There is a range of gift ideas highlighted here. But is there anything of real value?
The key thing to note with Membership Rewards is that your points are disproportionately valuable when transferred to travel loyalty schemes, even without a transfer bonus.
Most people can justify valuing an Avios point at 1p or more. I tend to value them at 0.75p, but I have a lot of them and that decreases their marginal value. Similarly, 1p for a Virgin Flying Club mile is achievable – you can even get this on Economy redemptions now in peak season, given that Virgin has reduced their taxes.
Club Carlson, at 1 Amex to 3 Carlson, can easily be worth 1p per Amex point. A top London hotel at 50,000 points would only be 17,000 Membership Rewards points, after all. And even though the Amex to SPG ratio seems poor at 2:1, you can still get 1p per Amex point of value from a mid-tier hotel redemption.
What is the best Membership Rewards redemption if you want to cash out?
Let’s assume, though, that you have enough travel points to keep you going. Or, perhaps due to a change in personal circumstances, you would be grateful to simply cash out your points for cash or something similar.
What you shouldn’t do is buy merchandise from the Membership Rewards catalogue. I don’t know where Amex sources their stuff, but they don’t drive a hard bargain. Here are a couple of examples from the Christmas catalogue:
Trunki (Freida) – 8,320 points. The Trunki website wants £37.99, which is 0.45p per point – roughly what I would expect. However, a quick search find the same Trunki at £32 all-in, so 0.38p.
The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 70cl whisky – 11,790 points. Asda is currently selling this at £35, so you’re getting just 0.29p per point.
Canon IXUS 255 camera – 47,780 points – is widely available at £189 all-in, so just 0.39p per point. You’d be better off redeeming 38,000 points for £189 of Amazon gift vouchers and buying from there.
I have trawled through the MR catalogue on your behalf looking for non-loyalty programme deals. These are ‘interesting’ to me:
Train travel, booked via East Coast – they have been offering a 20% bonus on East Coast gift vouchers for months. This equates to 0.6p per MR point, which is decent – in fact, it is the best non-loyalty scheme redemption I could find. You get an e-voucher on screen, immediately, so no waiting for it to arrive either. Unused amounts sit on your East Coast account for future use.
House of Fraser gift cards. Currently a 10% bonus available, so you get 0.55p per MR point.
Book any hotel with Avios via the BA site. You get 0.58p per Avios if you do this, so effectively 0.58p per MR point.
There are various gift cards available which get you 0.5p per MR point, including Amazon (these are e-vouchers, so you get the code immediately on screen) and iTunes.
You can redeem for American Express gift cards, which can be spent in shops or online. At 22,000 points for £100, you are getting 0.45p per point. When you get down to the last few pounds, buy an Amazon gift voucher for the exact amount left (via our affiliate link in the right-hand menu if you like!) and add it to your Amazon account for future use.
Nectar conversion is an often-forgotten cash-out route. You can convert Amex points to Nectar points at 1:1. And, of course, you can swipe your Nectar card in Sainsbury, Homebase, Argos, Expedia or BP to pay. This gets you 0.5p per MR point. (They also have occasional double-up deals at restaurants and attractions, but these places are usually discountable via vouchers anyway.) You can also book easyJet flights at 0.5p per point. One outlier is Photobox, where you get 0.6p per point.
Taking statement credit from Amex. If you have paid for travel with your Amex card, you can redeem your points to wipe out some or all of that charge on your statement! The rate is 0.45p per point. Not great, but hassle-free. Alternatively, you could convert to Nectar and then book via Expedia, which gets you 0.5p per point.
I have looked at various other options as well. You can cash out Virgin Flying Club miles for Virgin Group vouchers at 0.4p per MR point. Etihad lets you literally cash out (via a Points Pay virtual Visa number) for 0.41p per mile (=MR point). Club Carlson lets you cash out for Paypal credit at the equivalent of 0.28p per MR point. Eurostar Frequent Travellers lets you cash out for M&S vouchers at 0.33p per MR point or for Eurostar credit at 0.37p per point. None of these are hugely exciting without a transfer bonus.
I’d be interested to know if anyone has any other interesting cashing out routes, potentially via a third party programme. (I have ignored the International Dollar Card route in this analysis for simplicity.) Fundamentally, though, redeeming for travel loyalty programmes is generally the most lucrative way to go, unless you need the money.
(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)