Despite the many unexpected incidents that plague the world of travel — From a man urinating all over business class to a disgusting sock-stuffed seat, from a woman being publicly weighed in the airport to a hostess being beaten with an in-flight phone — we all leap at the chance to get away whenever we can. If we can find some way to get a sneaky discount on our travels then, well, that’s all the better.
Sadly, however, it seems that loyal American Express customers may suddenly find that particular bonus a little harder to come by.
In a massive update to the American Express Membership Rewards program announced on Monday, the credit card company announced a swathe of changes to how points work, how you can get hold of them, and where you can redeem them. With the changes rolling out from August this year, we thought it was well worth taking you through the good, the bad, and the ugly of Amex’s changes. In the spirit of optimism, we’ll start with the good news, even if we’re wholly unconvinced that this is part you’re likely to remember…
WATCH: Don’t worry, there are still plenty of ways to get some valued-added fun from your flight…
From August 2023, Membership Rewards users will be able to convert their points to Qatar Airways Avios. The conversion will take place at a pretty enticing rate of 2 Membership Rewards points for 1 Avios and, with award ticket prices from Australia to Europe starting at a mere 90,000 Avios for a one-way trip in business class, this could allow for a quick, easy, and relatively low-cost getaway.
For those who can’t resist a touch of luxury, combining first-class and business-class segments for the Australia to Doha leg can be done for a steal at 135,000 Avios, with taxes totalling around $339 AUD for the journey. It’s also worth noting that Qatar Airways Privilege Club Platinum members can enjoy a further 5% discount on these tickets.
In the second (and final) piece of good news, American Express has partnered with Hawaiian Airlines. Members will be able to transfer their Membership Rewards points to Hawaiian Airlines’ “HawaiianMiles” program at a 2:1 ratio. For example, a one-way flight from Sydney to Honolulu could cost as little as 40,000 miles plus $78 USD in taxes for an economy seat or 65,000 miles plus $78 USD in taxes for business class.
And so we come, at long last, to the bad news: from October 2023, customers using Amex Membership Rewards will face a significant blow when transferring points to Singapore KrisFlyer and Emirates Skywards. Currently, the redemption rate stands at 2:1, but going forward, it will shift to 3:1. meaning an effective devaluation of 33%. These revised rates apply across the American Express portfolio for Australian and New Zealand card holders.
Though there’s little we can offer by way of consolation for this news, some outlets have already done their due diligence and begun to find potential workarounds. In a top tip from FlightHacks, they suggest that passengers considering Singapore Airlines for their next venture may want to hold out for Velocity transfer bonuses, which could make a more appealing option than direct conversion at the new rate.
Top tips aside, a survey commissioned by PointsHack reveals that Aussies are wholly unimpressed by this news, with very few feeling that the addition of two new carriers adequately outweighs the negative effects felt from the Singapore/Emirates devaluation. Overall, 83% of respondents said they are dissatisfied at time of writing compared to only 9% that are happy with the outcome.
Whether or not this pushback will be strong enough to force American Express to reconsider, however, remains to be seen, but given the ongoing evidence that people are already having to cut back on travel expenses because of a biting cost of living crisis, we suspect this may not end well.
As the dust settles on this unwelcome update, it appears that two new carriers combined with a sly points devaluation may prove to be a more turbulent cocktail than American Express had anticipated. As we all fasten our seatbelts and keep an eye on the rapidly approaching ratio changes, let’s hope for a bit less winging it from big corporations and brighter skies ahead for the savvy traveller.