Eurostar benefits for American Express charge card holders

A couple of days ago I wrote this long post on how to use American Express Membership Rewards points.

A reader pointed out that I had forgotten to mention the ability to transfer Amex MR points to Eurostar, an omission I have now corrected.

The conversion rate from Membership Rewards to Eurostar Frequent Traveller is 15 : 1.  Here is the redemption chart for Eurostar, and if you click on the (not very clearly marked) ‘Eurostar Travel’ link you get this chart.  The headline redemption numbers for an adult, return (child and one-way tickets are also available) are:

  • Standard Class – 900 Eurostar points (13,500 Membership Rewards points)
  • Standard Premier – 1,800 Eurostar points (27,000 Membership Rewards points)
  • Business Premier – 2,500 Eurostar points (37,500 Membership Rewards points)

The price appears to be the same whether you are going to Lille, Disney, Paris or Brussels.  You can book up to 1 day before departure (1 hour if you are a premium Carte Blanche member).  Tickets CANNOT be refunded, but can be exchanged for a different day.

There is good value here, I think, at Standard Class level, especially for short notice redemptions.  You would certainly get the 0.75p of value per MR point that I ascribe to using Membership Rewards for airline miles.

Standard Premier, if you are not familiar with it, is basically a seat in a business class carriage (with the large business seats) but with the regular food offering and no lounge access.

However …. there is a big snag for non-Eurostar regulars.  You cannot join Eurostar Frequent Traveller until you have taken a journey costing £250 or more.  This means that you cannot simply sign up and transfer some Amex points over to redeem for a free trip.

Luckily, there is an alternative.  You can redeem Membership Rewards points directly for Eurostar tickets, see here.  The rates are marginally higher than going via Eurostar Frequent Traveller (15,000 MR points for Standard Class, 30,000 MR points for Standard Premier) but are not so bad.  What I do not know is how difficult it is to get availability at these levels.

(Similarly, you can also redeem Avios for Eurostar tickets – see here – but again I have no idea how tricky it is to get seats.  On paper, the headline cost of 9,000 Avios for a return Standard Class ticket is good value.  EDIT – see the comments below about the pros and cons of moving MR points to Avios to redeem.)

Accessing Eurostar lounges

One of the lesser-known benefits of the UK-issued American Express Platinum charge card is that it gets you access to the Eurostar lounges at London St Pancras (below), Brussels and Paris Gare du Nord.  Whilst not on a par with the BA lounges at Heathrow, they are pleasant enough places to pass the time before your train.

You do not need a voucher, you simply wave your Platinum card at the lounge entrance.  No guests are allowed, unfortunately – although holders of supplementary Amex Plat cards are allowed in, so your husband / wife / partner can get in with you if they have a supplementary Platinum card on your account.

I don’t think this is a benefit for Amex Platinum holders in other countries (except perhaps in France).  However, Amex Plat cards look very similar, and if you have one issued outside the UK there is a decent chance they will let you in.

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Comments

  1. sean lawson says:

    Transfering MR to Avios via BAEC is the way to go. save 6000 Avios for a standard return ticket, plus you have the option of using cash and Avios

  2. Motellgamzol says:

    Why is this better value than the cheaper Avios option?

    • The 9,000 Avios for a standard return is marked as ‘starting price’ – ie you could be asked for more than 9,000. The Amex 15,000 MR points price is a flat cost.

      What I don’t know is how availability works. Perhaps the Amex 15,000 point price has better availability than the Avios 9,000 point deal? Perhaps it is very hard to get a seat for 9,000 Avios and most people end up paying more? I honestly don’t know as I have never redeemed for Eurostar, which is why I didn’t want to make any claims in the post above transferring to Avios always being a better deal.

      • Standard to Lille/Paris/Brussels is from 9000 avios, Standard Premier from 32000, which looks a lot like the ratio between the starting cash fares. My hunch is that they’ll take the current price and apply a mutlipier to get the avios rate, but more data points may be needed to confirm/deny this! (I think that’s how the nectar redemptions on Eurostar work)

        Transfering to Eurostar Frequent Traveller seems to makes more sense for premium cabins, or longer trips like Avignon or the Ski Train . Those all have much smaller multipliers than with avios (eg 1000 eurostar points for the ski train vs 900 to Paris, or 25,000 avios vs 9,000 avios to Paris, rather a huge difference in multipliers!)

  3. You cannot book one ways using Avios it has to be a return, so if you are low of Avios then BA using cash and Avios booking singles is a cheaper method

  4. It’s not listed on the website, but the Amex Plat also gets you access to the lounge in Brussels too – there have been no problems the times I’ve done so. They had three different Belgian beers in the fridge there last night :) Otherwise, I’d describe them as being rather like US airport lounges – decent range of drinks, free wifi and papers, but only food at breakfast otherwise just snacks.

  5. At a conversion rate for MR->BAEC->Avios of 1:1:1 it does seem like a better deal at only 9,000, but I have tried Avios Eurostar bookings previously, and they have always wanted to charge more points or cash, and availability is low. I think I did do it once previously to Paris, but since then it’s always been cheaper (in both points and cash) to fly, with the ease of booking online. If you want to go Eurostar, you best be flexible with your dates/times and book as far in advance as possible (max 3 months prior) to get the 9,000 deal.

    Note that once at Heathrow or St Pancras the requested 30min prior to trip, getting to central Brussels is always 1 hour quicker when flying and there is generally lots of availability. If short on points, rather do 2 cheap flights using miles and cash than 1 free flight on miles only and 1 possibly pricey flight at short notice.