This is the final part of our Eurostar series this week, written by Nick Burch. Part 1, comparing the two Eurostar loyalty schemes, can be found here. Yesterdays piece on using Avios points to book Eurostar travel can be found here.
Depending on where in the world you live, and what programs you’re already signed up to, there are potentially three different ways to book Eurostar tickets with your American Express Membership Rewards points. No one way wins out in all cases, so you’ll need to review your options and work out the best for your needs.
Route 1: Transferring Amex points to Avios
My article yesterday looked at using Avios points to redeem for Eurostar trains. UK Membership Rewards points transfer 1:1 to British Airways Executive Club, and can then be moved into avios.com to book your seat.
When booking with avios.com, you have to book a return starting from the UK (London St Pancras, Ashford or Ebbsfleet). It can be a mixed class booking (Standard Premier one way, standard the other) if you want.
As we found yesterday, the cost per Avios varies largely with the cash price for the tickets. You will get roughly 0.55p-0.6p per Avios unless doing a cash and Avios booking, when you can get up to around 0.9p per Avios. Unless you got a bonus for transferring from Amex to Avios, that means around 0.6p per Membership Rewards point in value on a straight redemption.
Route 2: Transferring Amex points to Eurostar Frequent Traveller
I wrote a full overview of Eurostar Frequent Traveller in the first part of this series. It offers standard class one-way tickets from 6,750 Membership Rewards points. Note that this option does allow one-way redemptions, unlike booking with Avios.
The Eurostar Frequent Traveller program can be a little tricky to join as it requires an expensive journey before you can sign up. (Raffles is currently testing the idea, raised in your comments on Tuesday, that Amex can sign you up without the need to have done a £250 journey first. He will report back!)
Tickets can be booked as singles or returns (twice the price), in any of the three classes, and are a fixed price.
Availability is generally pretty good, even fairly last minute. A one-way in standard class is 450 points, one-way standard premier is 900, and a one-way to the Alps or Avignon / Aix-en-Provence is only 500 in standard.
The transfer rate in from Amex MR points is 15 Membership Rewards to one Eurostar Frequent Traveller point, so for the 450 points for a one-way single you need 6,750 American Express points. Full details are here.
The process of linking up your American Express Membership Rewards account with your Eurostar Frequent Traveller account can be a little fiddly, so don’t try it in a hurry. Your name, address and the like do need to match pretty much exactly between Amex and Eurostar, and you only use part of your Frequent Traveller number when registering, not the whole thing on the card.
I’d strongly suggest ringing up, as the Amex phone reps have a document with all the details in it to help! It normally take about a week for the link to go through. Subsequent transfers are usually faster.
When the points are in your Eurostar Frequent Traveller account, you can book tickets online. If you want to book a mixed cash and points booking, with some legs/people using points and some using cash, you’ll need to ring, but Eurostar are generally very good
Because it’s a fixed number of points, you may want to book cheap legs with cash (earning Eurostar Frequent Traveller points!), and redeem on expensive train services. The value you get will vary anywhere between 0.6p per MR point (cheapest tickets) to 2.1p per MR point
(last minute full-price booking).
Route 3: Redeem directly via American Express
You don’t necessarily need to transfer your Membership Rewards points to Avios or Eurostar Frequent Traveller. Amex is able to book standard class returns for you. See here for details on the MR website.
The rate is 15,000 MR points for a standard class return or 30,000 Amex points for a Standard Premium return. Business Premier is not available.
This offers a slightly more expensive route than the Eurostar Frequent Traveller one, which requires 13,500 or 27,000 MR points, but doesn’t require a Eurostar Frequent Traveller membership.
The process to book is a little complicated, and needs to be organised at least 14 days before travel. I believe it’s only available for return tickets, starting from the UK, and unlike Avios.com doesn’t allow mixed-class bookings. It also involves at least 2 phone calls!
The big downside is that the price in MR points is fixed (15,000 / 30,000), and can only be used to book into the cheapest fare buckets. Once the cash price is more than about £40 one way in standard class, £80 one way in Standard Premier, you can no longer book onto that service with your Membership Rewards points.
There’s no option to pay more, if the cheapest tickets have gone then you won’t be travelling. This means that booking directly from MR offers poor value, and if the cheapest fare class is still available you’d be better off using Avios. That would cost only
9,000 or 20,000 Membership Rewards points, depending on class.
If you really do want to book directly from your American Express Membership Rewards points, first use the Eurostar website to find return services available at the cheap starting prices.
You first need to ring up Eurostar on a special number (given in the MR catalogue), and tell them that you want to make a booking using American Express Membership Rewards points. They’ll help you find a suitable cheap train, will make the booking, and will give you a reservation confirmation number.
With that half done, you then need to ring up American Express. Tell them your Eurostar reservation number and dates of travel, and they’ll deduct the points then confirm your booking.
Because you can only use your points for services with the cheapest cash tickets, you only get 0.46p per Membership Rewards point in standard class and 0.53p per Membership Rewards point in Standard Premier – and you’re restricted in when you can go.
Summary – which is the best way to redeem?
If you’re in the Eurostar Frequent Traveller program, you’ll get best value for your American Express Membership Rewards points by transfering over and redeeming on an expensive train. This gives the most flexibility too, should your plans change.
Otherwise, avios.com offers your best bet, especially if you’re happy to do a cash + Avios booking. It’s fiddly though, as you’ll have to go via BA or Iberia Plus before you get your Amex points to avios.com, and you’ll have to ring up to book.
That all said, with a bit of organising, you can get a return ticket from the centre of London to the centre of Paris for 9,000 Membership Rewards points all-in (no taxes or fees), so it can offer some good deals compared to flying!
by Nick Burch (@Gagravarr)