to get in on the action in the US.

  10. Avatar
    JL

    This is a very interesting post, thanks Ricky.

  11. Avatar
    Alex

    Hmmm….interesting. About time the exchange rate benefits us Canadians.

  12. Avatar
    Eric

    This is just another example of how PoT is THE BEST resource for Canadian churners. And now apparently for Americans! I only wish I had discovered this game much earlier as these things take time to ramp up.

  13. Avatar
    Clarke

    Are you guys positive that what you think is happening is actually happening? I double checked my Canadian Amex rewards portal and I think the UI is slightly misleading.

    Any other datapoints on if this works?

  14. Avatar
    Ravi Shanghavi

    Isn’t this just more than it should be.. Maybe I’m missing something. That isn’t a loophole rather just extra stuff? No? Maybe I’ve missed it..

  15. Avatar
    Jon Weigand

    Wow! I think I got it….. I would call this a work around or loop hole. I wonder how long it would take for AM to catch on!

  16. Avatar
    John Bucher

    I have a bad feeling that Amex will figure this one out soon!

    1. Avatar
      Gros Jambon

      Figure what out? Why wouldn’t they want people to transfer their points?

    2. Avatar
      Ricky

      Better take advantage of it sooner!

      1. Avatar
        Kunal S.

        Looks like Sobeys will run out of plastic by August 😉

  17. Avatar
    JasonYYZ

    Do your American and Canadian cards have to be similar for the transfer or can you transfer Canadian MR points to an American Platinum account?

    1. Avatar
      Andrew

      I’ll just add that they both need to be Membership Rewards points earning cards. Ie. you can’t transfer Membership Rewards points to a Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy or cashback card.

    2. Avatar
      Ricky

      The answer is no, the cards do not have to be similar. And yes, as hinted at below, this feeds into the "so much better" jazz.

    3. Avatar
      epep

      I think the answer lies in Ricky’s "… just wait, it gets so much better" (hint go look at the screenshot very carefully)

  18. Avatar
    Judy

    I’m a US citizen with a US address and SS# living in Canada (legally, LOL) and would love to see if I could do this!!!

  19. Avatar
    Geo@YQB

    Wow! Just changed my ENTIRE Amex strategy!

    1. Avatar
      Sean

      Couldn’t have been much of a strategy to begin with.

  20. Avatar
    DenB®

    "QP"?

    1. Avatar
      Herm

      I’m thinking it might mean Qualifying Purchase. Base of off the earn rate, I’m assuming the Cobalt card was used. I don’t notice any special offers on my Amex portal – I could be wrong though. Besides, in general Vancouver area, there aren’t any Sobeys here, only other brand names owned by the company.

      1. Avatar
        Andrew

        "QP" was just part of the merchant description, it’s meaningless (as far as I know). Other locations under the same brand don’t necessarily have that in the merchant description.

    2. Avatar
      Patrick

      saw that too but what is QP and how do we get it??

      1. Avatar
        Andrew

        "QP" was just part of the merchant description, it’s pretty meaningless. My card has "Q0" beside the merchant description for McDonalds. Nothing else seems to have that in the merchant name, including purchases at other stores under the same name.

    3. Avatar
      Ricky

      QP indeed.

      1. Avatar
        Tommy Wu

        What does QP stand for Ricky?

        1. Avatar
          Andrew

          "QP" was just part of the merchant description, it’s meaningless (as far as I know). Other locations under the same brand don’t necessarily have that in the merchant description.

  21. Avatar
    ep

    MR to Hilton in the States is 1:2 I believe

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Thanks for catching that! I’ve updated the article to reflect this.

  22. Avatar
    Muhammad

    Thank you Ricky!

Ricky

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have an Account? Click here to Login