Can You Transfer Points Back to AMEX after transferring them to an airline frequent flyer program? A TravelSort reader writes:
“My flight from HKG to LHR (one way) was unfortunately cancelled by Virgin Atlantic, and they have since scrapped the route. I’ve transferred AMEX points to purchase this and now I am stuck with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, and having to rebook flights. Virgin offered to contact KLM or their partner airlines but we have not heard back. We are trying to contact AMEX now (are Platinum members) to at least get the points reversed, anything else you recommend we should do? It is also near impossible to find a reasonable route via redemption on this route right as we are trying to fly back June 2023. Any help/recommendations welcome.”
Typically No: Points Transfers Can't Be Reversed
American Express specifies in its Membership Rewards Terms & Conditions that “points you've transferred to a partner loyalty program account can't be converted back into Membership Rewards points.”
Point Transfers Done in Error Can Sometimes Be Reversed
While it's clear that normally AMEX Membership Rewards transfers to partners can't be reversed, there are a few instances we know of where reversals have been permitted. In most cases, these have been because of user error, where the cardholder realized his/her mistake right after the transfer, for example because the cardholder transferred points to one partner frequent flyer program, yet meant to transfer to a different frequent flyer program.
Another example is a partner program error, where the AMEX cardholder checked space online, transferred points, the space appeared to still be there, yet the online program threw an error and prevented booking due to phantom award space that didn't reflect true availability. Flyertalker Thunderroad reported successfully getting an AMEX points transfer to Aeroplan reversed after speaking with both AMEX Membership Rewards and Aeroplan. SFO777 also reported getting an AMEX to Aeroplan points transfer reversed due to a similar phantom award availability issue.
Similarly, a few years ago Air France Flying Blue cancelled a number of award tickets that AMEX cardholders had booked after transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue, citing “fraud.” The fraud was on the part of Air France Flying Blue, since these were cardholders who were transferring their own AMEX points (not points they'd illegally bought from someone else) so AMEX did permit a number of these complaining AMEX customers to reverse the transfers, rather than be stuck with Flying Blue points that Air France seemingly wouldn't let them use to book award flights.
Award Booked = No Points Transfers, Even if Flight Cancelled
Apart from the Air France debacle above, we've never heard of AMEX permitting a points transfer to be reversed after an award is booked, even if the airline later cancels the flight and points are returned to the account. It's a risk you take when booking a paid or award flight, whether a points transfer was needed or not. Particularly post-pandemic, many airlines are adjusting flight routes more frequently, so if you're not willing to take the risk of having points in the frequent flyer program used to book the award, you should pay cash for the flight. That way, if the airline does cancel the flight, you can insist on a cash refund back to your original form of payment.
Have you successfully gotten AMEX to reverse a points transfer, and if so, under which circumstances?
Subscribe to TravelSort on YouTube for travel inspiration.
Become a TravelSort Client and Book 5-Star Hotels with Virtuoso or Four Seasons Preferred Partner Benefits