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- Starting Wednesday, May 1, AmEx cardholders can use their Membership Rewards points to bid on discounted flight upgrades.
- Under a new partnership with a company called Plusgrade, you can bid on upgrades with around 20 different airlines.
- If you’re looking to build up your stash of AmEx points, consider snagging a welcome bonus on the redesigned American Express® Gold Card or the Platinum Card® from American Express.
When you fly on certain airlines, you might see an option to bid for an upgrade in the days or weeks leading up to check-in. There’s often a minimum amount you have to bid, but depending on how many seats are available and how much you bid, it can be possible to grab a first class or business class seat for a fraction of the normal upgrade price.
On many airlines, this whole process is managed by a third-party system called Plusgrade, which coordinates with the airlines’ seat inventory and passengers bids. Plusgrade is a back-end system, so passengers only see the bid option in the airline’s reservation page.
Normally, the only option is to bid cash, or to use an airline’s proprietary frequent flyer miles to upgrade. Starting Wednesday, though, there’s a third choice: American Express cardholders can place bids using their Membership Rewards points.
Eligible AmEx cardholders will be able to bid on upgrades to premium economy, business class, or first class using points, or a combination of points and cash. Flights on about 20 airlines are eligible, including Aeromexico, Air Canada, Etihad, Norwegian, Qantas, SAS, Singapore Airlines, and TAP Portugal.
Learn more about the AmEx Gold Card at Business Insider’s partner The Points Guy »
Each Membership Rewards point will be worth approximately $0.01 towards a bid, according to a spokesperson for AmEx, where 1,000 points is worth $10. Points are generally worth a half-cent each as cash back, or up to $0.01 each when used to book flights through AmEx travel, so this represents a solid valuation. The best value from points, however, can be had by transferring them to one of AmEx’s 21 airline or hotel partners, and booking flights or hotel stays that way.
To bid for an upgrade using your Membership Rewards points, visit americanexpress.com/upgrade and enter your reservation details. If your bid is accepted, you’ll receive an e-mail.
Learn more about the AmEx Platinum Card at Business Insider’s partner The Points Guy »
If you’re looking to stock up on AmEx points to use for a flight or an upgrade, take a look at our list of the best credit card bonuses available right now. One solid option is the American Express Gold Card. You’ll get a new member bonus of 35,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months. You’ll also earn 4x points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 each year – 1x point per dollar after that) and US restaurants, 3x points on flights booked directly with the airline or at amextravel.com, and 1x point on everything else.