The Amex Membership Rewards program is one of our favourite rewards programs out there.
With plenty of redemption options, including transferring to Airline programs (if you have the right card), transferring points to Marriott Bonvoy, and redeeming for any travel charges to your card, there’s a lot to love.
Not to mention the 3 fantastic credit cards that are part of the program as well.
That being said, there’s one travel redemption option that needs more discussion – the Amex Fixed Points Travel program. It offers great value for your points when used right, but if you’re not careful, it could cost you points as well.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Fixed Points Travel program, how it compares to Aeroplan, and the credit cards that let you earn Membership Rewards points.
- Amex Fixed Points Travel Program Explained
- Amex Fixed Points Travel vs. Aeroplan
- Amex Membership Rewards credit cards
Amex Fixed Points Travel ‒ Explained
So how does the program work?
It can be used for ANY flight you can find at American Express Travel.
Basically, when you fly to a zone as defined on the chart, you’ll use a set amount of points to cover the base airfare of a round trip flight. Just note that it has to be a round trip, you can’t book 2 separate one-way flights. You also have to pay any taxes, fees, and carrier surcharges.
Let’s go over these major points about the program.
American Express Fixed Points Travel chart
Let’s start with the most important part – the chart.
So what does the chart look like? There are 2 versions, economy and business class, and we’ll go over both (you can view them in more detail here, as well as terms and conditions for the program).
First up, the economy class chart:
For some select short-haul flights, you can use as little as 15,000 points, all the way up to 100,000 points for a flight anywhere in the world. If the base airfare of your flight is over the maximum ticket price covered, you can simply pay the overage when you go to book.
So what kind of value can you get? If you can maximize this chart, here’s what you can get for value from your Membership Rewards points:
|Flight Category||Value Of One Point|
|Canada/U.S. Short Haul (Select Routes)||2 cents|
|Canada/U.S. Short Haul||1.5 cents|
|Canada/U.S Long Haul||1.75 cents|
|Alaska, Bermuda, Caribbean, Central America, Hawaii or Mexico||1.6 cents|
On the select short-haul routes, you can get up to 2 cents per point – which is an amazing value. But since there are a limited number of routes, for most people the best value are the long haul flights, with a value of up to 1.75 cents each.
On the whole, if you can maximize your value, you’re looking at anywhere between 1.5 to 2 cents per point.
There’s also a business class chart, which requires more points but also has higher base airfare limits:
The zones are the same, except the select short-haul routes are not here.
And the value is quite similar as well:
|Flight Category||Value Of One Point|
|Canada/U.S. Short Haul||1.6 cents|
|Canada/U.S Long Haul||1.8 cents|
|Alaska, Bermuda, Caribbean, Central America, Hawaii or Mexico||1.75 cents|
Even though the value is similar, most of the maximum amounts wouldn’t be enough to cover the full base airfare. You’ll still be paying quite a bit out of pocket for these flights (and these amounts aren’t anywhere near enough to redeem for a trip like this).
To maximize both your value and the usefulness of the program, we’ll focus on the economy class chart in this article.
Paying taxes, fees, and carrier surcharges
One part of the flight you have to pay for are taxes, fees, and carrier surcharges – they’re not covered by the chart.
So how can you check how much you’d have to pay for any given flight?
Head to the Amex travel site and start making a booking. You don’t even have to sign-in to check flight prices out (and for these first screenshots, we didn’t).
Here’s an example of a WestJet and Air Canada option from Toronto to Winnipeg:
We have 2 flights that have similar prices, but take a look at the price breakdown for each.
Here’s the WestJet option:
If you’re curious, this trip would need 20,000 points, giving a point value of 1.47 cents.
Now let’s see what the charges are for the Air Canada flight:
Going with Air Canada is going to save you $50 in taxes and fees in this case.
However, for this flight the base airfare is $18 more than the chart allows and you’ll have to pay extra. But, you’ll still end up paying less for the flight out of your pocket. And you get maximum value for a short-haul flight of 1.5 cents.
One thing to note – you can use your points to pay for taxes, fees, and charges using the Flexible Travel Program, where each point is worth 1 cent. You’ll have to pay for them using your credit card, then redeem the points afterwards if you wish.
And that brings up one last point – always make sure you’re getting a value of at least 1 cent per point. If not, you’re throwing away points, and would just be better to pay for it using your card and redeeming the points afterwards.
Pro Tip: An easy way to check is to remove the last 2 zeroes from the number of points you need. If this number is less than the base airfare of the flight, use the Flexible Points Program instead.
For some tips on reducing your taxes, fees, and surcharges bill, this article has some things to think about, just note that not all of them will work with the Fixed Points travel program.
Your step-by-step guide on how it works
So now that we know how it works, let’s go through the steps (and a few examples) of booking a flight using the Fixed Points Travel Program.
Step 1 – Login to your account
First, head to the Amex home page and login to your American Express account.
Step 2 – Head to the Amex travel page
Next, head to the Amex travel page and begin searching for flights. Here’s the first one we’ll look at:
Click search and start reviewing your options.
Step 3 – Review your options
If you have enough points to use the Fixed Points Travel Program, you’ll see the corresponding number of points needed to redeem for a flight. If not, you’ll only be shown the Flexible Points Program instead.
You can tell by looking at the top of the search results. If you have enough points, you should see something like this:
For our search, here’s the first result:
Click on the price breakdown, and see how much you’ll have to pay in taxes and fees:
In this case, the base airfare is more than what the Fixed Points Travel Program covers, so we have to pay the overage (in this case, $22). The taxes and fees bill is $111.80.
This flight is a great use of the Fixed Points Travel program, and you get maximum value for your points (1.75 cents per point).
Here’s another example. In this case, everything’s the same, except our departing airport is Calgary instead of Vancouver.
This flight costs quite a bit less. Let’s check out the price breakdown:
This flight gives you slightly lower taxes and fees to pay, but the price of the flight is also a lot less overall – only $326. Together, this gives you a point value of 0.8 cents.
In this case, since it’s giving a value of less than 1 cent per point, you’d be better off using the Flexible Points Travel program, which means charging your flight to your card and covering it with your points afterwards.
And you’re done
And that’s all there is to booking a flight with the Fixed Points Travel Program. It’s simple but can also provide great value for your points.
And there’s no worrying about seat availability or crazy schedules. If a flight can be booked through American Express, and you have enough points, you can book using the Fixed Points Travel program.
The only limitation is on the airlines offered and what Amex travel has in its flight inventory.
Ends January 31, 2020.
Amex Fixed Points Travel vs. Aeroplan
Now that we know how the Amex Fixed Points Travel Program works, how does it compare to Aeroplan Fixed Mileage flights?
On the surface it may seem like they’re similar. Both programs require you to use a set number of points for a flight to a set zone.
Here’s what the chart looks like for Aeroplan for flights departing from Canada and the Continental U.S. (you can view the full chart here):
On the whole, you’ll need less miles to redeem for a flight.
For example, our Toronto – Winnipeg flight would have needed 5,000 fewer miles, and our 2 long haul trips between Vancouver/Calgary – Montreal would have needed 15,000 fewer miles.
However, the taxes and fees for both flights through Aeroplan would have been much more – around $170 for these flights.
So while you need fewer miles, the actual cost to you is higher.
And that’s where the similarities end. Truth be told, there’s a lot of differences between these programs.
The biggest one is which airlines you can fly with.
Aeroplan Fixed Mileage flights are only available on Air Canada and Star Alliance flights, and the number of seats available to be booked on any flight are limited.
The Amex program on the other hand, allows you to redeem for any flight, on any airline, as long as Amex Travel carries the flight on their site.
This is the biggest frustration with Aeroplan. If you’re not booking far in advance, it can be difficult to find availability, or you’ll see schedules with long layovers and multiple stops. And while there are Market Fare Aeroplan flights, where you can book any seat on any Air Canada flight, they generally require more miles to redeem (you can view the differences between Fixed Mileage and Market Fare flights here).
Luckily, on Aeroplan our Toronto to Winnipeg were available at Fixed Mileage levels, however our other 2 flights had stopovers to get to your destination.
The next difference is in the limits to how much your points can cover.
The Amex Program does have an upper limit for the base airfare of your flight. Aeroplan on the other hand has no such limit. If you can find a seat and have the miles, you don’t have to worry about how much the base airfare is – all you have to do is pay the taxes and fees.
This is where Aeroplan can be better, especially if you want to redeem for business or first class seats. Since there’s no limit to how much you can redeem your points for, you won’t have to worry about any extra bill to pay.
Let’s look at our Vancouver – Montreal flight again, but booked as a business class seat.
Here’s the price breakdown:
The Amex Fixed Points Chart (which would need 100,000 points) only covers a base airfare of $1,800, meaning you’ll still have to pay an additional $626 to redeem for this flight, on top of the taxes and fees.
Aeroplan on the other hand would only require 50,000 miles plus similar taxes and fees. A much better value, and savings for you.
Summary of which program is better
To recap, here’s when the Amex Fixed Points Travel program is better:
- booking on shorter notice,
- booking airlines other than Air Canada and the Star Alliance,
- have specific flights you want to book, and
- not flexible on your travel dates.
And here’s when Aeroplan is better:
- can book far in advance,
- are ok only flying on Air Canada and their partners,
- want to book business class seats,
- have flexible dates, and
- aren’t fussy about the flights you book.
Collecting your Amex Membership Rewards
If you want to collect Amex Membership Rewards there’s only one way – with a credit card.
Amex offers 3 personal and 3 business credit cards you can use for the program. Here’s an overview of each one.
Related: Best Travel Credit Cards In Canada
Amex credit cards
|Credit Card||Welcome Bonus||Earn Rate||Annual fee||Apply Now|
|American Express Cobalt||Up to 30,000 points (terms)||* 5 points per $1 on groceries & restaurants
* 2 points per $1 on gas, transit, and travel
* 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
|$120 (charged out as $10 per month)||Apply Now|
|American Express Gold Rewards||25,000 points (terms)||* 2 points per $1 on gas, groceries, drugstores, and travel
* 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
|American Express Platinum||50,000 points (terms)||* 3 points per $1 on dining
* 2 points per $1 on travel
* 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
|American Express Business Gold||30,000 points (terms)||* 2 points per $1 at selected merchants
* 1 point per $1 all other purchases
|American Express Business Platinum||40,000 points (terms)||* 1.25 points per $1 on all purchases||$499||Apply Now|
|American Express Business Edge Card||Up to 42,000 points (terms)||* 3 points per $1 on office supplies, electronics, gas, and restaurants
* 1 point per $1 all other purchases
To earn the most points in the Membership Rewards program, the
It has the highest earn rates of any Membership Rewards card:
- 5 points per $1 spent on groceries and restaurants,
- 2 points per $1 spent on gas, travel, and transit, and
- 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
It also comes with a welcome bonus of up to 30,000 points. Every month in the first year you spend $500, you’ll earn 2,500 bonus points.
Plus, instead of the usual annual fee you pay once per year, this card charges it out as $10 per month.
Not to mention it’s our top card in Canada for several years running.
Don’t want to have to choose between Aeroplan or the Fixed Points Travel Program? The
You can transfer your points to 6 airline programs, including Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. This way, you can see if Aeroplan has any redemptions to your liking. And if not? You can fall back on the Fixed Points program, and all the other ways you can use your Membership Rewards points.
Is there a catch to this amazing setup? Unfortunately there is. You’ll earn points at lower rates:
- 2 points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, drugstores, and travel, and
- 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else.
The welcome bonus is a little lower, although easier to earn. Earn 25,000 points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months.
With all this said, it’s our #1 rated Aeroplan card.
Want more from your credit card beyond the usual rewards? Then say hello to the
First, the welcome bonus. You’ll earn 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Next, the earn rates:
- 3 points per $1 on restaurants,
- 2 points per $1 on travel, and
- 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
It’s actually the lowest earn rates among the group, but more than makes up for it with amazing perks.
Here’s just a taste of what it offers:
- free and unlimited airport lounge access at priority pass lounges,
- $200 annual travel credit,
- access to the international airline program, which includes discounts, upgrades, and companion fares on select airlines around the world,
- complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, as well as advanced status in 3 other hotel programs, and
- VIP treatment at Toronto-Pearson airport, including priority security screening.
And that’s just the highlights.
It does have a high annual fee of $699, but if you can handle it you’ll get VIP treatment while you’re flying.
Business credit cards
Looking for a business card? Here are the 3 business cards that collect Membership Rewards points:
(this card does not allow transfers to airline programs)
More free flights and budget travel
Want more articles on free flights and budget travel? Here are some to help get your travel on:
- How I Earned 11,172 AIR MILES In 1 Year
- The Time I Used 430,000 Aeroplan Miles To Fly First Class To Bali, Indonesia
- Google Flights Canada – How To Score The Best Flight Deal
- 594,000 Marriott Bonvoy Rewards Points Straight To 5-Star St. Regis Bali
- Your Travel Bucket List: 5 Dreamy Places To Visit And How To Get There For Practically Free
The Amex Fixed Points Travel program offers a great way to get lots of value for your points, on any flight you can find.
And if the value isn’t there, you can always fall back to the Flexible Points Program instead.
What are your thoughts on the Fixed Points Program? Any experiences you want to share?
Let us know in the comments below.