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Amex Membership Rewards transfers to Continental end 9/30/11 — alternatives

by on Wed September 15, 2010 • No Comment

American Express is ending its Membership Rewards point transfer relationship with Continental Airlines (soon to be called United) at the end of September 2011.

This is a big inconvenience to frequent Continental flyers and especially those from the New York area who rely on Amex’s easy transfer of points into Continental miles. This rule also applies to Corporate Card customers…which is a loss if your company tends to use Continental for travel.

Overall it makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — which offers Continental and British Airways transfers, along with ‘Ultimate Rewards,’ a Membership Rewards style program — more attractive than before.

Below are the game plans we suggest for some situations…if you’re interested in lounge access implications click here.

If you want to fly on Continental using Amex points…but not top off an existing Continental account

Do nothing.  If you really want to fly Continental or United on a particular flight you can still  transfer your Membership Rewards points to Air Canada or ANA airlines.  Setting up an account with them is free, and they are Star Alliance partners with Continental, so if a seat is available for standard miles at Continental you can book it with Air Canada or ANA miles.

Alternatively, you can get a lower fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card which lets you transfer into Continental or British Airways miles. The partners among those two let you use the miles to travel on United, US Airways, American, and more — basically everything but Delta among major US carriers. Since Chase handles the credit cards for both United and Continental, we expect you’ll be able to transfer miles into the new United.

If you want to top off a Continental miles account…

You have until September 30, 2011 to keep transfering points. We recommend you keep your card until then, as Amex will pro rate the annual fee if you choose to cancel. After September, 2011 your only options to top off Continental miles with a credit card will be via Chase credit cards. We think a good alternative is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card which also offers transfer to Continental and British Airways and has similar generic redemption features to Amex Membership rewards. You can see a comparison table here.

If you’re a Corporate card customer who likes to top off Continental miles…

Sorry, not a lot of options for you other than begging you employer to switch to a Chase branded corporate card. We know that’s unlikely, and that’s the real loss of this deal since so many companies use American Express. At least you can still transfer points to major airlines like Delta, Air Canada, and British Airways like always.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived


Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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