(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.)