Is it Worth Transferring Membership Rewards Points To USAirways With A 16% Loss Of Points?

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When American Express Membership Rewards lost Continental as a partner a couple years ago it lost the best gateway towards the Star Alliance. The Star Alliance is a network of dozens of airlines on which you can redeem miles from one partner to the other. With so many airlines it’s usually easy to find award availability.

The problem is that most airlines outside of the US collect a fuel surcharge on award tickets. United and USAirways do not collect a fuel surcharge even if you fly on an airline that would charge heavy fuel surcharges had you been redeeming their miles.

The Star Alliance airlines that you can transfer to from American Express Membership Rewards now include just Air Canada, ANA, and Singapore.

Those all have pluses and minuses.

-Air Canada Aeroplan miles require activity every 12 months and expire after 7 years even with activity. Their award chart can be pricey. If you fly on these carriers you will pay a fuel surcharge: Adria, Air Canada, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, and THAI.
If you fly on these carriers you will not pay a fuel surcharge: Aegean, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca/TACA, Brussels, Copa, Croatia, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, SAS, Singapore, South African, Swiss, TAM, Turkish, United, and USAirways.
On the bright side they do allow 2 stopovers on awards. There are no close-in/expedite fees. Plus they have the best infant lap child policy in the industry, you pay just $50 for a coach award, $100 for a business award, or $125 for a first class award. No 10% of the full fare rubbish that many other airlines do.

-ANA has an incredible award chart, but unless you want to fly United and USAirways you’ll pay fuel surcharges.

-Singapore has perhaps the best business and first class in the industry and they can only be had if you have Singapore miles. However they collect fuel surcharges so the value of this program is mostly limited to redeeming miles to experience flying in your own suite on a plane.

If you open a account you will be able to transfer points from Air Canada Aeroplan into USAirways at a 100:84 ratio.  This is much better than other typically terrible exchange rates.
You need to transfer a minimum of 15,000 points.
15K Air Canada nets 12,601 USAirways miles. 100K Air Canada miles nets 84,011 USAirways miles.

If you transfer 85,000 Membership Rewards points from the current promotion you would have over 71,000 USAirways miles.














So is that worth it?
-USAirways does not collect a fuel surcharge on any airline, however they do collect an award processing fee of $25-$50.
-USAirways will hold awards for 3 days.
-USAirways award tickets on partner airlines must be booked over the phone. But at least they waive the phone fee for Star Alliance redemptions.  You can search for Star Alliance award availability on or and then call USAirways to book.
-USAirways miles never expire if you have activity every 18 months.
-USAirways does not allow redemptions for Lufthansa First Class.
-USAirways also has a number of non-alliance partners, including Bahamasair, Jet Airways, Hawaiian, Qatar, Royal Jordanian, and until June 12th, Virgin Atlantic.

-Bear in mind that USAirways miles are not as valuable as United, though you can’t get United miles with Membership Rewards points or Starpoints. While United allows free date and routing changes on award tickets USAirways charges $150 for that. United allows for changes to award tickets at any time while USAirways prohibits them completely on partner awards once your you fly on the first leg. And United allows for one-way bookings, allows online bookings, and does not charge an award processing fee.

Here is USAirways partner award chart.
And here is Air Canada’s chart.

Noteable differences:

-North America to Israel in business class is 120K USAirways miles versus 135K Air Canada miles. Air Canada is 12.5% more miles.

-Domestic 3 class First Class is 50K USAirways miles versus 70K Air Canada miles. Air Canada is 40% more miles.

-Hawaii is 40K coach/70K Business/70K 3 class First USAirways miles versus 45K coach/80K Business/110K 3 class First Air Canada miles. Air Canada is up to 57% more miles.

-North Asia (China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, etc) is 60K coach/90K Business/120K First USAirways miles versus 75K coach/125K Business/175K 3 class First Air Canada miles. Air Canada is up to 46% more miles.

-Australia/New Zealand is 80K coach/110K Business/140K First USAirways miles versus 80K coach/135K Business/185K 3 class First Air Canada miles. Air Canada is up to 32% more miles.

-South Africa is 70K coach/110K Business/150K First USAirways miles versus 100K coach/150K Business/210K 3 class First Air Canada miles. Air Canada is up to 42% more miles.


As you can see in many cases USAirways gives more than a 16% discount from Air Canada on many routes plus they don’t collect fuel surcharges on any airlines, so it definitely can make sense to transfer, albeit depending on the exact situation.

However where USAirways really gets lucrative is that they are very generous on award routing. People have booked travel to Asia, Australia, and South Africa with a stopover in Europe or Israel! Because of their bizarre award pricing a business class ticket to Asia is cheaper than to Europe, but even if you stopover in Europe or the Middle East on the way to Asia, Australia, or South Africa you just pay the rate of the final destination.  Plus you can get multiple connections of up to 24 hours on an award to check out even more cities for free.

Sometimes you’ll have to play HUCA (Hang up, call again) as they have many incompetent agents, but then again that can work in your favor…that’s probably how this Twitter follower of mine tweeted about how they got a ticket from NYC to South Africa with a stopover in Israel for just 40,000 USAirways miles!

-USAirways also has an award chart for flights on USAirways only with gems like off-peak awards to Europe or South America for just 35,000 miles round-trip.

Plus if you have a USAirways credit card you get 5,000 miles off every award ticket when you are only flying on USAirways.

Bear in mind that USAirways is currently trying to convince American to merge with them and if they do they will join OneWorld.  Not that that’s the end of the world as American miles are quite valuable.

Also award charts are always subject to change, so it’s probably not wise to stick too many points into USAirways.

Want to start collecting USAirways miles? Here are some credit cards with points that will transfer to USAirways:

-Starwood points transfer to USAirways at a 20K:25K ratio.  It can take 2-10 days for a transfer and transfer names do not have to match.  100K SPG=125K USAirways.

-Membership Rewards points transfer instantly to Air Canada at a 1:1 ratio and transfer names do not have to match.  Air Canada points currently transfer to USAirways at a 100:84 ratio though that is subject to change. 100K MR=84K USAirways.

American Express Consumer cards:
These cards all have a 25K signup bonus:
American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
The Platinum Card® from American Express
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

American Express Business cards:
The Gold card has a 75K signup bonus for this week only while the Starwood card has a 25K signup bonus.
-The Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express OPEN

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33 Comments On "Is it Worth Transferring Membership Rewards Points To USAirways With A 16% Loss Of Points?"

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I’ve done this frequently. Next to avios, I think transferring indirectly to US Air is the best use of MR points. It makes sense because even if it’s a 16% loss, you can acquire MR points very cheaply for less than a penny a mile. Not only that, but US has the best award chart and the worst reps, so you can stretch your miles further in the program.


So whats the consensus on where to transfer MR points to? Have 100k to transfer, where to?



It really depends on your situation.
I can make a successful argument for Avios, ANA, Air Canada, USAirways, Flying Blue, Singapore, and even El Al or Delta depending on the situation.


If you intend to use US miles on partner airlines, just be certain that you will not need to make any changes to your itinerary once you fly your first segment. Should some unforeseen event happen after you depart and you cannot fly as ticketed, then your ticket is worthless. Pretty punishing. It happened to me and I would hesitate using US miles to fly anything other than US metal.


True, hence this line in the post,
“United allows for changes to award tickets at any time while USAirways prohibits them completely on partner awards once your you fly on the first leg.”


you need the miles in your us airways account before you book. so transfer and pray for availability


Last I checked USAirways will hold an award for 3 days regardless of how many miles you have.
Plus it’s fairly easy to extend that hold 😉


DAN i wanted to cash up for cash where could i transfer my us miles to to get the most $ of it


First of all, great post! Written very clearly.

2nd of all, can’t I use ANA miles on USairways? If yes, why do I need to (indirectly) get the miles over to usairways if I can just transfer from MR directly to ANA, and use my ANA miles to book on USairways?

I know i’m totally missing something, I just don’t know what it is.
(Is there more availability if using US miles? Or maybe the generous rules listed above apply only if using US miles?)


How he could do it for 40k, when its much more to any of the regions he traveled?


hey dan! just wanted to let you know that i received a statement in the mail today for my new chase freedom card and they started me on th 10 & 10 program!
(that i opened about 8 hours before this program was going to end). thanks-you da man!



ANA miles have to be used on United or USAirways if you want to avoid fuel surcharges.

USAirways miles can be used on more than 30 airlines with no fuel surcharges.

So if you want to fly on USAir or United you may save a bundle with ANA, but for other airlines or for a combination of airlines than USAir will be better.

Have you ever called the clueless reps at USAir?
Don’t you know that Johannesburg was annexed by Hawaii 😀



@Dan: Not the best idea even if they agree to. Big chance of the partner canceling it…



be careful with such mistaken tickets. reports on ft that some of them canceled without warning and accounts closed.


Is the transfer through instantaneous?


Depends on the partner, but it can happen after 3 days.

Account closed because of a mistake by a US rep? Seems hard to believe.

No, it can take 2 days.
But you can have a ticket on hold for 3, so that should work out.


Dan I have around 170,000 MR points and want to fly business class to Israel what is my best bet for transferring meaning best business class for the least points?


Can the 40K USAirways Consumer Card and 40K USAirways Chairman’s Preferred Elite Consumer Card be done as part of a 2BM?


@Dan: “I spoke directly with the person that canceled our bookings without any notice and this person stated invalid routing was the reason why it happened. ”
Its not the only thread on it.


I flew to Israel using United points on Austrian Air which had a stopover in Vienna. I am leaving in a few days also with a stopover in Vienna. Am I able to book a R/T from NY ticket to Hawaii for the summer? Or am i too late? How do I do it?


I’ve and others had success doing it but I think recently they became very stingy about it.


I want to collect ANA point to fly USairways from PHL to TLV. (this you say was the cheapest right?) What is the best way to accumulate points? is the amex the only way to collect ANA points (other than flying their airline)? Thanks!!


hey dan just wondering if you have anything else written up about using barclay cards for example if they are easy with reconsidration etc….. also do you know where they pull from in nj? cuz i think amex and chase both pull from the same place so if this is different maybe i will start hitting them up. thanks!!1


Could you fly USA to Europe stopping in Australia or just the other way around? Was Johannesburg supposed to be 40k miles rt and just the stops are wacko or is even the final destination supposed to be over 40k?


Hi Dan,
You list 2 links for Barclay credit cards
-40K USAirways Consumer Card
-40K USAirways Chairman’s Preferred Elite Consumer Card
I have 2 questions:
a) which link should I use to apply?
b) Can I use 2 browser trick for 2 links so I can get both?
Thank you so much for your help.


If me and my wife have 60,000 southwest points is there a way to transfer to one account to get the companion pass? If yes then how? If no than what is the easiest way to get to the 110,000 point threshold?


Wow, that’s an amazing deal. Would love to book it but I noticed that you need to stopover in Istanbul. From what I have read, it doesn’t seem safe.
@Dan, what do you think? Is it safe?


would the itinerary of usa-germany-asia-australia-usa be 110k in business? can i miss the last leg and stay in australia?


planning for LAX->SGN beginning of august. What are my transfer option w/ 100k MR?

100k MR –> 84k US (80k US for economy round trip to asia)
75k MR –> 75k aeroplane ($200 in taxes)
ANA? How much are the taxes?
100k MR –> 75k delta?


Dan, we are looking for low price paid airline tix, nyc-tlv-nyc for last minute working guys going for pessach. suggessions? want to depart sat nite late (11 pm or later). return is more flexible after yom tov. thanks


what is the total turnaround time for transferring AMEX MR points into US? (MR>AP>US)


I’m trying to book a round trip award for 110k with US going via a non direct route. They told me that each way can’t be more than 25% more than the direct route would’ve been. Every heard that? Or is it HUCA time?


It looks like the deal is dead, i.e., no longer allows exchanges from Aeroplan to US Airways 🙁