How Amex Membership Rewards members can buy miles for up to 50% off

One of the lesser known features of the American Express Membership Rewards programme is the ability to buy up to 10,000 Membership Rewards points per year for 1.5p each.

(It is even less known today than it used to be, as Amex removed the webpage which advertised it last year.)

Over the last couple of years, pretty much every airline and hotel programme has brought in a ‘buy points’option.  This is not surprising – it is easy money for the programme, and they are still charging you more than the marginal cost to them of redeeming the points.

Since Amex is willing to sell Platinum and Preferred Rewards Gold cardholders additional Membership Rewards points, you can use this method to buy yourself airline points for a discount on the price charged by the programme itself!

This method does not, however, work for hotel programmes, based on my maths.

Let’s take a look at a few examples, based on the points you get from converting 10,000 Membership Rewards points which you have bought from Amex for £150:

Avios – 10,000 Avios costs £175, you save £25

Virgin Flying Club – 10,000 miles costs £165, you save £15

Alitalia – 10,000 miles costs £208 (€250), you save £58

Asia Miles – 10,000 miles costs £207 ($345), you save £57

Delta – 10,000 miles costs £210 ($350), you save £60

Emirates – 10,000 miles cost £240  ($400), you save £90

Etihad – miles cannot be purchased directly

Finnair – miles cannot be purchased directly

Flying Blue – 10,000 miles costs £216 (€260), you save £66

SAS – 10,000 miles costs £308 (€370), you save £158 – the biggest saving

Singapore Airlines – 10,000 miles costs £240 ($400), you save £90

Hilton HHonors – 20,000 points costs $200, no saving at current exchange rate

Starwood – 5,000 points costs $175, no saving at current exchange rate

Club Carlson – 30,000 points cost $210, no saving at current exchange rate

This method also gets around arcane rules in some programmes.  Singapore Airlines, for example, only lets you buy miles directly if you are are about to redeem and already have 50% of the miles you need. The Amex points purchase route avoids that.

This ‘trick’ is especially valuable when American Express is running a points transfer promotion.  When Amex ran a deal offering a 100% bonus on transfers to British Airways a couple of years ago, I bought the maximum 10,000 Membership Rewards points.  It got me 20,000 BA Miles (as they were then) for 0.75p each, and I knew I would get at least that – and almost certainly better – when I redeemed them.

Introducing BAwayday - a new, super cheap, last minute flight ticket!
Double PartnerPlusBenefit points with US flights - and sign-up bonus still running
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, airline miles and hotel points. Visit every day for three new articles (two in August) or sign up for our emails via the box to your right.

Comments

  1. RogerWilco says:

    Slight correction – you CAN buy Finnair (AY) points directly at €12,5/1000 points. They run a 30% bonus campaign this month.

    • Thanks Roger. For some reason Google hasn’t indexed that page!

    • James67 says:

      Thx Roger, that’s a good price especially considering the bonus. Will now need to study the scheme to determine if it is worth buying some direct from AY to use in conjunction with MR points transfer.

  2. A bit of topic, but what do you say about the worrying rumours coming from the USA that effective May 1st you will only be able to earn a signup bonus from an American Express card if you have never had it in the past…

    • Sandgrounder says:

      I hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me. A small group of people are taking them to the cleaners (I’m not entirely innocent here :-) )

    • It would only bring Amex in line with MBNA. And you could still get an SPG, BA and Gold or Plat bonus, doubled for a couple. That would be over 160,000 Avios between two if you applied for each when the bonus was highest, nearer 200,000 if one person referred the other for each card.

      (Plat 35k, SPG 26k, BAPP 25k x 2, plus 32k Avios for referring your partner, total 196,000 Avios)

      I don’t think 200,000 free Avios is anything to moan about!

    • I’d certainly hope not, but I guess it’s possible. Of course the sign up bonuses in the US are far far larger than over here and thus more costly for the card companies – hopefully we may now see a benefit to avoiding the megabonuses over here and instead be allowed to keep accumulating our smaller bonuses! They also don’t get stung for 3% forex fees either… ;-)

  3. Can you point me in the general direction of where we can buy extra MR points? Am fishing around the MR pages and can’t find it =\

  4. Czechoslovakia says:

    Anybody now if buying AMEX Reward Points counts towards your bonus target spend?
    TIA

  5. Good to know as just got my new Amex Gold and will to top up about 10,000 avios later this year.

    Does anyone know how I use my free lounge passes? Do I turn up at a suitable lounge with my Gold card or do I need to request the passes from somewhere?

    I couldn’t see this mentioned on the Amex website.

  6. 10,000 Membership Rewards points per year for 1.5p each?
    It’s way above the regular price offered by points broker houses. Consider, buy BA, Virgin Asiamiles, KrisFlyer @ 1.25p all year round and sometimes at discounted promo prices. Compared with the quoted prices

    Avios – 10,000 Avios costs £175
    Virgin Flying Club – 10,000 miles costs £165,
    Asia Miles – 10,000 miles costs £207

    • Risk of having your trip cancelled if you start playing games like that, though. If you want something booking, best to contact someone you know is trustworthy and may be sitting on a few million miles ….

      • Well there’s risk in crossing the road. I think many would say that the risks of associated with third party bookings is high. The risk of buying discounted Amex? Amex transferring into a ff scheme, and followed by a booking out of the ff scheme is about as low as it gets.

      • Iheartarbitrage says:

        Is this a new HFP service in the offing? I know of someone with “11 million airline, hotel and credit card points in total.”

        • It’s been around for years, but it’s not easy to find unless you are hooked into the network.
          I don’t know the rules about providiing full links here, but this should be enough to help you milesmoremiles in the UK. There may be others but this is the one all my colleagues use.

          • Iheartarbitrage says:

            Thanks, but I was commenting on Raffles post, and in particular: ” best to contact someone you know is trustworthy and may be sitting on a few million miles ….”

            I think milesmoremiles looks like it may fail the trustworthy bit

  7. Surprises me that a man with several millions miles would feel the need to buy 20k more!