What is the best use of American Express Membership Rewards points?

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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.

(EDIT:  This article was updated on 28th September 2018 to reflect the merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.)

Best use of American Express Membership Rewards points

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

Radisson Rewards hotel transfers.  I explain my valuation in this article and the conversion rate is a generous 1 Amex point to 3 Radisson Rewards points.  You need (70,000 / 3) 23,333 Amex points for the most expensive hotels and if you assume a £250 per night cash cost then 1p per point is still realistic.  Radisson Rewards in the UK covers Radisson Blu, Radisson Edwardian, Park Inn and Park Plaza.

0.75p per point

Starwood Preferred Guest / Marriott Rewards hotel transfers.  Amex points convert at 2:3 into the new combined Marriott Rewards / Starwood Preferred Guest programme.  I explain my 1.5p valuation of an SPG point in this article but you need to divide that valuation by three because the way SPG points were converted when the new scheme launched.  0.5p per ‘new’ SPG / Marriott point means, at a 2:3 exchange rate from Membership Rewards, 0.75p per Amex point.  You now have a whopping 30 hotel brands inside the new combined Marriott / Starwood business to redeem at, including Le Meridien, Sheraton, Westin, W, Marriott, Autograph, Design Hotels, The Luxury Collection, The Ritz-Carlton, St Regis etc etc.

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.

Club Eurostar points.  I value a Club Eurostar point at 10p, assuming you value a standard class return at £100 and a Standard Premier return at £200.  The 15:1 transfer rate into Club Eurostar means you are getting 0.66p per point.

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.

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. Redeeming for statement credit also appears to be worth 0.45p per point. The app says “1000 points = £4.50”

  2. Sorry off topic.
    Will soon be about to book redemption flights to NYC for 3 people using a companion voucher.
    My question is, will the website let us choose which of the guests is on the redemption voucher as only two of us are flying back together?
    Plan to book the outward journeys for all 3 as a single online as soon as available, then call 2 weeks later to book the return journeys for 2 passengers.
    Don’t want to get charged a change fee if the wrong passenger has been indicated as the companion of that makes sense?
    Or would I be better to make 2 separate outward bookings?

    • If you have a companion voucher you can only book a flight for 2 people anyway… book the 3rd person separately

    • Scottydogg says:

      Perhaps do it over the phone , they could be more flexible if you speak to them ?

  3. OT but I’ve got 999 SPG points, need to continue transferring to Marriott but no more SPG amex and no spg stay this year( so can’t uber). Any way to get one or more points to hit 1000? So annoyingly they will allow transfers of 1000 only. Also I hv just closed my amex MR.

    • Link your Uber account to SPG and take a short Uber ride. Even one using my sign up £15 code should trigger some points, and they hit within 48 hours.

      • …if you’ve had an SPG stay this year?

        • Indeed. Will see later this year how well it copes with award points when using Uber to travel to first SPG stay of the year – suspect it won’t work but we’ll see!

        • I did this and I seem to recall it worked and I got the higher rate of points too – because there was a delay posting the Uber points, by which time the first SPG stay had registered. Good luck!

        • Ah, sounds promising – fingers-crossed 🙂

    • How about collecting some from Marriott via their social media giveways, transferring them to SPG to take it over 1k then transferring the larger balance back?

      Otherwise if no MR points, don’t want SPG Amex and no stays to enable Uber credit I can’t think of too many other options. Occasionally SPG offered bonus points but not recently. You could of course do an online chat with them and see if they’d gift you 1 point to allow to to carry out transfer to Marriott – no harm asking!

      • Aren’t transfers SPG Marriott in 1k SPG /3k Marriott blocks?

        • Nope – I only managed 1k in their social media stuff and it transferred to 333 SPG points – weirdly my Marriott a/c still says no activity but it still let me transfer the points!

  4. OT. Just booked CE rtn LGW-VIE. On ticket it shows £6.40 for “QDAP” alongside taxes etc. Any idea what this is?

  5. Have there been any AmEx MR conversion bonuses recently? I don’t think I’ve seen any to BA or VS in the 4 years I’ve been in the credit card signup game. Just thinking these days may be gone.

    • They are gone in the UK. Not elsewhere annoyingly – US currently has a 40% Avios bonus for example.

    • IIRC there might have been an indirect no us a few months ago from Etihad if MR points were included in the multiple partner transfer in promotion.

  6. You can also use your points for Amazon gift vouchers which works out about 0.5p per point I believe rather than using the Amazon linked points system.

  7. Why have you only focused on avios (worst programme on the planet for long haul).

    Amex points transferred to other airline partners (eg asiamiles) gives far better value.

    • Because this is a UK site? 🙂

      And UK readers who use an Amex 2-4-1 voucher get better value than they would via any other scheme without a 2-4-1. And, of course, few people can generate enough miles purely from Amex MR to generate a decent redemption in another scheme. I do, admittedly, but I am not typical.

      • I have said it before and will say it again. The amex 2 for 1 does not make avios long haul good value, it just makes it less bad value.

        One simple example – you can transfer 220k amex membership rewards points to aeroplan and this allows 2 people to fly business class to west coast of america from the UK. Choose an airline like Turkish or Swiss and you pay no fuel surcharges and get a better product than BA Club World(allbeit with a connection).

        To fly to the west coast with BA using a 241 you would only need to transfer 150k amex points to avios for peak dates but you would pay an extra £400-£500 per person in fuel surcharges. I do not value that 60k saving in amex points as being worth spensing an extra £1000 in fees for a worse product. And this is only if you have gone through the effort and hassle to earn a 241 voucher. Without a 241, avios long haul makes even less sense.

        And Aeroplan is just one example. BA avios is just terrible value long haul compared to nearly every other program because of their fuel surcharges.

        I do concede the point that not many UK based readers can easily earn 220k Amex mr points.

        • I should add that I am not anti avios, I think it is one of the best programs out there for shorthaul redemptions, whether that be RFS or short haul flights across America, Asia or Australia. It is just not a competitive program for long haul redemptions and I do sometimes think this site could highlight this fact a bit more.

        • An extra £1k in taxes?! When I flew to Tokyo in F on a 241 taxes were £528 each. Not sure how you are getting an extra £1k in fees flying a different product from the same airport?

        • You are undervaluing/ignoring the total hassle of the connections. With a bit of pre planning. 2xCW DIRECT to Miami/LA/Dubai for approx. £1000, 120k avios and a 241 is a fantastic deal

        • RTS, that £528 is not “taxes”. Maybe about £200 per person consists of government and airport taxes, the rest is BA imposed surcharges. The taxes and fees vary per route but even for that route, you are still talking about £600-£650 extra in fees for 2 people(all my figures were based on 2 people travelling) over what you would pay with a different program.

          An extra £600 in fees to fly direct and save 70k miles is maybe an OK deal. But this is with the 241 voucher. My point is that all the 241 voucher does is bring the cost down to the normal cost of other airlines without any voucher!

          Without the voucher – if flying peak – you are paying 90k more miles and at least £600 more in fees for 2 people travelling. For an inferior product. But yes you do get to fly direct so if that is worth that extra cost to you, fair enough.

          Simon, if you value 120k avios conservatively at £960 (.8p an avios), then you are paying £1960 to fly 2 people return to Miami/LA/Dubai. This also requires availability on your route and earning a voucher first by spending £10k. All of this effort to get two return flights for £1960 is not a “fantastic deal” in my book. Especially when there are often sales on these routes in Club World from Dublin or Copenhagen for £800-£900 return all in, including 500+ tier points and earning a significant amount of avios.

          Ultimately, a lot of this comes down to personal valuation and opinion. I have made my case why I think BA long haul redemption’s are usually bad value compared to the competition but I accept I am likely in the minority.

        • Ultimately, I think it would be interesting to see an article from Rob where he compared what 100k or 150k in Amex Membership rewards would get you long haul when converted to airlines other than BA compared to what it will get you with avios on BA. I think it might be interesting. e.g. compare cost of LHR-LAX in business with all the partner airlines

        • Could do. But that is only one route, which doesn’t help much – and an Amex 241 distorts things anyway.

        • HiDeHi, I think the crux of it is you aren’t comparing like for like. Not a chance will I drag my wife and children to Copenhagen or Dublin and back to book a CW fare in a sale…. its an extra days travel. On a weeks holiday, I value 1 day at at least £1000.

        • Simon – that is a fair point and I agree is the crux of it. I don’t have kids and have maybe more flexibility to do different things. I do appreciate that many people do not have that flexibility or if they do, they don’t see the value in taking an extra connection to save 300quid etc.

  8. OT – If I don’t care for the companion voucher on the BAPP, should I close it after hitting spending limit and getting signup bonus?

  9. OT currently in Rio and last week was in Peru. Booked a hotel via booking.com at Marriott in Cusco and they honoured my gold status and upgraded the room. Is that normal? Gold status was obtained via platinum Amex and zero stays.

    Currently at hilton where I have diamond status. It has been well rewarded throughout this trip. Diamond status obtained via a match to IHG spire elite few years back which surprisingly they’ve kept for me still….

    All in all, thanks Rob and the site.

  10. Alexander says:

    I just cancelled my Platinum card after 2 months and was told:
    “We will refund Membership Rewards fees in full if cancelled within the first 3 months, and afterwards on a monthly pro-rata basis. ​​​​​​​ ​​​​​”
    Does anyone know what MR fees are that they are referring to? Presumably that’s not the £450 annual fee for the card?

    FYI I was able to do this over chat online rather than calling up which was useful.

    • Alexander says:

      It appears that these fees aren’t relevant to the platinum card so an irrelevant comment that is just part of the cancellation spiel

      • I just cancelled mine and noticed that statement. They confirmed there are no membership rewards fees on the plat card, so is a pointless statement.

  11. 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

  12. 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 !

  13. 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

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