If you’ve gotten involved with US credit cards, chances are that you have an account with both American Express Canada and American Express US.
You might have wondered: is it possible to convert your Canadian Amex MR points into US Amex MR points, and vice versa? The answer is yes, and it can unlock an entire world of new opportunities.
American Express International Transfer
American Express doesn’t seem to publish any information about converting points between countries 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 – we can understand 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.
What’s the Transfer Ratio?
You’ll note that the Amex UK terms and conditions state that International Transfers are subject to “the same exchange rate as that which applies to currency conversions”. Indeed, this was previously the case for Canada–US transfers.
However, sometime around early 2021, the transfer ratios appear to have changed:
- When converting Canadian Amex MR points to US Amex MR points, the prevailing exchange rate is applied.
- When converting US Amex MR points to Canadian Amex MR points, a 1:1 ratio is applied.
(There have been a few instances of Canada-to-US conversions taking place at a 1:1 ratio, but these appear to be the exception rather than the rule.)
Importantly, there is also a timeframe restriction: you’re only allowed one International Transfer within a 12-month period.
The Transfer Process
Converting points between Amex Canada and Amex US is best done through the phone. It appears the Amex Live Chat service can also handle these requests, although they don’t always get put through successfully when initiated via chat.
In the past, it was possible to convert points in either direction by calling either Amex Canada or Amex US. However, this appears to have changed around early 2021, and now you are advised to call the originating country to initiate your International Transfer.
You’ll be asked for the card numbers in the origin and destination countries that you’d like points deducted from and deposited into, respectively. You’ll also be asked for how many points you want to transfer.
The entire process can take 1–2 weeks to complete, after which you should see the points added to your destination country’s Amex account based on the transfer ratios outlined above.
Sweet Spots for Transferring Points Between US and Canada
Now that we know how to transfer your Amex MR points between countries, let’s figure out when it would beneficial to convert your MR points between Canada and the US, in either direction.
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.
First of all, let’s take a look the eight airline and hotel partners that are common to both countries’ Amex MR programs:
- Aeroplan: 1:1 ratio in both Canada and the US
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue: 1:1 in the US, stronger than 1:0.75 in Canada
- British Airways Avios: 1:1 ratio in both Canada and the US
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: 1:1 in the US, 1:0.75 in Canada
- Delta SkyMiles: 1:1 in the US, stronger than 1:0.75 in Canada
- Etihad Guest: 1:1 in the US, stronger than 1:0.75 in Canada
- Hilton Honors: 1:2 in the US, stronger than 1:1 in Canada
- Marriott Bonvoy: 1:1.2 in Canada, stronger than 1:1 in the US
Additionally, the following 12 transfer partners are only available via Amex US, but not via Amex Canada:
- Aeromexico Club Premier: 1:1.6
- Aer Lingus AerClub: 1:1
- ANA Mileage Club: 1:1
- Avianca LifeMiles: 1:1
- Choice Privileges: 1:1
- Emirates Skywards: 1:1
- Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles: 1:1
- Iberia Plus: 1:1
- JetBlue TrueBlue: 1:0.8
- Qantas Frequent Flyer: 1:1
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 1:1
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: 1:1
There are no transfer partners that are only available via Amex Canada, but not via Amex US.
Knowing this, we can then examine the specific reasons why you might find it worthwhile to convert points in either direction across the 49th parallel.
Converting Amex MR Points from US to Canada
Canadian points collectors who have gotten US credit cards 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 at a 1:1 – but should you?
As mentioned earlier, there are no transfer partners that we can access in Canada, but not in the US. So we wouldn’t be unlocking any additional transfer possibilities by initiating a northbound transfer.
Of the eight programs that are common to both countries’ MR points, only Marriott Bonvoy offers a stronger transfer ratio from Canada than from the US: 1:1.2, instead of 1:1. Therefore, if you collected US MR points for the purpose of converting them into Bonvoy points, it’d be best to transfer to the Canadian side first before converting.
However, I think we can all agree that Marriott Bonvoy is far from the most valuable use for Amex US MR points, given their wide array of additional transfer options. So unless you desperately wanted to earn hotel points instead of airline miles, this option wouldn’t be worth pursuing.
Indeed, there’s a lot more potential when we think about transferring points in the opposite direction, 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 from Canada to the US?
By far the most compelling reason to do so is that you’d gain access to the 12 new loyalty programs via the Amex US MR program that we had outlined above, which unlocks a whole new world of redemption possibilities.
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:
- Transferring to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to book ANA First Class for 60,000 miles one-way
- Transferring to Emirates Skywards to book Emirates First Class to Europe for 85,000 miles one-way
- Transferring to ANA Mileage Club to book an ANA round-the-world award with eight stopovers and four open-jaws
- Transferring to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book elusive Singapore Airlines business class, First Class, and Suites Class awards
We can run the numbers to factor in the prevailing exchange rate when converting points from Amex Canada.
For example, the exchange rate at the time of writing is about 1 USD = 1.23 CAD, so an ANA First Class award with 60,000 Amex US MR points (converted to Virgin Atlantic) would cost 73,800 Canadian Amex MR points – still a far better deal than the 110,000 MR points required to book ANA First Class through Aeroplan!
Moreover, Amex US seems to implement conversion bonuses much more frequently than Amex Canada. For example, in September 2021, we saw a transfer bonus bonanza that boosted the conversion ratio to a dozen airline and hotel partners all at once.
If you timed an International Transfer with this transfer bonus bonanza, you’d effectively have the opportunity to convert points at close to par from Amex Canada to all of Amex US’s unique partners.
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 20 partners at your fingertips – with the caveat that you must plan your redemptions with the 12 US-based partner programs very carefully, as a result of the once-in-12-months rule surrounding International Transfers.
The American Express International Transfer 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 Amex US earnings with a Canadian points transfer and benefit from a vastly expanded pool of airline transfer partners.
Keep in mind that, as of 2021, most southbound transfers are carried out at the prevailing exchange rate, while northbound transfers are generally carried out at a 1:1 ratio. You might get lucky if the agent processing the transfer uses a different ratio, but don’t count on it!