What is the best use of American Express Membership Rewards points?

I have written numerous articles before about using American Express Membership Rewards points and a few pieces on how I value airline miles and hotel points.

I have pulled together both of these strands in this updated article on how to make the best use of your Amex points.  It does NOT cover every Membership Rewards redemption but it does cover the bulk of the pseudo-cash, cash and travel options.  All that is missing is the various merchandise options and they are generally poor value.

The Amex Membership Rewards website is here if you want to look for yourself at what is available.

Please post below with any comments, observations or anecdotes about your own redemptions.

Membership Rewards

0.75p – 1.5p per point

Airline milesMy most recent piece on valuing Avios points, based on the post-devaluation numbers, is here.  It is impossible to tie down a tighter range because of the number of different airline partners and the various ways (upgrade, long-haul, short-haul, economy, premium) you can redeem.

My personal spreadsheet of the 3.3m Avios I have redeemed since 2013 shows that I got an average value of 1.18p. This based on what I would personally have been prepared to pay for the flights I took, however, which may be far different from what you would have paid.

1p per point (potentially)

Melia Hotel redemptions.  You redeem for a voucher for a free night – 14,000 points for Grand Melia down to 5,500 points for a Tryp Hotel.  The issue is that ‘Offer runs for limited dates only’ and it is not clear if there is a price cap beyond which vouchers will not be accepted for that night.  (Go to the MR website and type ‘Melia’ in the search box to see the options.) You are also limited to a maximum stay of three nights.  You can research possible destinations on the Melia website.

1p per point

Club Carlson hotel transfersI explain my valuation in this article but that does not reflect the July 2015 devaluation which pushed up many top hotels to 70,000 points. That said, you still only need (70,000 / 3) 23,333 Amex points for the most expensive Carlson hotels and if you assume a £250 per night cash cost then 1p per point is still realistic.  Club Carlson in the UK covers Radisson Blu, Radisson Edwardian, Park Inn and Park Plaza.

0.75p per point

Starwood Preferred Guest hotel transfersI explain my valuation in this article.  1.5p per SPG point means, at a 2:1 exchange rate, 0.75p per Amex point. Starwood Preferred Guest points will be turned into Marriott Rewards points at some point in the next two years but, whilst we don’t know the ratio, I am assuming that you would have redeemed them by that point.  Starwood brands include Sheraton, Westin, St Regis, W, Le Meridien, The Luxury Collection and Aloft.

0.66p per point

Hilton HHonors hotel transfersI explain my valuation in this article.  Remember that the conversion rate is 1:2 to Hilton. You can do better than this – ‘cash and points’ redemptions with Hilton generally get you nearer to 0.5p per Hilton point which would be 1p per Amex point.  Hilton brands also include Conrad, Waldorf Astoria and Hampton.

0.5p per point

Retailer gift cards – Starbucks, M&S, Harrods, SpaFinder, iTunes, car hire vouchers etc.

0.5p per point (potential for up to 1p per point)

Value of a Nectar point, given that you can redeem Amex points for Nectar points at a 1:1 ratio.  Occasional Nectar redemptions offer better value than this, eg during a ‘double up’ promotion at Sainsbury you would get 1p.  Photobox gives 0.6p per Nectar point.  Caffe Nero conversions were worth 2p per point in a recent deal but there is a limit to many Caffe Nero visits you could make in the six weeks they were valid! Recent eBay promotions have let you convert Nectar points to eBay credit at 1p per point.

0.5p per point

Approximate value of using your points for Eurostar tickets (15,000 points for Standard, 30,000 for Standard Premier) based on the maximum cash price of tickets which are offered for redemption.  This article – which admittedly needs an overhaul – explains more.

0.45p per point

Redeeming for TripFlex statement credit – ie using your points to settle a travel-related charge to your statement.  I explain more in this article.

0.45p per point

Linking your Amex account to amazon.co.uk and paying for your purchases directly with points (more in this article)

0.4p per point

Redeeming for American Express statement credit. This is fall back option – there is no excuse for redeeming for anything worse than this ratio.

0.19p – 0.33p per point

Typical merchandise redemptions, e.g. iPaid Mini 4 16GB for 69,170 points (Amazon £317, so 0.46p) or Canon Ixus 275 HS camera for 41,780 points (Amazon £120, so 0.28p).  In many cases, you are better off buying the item at Amazon on your Amex card and taking 0.4p per point of statement credit to pay it off.

I hope this gives you some ideas for using your points.  If you use them sensibly, the 20,000 points sign-up bonus on the free American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (see review) could be worth £200 – and in the very worst case (taking statement credit) you will still receive £80.

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

LAST DAY: 30% off Virgin economy redemptions, Miles Booster and buy miles
Bits: cheap Avios IN-STORE with Tesco printer ink, good Miles & More Economist deal
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  1. Thanks for this rob. Can I just add a couple of observations. I’m Jewish to the gold card and the 20k rewards points (or in my case letting rob refer you gets 22k!). Redeeming to BAEC is simple enough once you link your account but one thing I am disappointed with is the the time it takes to hit your BAEC. For people new to this it’s not instant as I expected like BAEC to avios account etc. In the emails you get it says upto 10 working days in my experience even as of last week it hits your BAEC account overnight so takes a full day. First time I tried this I never knew saw availablity on flybe that I wanted to redeem on. Luckily they were still available when I transferred but I could easily see problems if you leave it in the Amex account in case if future devaluation only to redeem when you need them.

    Rob. If I have a gold my wife is a supplementary card holder can I refer her and she can get the 22k points aswell or does it have to be via yourself? Thanks

    • ps I’m not Jewish I’m NEWISH to the gold card lol! Damn I phone!

    • Genghis says:

      You can refer your wife (even if she is a supp on your account) and you get 9k MR points instantly, your wife getting 22k on £2k spend in first 3 months. Raffles would I’m sure happily refer your wife but best to ‘internalise’ the referrals.

      Avios is a ‘currency’. Going from BAEC to avios to Iberia etc, you’re not changing currency. Going from Amex MR, Tesco cc, SPG to BAEC (for e.g.), you are so a non instant conversion is to be somewhat expected – although there are cases where the transfer is instant.

      • Thanks genghis I didn’t know about the 9k for me! The account is linked I was just surprised it took a day. I’ve never had it take 10 days mind as Amex says!!

        • Not sure why you’re complaining about transfers taking one night, which has consistently been the case for a couple of years now (took 3-4 days previously)

          Tesco is also generally overnight.

          • Jeez chill out. Because I thought it was instant that’s why. If I didn’t know I’m sure there are others that don’t know. I know about tesco taking a day or so. It might just help one person who is new to MR like I was and who may just may think I can get my avios almost instantly. As I said it’s not the end of the world just useful reminder to others that are new and who may just rely on a redemption.

            • Yes thanks Nick I’m just about to apply for my first Gold card and I didn’t know about the time delay – very helpful.

      • Chia Yau says:

        You will get the reward. My wife have my supplement card and I was reward 9000 point for referring her :)

    • The first time to transfer from MR to Avios it takes longer but future transfers are much quicker. I think it is because they need to verify you the first time. That’s why Raffles has previously recommended connecting your MR & Avios accounts prior to doing your first transfer as it saves time if you later need the avios urgently.

    • I’ve had my account for a year or so but only recently linked my MR account to BA, Virgin & Hilton… Linked and made first transfer immediately and points posted within 48 hours or so. I imagine they may do them in batches and I got lucky but you just missed the cut off?

      • Virgin is automatic. BA I usually get within 24-48 hours. Not done a Hilton for a while.

        The Amex website does now give estimated times. They are being cautious in my experience.

  2. Sorry this is OT.
    Booked 2 tickets first class BA using 2 for 1 companion voucher.
    I wanted to add my daughter to booking (she is currently 2 months and will be 6 months when we travel).
    Is there a cost in terms of avios/taxes? Given that they don’t get their own seat I would have thought not. Do they make any provisions for infants in first class? Thanks

    • Worzel says:

      Rob has done a couple of articles on “travelling with infants” -tap that into the search function.

      • Erico1875 says:

        its 10% of the Avios. Im not too sure what the cash fee is

      • There is a cost. 10% of the miles and 10% of the taxes.

        • Thanks

        • Matthew says:

          Unlike Singapore Airlines where I have just paid 10% off the full business fare – which comes out at £500 for an infant to sit on my lap!! Ouch…

        • Oyster says:

          It’s not 10% of taxes.
          Heathrow charge 100% of their PSC to infants. It totally depends on route as some airports and countries charge fees for infants and some don’t.

          Unsurprisingly the greedy folk at Heathrow charge the most.

  3. Nathan says:

    slightly OT, but it is still about MR. I currently have the Gold Amex, and due to some large purchases have spent nearly £10k already. My card anniversary isn’t until Nov. I am thinking of upgrading to platinum via the link on hfp to get the bonus points. But my question is what happens to the 10000MR points i would have been eligible for on my card anniversary?

    • Matthew says:

      Mine came on at around 13 months, despite upgrading to plat at 8 months. You could phone up and ask to put them on early subject to upgrading to plat.

    • You lose it.

      • :'(

        • Nathan says:

          my wife has a gold card too, if she upgrades to platinum and adds me as a supplementary card holder, can i then get all the benefits i.e. HH Gold status as all that sort of stuff is in my name and not hers.

  4. Hi Rob/guys. I’ve a much, much smaller sample size than Rob since he introduced me to this wonderful hobby last year, using MR points to avios I’ve been able to get a minimum of 1.2p, largely using them for RFS as for me they represent tremendous value.
    The worst avios redemption I’ve had this year is 1.2p, the highest is over 3p verses a ridiculous cash price for a business class Iberia positioning flight to Madrid. I also used our first 2-4-1 which again is excellent use of avios. The Gold Amex card is a thing of beauty and I have to say I love Amex. 22,000 avios for free, keep it in a draw, refer your other half another 22,000 plus 9,000 for the referral. 6 months later rinse and repeat. I’ve just had my 2nd Amex Gold and I’m looking forward to more free avios, who doesn’t like free, thanks again Rob.

  5. This is useful thank you. I was going to convert my 25000 Amex points to £100 Virgin East Coast vouchers, but this appears to not be a great rate. Have I understood correctly that actually the best thing to do would be to convert to Nectar and then convert 25000 Nectar points to £125 of vouchers?

    • Genghis says:

      It depends what you want but not a good deal IMO. However, Nectar is one of the few where you can transfer is non-round denominations so I use it to empty MR accounts

    • You’d need to check the small print on both vouchers but, on the face of it, yes.

  6. JamesLHR says:

    Anyone got any indications that Amex is planning to be as kind as they are being in the USA with a 100,000 sign up bonus for Platinum?

    • Kind for me would be to eliminate forex charges.

    • The day that happens will be the day Amex can charge UK shops twice what they charge now, ie never.

      Remember that Visa / MC interchange fees in the US are 1.75%. Even before the EU cut UK fees to 0.3%, they were only 0.75%-1%. US retailers have been getting legged over for years and that is what funds the bonuses (and the $500 sign-up commissions paid on some credit cards to US bloggers).

    • RIccati says:

      Visa/MC Interchange fees in the US — 1.75%.
      But then it’s possible for any size of business to have acquiring costs — all in for 2.75%, even less.

      Visa/MC Interchange fees in the EU/UK — 0.3% after cap.
      But a lot of the UK/London businesses are on 3-4% acquiring costs.

  7. Anyone know how long Starwoods takes?

  8. Gilbert Ott says:

    I’d say £200 of value at best of 20,000 points is a very low valuation. Used wisely you should be getting at least £300 of value, and used on intelligent flight redemptions you should be able to unlock more near £1000 of value. Shooting too low is what kills good bonuses.

    • Genghis says:

      Do you have an example of when you got 5p / MR point of true economic value?

      • Nathan says:

        LGW to INN for February half term 2017, Economy seats £908 return, or 9000 avios points plus £35 RFS, works out at 9.7p per avios point.

        • Where are you seeing £908 return? BA (with luggage) is £428 return on 18/2-25/2 or you can fly Thomas Cook for around £289 (with luggage). Still 2.8p/avios is pretty good.

          • Nathan says:

            12/2 – 18/2 just on the BA website comes up £454 each way for me.

            • Ah got it! It’s safe to assume that there would be families out there who would be willing to pay that over flying to Munich and driving through the mountains for a few hours.

              Unfortunately there’s no RFS availability so it’s a bit of a moot comparison. I’d be interested to know what the cash alternative was at T-355 during the brief window when there was availability.

            • But should you see that as real value (Nathan) when you could have been more organised, bought the tickets @ T-355 days and been comparing 9000 Avios points + £35 to (say) £180 return?

              I like to pat myself on the back the same as most of us here but I’m not really getting nearly £3000 of seats at May half term coming up vs the 60000 Avios + £140 that we actually paid for 4 redemptions. You’d probably tell me I’m getting 4.8p/ avios :) But I’d simply never have paid the £3000.

            • Nathan says:

              I use this as an example because I did book 4 RFS tickets at T-355. The cash price at the time was similar to what it is today.

        • Can you get Avios seats on that flight though?! If you do want a seat on that flight, find a BA Gold and bung them a few hundred to book for you via Gold Preferred Rewards at 18k each plus £35 …..

          • Nathan says:

            yes I managed to book 4 Avios seats in Econ each way. didnt have 241 to use up so just logged in at midnight at T-355 and booked them as one way flights.

      • The highest on my spreadsheet is 3.3p which is the airberlin flights from Mallorca to Innsbruck I booked last week!

        • James67 says:

          Best I’ve ever managed is 4.68 but that was against what was IMO a totally ludicrous CW fare to BKK. Value would be even greater if I factored in net avios cost as one direction was UUA. Despite this I’m still reluctant to buy avios at more than 0.5p these days given competitive premium revenue fares.

    • You’re probably misinterpreting how Raffles calculates value – it’s not on the “cash” fare equivalent but what he’s willing to pay cash for that flight. I suspect a lot of HFP readers would look at his spreadsheet and come up with a value much higher than 1.18p for those redemptions.

      As an example, a couple of years ago I used 30,000 points for a one-way BA redemption LHR-DME in First class. The cash value of this ticket was over £4000, however I would have parted with £500 maximum for this ticket myself and therefore received 1.67p per point in value.

      • Stuart says:

        Only £500 wouldn’t have bought you that £4k ticket, regardless if you been willing or not…

        • Having a valuation isn’t about calculating a saving against a price you’d never be willing to pay. It’s about determining your own value per point. The cash price of a ticket is meaningless in this context unless you’re willing to pay that amount.

          • Stuart says:

            Let say you want to travel LHR to SYD. You can pay (say) £10k in F or (say) £500 in Y or not go. (ok, other options are another carrier, ex EU, umpteen transfers etc. Ignoring these for this argument)

            I would not go that distance in Y.

            So I use 300,000-odd avios (forget the tax) to travel in F, have a wonderful time and vow to never fly Y again.

            Value of the avios? Closer to £10k that £500 I would say.

        • Genghis says:

          Matt’s point is that he would not have paid £4k to travel F to DME. His willingness to pay was £500 (maybe have got a W seat for that if lucky on BA) so the value he got was worth £500 to him. On my most recent China booking, I’d have never paid £7k for two J tickets (cash price when booking), but would have paid over £2k in QR sale.

          • Stuart says:

            so the value is £500 for a W seat, plus get to travel in F. No value applied to that? It’s not comparing apples for apples.

            • The point of the valuation is to compare what you’d be willing to pay against your next best alternative. Look up “conjoint analysis” for a more technical explanation.

              With LHR-DME, I could have bought a one-way Y ticket for around £150 on Easyjet, which would have been fine for a 4 hour flight. My willingness to pay is £350 to fly in BA first class for 4 hours versus that Easyjet flight.

              Similarly, if I wanted to travel LHR-SYD, I might not be willing to fly in Y but I might be willing to pay for an indirect flight via Doha in J for £3000 or a direct BA flight in J for £4000. I would need to figure out how much I’d pay for BA first over those alternatives.

      • It could go either way.

        There a few Gold Priority Rewards on there from 2014 where I was paying double Avios and thus pulled down my overall valuation. On the other hand, my view of ‘what would I pay for cash?’ may be higher than yours. I have in the past paid £1,500 cash to get to the Middle East in J, for example, so I value redemptions at that. European flights I tend to value at £250 in CE and, again, I have paid that in the past.

        If you would never pay £1,500 cash to the Middle East in Business then you can’t say 80,000 Avios + £500 tax “gets” you 1.25p per point.

    • It is all proportional though. I have 8 million Avios, hotel and Amex points. The floor value of the Avios and Amex points is 0.5p because I can turn them into cash for that (well, hotel rooms via Avios, cash via Amex). On the basis that I will struggle to ever spend the 8m then any redemption better than 0.5p is worth doing.

      Having two little kids and a busy banker wife also means the cancellation flexibility of redemptions, which I don’t price in to valuations, is a valuable extra bonus.

      • RIccati says:

        Raffles, your wife shall correct you that flexibility = intrinsic value of an embedded option.


  9. OMG 3.3 MILLION Aviso. Wow. I manage a about 150/200 thousand a year. Have maxed out credit cards for Avios (am awaiting the 6 months I think to reapply for another?) I convert tesco clubcard, do erewards surveys as does my partner, pay for everything i can on Amex …use Gate 365 etc. is there anything Im missing??

  10. Nick G says:


    What’s your view on buying miles. I read about Alaska air miles the other day using to redeem on the likes of Cathay etc. Some on their table seem not bad value.

    • If you can justify the cost, why not buy? No idea about Alaska, but most of us could get more than 0.7p of value from an Avios point, so why not buy them? Iberia/ Groupon were offering them for 0.7p the other day.

      It’s like somebody offering you a tenner for a fiver, except not so good lol

      Far less hassle than some methods. Instant gratification (well, maybe a few weeks).

      I’m currently getting 4.8p/ Avios of value on my Half term flights :)

    • I try not to encourage speculative purchases on here because it carries elements of risk over devaluations, rule changes etc which can trap the less experienced. If you buy a pile of Avios you can easily use them in the end. If you buy Alaska miles to fly JAL and then Alaska restricts it to direct JAL flights from the US before you can book, you’re more stuffed. An Amex 2-4-1 also makes Avios good value compared with even the most generous competing programme.

      Alaska, after all, almost doubled the cost of some Emirates redemptions overnight and with no notice recently. This left a LOT of people stuck who had bought miles in the sale a couple of weeks before.

      • RIccati says:

        Granted that Alaska offered to refund miles purchases in March 2016, e.g., made in the month prior to Emirates redemption hike. They also say it was done on insistence of Emirates.

        Apparently Alaska Airlines mileage program is very profitable for them — they clearly arbitrage with people buying their miles to redeem on diverse partners, e.g., for a US resident, Alaska Miles are like AA miles but can be used on Delta too.

        So Alaska is the most profitable airline on recent stats and mileage program operation allowed them to purchase Virgin America!

  11. Anyone actually done the Melia voucher thing? Not quite sure how it works? I’m about to get 2 nights vouchers at Amex rewards, how exactly do I redeem them? Do I book as normal and then when I check in present the vouchers?

    • OK, so answering some of my own question. From the Amex page, it says

      “One night in Sol Melia Melia Hotel

      The Sol Melia Gift Voucher is for use directly with the hotel, and will be valid for a minimum of 6 months after the point of redemption.

      Come and experience a warm Spanish welcome. There are literally hundreds of destinations to choose from. With more than 350 properties in over 30 countries, Sol Melia is Europe’s third largest hotel company, offering unrivalled comfort and choice. To find out more about Sol Melia properties, visit solmelia.com

      You may use your points to redeem up to three vouchers, for one night’s stay. When you know your travel dates, call Sol Melia on 0800 962720 and make your reservation, advising that you wish to use an American Express Membership Rewards Voucher. A reservation must be made in advance of the redeeming for this voucher. Your voucher should be presented to the hotel partner at time of check-in.”

      So I’ve booked the Melia Paris and ordered 2 nights vouchers at 11k each (I only have 24k MR points) so it appears that I’ve gotten quite good value as they wanted £264 per night, so effetively 2p per point, although I wouldn’t necessarily pay that in the first place, but it seemed like a good use of points. I am staying 2 nights though, so I’m going to be shelling out £264 for the final night!

      The only question I have (which raffles mentioned) is what’s stopping me booking the exective suite (at roughly £1000 per night) and using the vouchers?

      • *edit* actually around 2.4p per point.

        • Gareth says:

          Did you state you would be using an Amex Reward Voucher? As i’ve been trying to book some rooms an every single hotel I’ve tried is unavailable, over the entire year – apparently because the “Amex rate has no availability”.

          Anyone else had this issue?

          • Yes, warning to those that want to use these, phone the call center first to check “rewards” availability. Apparently, unless there is availability, you cannot use the vouchers, so now I have some useless vouchers as the dates I booked are not available.

            • And I decided that while I was on the call, I’d check other “availability” – seems very sparse, so be warned that you should book WITH THE CALL CENTER before you order these vouchers.

  12. “Value” and “Saving” is often confused when it comes to points & Miles. I like to use the example of winning a £10K holiday in a competition. Just because you didn’t pay a penny for it, doesn’t mean it’s not a holiday valued @ £10K. But at the same time you didn’t SAVE £10K unless you were going to spend £10Kof your own money on an equivalent holiday had you not won it.

    So I tend to value points/miles usage based on the cost of the hotel/flights if I had paid in cash, but I don’t see it as a saving.

    • Of course, which is why you need to adjust accordingly. As I mentioned in the other comment, my valuations are based on what I know I would pay (and in the past have paid).

    • RIccati says:

      This is a very valuable point.

      There is another angle to it — making a flexible points hotel booking and then going for the cheapest last-minute cash rate. This actually delivers cash saving as opposed to booking pre-paid rate.


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