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.

This article was updated in April 2019 to reflect the launch of Marriott Bonvoy.

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 10,000 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 Bonvoy hotel transfers.  Amex points convert at 2:3 into the new combined Marriott Bonvoy programme.  Whilst I might look at this again when peak and off-peak pricing launches in March 2019, it is currently very easy to get 0.5p per Marriott Bonvoy point.  A recent Paris redemption got me a £250 room for 40,000 points, whilst over the ITB travel show last March I booked the excellent Berlin Marriott for 35,000 points at a time when cash rates were €450.

0.5p per Marriott Bonvoy 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 10,000 points sign-up bonus on the free American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (see our Amex Gold review) could be worth £100.  You can triple that for the 30,000 points sign-up bonus available American Express Platinum (see our Amex Platinum review).

(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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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….

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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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