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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 2018 article on how to make the best use of your Amex Membership Rewards 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.

Best use of American Express Membership Rewards points

0.75p – 1.5p per point (my target)

Airline milesMy last piece on valuing Avios points is here and Amex points transfer into Avios at 1:1.  This is why the sign-up bonuses, such as 20,000 points for taking out the free (in Year 1) Amex Gold, are so valuable.

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.  Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 to Avios, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Alitalia, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Finnair, Flying Blue and SAS.

My personal spreadsheet of the last 6.8m Avios I have redeemed shows that I got an average value of 1.2p.  This is 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 been prepared to pay.  My best redemptions – such a recent 50,000 Singapore Airlines miles business class return redemption on SWISS from the UK to Dubai – far exceeded this.

1p per point (my target)

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.  At the bottom end, 15,000 Radisson points (5,000 Amex points) gets you a budget UK Park Inn hotel which is likely to cost £50+, justifying 1p per Amex point.  Radisson Rewards in the UK covers Radisson Blu, Radisson Edwardian, Park Inn and Park Plaza.

0.75p per point (my target)

Marriott Rewards hotel transfers.  Amex points convert at 2:3 into the new combined Marriott Rewards / Starwood Preferred Guest programme.  Whilst I might look at this again when peak and off-peak pricing launches in 2019, it is currently very easy to get 0.5p per Marriott / SPG point.  A recent Paris redemption got me a £250 room for 40,000 points, whilst over the ITB travel show next March I have the excellent Berlin Marriott for 35,000 points at a time when cash rates are €450.

0.5p per SPG / Marriott point means, at a 2:3 exchange rate from Membership Rewards, 0.75p per Membership Rewards 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 (my target)

Hilton Honors hotel transfers.  Hilton has moved closer to a revenue-based redemption model in recent years, although you can get still outsized value at times.  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 (guaranteed, as you are getting pseudo-cash)

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 (guaranteed, as you are getting pseudo-cash, with potential for upside)

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.  Occasional targeted eBay promotions have let you convert Nectar points to eBay credit at 1p per point.

0.5p per point (target)

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 (guaranteed, as you are getting pseudo-cash)

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 (guaranteed, as you are getting cash)

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 (target)

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 our Amex Gold review) could be worth £200 – and in the very worst case (taking statement credit) you will still receive £80.

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. Thanks for this Rob, always helps if there’s a floor underneath these points.

    For us, now the point saving novelty has settled down, we’re shunting ours over to BA/Iberia to either reduce the cost of Oneworld partner flights or for airport hotels. We don’t use them to upgrade cash economy tickets just in case we end up with tickets we can’t upgrade. Not sure if that’s the best way to use them but in the costs versus convenience argument convenience invariably wins. Another plus for hotel bookings with avios is you don’t have to be tied to the chain whose points your saving, which is handy if you’ve got yourself committed to a big chain but there’s a very nice and much closer hotel just at the end/beginning of the airport’s walk way.

    I’d like to branch out and send them to Singapore too but the Swiss ZUR-DXB, DXB-ZUR award flights seem to be less available and usually gone when I get round to looking. Personally think some chap up town is booking them all ! 🙂

    • I am doing Abu Dhabi on Turkish in January! SWISS to AUH too.

      • Nice! Turkish out of LHR has the better business class seat if I rightly recall rather than LGW.

        • Would have been a very tight connection.

          This is actually a fall back. Emirates is opening up ‘new First’ out of Stansted a couple of days in advance and if that happens I intend to take that, but I will literally have 48 hours notice at best.

        • Oh Emirates new F offering, yes be quick!

  2. (kinda) O/T. Anyone find that Amex have gotten a lot slower at sending confirm emails for triggering deals (if they arrive at all). I used to get them almost instantly but I have just done a couple of shop smalls across 2 cards at Nespresso Cheapside (hat tip to Ghengis for the recommendation!) but no confirm. Others finding this too?

    • Oh is it working at nespresso cheapside?! must have missed that comment!

    • Sussex Bantam says:

      Yes – me too. The offers all seem quite hit and miss at the moment whereas I think (maybe with rose-tinted glasses) that is used to be automatic. Not really sure why that would be the case though.

    • Yes – for last month’s “spend £5 anywhere earn 500 avios” promo I only just got “offer redeemed” status today despite I made an eligible purchase on 23 October (immediately after I registered for the offer).

      Yesterday I made a shop small purchase and so far no notification yet.

    • Got confirmation emails on couple of purchases,charged this morning,no credit yet!!

      • roberto says:

        Done the paypal deal across two cards and not had either cashback..

        • Just been on Amex chat to ask about this as well. They said the vendor I used via paypal wasn’t on the agreed list of merchants despite the detailed t&c’s not specifying a list (from what I could see had to be GBP spend that was it). CS agent escalating and I should have a resolution in 5-7 days…

        • I have a similar issue, not sure I can be bothered to chase for £5 ….

    • Used BPme offer just now, email from AMEX even came in earlier then BP receipt. Left my phone in the car when fuelling and both emails were already there when I got back to my car. very impressive.

      • Reeferman says:

        I wasn’t so impressed!
        I tried to use it at Upminster (on the BP app), registered £35 and the pump number – nothing happened! Went to the desk and was told they not set-up for it, despite what the App says! Now have a £35 charge “pending” on my Amex – and an email thanking me for using the deal!
        Hopefully the £35 will not transfer to actual expenditure (can’t raise a query until/unless it does). Now have to speak with Amex to re-use the £10 off.

      • Jimmy Mac says:

        same thing happened to me yesterday, I wasn’t very confident after reading all the stories about it not tracking.

    • Spurs Debs says:

      I just used the mulberry one and Amex email was in my inbox before Mulberry confirmation.
      But I never got email at all for 500 points promo, but I got points.

      • Sussex Bantam says:

        Just as a data point my first £10 BPme credit arrived today – 6 days after the transaction. I didn’t get the success email.

    • rams1981 says:

      I was there today as well. Just bought 3 packets to see if it works

      • rams1981 says:

        Nespresso cheapside that is.

        Did do 9x £10 gift voucher from Paul young chocolates. He saw me coming 🙂

    • I was at Nespresso Cheapside today, too – no confirmation e-mail. Laduree nearby in the evening – confirmation e-mail about an hour later.

      Wondering whether the Nespresso offer didn’t work, because I purchased capsules, rather than spend money in the cafe itself (as on the map it’s down as “Cafe Nespresso”)…

    • Yep lots of us finding this – very erratic receiving emails now IME

  3. OT – can someone help explain something about Marriott Elite and access to their Executive Lounge please? I was staying at the Marriott Cologne at the weekend, and on our 2nd day I randomly found out that I had access to the Executive Lounge which I wasn’t expecting.

    I’m only a Silver Elite, and I thought that free Lounge access only came with Gold. I have very limited history of stays at Marriott, having earnt Silver from my SPG card. Would my Family Room have come with access included (but it wasn’t mentioned to me at check-in)? Was I meant to get an upgrade due to Silver Elite status but there was no suitable upgrade from a family room for the 4 of us, so they gave us access instead? Or did I just get lucky from someone’s mistake?

    I’m clearly not complaining, but I’d really like to know how to replicate such access for another upcoming Marriott stay I’ve already got booked – not only did it save us c€300 in breakfast charges over 3 mornings, but also gave us somewhere to chill out for a few hours after our extended 4pm check-out.

    • You don’t get lounge access with Gold either since 18 August – only Platinum and above!

    • Best bet is to just ask, funny how just asking can often get you extras

    • Obvious question is how do you know you had access? just that your key worked (which itself raises another question of course) or were you told?

      • How did I know I had access? The first morning as we were entering the restaurant for breakfast, I asked if they could confirm whether breakfast was included in my tariff. The lady made a call, and returned saying that it wasn’t, but that I had access to the Exec Lounge where breakfast was free.

        Sounds like I benefited from a mistake somewhere along the line….

        • Did you book an exec room?

        • John – I didn’t think I had: the room was not labelled as an executive room, and it didn’t state in the summary that it had access to the executive lounge. Neither did my confirmation email say anything about access. However, on reading the small print of the room type on their website I can now see that it says that access is included. Mystery solved (and great to know for the future…..).

  4. Mr Sean Donaghy says:

    Other than BA Avios or Virgin. What other airline transfer partner has the best programme in terms of value, availability, taxes etc.

    I have alot of Avios points and a healthy pot of in virgin. I have 90k Amex points probably about 110k by the end of the year and wanted to cancel it and was thinking of transferring the points to a different partner to give great options and flexibility and it is always good to try out different airline products.

  5. OT:
    Does anyone know if multiple John Lewis gift cards can be used on their website? And if there is any limit? I have some from the Amex/Morrisons promotion.

    • Chris not sure of your answer but if you can’t use many online I’m sure you will be able to use them in store for your item or ask them to order for you and you pay with gift cards in store. They have great customer service.

    • Yes they can, it asks you after maxing one out for the next number, quite simple to do!

    • Jonathan says:

      Yes, multiples vouchers can be used at the same time. I’ve down around 4 at once before

    • I have used 32 in one purchase (it helped the first 12 digits were the same)

      I don’t think there is officially a limit…

      10% off most of my new kitchen (when JL have already price matched some of the cheapest deals around) has worked quite well!

    • the_real_a says:

      I “bought” a john lewis gift card using multiple vouchers in store for this exact reason. The website bombed out after 5 or so vouchers.

  6. Off topic…I transferred points from Marriot to American Airlines….Object Etihad 380 First Abu Dhabi to Heathrow. I have a hold on two seats. I did this 5 days ago and my hold on the seats expires tonight.

    Any experience if American Airlines will give me another 5 days to keep the seats on hold. Told it can be a week or longer with moving points from Mariottt yo AA>

    Thanks

    • I did this pre-meger slightly differently (redeeming for travel package). It took 10 days for the miles to arrive. They did advise that it can take up to 2 weeks when I phoned in. However, I did time it leaving 2 weeks buffer. I would call AA once the seats are released and/or check on Etihad whether they are back in inventory and if they are, put another hold for 5 days.

    • If you phone them today and award seats are still available, in addition to the two you have already reserved. they should be able to extend the hold for a further five days to save re-booking. If no extra seats, I don’t know if they can cancel and rebook for you immediately. The deadline is usually midnight somewhere in the US rather than the UK. Good luck!

  7. OT: Regarding curve and paying HMRC my payments keep getting declined. How do you guys pay larger bills in stages of how much?

    • You need to change your underlying card if you’re having issues. Creation don’t seem to live anything above £200 for example. Also note your daily / weekly / monthly Curve limits.

      • Of course daily limits, I completely forgot! Thanks, Rob that solved that issue.

      • You mean £2k?

      • Jonathan says:

        I’ve done several £1000s before on my creation IHg card no proble . But my card is about 9 months old and I’ve hit my annual limit. So got both my wife and my 1yo daughter one so I could use those. Limited to £200 a day regardless of the underlying card. Contacted curve support which to be fair replied same day (#shock) saying it’s a security thing and tweaked the settings so she (I) can now do larger amounts. Was told if she (I mean I) did all my everyday spending on the card their algorithms would increase my limits automatically.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Got to be fair to curve and actually use them for purchases.

          Otherwise it won’t be around for long

        • When we can all use Amex they will get a lot more purchases!

        • You’ve got your 1 yr old daughter a card? How does that work? I’ve got my wife a card (which she uses to pay some of my corporate tax charges which then get expensed to my company), but we both could use the cards more if we weren’t constrained by the 365 day rolling limit. Having a 3rd card would remove those issues completely. Is it easy to get a child a card where they have no credit history and no income?

      • The Urbanite says:

        I put over £3k through with IHG black as the underlying card last week.

  8. jonny brown says:

    anyone have the issue that they the small shop offer does not appear in my offers?
    (I hadnt saved it to the card yet)

  9. O/T as no bits, FYI re. Amex offer for Wilko. My wilko will only allow you to use 2 credit cards towards a purchase I found out the hard way. I had £125 amazon giftcard and asked if I could split the payment over 3 cards, yes no problem I was told. 2 payments in and computer said no, do you have £45 cash to pay the balance? I didn’t so had to void the whole transaction! I have received email that I have activated the offer on the two payments that went through and then were voided. Don’t think I will get the credits though and I assume they will now show up as redeemed so can’t use again.

    • Could you buy something cheaper with 2 of your cards, return that for credit and then buy your intended item with the credit and the third card?
      A bit of a faff – might not be worth the effort and raise concerns!

      • Don’t think I can be bothered with the hassle now. If I get the offer again will have to remember to do transactions individually. Think I was just a bit annoyed as I had asked before we started the process if I could pay over 3 cards 🙁

    • You’ve got your 1 yr old daughter a card? How does that work? I’ve got my wife a card (which she uses to pay some of my corporate tax charges which then get expensed to my company), but we both could use the cards more if we weren’t constrained by the 365 day rolling limit. Having a 3rd card would remove those issues completely. Is it easy to get a child a card where they have no credit history and no income?

    • the_real_a says:

      For amazon g/c, just buy smaller denominations in three transactions!!

  10. Brighton Belle says:

    OT oh happy daze. Just seen 50 Pay.com £25 Visa cards hanging on a peg in a big Boots. 2 years ago I might have bought the lot.

    I think they might not activate.

    • ankomonkey says:

      I don’t miss their activation process though… Or the feeling of getting to a Tesco and not seeing any on the racks…

    • I was going to say …. do these things still exist?!

      The issue is liquidating them now that HMRC does not allow multiple card numbers to be used against one payment.

    • I haven’t revealed this on HFP before but back in 2014 I had a network of 10 PayPal accounts which gifted 3Vs to each other regularly, then withdrew to bank accounts all for no fees. Got about £50K manufactured spend by the time it ended. Worst part of it was the scratching to reveal the codes, I did most of them in hotels…

  11. OT so apologies. I’ve done Amex Preferred Gold bonus, and BAPP plus 10k spend for companion and downgraded to free card. Considering I am still 5 months away from being able get a new Preferred Golad card, whioch card is best to now get for Avios? Or is there better value in doing a hotel card now?

    Thanks in advance.

    Hank

  12. I got about 1.7p per MR doing MR>SPG>Marriott>Travel Package. Great shame that travel packages have now been devalued by about 50%.

  13. I am convinced some merchants are disappearing from the Shop Small map. One particular merchant was there at 2pm today. I went there and they refused Amex. 2 minutes later I checked the map and they had gone.

    Maybe it’s advanced AI at work?! Or are Amex updating the map based on user feedback?

  14. Shoestring says:

    Re: Shop Small – elsewhere getting reported that the max number of manual credits for SS gone wrong is 5.

    [As we have already issued 5 credits for small shop in the account, we’ll no longer be able to issue a gesture of goodwill for this].

    Very poor from Amex – it’s *their* promotion, the Amex cardholder has done nothing incorrect.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      What’s a manual credit? Shop is on the list but doesn’t accept your Amex? Or they accept Amex and you use your card and it doesn’t trigger correctly? The latter seems very unfair

      • Shoestring says:

        It’s when you do everything right (ie buy something over £10 with your Amex card in an outlet on SS map) but the purchase fails to trigger the £5 credit, so you phone up or Chat customer services to get it added later. (And yes, you could also try getting £5 if you went to an outlet on the map that doesn’t actually accept Amex – they caused you to waste your time.)

        Both situations are justifiable cases for manual adjustment. But yes, EXTREMELY unfair where they do take Amex, it’s on the map, & doesn’t trigger the credit – then they tell you you’re not getting a £5 credit because you actually used the promotion several times as encouraged by Amex.

        • Last year I used 10 cards to buy £100 of vouchers at a nice restaurant near us. No statement credits at all.

          Despite repeated calls, chats and escalations it got me nowhere.

          But what can one do? No point winning a small claim and then getting barred by Amex – that would hurt me more than them.

        • Shoestring says:

          That’s 3x ‘no success email’ out of 3 Amex transactions today for me.

    • I think it’s fair enough. 95% of those cases will be deliberate abuse. In the unlikely case of an innocent situation occurring 6 times to one person, a formal complaint will succeed.

      • Shoestring says:

        my (one & only local pub on SS) pub transaction already got the £5 credit applied so I’ll be going back there 🙂

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Abuse?

        If Theyve accepted my card and the £10+ has been charged to my account I should automatically get the £5. Chasing Amex for the credit shouldn’t even have to happen let alone them capping you at a number claims.

  15. rams1981 says:

    OT missing spg referral points on my eife’s Account. After some complaining on Amex chat for 20 mins or so including supervisor eventually they agreed to add the missing 2k points. £150 compensation all in so not a bad result.

  16. Slightly off-topic (Eurostar vaguely mentioned above…) – I’ve got a whole £5 e-voucher which was the value of my points when the scheme was changed. It expires on the 13th with no hope of being spent. Does anyone know of a way I can give it away on here to someone about to book a trip?

  17. Tom Cook says:

    Re small shop – my local Thai restaurant isn’t included, but their city centre restaurant is, as they take AMEX there due to it being ore aimed at business lunches. I wonder therefore if they have numerous merchant ID’s……they’ve another restaurant in Harrogate and my other half works nearby….

  18. The Streets says:

    damn.. the pop up lounge looks to be only a day time event this year.. gutted! https://www.americanexpress.com/us/campaigns/centurion-lounge/london-pop-up-shop.html

  19. O/T

    My Amex Gold anniversary date was 3 November 2018. I’ve just been hit with the £140 annual fee on my 3 December 2018 statement – how long before the 10,000 MR (for spending £15k) post?

    I only ask as I was planning on upgrading to the Plat and going to the pop-up Covent Garden lounge (Dec 13-16) and wondered if I can upgrade on time?

    Thanks in advance!
    Joe

    • They usually post after your 1st statement of the 2nd year…they have to post and be moved out prior to cancelling. Its oftern 2/12 worth of fees. Timewise you may not get the plat card, but it could appear on your account. Dont know if they would accept a picture oc your card. Good luck.

  20. Swenglishnick says:

    OT: Apologies for being off topic, but the thread I wanted had closed.
    I would welcome advice re the next steps on the following:
    I have just upgraded my BA Free Amex to a BAPP during the last month of its year and managed to get a 2 year 2-4-1 voucher. My new year has just started.
    I also referred my wife for BAPP a while ago and she has just qualified for the 2 year 2-4-1 voucher also and she has 6 months left on her year. We both have supplemental cards on each other’s cards.
    What would the advice be in terms of downgrading/cancelling either/both of these cards?
    If I cancel my BAPP which has just renewed, would I get the fee back (proportionally) and if yes, how would that be repaid if the account is closed?
    Thanks for any help.
    Nick

    • I think its seen as pretty naughty to upgrade – downgrade – upgrade. Whether anything happens if you do this I’d doubt – but its the type of behaviour that could get one blacklisted.

      If you try to cancel they will tell you that you will lose the voucher – de facto this doesn’t seem to have happened but they could do it to you. Buyer beware.

      They’d presumably refund directly into your debit account if the card had been closed – but not sure.

    • You will get a refund pro rata.
      I always ensure that I owe at least that much before I cancel.

    • Cancel: they will send a statement with + balance, ring up and ask for refund

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