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 2017 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 is here and Amex points transfer into Avios at 1:1.  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 last 6m Avios I have redeemed shows that I got an average value of 1.2p. 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 Sol Hotel.  It is not clear what availability restrictions there are, but you can ring Melia to book your reward night before ordering your voucher, so there is no risk.  (Go to the Membership Rewards website here and type ‘Melia’ in the search box to see the options.) You are limited to a maximum stay of three nights.  You can research possible destinations on the Melia website.

1p per point

Club Carlson hotel transfers.  I explain my valuation in this article and the conversion rate is a generous 1 Amex point to 3 Club Carlson points.  You 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 transfers.  I explain my 1.5p valuation of an SPG point in this article.  1.5p per SPG point means, at a 2:1 exchange rate from Membership Rewards, 0.75p per Amex point. Starwood Preferred Guest points can also be turned into Marriott Rewards points at the ratio of 1:3 and, as I value a Marriott point at 0.5p, this underpins my SPG valuation.  Starwood brands include Sheraton, Westin, St Regis, W, Le Meridien, The Luxury Collection and Aloft.

0.66p per point

Hilton Honors hotel transfersI explain my valuation of 0.33p for a Hilton point in this article.  Remember that the conversion rate is 1:2 to Hilton which is how I get to 0.66p per Amex point.  Hilton brands include Conrad, Waldorf Astoria and Hampton.

0.5p per point

Retailer gift cards – Starbucks, M&S, Harrods, SpaFinder, iTunes, car hire vouchers etc.  20,000 Amex points will get you a £100 shopping voucher, for example.

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

The 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.  Occasional 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 explains more.  Amex will remain a Eurostar partner after the Eurostar scheme is relaunched later this year.

0.45p per point

Linking your Amex account to amazon.co.uk and paying for your purchases directly with points (more in this article).  This is a slightly silly option, however, as you can also redeem for Amazon gift cards and get 0.5p per point!

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.

0.2p – 0.33p per point

Typical merchandise redemptions, such as an iPad.  These are almost always terrible deals.  In most 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.

(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.)

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.

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Comments

  1. Jonathan cocker says:

    Hi
    I have about 120,000 points on my business gold card. I would like to redeem these points for flights through BA to South Africa.
    It looks like I only get about £700 off for spending 120k on my card. Does this sound right or am I doing something wrong?
    Can I transfer the points to a BA Amex and will this be of benefit?
    As I want to mainly redeem points for flights should I ditch my business gold card and get a BA Amex?
    Thanks
    Jonathan

    • So you have 120k MR points earned from a Business Amex Gold card? These can be transferred to British Airways Executive Club. You’ll get 120k avios, which IIRC 125k is needed off peak to either JNB or CPT on BA.

      MR points cannot be transferred to the BA Amex, only to BA Executive Club. Avios you earn with the BA Amex also transfer to BA Executive Club once a month.

      Only you will know after doing research whether the Amex Gold Business card or a BA Amex (free or paid) is right for you. With the BA Amex, it sounds obvious but you only earn avios. With Amex cards you earn MR points which can be transferred to other currencies. Such “pluripotentiality” may offer some value to you.

      • Jonathan cocker says:

        Thank you for your prompt and informative reply. Do you mean 125k gets one so Single or one return?
        All the best
        Jonathan

        • I paid 125k avios (off peak) + 241 + £1k taxes for two people return open jaw LHR-CPT, JNB-LHR in Club World. So it’s 125k Avios + £500 for one

  2. I think the SPG value us out of date – am trying to calculate the best way to spend 300k MR points and using the SPG app and looking at the room rate/starpoints offers for Bangkok where I heading at the end of the year am geting a 1.325p per SPG point which takes the AMEX MR points to the same level as the Hilton at 0.66p.

    • Bangkok hotels are notoriously cheap though. We got the equivalent of 4p per SPG points (ie 1.33p per Marriott point) at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto over Easter, albeit I don’t think we would have paid the cash price which was well over £500 per night. My desert stay in Ras Al Khaimah next month (another Ritz-Carlton) works out at 4.8p per SPG point (ie 1.6p per Marriott point) and I would have paid that since it is actually cheaper for cash than the Dubai resort we are paying cash for the following week!

      • Yep, 2.2p/point on a recent stay for me – at rates I would have paid too – in USD though so GBP weakness probably helped inflate value. Agree if cash rates low such that my value per point was dropping that low then I wouldn’t use points -overall I still think they’re worth around 3x HH points.

      • Thanks Rob & Alan – I guess I will bank my points until I can find a decent redemption rate !

  3. Hi Rob,

    Is there a way to transfer my husband’ Amex Rewards on to me? I wanted to transfer them and convert them to SPG points to make a booking. Or do I need to transfer them into a SPG account in his name and then do the booking?

    Thank you in advance
    Maria J