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.

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

Over the last few 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.  Etihad, one of the last few hold-outs, finally started selling miles a couple of months ago.

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 has got more attractive over the last year for those airlines who sell miles priced in US$ or Euro, since the fall in Sterling has made them noticeably more expensive if bought direct.  American Express sells you Membership Rewards points priced in £ so that cost has remained constant.

(Of course, many airlines often have mileage sales which bring down the price below what you will pay using this route.  Don’t use this method to buy miles speculatively which you don’t plan to use immediately.)

Membership Rewards

This method does not 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 £229 (€250), you save £79

Asia Miles – 10,000 miles costs £269 ($345), you save £119

Delta Skymiles – 10,000 miles costs £273 ($350), you save £123

Emirates Skywards – 10,000 miles costs £312  ($400), you save £162

Etihad Guest – 10,000 miles costs £155 ($200), only a marginal £5 saving at the current exchange rate

Finnair Plus – 10,000 miles costs £118 (€129), no saving at current exchange rate

Flying Blue – 10,000 miles costs £252 (€275), you save £102

SAS EuroBonus – 10,000 miles costs £339 (€370), you save £189

Singapore Airlines – 10,000 miles costs £311 ($400), you save £161

Hilton Honors – 20,000 points costs $200 (£144), only a marginal £5 saving at current exchange rate

Starwood – 5,000 points costs $175 (£136), no saving at current exchange rate

Club Carlson – 30,000 points cost $210 (£163), 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 method also gets around any annual caps on the amount of miles you can buy directly.

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

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Comments

  1. If I was buying 3k Emirates points is it cheaper to buy from amex directly or from Emirates and their 25% credit card discount?

  2. the real harry1 says:

    you could argue that 5000 Starwood = 10,000 Starwood if you are on 15K – so half price

  3. Is the offer limited to the main card holder? Or can supplementary card holders also purchase 10000 MR points?

  4. Can anyone offer some inspiration?

    We’re a family of 4 (3yrs & 4 months) and would like a break somewhere Nov-Feb ish)…. most recent holidays have been long weekends/several locations and so ideally looking for at least a week in one location. The overall trip can be a bit longer as we don’t have a limited number of holiday days.

    Ideally spending the least amount of cash as possible! We currently have 150k Avios, 100k Virgin, 40k SPG (gold), 60k Hilton (diamond), 30k Club Carlson (gold). Plus 55k MR & £130 Tesco cc

    • Conrad Algarve? Not to far to travel with young kids, and if you want to extend before or after with an extra city break it’s a very easy train ride to Lisbon.

    • Florida or Dubai?

    • the real harry1 says:

      loads on the avios.com site

      eg the 4 of you @ Regal Park, Rome for 38,800 room + 39,000 flight – 11-18th November

      • Thanks for the suggestions everyone 🙂

        Didn’t think to look at Avios.com for hotels – will have a proper search on there!

  5. Rob, I think some of your conclusions are wrong:

    Hilton @ £144 direct is £6 cheaper than buying Amex MR
    Carlson @ £163 is £13 more expensive than buying Amex MR

    • I think he’s not being that literal. After £ $ and exchange charges it’s all very marginal.

  6. At 1.5p/ MR it would only make sense to top up for a immediate redemption if you are a few short, I doubt most people are getting > 1.5p/mile or > 0.75p/Hilton etc!

    • That’s what Rob said: “Don’t use this method to buy miles speculatively which you don’t plan to use immediately.”

  7. Sorry off topic….

    Got a BA Amex Premium Plus card and triggered the 2-4-1 voucher months ago, but not used it yet. The card is about to go into it’s second year and I’m not wanting to pay the card fee again. Do I just downgrade the card or can I cancel completely and not lose the voucher? I would prefer to cancel as I don’t use the card anymore.

    • You can do either although Amex will give you scare stories otherwise.

      You will need an Amex of some sort to pay the taxes when you book your 241.

  8. BA-flyer says:

    Slightly OT (but still Amex). Are supplementary cardholders credit checked? And does your credit rating then become linked to the new cardholder?

    • I can’t fully answer the question. But previously I’ve got supplementary cards for my sister (with her permission) simply to mop up points/miles offers, and they’ve just issued the cards. Having done this again last week they’ve asked for proof of ID and proof of address.

    • No but may have an ID-check via a credit agency, and no.

  9. Peanutuneap says:

    seems poor value, no? many people offer better ways to gets points at not such costs.

  10. O/T but Amex related.

    I have just applied online for the BA Black Card, already holding the Blue version (i.e. I want to upgrade). This hasn’t gone through online yet, but I was wondering, when it does:

    i) will my existing Blue supplementary card holder automatically get her card replaced with the Black version?

    ii) will the existing Blue cards keep working (and earn at the black card rates) pending receipt of the black card(s)?

    Thanks!

  11. Hi Rob,
    I already have an AMEX green card and the blue BA AMEX card. If I apply for the AMEX Preferred Rewards Gold card will I qualify for the bonus?
    Thanks

    • No. You already have a Membership Rewards account via your Green card, and it is having a MR account that is the key thing. You need to be without one for 6 months.

    • If your green card is your own card not named on someone dlse card., then no bonus on gold…plus ba doesn’t count as its a different category.

    • The BA card doesn’t matter, but if you have an MR account with the Green one then you wouldn’t be eligible.