American Express is advising their card holders looking into transferring points from the Membership Rewards program to an airline or hotel partner that these transfers are final.

Once initiated and transferred members can’t ask Amex to have the points returned back to the account in case their trip later gets cancelled by the airline or hotel.

This rule is actually nothing new and in fact relates to any other program as well where points can be transferred to a partner such as a hotel chain or airline. Once the transfer is done, it’s done.

Apparently there have been quite a few requests flooding both American Express but also other credit card issuers such as Chase with their Ultimate Rewards program, asking them to move the points back into the original account after trips ended up being cancelled by the airline or hotels have shut down due to the Coronavirus.

While (according to reports in some Facebook groups I follow) some members have been successful getting Amex to claw back the points from their partner programs the general policy is now (and has always been) that this is not possible.

American Express is now explicitly warning members about this on the partner transfer page:

Again, this should not even be a requirement to highlight as this has been the rule since inception of inter-program transfers but it’s good to remind people that their choice is final.

It can be frustrating to transfer points over to a program and then end up being stuck with them due to a cancellation or in some cases even because the award availability disappeared in between initiating the transfer and the points arriving in the account.

You can get around this in putting an award reservation on hold (with some programs) prior to sending the points over. Some partners (British Airways, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic) have an instant transfer option while others (ANA, Singapore Airlines) take several days. It’s important to remember this when making these decisions.

The same goes for hotel programs where you transfer points to airline miles. Once these points have left your account the transaction is final and irrevocable.

Conclusion

The best one can do is try and find another suitable purpose for the points sometime in the future rather than being upset that they now sit in some airline/hotel account instead of still being banked with the credit card account.

What’s definitely important is to keep an eye on the expiration date of the newly minted miles/points in the respective account as many programs do have an expiration date that can be as short as 18 months.

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