Falling £ makes Etihad PointsPay a better way to use Amex MR 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.

(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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  1. Dynamo says:

    Did this last week as I had 25000ish etihad points expiring in June and wasn’t going to be able to use them on a flight. PointsPay is a better deal on etihad than any voucher I would have otherwise used such as Amazon. If you were intending on spending at Amazon use pointspay to top up your Amazon account instead.

    My points were to be used towards a business class return but that was before devaluation and with them expiring this summer pointspay was a good way of exiting the scheme.

  2. This sounds like the perfect way for me to get something back from my GA flight this summer. Thanks!

  3. Talay says:

    Though I could never get this to work – I was trying to set up “just in case” – surely the fact that these poor relation schemes are even being considered as mainstream shows how poorly the proprietary rewards actually are after current devaluations.

    On Etihad’s own network, my usual LHR-BKK route uses about 216k (current minimum) through to around 260k (rough average) of points for a business class redemption, plus about £300 or so.

    Given you can “often” get a cash fare in the circa £1600 range (net £1300 over points) and using 260k points, you are only getting 0.5p in value in any case.

    Of course, points come into their own if you have them and cash fares are high but you often find that the redemption miles required at such times get hiked as well.

  4. I have about 160k of points (well 159,453) all gained from credit card bonus sign up, amex transfer (at 25% bonus) and just credit card spend – I have never been on a flight.

    I started to collecting Etihad points to allow me to book a flight from the EU to HNL, but it always failed at getting a flight from LAX to HNL – I could get the seats one way, but not the return – so i never used them. My miles expire at the end of June – so i need to make a booking by then… does anyone know a good redemption use for them… I would like to go somewhere different and not always back to S E Asia (unless it’s Burma).

    Thanks in advance!

    • aliks says:

      I’m in the same situation with 120k points expiring in June. I’ve been looking at partner redemptions with some possible options to redeem on AA. I believe they still use a regional/zone based chart to work out the cost, but it does seem to be a bit hit and miss with availability.
      If I can redeem on AA it would be ironic as I had a ton of AA points that I redeemed on an Etihad FIrst flight to the Maldives – far better value than any AA redemption

  5. David says:

    OT – but tenuously linked:

    I have 64,000 Lufthansa miles expiring at the end of March. All the advice online seems to point towards mileage bargains as the best use of the miles. But with taxes of ~£550 for a business class return that’s quite a lot more than I’d rather spend to realise the best value. Any wisdom from fellow HFP readers on alternative good value options would be welcome… Thanks!

    • Zalando vouchers. That was the best redemption I could find that was usable. But then, I had a lot fewer miles than you.

    • You can turn them into Heathrow shopping vouchers, or book a hotel via the new hotel booking portal, but I doubt you’d get more than £200 either way. A peak season redemption, even short haul, would be better value.

    • RussellH says:

      60 000 points will get you two return economy mileage bargains flights to Germany (or LON to Switzerland) (assuming you are starting in the UK), not just from London, but also MAN or EDI on LH with no cash component at all – 15 000 for the flight, 15 000 for the taxes. It may not be a high value per mile, but if they are going to die in a few weeks…

    • Pangolin says:

      Book with LOT Polish Airlines instead (also a Miles and More partner) and you can avoid the ridiculous LH surcharges. LOT has the lowest fuel charges in the alliance and one of the lowest in Star Alliance.

      They offer mileage bargains on a fortnightly basis which are similar to the Lufthansa ones (just sign up for the newsletter on their website).

    • Lady London says:

      Don’t forget a one way lufty redemption used to include a stopover. Not sure if it does still, or not. Even if not you can select connecting flights with up to 23 hrs 59mins between them pausing between your flights. It still counts as a one way flight between origin and destination. Second flight date used also to be changeable too. Not sure if still the case.

      This kind of flexibility was the only way I could justify lufty’s swingeing taxes on redemptions.

      Lufty miles are relatively good value on longer trips within North America. Low taxes. Not worth flying in Economy. Use them for higher classes.

  6. I had about 35k Etihad miles expiring in August. Found a good redemption for my upcoming business travel on a domestic flight in India. DEL to PNQ one way business class for 11500 miles + £11.80 tax on Jet Airways, which would have otherwise cost me about £480, giving me a value of about 4.1 pence per mile. Booked further two flights, both PNQ to DEL economy costing 9500 miles + £7.80 each (they didn’t have business on these dates) giving me a value of about 0.5 pence per mile. Thinking of cancelling these economy flights and booking them with cash (and thereby earning some JP miles given their bonus miles festival is on), and converting the etihad miles to points pay.

    • I used 20k of mine with Brussels Airlines for two business class tickets to Belgium and Poland. Nice Easter break. Some really good value redemptions there. For example, 36k for round trip BRU-JFK in J (add 2k and you can get LHR-BRU). You can’t search online, but it’s easy to search and book over the phone. Was really impressed with their call centre.

  7. Well if your miles are not imminently expiring, you might as well wait until GBPUSD falls to 1.10 and get 0.66p

  8. OT – Is there any more news on getting a bonus from upgrading an Amex Gold to Plat? A couple of people has said they had phoned up and got something but not what they were offered? I tried messaging and a got a message back, but didn’t confirm either way, but sounded like it there could be.

    • I’m keen to know this too!

    • Tracy says:

      I was offered 5k MR this week for the upgrade via secure message. 5k not enough incentive for me to take them up on it though.

    • ankomonkey says:

      I phoned Amex CS and was offered 15k MR for £1k Platinum spend. This was early Feb. The bonus points have already posted.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. Andrew H says:

    Can you use Pointspay on Amazon?

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