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What can you do with Amex Membership Rewards points?

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There are a lot of references on Head for Points to American Express Membership Rewards, mainly linked to articles on their charge cards.  It has been a while since I looked at the programme in detail, so I though it was worth updating this overview of the rewards available.  It will help you answer the question ‘What can you do with Membership Rewards points?‘.

This is very much an article for beginners who have not yet, or who have only just, applied for their first Membership Rewards-earning card.  This is usually American Express Preferred Rewards Gold which I regard as the best starter card for a miles and points beginner as I explained here.

What are Membership Rewards points?

Membership Rewards points are a global currency used by American Express to rewards users of its charge cards and selected credit cards.

It is important to note that the scheme has different partners and different conversion rates in different countries. You may read, for example, that Lufthansa is a Membership Rewards partner, but this is only true if you live in Switzerland!  More commonly, you may read that the conversion rate from A to B is 1:2, when for the UK card it is actually 1:1.

How do I earn Membership Rewards points?

You earn Membership Rewards points from Centurion, Platinum, Gold, Green and their equivalent Corporate and Small Business charge cards.

There is also the Amex Rewards Credit Card – this is the only ‘free for life’ U.K. card which earns points.

The earnings rate is 1 point for every £1 spent on the card.  The exception is the Gold card – you earn double points on airline transactions and on foreign spend – and on all cards for American Express Travel transactions

By far the most popular Membership Rewards card is American Express Preferred Rewards Gold.  This is due to its generous sign-up bonus of 20,000 points and the fact that the first year is FREE.  Heavy travellers can also get good value from American Express Platinum, despite the £450 fee, because of its strong benefits package.  My review of Amex Gold is here and my review of Amex Platinum is here.

(Small business owners may be attracted by the generous sign up offers available for the Business Gold and Business Platinum variants.)

It is important to remember that you must retain an American Express charge card to retain your Membership Rewards points.  If you are planning to cancel your Gold, Green or Platinum card to stop paying annual fees, you will need to empty your MR account.

For simplicity, it is best to empty your MR account before cancelling the card.  Strictly speaking, according to the terms and conditions here, you have 30 days from the day you cancel the card.

There is an alternative.  Getting the free Amex Rewards Credit Card lets you cancel your fee paying card and keep your points alive.  I explained more about how that works in this article.

How does Membership Rewards work

Where can I spend Membership Rewards points?

Here are the key links to the American Express website:

  • the UK Membership Rewards home page is here
  • the UK airline rewards home page is here and
  • the UK hotel rewards page is here

Here is a summary of the UK airline rewards and which airline grouping each airline is in.

1 Membership Rewards point gets you:

  • 1 Avios (into BA or Iberia)
  • 1 Alitalia mile (SkyTeam)
  • 1 Asia Mile (oneworld)
  • 1 Delta mile (SkyTeam)
  • 1 Etihad mile (no alliance)
  • 1 Emirates mile (no alliance)
  • 1 Finnair mile (oneworld)
  • 1 Flying Blue mile (SkyTeam)
  • 1 SAS mile (Star Alliance)
  • 1 Singapore Airlines mile (Star Alliance)
  • 1 Virgin Atlantic mile (no alliance)

And here are the hotel rewards with 1 Membership Rewards point getting you:

  • 3 Radisson Rewards points
  • 2 Hilton Honors points
  • Half a Starwood Preferred Guest point
  • 1.5 Mariott Rewards points (as SPG points convert to Marriott at 1:3)

You can transfer into Club Eurostar at the ratio of 15 MR points to 1 Eurostar mile.  I wrote an overview on Eurostar and Amex points here.

How do I maximise the value of my Membership Rewards points?

There are lots of other reward options – merchandise, store gift cards, travel gift vouchers etc. However, in almost all cases, these are based on a simple formula which gets you no more than 0.5p per point redeemed (eg 10,000 points for a £50 voucher).  Some of the easiest ones to use are Amazon and iTunes gift vouchers.

You can also transfer your Membership Rewards points into Nectar points at a rate of 1:1.  If you are a Sainsburys shopper, you can swipe your Nectar card at the till and redeem them instantly at – again – a rate of 0.5p per point.  You can also use Nectar points to pay for packages on Expedia.  It is occasionally possible to get more than 0.5p of value from Nectar – you need to keep an eye on our Shopper Points website for details.

For the truly lazy, you can also redeem your points for a credit against your Amex statement.  This gets you a poor 0.45p per point.

In general, you can get FAR more than 0.5p per MR point by redeeming into an airline or travel programme. Airline miles tend to be worth 0.75p to 1p each, depending on programme and route.

I value Hilton Honors points at around 0.33p so that would be 0.66p per MR point.  Radisson Rewards needs 70,000 points for their most expensive hotels, so arguably you can easily get 1p per MR point by transferring 23,333 Amex points into that.

You need to be smart and to look carefully at each redemption. Some Starwood and Hilton redemptions can be very poor value – I certainly would not transfer 60,000 MR points for a top-tier Starwood redemption (30,000 SPG points).  Moving 24,000 Amex points for a 12,000 point mid-tier redemption could work well, however.

When should I transfer my Membership Rewards points?

Unless there is a conversion bonus going on, it makes sense to keep your points in Membership Rewards until you need them. This lets you maximise your flexibility. However, in order to speed up a transfer when you do need one, you can ‘link’ your loyalty programmes in advance.

The ‘link’ process allows Amex to confirm that your loyalty account is correct, and knocks a day or two off the time taken for your first transfer to that programme to be processed. You can do this by going into your MR account and doing a dummy booking for the relevant programme.

Once your accounts are linked, a transfer will usually only take 2-3 days at most.  I recently compiled a list of Membership Rewards transfer times with help from Head for Points readers.

Can I transfer to another persons frequent flyer account?

This is a common question.  Until recently, the US Membership Rewards scheme let you transfer to an airline or hotel account in any name.  This has never been the case in the UK.

I have successfully transferred from my Amex account to Nectar and Club Carlson accounts held by someone with a different surname.  Other people have tried it to different schemes and had the transfer cancelled.  There is no harm in trying, though, as the worst that can happen is that the points bounce back to Amex.

Are there conversion bonuses?

We have not seen any UK airline conversion bonuses for the last three years.

My understanding is that American Express has been trying to reduce the number of people who redeem for airline miles, as these are substantially more expensive than ‘0.5p per point’ gift card redemptions.


American Express Membership Rewards points can be very valuable.  The key thing is that they offer FLEXIBILITY – you do not need to commit them to an airline or hotel scheme until it is time to redeem.  You can avoid being caught out by scheme devaluations or changes in travel plans.

The big sign-up bonuses on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (20,000 points) and American Express Platinum (30,000 points) offer an easy way to get your collection going.

(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. Is there any reason you can’t refer a friend or family member for the free Amex rewards credit card? All the other cards come up under other cards apart from this one?

    • Frenske says:

      Probably because there is incentive for doing this. No bonuses for both referee and recipent.

    • You could refer them to gold, get your bonus and then they could downgrade to the free card though.

      • No, you can’t downgrade from Gold to ARCC. It’s a different product. You can downgrade/upgrade only the BA cards and charge cards.

  2. JamesB says:

    If amex is trying to reduce transfers to miles why don’t they just reduce the conversion rate?

    • Or increase the rate for gift cards or statement credit so they’re a little more attractive.

  3. Due to biz expense, I have been earning around 9 million Amex rewards per year and most of the time I transferred to SPG for hotel stay n miles transfer to support my biz travel n holidays. Recently I figured out a better way to earn more points via global transfer the rewards to Canada Amex then SPG which has 30% more points due to FX rate. So I think you can do the same to get Lufthansa miles as well.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Indeed, if you hold an Amex (with MR points) in another country, you can transfer at the currency exchange rate, but only once per year.

    • You would need a German Amex. The Euro Amex only has Qatar and Malaysia as extra airline partners.

  4. Wivus says:

    Was there any follow up on the big churn scare from a few weeks back?
    Any confirmation from anyone at Amex or just rumours still?
    I am just about to enter a phase of re-applying for a few

    • No, gone quiet – no more reports of call centre telling people it is changing.

      • I just had to contact them re a referral and was told that my OH would be eligible for a sign up bonus 6 months after cancelling his MR card. Got a screen shot!

    • Graham Walsh says:

      Just cancelled my BAPP over chat and got these T&Cs

      First question….
      Sorry to hear that you are looking at canceling your card. We would really like if you would have a word with our dedicated phone team to check on your options and maybe reconsider.

      After I declined that lovely offer….
      I’m completing your request to cancel your Card(s). Please destroy the Card(s).

      It’s important to let you know:
      • If you still have an outstanding debit balance on your Account, it remains subject to the Cardmember Agreement (and interest charges if applicable) until the balance has been repaid in full.
      • No additional Charge Insurance, offered as part of your Card benefits, will be cancelled.
      • Please ensure you cancel any subscriptions or recurring charges on the Account, including any American Express Insurance that was purchased (e.g. Card Defence or My Essentials).

      If you have earned a British Airways Companion Voucher, please be aware that Companion Voucher bookings must be made using the British Airways Card they were earned with. This is set in the Terms and Conditions on the Companion Voucher. Cancelling this Account may mean you are unable to redeem your Companion Voucher.

      You will no longer earn Avios, and any Avios not yet appearing on your American Express points balance will be forfeited.

      Please destroy the Card by cutting through the chip or magnetic stripe and if applicable to cancel any re-occurring charges / subscriptions with the merchant / supplier directly.

      You will continue to receive statements until the balance is zero. If you are enrolled in paperless, you will automatically be issued paper statements as you will no longer have access to MYCA.

  5. Frenske says:

    The gold card is great. Even with a modest £12K AmEx spend per year my wife and I manage to rake up 45.000 air miles per year by referring each other. Probably we could get even more if churn more regularly.

    • We’re getting ~250k with ~14k spend.

      • Helen says:

        Please share your top tips!!

        • I’m keeping my Plat as a permanent card as we rely on it for lounge access and travel insurance. Other than that it’s just tightly packed cross referrals and carefully planned spend.

          I’ve got a plat, I refer my gal for gold, on which she spends £2k, then upgrades to plat for another 20k on £1k spend, refers me for BAPP on which I spend £3k, cancel and I refer her from my plat for another BAPP. When BAPP is done, SPG. And when SPG cards are done, PRG 6 month timer should be reset. Rinse and repeat. Right now we’re thru the first loop, just waiting for the PRG timer to reset.

          It could be made even more efficient by doing companion credit cards (+5k a pop on £500 spend), but we’re not that bothered as in my opinion it’s extreme enough.

  6. Karen says:

    So, if my husband and I are struggling to use the companion ticket with the BA platinum card (we have so far had to let go the 1st companion ticket as ) would it make sense to instead collect points and pay less membership fee with the Amex gold card?

    • No harm swapping for a year as you save £195 and the Gold bonus would be a big bump to your Avios pile (or wherever you converted).

    • Doug M says:

      Not quite your question but have you considered using the voucher for a Europe weekend. It always seems that people get so focused on perceived value that they pass on the idea of saving 9K-18K or whatever Avios on a SH flight. I used my Lloyds upgrade voucher on a positioning return for an Ex-EU, and was happy to save 10K Avios. I find Ex-EU with TP and earning miles works fine for me, versus over half that cost in taxes for a London departure along with lots of Avios. Using the voucher for SH received a fair bit of flack on FT, most seemed to think the biggest factor was maximum Avios saving, rather than going somewhere you wanted to. Each to their own 🙂

    • Polly says:

      Might be an idea to refer one of you from the BAPP to the GOLD now. Bank the referral points 9k. Then cancel the BAPP. After a couple of weeks add the OH on to the gold card, extra 3k MRs.
      Once you have reached bonus spend of 22k in 3 mths, bank the bonus MRs, and refer the OH.
      Once referral MRs 9k are banked cancel the 1st Gold card. Now you are using the 2nd Gold card solely to achieve a 2nd lot of 22k MRs spend bonus After a couple of weeks add the other OH, another 3k MRs. By now you have earned Approx 68k of avios if that’s what you are using the MRs for.

      Always make sure its 6 months plus 1 day from cancelling before referring the OH, whichever of you is being referred at that point. Keep the cancellation date letter amex send you.

      Then time for a referral of OH back to BAPP. 9k. Plus bonus spend 26k. Plus add supp for a further 3k. Again, once bonus spend is banked, refer OH for the BAPP. Then cancel your BAPP. Crucially, long term, if you are not earning enough, nor think you won’t need the 241, once you have earned the 26k in the 3 mth spend, you need to drop down to the free BA blue card. Or refer back to gold. But by this point you will have more than enough avios for a biz return to NYC or somewhere nice.

  7. Craig Strickland says:

    Has anyone received the 5000MR for adding a credit card and spending £500? I can’t remember if the offer said points awarded after 3 months?

    • Yes. One time it was added a few days after reaching the £500 target. But on another card it was not added so I had to make a few calls and it was eventually added around 2 months after reaching the spend target. I think the t’s and c’s mention 30 days.

      • roberto says:

        From the T&Cs…
        The 5,000 Membership Rewards points will be awarded onto your Account once you have been approved and you have spent and charged £500 within the first three months of American Express Gold Credit Cardmembership. Please note that it can take up to one month for bonus points to be awarded to your Account.

        • Stu N says:

          I took card and hit spend in Jan. Still no points. I’ve had several chats and phone conversations with Amex now have a dispute with them over this. Am expecting a written response imminently. Most unlike Amex.

        • Graeme says:

          I’ve also done this recently and have waited about three weeks now, which is the longest I’ve waited so far. Had an online chat and the person confirmed I’d get them, but that it could take a month.

          I want to upgrade to the Platinum, but don’t want to do that before I’ve got the points.

    • mark2 says:

      I assume that you mean the gold companion credit card. I had one recently spent £500; the points were added with the triggering spend, but to the main gold MR account. I then cancelled the credit card as I shall upgrade to Platinum soon.

      • Interesting. Both times, I have had separate MR balances on the credit cards

    • Craig Strickland says:

      Thanks all, just given them a nudge and the said 30 days after hitting the target. So by the end of this week hopefully, then I’ll close it, give it 30 days and refer myself for the Starwood.

    • Crafty says:

      I haven’t done this yet, must have passed me by – can’t find how to. Is this general (and still open) or targeted?

  8. Chris says:

    With the rise of long haul redemptions and the multiple partners we can redeem with AMEX, which airline in your opinion has the best redemption rate and value? (Taking into consideration of taxes and charged?)

    • Alaska mileage plan via SPG. Their reward chart is as generous as it gets

      • Optimus Prime says:

        Wouldn’t it be great if AMEX added Alaska Airlines as reward partner?

    • mark2 says:

      You also need to take into account where you want to go as each airline has a different set of routes (but may allow booking on other airlines to make it more complicated).

    • Doug M says:

      The airline that flies where you want to go, via a route you’re happy with.

  9. Craig Strickland says:

    Slightly OT, Mr S will be over 6 months from cancelling an Amex Gold MR in a few weeks. Assuming I refer her for 18000 from Platinum, what’s the most lucrative order for her to work through the bonuses?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Apply for gold 22k for £2k spend
      Add a support after getting the first card NOT on application 3k
      Companion credit card 5k for £500 spend
      Cancel both of the above supp / companion
      Upgrade to Platinum 20k for £1k spend
      Add a supp 5k
      Add a companion card 5k for for £500 spend

      60k points over as short or long a period as you want personally my next 6 months probably as I don’t need the Platinum for a few months. With a referral from the Platinum for an extra 18k here and there for any other AMEX cards people want.

      • Craig Strickland says:

        Thanks. Just got to work it around 2 x £1k Starwood spends and £2.5k on the first BA Amex and £10k on the second.

      • simon says:

        “Upgrade to Platinum 20k for £1k spend. Add a supp 5k”

        Could TGLoyalty / someone explain this?

        I have just upgraded from Gold to Plat — indeed, I’m about to open my large silver Plat Amex package this afternoon :o) — but I didn’t opt for the supplementary card option on my Gold-to-Plat upgrade application form even though it was there.
        Is the above quote to say that, if I now (post-application) add a supplementary card holder, I will then get 5,000 MR points? If yes, do I just do this via my Plat online account, and, if yes, how do I ensure I collect 5,000 MR points, i.e. is there anything I can screengrab, or is there a link for doing this?

        Thanks, all. 🙂

        • mark2 says:

          If you had a supplementary on your gold card it will be carried forward, so you cannot get the 5,000 unless you want to pay £170. If not just apply for a supplementary as usual and you will probably get 5,000; as it is not officially offered it is difficult to complain!

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Crucial bit is you must cancel both supp / companion credit before the upgrade and you must not apply for the plat supp with your upgrade application. If you have never had a supp then just apply and the MR post right away

      • The Original Nick says:

        3000 MR points for adding a Supp Gold card?

        • mark2 says:

          yes and 5,000 for a companion credit , but cancel both before upgrading to platinum so that you can do it again.

        • simon says:

          Thanks, all! Very informative! 🙂

        • simon says:

          Sorry, chaps! Could I just ask if the same is true — i.e. bonus points — for taking out supplementary cards on SPG Amex and fee-free BA Amex cards? Thank you. 🙂

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Never had one for SPG but I have had 3k for BAPP a couple of times. It’s free to ask for one so not a big deal if you get 0 but would miss out if there is a targeted promo

        • simon says:

          Many thanks for the update, TGLoyalty. Much obliged!

        • Genghis says:

          No supp bonus for SPG

    • Graham Walsh says:

      I put together a flow chart to show my brother how easy it would be to get 178k points between himself and his wife using Amex Gold, Amex Plat, SPG and BA then refer back myself. Spend is about £12k. Could do even more with companion card etc. Need to double check my maths on it all.

      • Craig Strickland says:

        Target this year if everything works is around 306k Avios, this doesn’t include any additional spending apart from the targets so far.

        • mark2 says:

          my target is 1.1 million Marriott.

        • Graham Walsh says:

          Wow, that’s a big chunk at 306k Craig. I must have missed a step or two, plus it’s useful to use up the 18k referrals when you have the Amex plat.

          mark2 – Are you converting MR > SPG > Marriott and aiming for the transfer bonus etc?

        • mark2 says:

          I am converting all my MR, SPG points and aiming for rooms. The package does not fit with my plans.

      • Kathy says:

        I’ve been trying to mentally figure this out for a couple of friends who have been talking about visiting India but hate long-haul flying because he is so tall (6’5”) that economy is agony. And they’re not rich enough to pay for business class outright. So I reckon it’d be the perfect way to get them into the points game. It’d be useful to be able to lay out the process for them.

      • Kevin H says:

        Would be great to see that – once you’ve had a chance to check the maths – if possible please.
        I’m churning Platinum, but have been inefficient at everything else – so I clearly need to focus a little more as £12k spend (or more) is a given. Thanks

        • Kevin H says:

          Sorry – my comment was meant for Graham Walsh and his flow chart!

        • Graham Walsh says:

          Here we go. This is 273k points in Avios/MR/SPG. If you got 2 friends to use a link when you have Plat will add 36k points, so a total of 309k.

          Again, I am sure there is a step or 2 missing maybe, no expert in this.

        • Graham Walsh says:

          I’m going to churn platinum next month once I’m back from holiday with car hire. Will then get my g/f to refer me again in 6 months from her Amex Gold (although will probably get her to upgrade to Plat first for max points).

        • mark2 says:

          on a quick look you could get gold companion credit card for 5,000 MR after £500 spend, cancel before upgrading then do same with platinum.

        • mark2 says:

          also ideally spend £10,000 on BAPP to get 241 which is worth up to 200,000 Avios

      • Kevin H says:

        Many thanks Graham – masterful!!
        Will study and learn.

        • Polly says:

          Kevin, not for the faint hearted, and you need to keep very close tracking of dates throughout The Year! But fun when you have cracked it. The 241 is still a very valuable perk to aim for. But yes, the aim is always to be spending towards a bonus…or two!

  10. Has anyone got any experience of referring yourself for a cardusing your own referral link? For example you have the gold card and refer yourself for the BA credit card?

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Haven’t had a chance to try yet but others have reported success.

    • Graham Walsh says:

      Yes I’ve done it – Amex Plat referred myself for SPG. Usually use a different browser from where I am logged into Amex account.

    • Polly says:

      And you can even use the same email address, that works too.

  11. David says:

    How does the £35 change fee for Avios flights work, is it £17.50 per leg or £35? I’ve booked a return trip as two singles with Avios and need to amend.


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