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

(EDIT 2016:  despite conflicting information over whether this is still possible, a HFP reader successfully bought points in August 2016.)

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.

This facility is mentioned on the Amex website here although it does not mention the price.

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 £176 (€250), you save £26

Asia Miles – 10,000 miles costs £229 ($345), you save £79

Delta – 10,000 miles costs £232 ($350), you save £82

Emirates – 10,000 miles cost £266  ($400), you save £116

Etihad – miles cannot be purchased directly

Finnair – miles cannot be purchased directly

Flying Blue – 10,000 miles costs £183 (€260), you save £33

SAS – 10,000 miles costs £260 (€370), you save £110

Singapore Airlines – 10,000 miles costs £266 ($400), you save £116

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.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. Christopher Sheen says:

    It appears that you have to apply directly to AE. IE three is no website to apply to. It appears they might vary the cost

  2. Can you buy MR points via an Amex IDC account? I cancelled my plat card 5 months ago so don’t currently hold a UK MR card. Thanks.

  3. I did this on Monday to top up my Singapore balance. Paid £150 for 10k so it’s still available!

  4. avidsaver says:

    Hi Rob Is this just now a phone only service or is there anywhere you can buy the points online?

  5. Presumably your calculations do NOT take into account the very frequent bonuses offered by the various programmes for buying miles? I imagine that that would swing things in favour of buying direct, unless it is urgent.

  6. Anyone experiencing slow processing of MR points transfers this week?
    I did a transfer, on Tuesday, to etihad and it’s still not in my guest account :(

  7. “Unless they have quietly withdrawn it recently, however, the feature still exists.” So you didn’t think to check before writing the article…?

    • While I really appreciate this website, and all I’ve gained from it, that is a good point :-)

    • No, because I pulled something else late last night and this was a late (1am) replacement!

    • I bought 10,000 MR last week so it’s still available. You need to call AE up to do it, can’t be done online.

      Also, it can be done once every 12 months from the date you first buy the MR – not based on card anniversary or calendar year.

      • ps The MR posted and my balance was updated within 5 minutes of making the call even though the agent said it might take up to a week to process.

  8. You can ‘buy’ 12,000 Avios for 1.29p each with the annual subscription to the economist if you haven’t already done so, as the triple points offer via Iberia is back:

  9. HI Rob, I have nearly 100K of MR points ready to go across to Virgin, do you think there will ever be a “transfer bonus” offer. Should hate to miss it by a few weeks.

    • There have been in the past, but nothing for 18 months or so. Virgin miles transfer INSTANTLY if the accounts are already linked so there is no point in moving them before it is absolutely necessary.

  10. John Thr says:

    HOT ALERT – BA has a bonus Avios purchase offer for 3 days from today (2/12 – 4/12) !!***