Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Falling £ makes Etihad PointsPay a better way to use American Express Membership Rewards points

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The big ‘thing’ in the loyalty world at the moment is the ability to let members redeem small amounts of points for cash or a cash equivalent.

The Hilton Honors changes, which went live 10 ten days ago, are an example of this.  You can now use as few as 5,000 points to get a cash discount on your next room.  Similar, using ‘Part Pay With Avios‘, you need as few as 1,250 Avios points to get a cash saving on your next flight.

Such deals used to be terrible value  and there are still people redeeming Lufthansa Miles & More miles for a toaster from their Worldshop catalogue at roughly 0.25p per mile of value!  This is slowly changing – in most scenarios you’ll now get the same value per Hilton point whether you redeem 5,000 or 100,000 at once.

Etihad Guest has one of the most interesting schemes.  Called PointsPay, it is a way of cashing out airline miles – for real cash – via a Virtual Visa Card. 

The last time I looked at this, three years ago, it was weak.  You received around 0.4p per point.  However, because PointsPay is $ driven, the fall in the £ now means it is becoming interesting.  You can now get close to 0.55p per Etihad Guest point.

PointsPay is not new, launching in 2012. It is not owned by Etihad Guest, but no other airline has signed up in the last five years!  It is an interesting model, though.

The company describes itself as:

PointsPay offers a mobile wallet and payment system that enables members of participating loyalty programs to redeem points and miles in-store and online at over 30 million merchants worldwide. You convert your miles and points into Cash (Virtual Visa Card or Mastercard) and then use it anywhere.

You use your PC or smartphone, via an app, to transfer your Etihad Guest miles to or from PointsPay. You can then either generate a ‘virtual Visa’ number online, for online shopping, or order a physical plastic Visa card from PointsPay which can be used in retailers like a normal debit card.

How many £ do I get per Etihad Guest mile?

More than you might think.

Take a look at this screenshot:

Points Pay

9,232 Etihad Guest miles gets you £50.  That works out at 0.54p per mile.

You can convert as few as 1,050 Etihad miles – that gets you £5.  However, because the 80p loading fee is fixed, you get a slightly better deal the more you convert.

0.55p per Etihad Guest point is certainly not outstanding – I would normally look to get at closer to 1p if redeeming for flights. However, you are cleanly exiting your miles.   A few years ago I used PointsPay to cash out a small number of miles from a Korean Air flight which were credited to Etihad Guest.

0.55p is the best ‘cash equivalent’ Amex Membership Rewards redemption

American Express Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Etihad Guest miles.

There are already various ways of cashing out Membership Rewards points, either for statement credit, travel products, retail gift cards or into Nectar points (spendable like cash in Sainsburys).   The redemption rate is never better than 0.5p per point compared to 1p per point for a good airline mile redemption.  This HFP article looked at the value you get.

If you are looking to turn Membership Rewards points into cash, PointsPay is currently the best way of doing it.  You will get 20% more than if you used them for shopping on Amazon, for example, and 10% more than if you turned them into Nectar points.

(Note that this example was run on a day when it was $1.23 to £1.  If the $ goes up, the 0.55p number will fall.)

Even better, Etihad Guest does occasional transfer bonuses from American Express Membership Rewards.  If there was a 25% bonus, you would be getting 0.68p per American Express point – and at that level you should seriously consider taking cash in your hand over Avios or hotel points to be used in the future.

In general, of course, the best deal with loyalty points is almost always to redeem for the proprietary product offered by that loyalty schemeUse Avios for flights, use Eurostar Frequent Traveller points for trains and use hotel points for rooms.  Take advantage of the fact that these companies have unsold spare capacity they are happy to offload.  Cashing out points for cash or a cash equivalent is very rarely worth it, but I must admit that the deals are getting better.


Earning Flying Blue miles from credit cards

How to earn Etihad Guest miles from UK credit cards (November 2020)

Etihad Guest does not have a UK credit card.  However, you can earn Etihad Guest miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cardsThese are:

Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Etihad Guest miles which is an attractive rate.  The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Etihad Guest mile. The Gold card earns double points (2 per £1) on all flights you charge to it.

Etihad Guest is also a partner with the HSBC Premier Mastercard (0.5 miles per £1 spent, reviewed here) and HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard (1 mile per £1 spent, reviewed here).

Comments (21)

  • Sundar says:

    Etihad miles, when usable, are valuable for its partner redemptions – Brussels Airlines, Jet Airways, AA are some of the partner airlines where reward redemptions, when possible(Need to book 21 days ahead, should be possible if booking far out), are at a very good rate.

  • Fenny says:

    I’ve only got 1000 Etihad miles, which expire in a few weeks, so if i need a few for the load fee, I can’t convert them. I used 500 miles on raffle tickets for something or other last year!

  • Andrew H says:

    Can you use Pointspay on Amazon?