Many people are drawn to Miles & Points because of the insane amount of value you can get when redeeming points for luxury travel in premium cabins.
It’s not unheard of to get 15–20 cents per point (CAD) in value against the cash fare, and thus, many enthusiasts are transfixed with trying to derive this kind of value.
It’s almost a rite of passage to tell people that you’ve redeemed for more than 10 cpp (CAD) in value, which is why “fixed-point” programs like American Express Fixed Points Travel are often ignored.
Recap: Redeeming Amex MR Points
By now, you probably already know that American Express Membership Rewards points are among the most powerful points currency in Canada and the US.
Amex MR points can easily be exchanged for airline reward currency with Aeroplan, British Airways Avios, Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, Etihad Guest, and Air France/KLM Flying Blue, among others.
You can also transfer your points to Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors for hotel redemptions, often with a 25–30% transfer bonus in play.
Most points collectors prefer to transfer their Amex MR points to one of these airline or hotel programs, so it’d be easy to overlook another important avenue for redeeming your MR points in Amex Fixed Points Travel.
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
100,000 MR points
$499 annual fee
|100,000 MR points||$1,976||Apply Now|
70,000 MR points
$250 annual fee
|70,000 MR points||$1,654||Apply Now|
90,000 MR points
$699 annual fee
|90,000 MR points||$1,646||Apply Now|
75,000 MR points
$199 annual fee
|75,000 MR points||$1,561||Apply Now|
Up to 77,000 MR points
$99 annual fee
|Up to 77,000 MR points||$1,419||Apply Now|
30,000 MR points
$156 annual fee
|30,000 MR points||$636||Apply Now|
10,000 MR points
$0 annual fee
|10,000 MR points||$220||Apply Now|
Amex Fixed Points Travel: The Basics
The American Express Fixed Points Travel Program aims to give more flexibility to travellers who simply can’t find the award availability they need through the aforementioned airline loyalty programs or are perhaps too timid to learn all the ins and outs of each program.
While you will never derive more than 2 cents per point in value with Fixed Points Travel, what you do get in return is incredible flexibility.
Some of the benefits that American Express touts for the Fixed Points Travel program include:
- Book any airline, fly anywhere, and travel any day
- Book up to a day before departure
- Book in economy or business class
- Enjoy travel-related insurance benefits included with your card (if applicable)
Clearly, flexibility wins the day with this program, but there are a few limiting aspects to consider:
- Only round-trips departing from Canada are allowed
- Points only cover the base fare; you’ll have to pay taxes and carrier-imposed/fuel surcharges
- Only bookable if you have enough points to cover the cost
- Multiple-tier prices may apply depending on where you are travelling
Fixed-points redemptions depend on your destination and class of service (i.e., economy or business class), so your maximum redemption values may range from a low of 1.5 cpp (CAD) to a high of 2 cpp (CAD).
One thing to keep in mind is that redemptions through Fixed Points Travel are viewed by the airline as a regular cash ticket, so your flight will earn frequent flyer miles and count towards any qualifying mile, segment, or spend requirements to earn elite status.
However, also note that American Express is functioning like an online travel agency in issuing the ticket, so they may present basic economy fares that may not qualify for earning miles or elite-qualifying criteria.
Amex Fixed Points Travel – Economy Class
Here’s the Amex Fixed Points Travel reward chart for economy class flights:
The best value you can derive from an economy class redemption using Amex Fixed Points Travel is in the Canada/US (Short Haul) category, which consists of five popular routes:
- Montreal–New York
- Toronto–New York
Here, you can redeem 15,000 MR points to cover up to $300 in base fare. With this redemption, you are redeeming at a program high of 2 cents per point.
In reality, however, that’s not always the case, especially with discounted economy tickets, where the base fares can be quite low.
In the example below, you’ll see that your 15,000 points will only cover the $233.68 base fare, giving you an effective 1.56 cpp (CAD) value, lower than the ceiling of 2 cpp (CAD).
Redemptions to other destinations in economy class, meanwhile, will yield you a maximum value of 1.5–1.75 cpp (CAD).
The value you’re not getting isn’t spectacular, but again, it’s about convenience and choice, rather than the fantastic outsized value you may achieve with airline award bookings.
Amex Fixed Points Travel – Business Class
Here’s the Amex Fixed Points Travel reward chart for business class flights:
The business class bucket provides better value than economy, with maximum values ranging from 1.6 cpp (CAD) for the Canada/US (Short Haul) category to 1.8 cpp (CAD) for either the Canada/US (Long Haul) or Worldwide categories.
You’re getting better value redeeming for business class tickets, since business class base fares are usually high. You will almost always get to maximize the allowable amount for fixed-point redemptions.
How to Book Amex Fixed Points Travel
In order to search for redemptions using Amex Fixed Points Travel, you simply navigate to the American Express Travel website, log-in with your usual American Express credentials, and begin your search.
Remember that you must have 100% of the MR points available in order to redeem for Fixed Points Travel.
When you search, you will be presented with your results and two tabs at the top of the results page: Fixed Points Travel and Flexible Points Travel. Click on Fixed Points Travel and you will be able to view your options.
Let’s say for example, you wanted to fly from Calgary to Vancouver f0r the weekend, and you were having difficulties locating reasonably-priced award availability through Aeroplan.
You could simply head on over to Amex Fixed Travel Points program and easily locate availability for 15,000 MR points and a bit of taxes.
Once you’ve selected your flights, you can head to the checkout and complete your purchase. You’ll notice at this step that you have two choices for the number of points to redeem.
The first choice is to redeem only for the selected redemption, in this case 15,000 MR points. In this situation, you are responsible for paying the taxes and surcharges.
You can also move the slider to the right and use your MR points to pay for the remaining taxes and surcharges at a rate of 1 cpp (CAD), which, fair warning, is not a good use of MR points.
Once you’ve made your decision on how many points to redeem, all that’s left to complete is payment. You’ll then receive a receipt, as well as a booking reference from American Express Travel via email.
Watch Out for Carrier-Imposed Surcharges
In certain situations, using the American Express Fixed Points Travel Program can be less than ideal.
This is especially true for European flights, as many airlines that fly to Europe like to keep base fare low and make up the fare difference with carrier-imposed or fuel surcharges.
It’s not uncommon to find an economy ticket that’s composed of 50% in base fare and 50% in taxes and surcharges.
Remember, with Fixed Points Travel, your MR points will only cover the base fare, with the remainder paid with your Amex card or with MR points at a poor redemption value of 1 cpp (CAD).
Let’s do an example. A round-trip Toronto to Lisbon ticket in economy costs $825 (CAD).
The fare calculation is as follows:
- $420 (CAD) in base fare
- $405 (CAD) in taxes and surcharges
Booking this ticket in a fixed-point redemption, your 60,000 MR points will fully cover the $420 (CAD) base, but you’ll still be on the hook for $405 in taxes and surcharges.
Crunching the numbers, you’re getting 0.7 cpp (CAD) redemption value — half the maximum fixed-points value of 1.5 cpp.
At that point, you should perhaps consider paying in cash and saving your points for better redemptions.
But not all fixed-point redemptions are bad. You can still get good value when redeeming for business class tickets, since as mentioned, their base fares are often high.
Let’s do a business class example. Etihad Airways sells Toronto-Sydney business class tickets for $8,568 (CAD).
The fare calculation is as follows:
- $6,677 (CAD) in base fare
- $1,891 (CAD) in taxes and surcharges
Your 250,000 MR points based on a Worldwide business class redemption will cover the first $4,500 (CAD) of the base fare, maximizing the allowed redemption value.
You’ll then only need to pay the remainder of the base fare, $2,177 (CAD), plus the $1,891 (CAD) in taxes and surcharges, bringing your total to $4,068 (CAD).
Your redemption value in this case is the optimal 1.8 cpp (CAD), and you’re saving more than half the total ticket cost.
Frankly, the American Express Fixed Points Travel Program isn’t the best use for your Membership Rewards points.
But when you’ve exhausted your search with airline loyalty programs, fixed-point redemptions might be your next best bet.
Moreover, convenience may sometimes outweigh the need to extract extreme value out of your points. For instance, you might not want to take two connections with an award redemption when you know there is a direct flight that you can use your points on.
Amex Fixed Points Travel unlocks the possibility of booking any flight, anytime, and with any airline you want – all without having to pay the full fare out-of-pocket.
The next time you pull out your credit card to pay for a flight because you can’t find any award availability, try using Amex Fixed Points Travel instead – it just might surprise you.
It is nice to know there is an out if you are absolutely stuck getting a redemption anywhere else, but my key takeaway is that you should put this option in the same basket as using points to buy gift cards. This is being dangled out there in the hopes that people will bite and they can get some points off the books with the least cost to Amex. I was recently trying to find a way to use my $200 travel credit from my Platinum card. Through the Marriott site one hotel I was looking at was $347 USD. Amex Travel had it at almost $250 more. Granted there were other hotels at which I would be content to burn this credit, but it shows the importance of starting two look well ahead and making sure you check and compare all of your options before booking.