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.