Thursday, December 14, 2017

A closer look at the Membership Rewards Fixed Points Travel program

This post is the third and final part of a closer look at American Express' Membership Rewards program. Since 2014 Rewards Canada has rated it as the number one loyalty currency for Canadians, and while the program has evolved over time, innovative new features keep the program at the top of our list. One of the most recent additions is the Fixed Points Travel Program. The Fixed Points Travel Program is a take on traditional reward flights from frequent flyer programs. That is, you use a set amount of points to travel within, or to, certain regions without typically worrying about the price.

Booking flights using fixed points can come handy, especially during peak seasons when market fares are quite high. Amex’s Fixed Points Travel Program doesn’t limit specific airlines you need to book with. You can literally fly any airline, any time to any destination!

This provides a lot more flexibility than your traditional reward program, where typically the biggest complaint is a lack of flight availability!

Here are the points grids from Amex’s Fixed Point Travel Program:

The portfolio of Membership Rewards’ earning cards provides various earning options, from 1 point per dollar spent to up to 5 points per dollar, which means you can fly for as little as $3,000 in spending depending on what card you have. You won’t get that with any other card in Canada!

Even business class to Europe is an amazing deal, only $28,000 in spending at 5x points (the American Express Cobalt card is your 5x card!) gets you that round trip flight to Europe. It would cost almost double for most other cards in Canada!

Let's now look at how you can pull some real value out of the Fixed Points Travel Program.

We searched a flight from Toronto to Los Angeles from March 15 to 18, 2018. For those dates, you can fly direct on Air Canada (ticketed by United) for $699.97. This price was confirmed on the American Express Travel website and on United's site as well.

When you search on American Express Travel and select the flights you’d like, you'll have the option to choose between the Fixed Points Travel program or the Flexible Points Travel Program. When you select either option, it will adjust the screen to tell you how many points you need.

The Fixed Points Travel option only covers the base fare, so you still have to pay for the taxes, fees and charges. You do have the option to pay with cash, or you can use points to cover some or all of the taxes using the handy slider:

If you wanted to pay for this flight using only points you can see that the Fixed Points Program is your better option, as it would run you 54,799 points versus 69,997 with the Flexible Points option.

What happens if your flight exceeds the maximum amount allowed in the Fixed Points Program? You simply pay the difference with cash or points. Here is Toronto to San Francisco from January 4 to 7, 2018:

The maximum ticket price allowed for a long haul North America flight is $700 which is covered by the 40,000 points. The remaining $259.97 plus taxes and fees of $168.39 can be paid with cash or using the slider once again to use points against those additional amounts.

Overall, the Fixed Points Travel Program is a great option for travel bookings when you have flights that approach that maximum ticket amount allotted to each category. If there is a seat sale, you may be better off with the Flexible Points option. That's where even the American Express Travel booking engine comes out ahead. You don't have to do multiple searches to decide whether Fixed or Flexible would be the better option. Just toggle between the 2 buttons once you search your itinerary and see which one gives you better value! Simple as that!

Finally, you should note as well that these are actual revenue tickets for flights on these airlines. They are not your typical award tickets seen from your traditional frequent flyer programs. What does that mean? It means, in most cases, you'll earn frequent flyer miles for these flights with the respective program of your choice. For the examples above, you could credit these flights and still earn miles from Aeroplan, United MileagePlus, or virtually any other Star Alliance program.

By having this very versatile option, American Express is giving their Cardmembers every possible route to getting the most out of their points. Whether it's the Fixed Points option, Flexible Points option, or even transferring points to a partner program, all of which could be used for the flight examples above, you get to make the choice that represents the best value for you. Most other proprietary credit card programs or even traditional frequent flyer programs do not give this many options for booking travel.

Learn more about American Express Membership Rewards Fixed Points Travel program here.

How about you? Have you used the Fixed Points Travel program? Tell us how and what for and feel free to ask us your questions about the program if you aren't a Cardmember yet.

This is part three of a three-part Membership Rewards series sponsored by American Express.

Part 1:  Membership Rewards - the loyalty currency every Canadian should be utilizing
Part 2: Membership Rewards Use Points for Purchases explained

This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada.  The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.

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