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0 mile (or less) flights possible thanks to Amex Points Match for American, United

by on Mon January 19, 2015 • No Comment


If you have an American Express OPEN small business charge card (the Business Platinum Card, Business Gold Rewards, and Business Green cards qualify), you might be invited to a special test American Express is conducting.

It’s called Points Match according to the One Mile at a Time blog.

And with it, American Express will let you use your Membership Rewards points to buy tickets available to American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus members at the same mileage price they charge their own members.

But instead of charging you United MileagePlus miles for a United award ticket or American AAdvantage miles for an American award ticket, Amex will deduct Membership Rewards points and buy you the ticket.

You then earn miles with United or American on that ticket, because it’s treated as a regular cash instead of award ticket.

If you are a United 1K member you can make out incredibly well thanks to its new mile program that earns based on dollars spent rather than miles flown.

Here’s an example…

If you choose Points Match for a one-way trip from New York to London in Business Class on United it will cost you 57,500 Amex Membership Rewards points if Saver level seats are available, the same amount United charges if you used MileagePlus miles.


American Express will then buy the ticket from United using your card. That will cost $5,326, but American Express will credit you that amount less any taxes and fees (which are $80 in this case), so you only pay $80 in total cash for the flight plus the 57,500 Membership Rewards points.


Now here’s the rub…

Because Amex is buying a cash ticket with your card you’ll earn full miles on the ticket in your United MileagePlus account.

If you do this after United switches to its new mileage earning system on March 1st, you’ll earn an incredible number of miles.

United’s new mileage earning system awards you:

  • 5x the fare paid for General members
  • 7x for Premier Silver
  • 8x for Premier Gold
  • 9x for Premier Platinum
  • 11x for Premier 1k

In this case a Premier 1K will earn 57,706 United miles (11x the $5,000+ airfare), which is almost exactly the number of Amex points used to buy the ticket. So it’s like getting a Business Class ticket almost entirely free – with no net cost in miles and points to you.

Great for small business

This is also great for qualifying for Premier status, as it helps you meet the revenue requirements without outlaying big cash. In this case you’d earn about $5,000 of the $12,000 you need to spend each year to earn United Premier 1K status.

This is a real big benefit for small businesses that have tight travel budgets, and might have trouble meeting United’s new, higher spending requirements to hit 1K. This lets you sit in Business Class essentially free, saving your 1K global upgrade certificates for other flights, getting you upfront more often, and letting you stick to buying the lowest fares.

What’s the catch?

There aren’t many catches…

  • You will be charged in dollars for the tickets, and Amex will retroactively apply a statement credit. So depending on the timing you may need to float the charge for a month.
  • Your points are not refundable. But your ticket might be. In which case you could for example turn the above 57,500 points into over $5,000 in value by refunding the ticket…which could get lucrative.
  • Open jaw or stopover tickets are not allowed.
  • You can only book up to 15 trips through June 30, 2015, and you can book up to 7 passengers per trip.
  • Partner flights aren’t available – they must be United or American Airlines award flights.

American Express is betting that big value award space using American and United miles is pretty limited for most people, so they won’t lose out much on the deal. They’re used to converting one point to one mile and letting the airlines take the risk. But clearly there are big opportunities if you’re flexible with your plans.

So if you haven’t been targeted (call 877 407-4567 to find out if you are), it may be wise to put more of your small business spending on your OPEN card and establish a history as a good, high transacting customer. The rewards could be big.


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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

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