Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Is there any value in the Amex Membership Rewards Christmas special offers?

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If you have an Amex Gold or Amex Platinum charge card, and are opted in to postal mailshots from Amex, you should have received the Membership Rewards Christmas offers brochure recently.

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.

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2023 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 21st February 2023, the sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is increased to 35,000 Avios from 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

35,000 Avios (ONLY to 21st February) and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

SPECIAL OFFER: Capital On Tap has increased its sign-up bonus to points worth 30,000 Avios if you apply by 4th February. This is exclusive to Head for Points readers. Click here to apply.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 30,000 points bonus, worth 30,000 Avios, until 4th February 2023 Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (3% for 3 months if you apply by 31st March) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (8)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Paul says:

    Like you got to the Balvenie offer and when I saw the price deposited the book elect in the shredder.

    Very poor and I will hold on to my MR in the hope of transfer bonus.

    • John2 says:

      Why waste electricity shredding it, there’s no personal information in the brochure (I hope!!!)

  • vindaloo says:

    I took a quick glance at the brochure last night and saw nothing that looked like good value, but I put it to one side to study in more detail later. Now I don’t need to bother, so thanks Raffles for doing the hard work for us!

  • BD says:

    My other half has just cashed a load of MR points (AMEX Gold sign up and some spend) from some Bose headphones. Like others on here, I’m not convinced it is the best use of points, but we have over 250,000 Avios (many former bmi Destinations Miles!) between us. Plenty for for our planned redemption (hopefully a 2-4-1 to Oz next year), so I didn’t push the point.
    We have yet to redeem Avios for long-haul travel and convincing her to keep collecting is getting problematic. Living up north it’s hard to ignore Ryanair and easyJet for direct flights to European destinations, even with Reward Saver. If it keeps the peace…

    Raffles makes a good point about earning and spending Nectar points on easyJet. At 0.5p per point I think it is a decent use of my otherwise orphaned points.

    • Rob says:

      Question is whether your OH should have redeemed for an Amazon giftcard and then bought the headphones off Amazon. Or moved to Nectar and then gone to Argos.

      For the record, I moved 4000 MR to Nectar last night in order to get a £24 Photobox voucher. 0.6p is not great but I am also Avios-heavy at present as well!

      Remember Nectar also has Expedia as a partner, you get 0.5p per MR point that way, although you must do a ‘flight and hotel’ or ‘flight and car’ package (or a ‘special rate’ flight if flight only). Bog standard flight purchases not allowed.

      • BD says:

        I fully agree, but all the collecting of Avios, still flying easyjet and Ryanair and the horror of having to pay taxes is trying her patience too far. The only way to solve this is a long haul redemption in J. My parents thought I was utterly insane collecting “them miles”. Then I treated them to DUB-ZRH-LAX-YYZ-LHR-DUB on LX/AC in J and now they collect miles at every opportunity. They had never flown long haul J before and have no intention to venture behind the curtain again!

        At least I can put the headphones on and not have to listen to the “pointless collecting of points”.

  • Jude says:

    Has anybody tried to redeem MR rewards for the fixed price Melia nights yet? I phoned up the number on the Amex website and tried to get them to understyand what I wanted but I had to set up a Melia account and then they quoted me about 300,00 Melia points for a room. I don’t think she understood at all what I wanted to do.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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