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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.

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. Statement credit redemptions are 0.45p, not 0.4p.

  2. johnny_c-l says:

    OT Spend £500 get £100 back at Marriott/SPG hotels in Europe.

  3. OT amex offers: £100 off £500 @Marriott. Amba and Thistle back too and some more obscure ones including a bathroom company.

  4. Nigel the pensioner says:

    Is there still an amex gold charge card or has it been converted to a credit card? Cant seem to find the definitive answer on the amex site.

    • Yes but not for new sign ups.

    • Jonathan says:

      Only gold credit card left now. Platinum is still a charge card but no way to “upgrade” to it.

      • Nigel the pensioner says:

        Thank you

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        My old route was to go gold -> bonus, upgrade to plat -> bonus ->, refer -> close.

        Presumably if I was to move from Gold Credit to Platinum Charge I still can but without the additional MR’s from hitting a spending bonus. Does anyone have experience of this and if the £450 fee is applied straight away? I don’t need the MR’s enough to incur costs so would probably just refer from Gold for a lower amount rather than pay for the privilege of a higher referral bonus via Plat.

        • Rob Walker says:

          No upgrade path between Gold Credit and Plat charge. The £450 is applied at the end of the first statement period on the plat.

          No sign up bonus on plat if you’ve held the gold in the previous 6 months (and vice versa)

    • geoffthesaint says:

      Is there an advantage to having the charge card over the credit card?

      • Not day to day, unless there is any credit score impact? In theory you have not increased your outstanding credit with a charge with MAY make getting more credit cards easier.

      • Yes big limits on the charge cards that you likely wouldn’t get with a credit card ie 6 figures

        • Yes and No. There IS a limit on your charge card, it is just that Amex won’t tell you what it is. Be very clear that attempting to charge £10k if you’ve only ever charged £10 a time and £50 per month won’t work.

  5. Whilst it’s difficult to argue with valuations based on what one would pay, time and again for me, this misses the point.

    For the last five years we have traveled First or Club World mostly on 2-4-1s to Sydney and back, Beijing, Hong Kong, L.A.and New York and are currently in Bali, having down too Singapore in Club and are flying back from Sin in First.

    We could NEVER have afforded to do any of these aspirational (ok it’s BA so how aspirational” and apologies for the dig) flights as cash purchases. So, I cannot even ascribe a value to the Avios I have accumulated and used thanks to Head For Points – so thanks Rob!

    However, as deals like Air China to New Zealand from Germany recently exemplifies, it is getting harder and harder to justify this Avios game if one can be flexible and having recently retired, other opportunities will open up.

    • Mikeact says:

      That’s one reason we too, did China Eastern down to Aus….so inexpensive, (but not comparable to major legacy carriers I hasten to add.)

    • As cash tickets fall,… it becomes harder and harder to justify the game. However, my theorem is: if I can pay (within my hypothetical targets), I pay. If not, I use points/miles. But the value of 241 is really … not anymore as good as it used to be (due to horrendous fees charged by BA).

    • Us too. Never would have done F 241 back and forth to Asia. Yes we do the odd QR ex eu when prices are right, but mostly its the x 1 F 241 a year, which in F is still luxurious. So yes amex points invaluable.

    • FlyingChris says:

      +1 – agreed. I almost exclusively use points for aspirational experiences that I’d never dream of paying for in the first place (e.g. First to Asia, St Regis hotel nights etc) so personally don’t ascribe a quantifiable value to them in this way. Yes that First seat didn’t save me £5k since I’d never pay that in the first place – but the memories of these experiences & destinations are worth far more long term than considering the ‘cash’/psuedo-cash alternative of buying something that I just would have bought anyway. (though I agree for the casual collector, or someone who doesn’t have as much skin in the game/commitment(!) could see why this is a useful way of valuing the points they’ve got).

      • If you WOULD pay cash, however, you will value them that way. When redeeming for a £100 Hilton room – where you would easily pay cash if a redemption was a bad deal – you will look at the exact value per point. You might not do the same on a £250 room, though, as you may say you would never pay that.

        I have never paid cash for a First Class flight ticket but I have paid cash for Business Class seats, so for my maths I value Business Class as what I know I would pay and I add a few hundred – not more, just the number I think in my head I would pay if I got to check-in was offered a cash upgrade to First – if we redeem F.

        • Similarly, I value my Avios redemptions against what I would actually pay for a given flight, I have 2 seats booked in Club World near the end of the month, having redeemed 75k Avios, and a 2-4-1, and paid £1100 taxes

          The cash price for these seats are almost £4500, now I could never afford/would pay those prices, however the cash prices for two Y seats on those exact dates are £2800, which I would pay, as the dates are critical.

          The way I see it I have saved £1700, and the Club seat/lounge etc is a most welcome bonus.

        • Fivebobbill says:

          Just out of curiosity Rob.
          Me and the missus flew home BA Business AUH-LHR last Sunday morning (02.05) on points. We were offered a First upgrade for £450 each. Given the hour we declined. Most, including us, boarded, had a glass of fizz then *slept* til breakfast.
          Under the circumstances, would you (or anyone else actually) have considered this a reasonable offer? The plane was a 787-9 (7 in a row business set up).

          • Not sure there is any price I’d pay for a 2am departure and a 6-hour flight (unless I had to book F to get a redemption in the first place).

      • Well, we do get a kick out of pricing up a fully refundable F return to Asia. Normally 12k, which we would never pay anyway!
        However, we have cancelled a 241 in F KUL when a good QR J sale popped up for around the £900 mark direct to Bali. Probably never to be seen again. Just not worth spending all those avios for the sake of around £400 extra pp in cash.

    • Lady Lonodn says:

      Dont worry there’s a good chance aviation fuel prices may go up significantly meaning even the low end econony prices we’ve seen in recent years, may disappear completely.

  6. Has anyone figured out whether the 50% bonus on MR to hilton transfers is targeted or open to all ??

  7. Shoestring says:

    O/T check your IB balance if you took part in the 90K ppromotion. Some people who got points removed are getting them credited back. Somebody lost -90,000 on 1st December and has now had a +90,000 credit applied back to his a/c.

    I know what I’d do in that position: transfer out to BAEC as quickly as possible.

  8. O/T – Shop Small madness – Local butcher will only accept co-brand Amex. Declined my Platinum after I had asked to split a payment across BA and Plat cards. First time I’ve experience a shop taking some but not all Amex cards.

    • Did you offer to pay the small extra charge to him?

    • So, before shop small shopping, rules are
      Check they actually will accept your amex
      Always use your PIN, just in case

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Honestly don’t get all this always use your pin

        Used contactless a number of times over the weekend and this morning everything has posted just fine with all the £5 credits

        • There was a comment the other day to say that the issues over contactless in previous years had now been resolved due to differences in the way transactions are now processed (ie they now authorise in real time).

        • Last year all my contactless payments posted fine, although they were less likely to trigger the confirmation emails. Definitely not going to use chip & pin when I top up oyster using 4 Amex cards..

        • Genghis says:

          @Kai i think we may have met in the west end on Saturday.

        • @Genghis Haha yes we have if you had 7 cards with you!

      • 3 failures this weekend in Leeds Max’s food and wine, Drysalters pub and Abu Bakr Asian food. all failed inserting Amex plat.

        • Tom Cook says:

          I hit Aagrah, Casa Mia and Tailwaggers in my area of North Leeds today. Emails from the restaurants but nothing from the pet store, though the lady who runs it knew why I split my bill over 5 transactions….

    • Card checking butcher haha

    • RussellH says:

      I assume that your butcher said that he did not accept platinum Amex, not that the system declined the transaction?
      I would be very surprised if Amex allowed merchants to accept some Amex card, but not others!

      • Yes, he himself chose not to accept it – showed me his handmade laminated sign with pictures of naughty Plat, Gold and Green cards on it…. “You get more airmiles with those cards, and I pay for them with higher charges”. Long queue was now building…… Didnt have the patience to offer to pay him the poxy 30 pence !

        • TGLoyalty says:

          can always vote with your feet. 30p fee just cost him a customer

        • Get in touch with customer services, they will credit you the £5 as a goodwill gesture.

        • Lady London says:

          I’d have promptly offered him £1 extra on each of the cards he didn’t want to process.

        • Avoid no customer service skills

        • Just use applepay… by the time he notices it’ll be too late 😂 His machine can’t be configured to accept only certain cards so it’s only if he sees that he can say no.

          Oh, and then report him to Amex. I doubt they like such tricks very much…

        • the_real_a says:

          Walk out, plain and simple…

  9. Blony Tair says:

    I’ve accumulated 80k MRP for my upcoming gap year travels, but I’m at a loss on how to redeem them. I know HFP says UK-AUS economy represents poor value (which is correct), and intra-Asian routes are well served by the likes of Air Asia. Any ideas?

    • Actually, AUS Y is poor value, except if you are planning to fly when flights are running at around 1100 pp in Y. If it will save you a few 100, that could otherwise be put to better use in Asia, then go for it.

    • Australian domestic flights on Qantas, if you’re doing Japan then domestic flights on JAL. Air Asia can get expensive close in on the longer routes. Redeeming for short haul business in Asia to get some lounge access could be a nice break from backpacking. Occasionally treat yourself to a room in a nice hotel

      • Totally agree re domestic QF flights. Also if only wanting to book one-way long-haul a redemption is often much better value.

    • Well, keep your eyes open… last year, at this time, there was a 50% discount on Avios redemption on ALL economy BA long haul flights. So you may consider this, at least to go down under.

    • Memesweeper says:

      From HKG/TYO Avios spent on Cathay/JAL can be fantastic value in Economy. Ditto elsewhere in Asia. It’s just coming from London the additional charges makes for a bad deal. Cash ticket to Asia an onwards on Airmiles might work well for you.

    • Lady Lonodn says:

      South America on Iberia. Then use avios for intra-South America hops and possibly to North America as well. Iberia is ok for miles cost there. From time to time they also have the odd stunningly cheap cash offer to some destinations there too.

      If you get a cheap cash fare to somewhere like US or Asia-Pacific – a very excellent use of avios is for internal/short haul flights which can be very high cash priced but low avios. Premium classes well worth the extra avios in this case. Mostly you don’t get clobbered for so-called “taxes” [aka carrier greed charges on anyone that dares to use their avios] like you do on British Airways especially for long haul.

      As it’s your gap year you might also want to keep some of your avios back, as work can be pretty depressing and hard when you’re first making your way and knowing you have a couple of trips booked for hols can keep you going…!

    • I second all of the above – cheap flights to Bangkok (or nearby) are pretty easy to come by, then Cathay Pacific / Cathay Dragon (they seem to be starting to appear on BA again) or Malaysia Airlines on from there. Taxes/fees are generally v low for these two, JAL slightly more, and it really is worth flying business for the lounges, as well as the in-flight experience. It feels wonderful to treat yourself every so often when backpacking!

      Have an amazing time!

  10. Thomas Howard says:

    OT: Is there any reason in-store shops have stopped being listed on shopping.ba.com, is it being withdrawn?

    • Lady London says:

      In-store shops can be obliged to use the till systems of their “host” shops sometimes I think. perhaps there have been problems with tracking those purchases in the past?

      • Waitrose not in the in store Virgin Atlantic list in the past couple of weeks.Shame if that has now stoped,a good source if Flying Club miles,most times there was a bonus for spending over £75!

  11. Club Eurostar : a week-end Standard class return for £100 is nearly as rare a sight as an avios redemption to Sydney 😉 More realistically, you’re looking at £300 return for a last minute weekend break. And at least £200 a month or two in advance.
    At 1.3-1.8p value / MR point, that makes it the most consistently valuable redemption in the list, in my view.

    • True, but at the same time those are likely to be premium redemptions at 1,500 points return. That isn’t hugely off my 10p per point valuation if the cash alternative is £200.

      If you’re booking any flight or train at the last minute, and can still redeem, then you are likely to be getting ‘outsized’ value.

      My Eurostar valuations may be skewed by the fact that 80% of my Eurostar travel is midweek for HFP which is actually cheaper than weekends if you avoid the peak morning trains. For example, when I went over to Paris to do the Marriott review recently I chose to pay cash for Standard Premier because I felt it was better value than an Amex transfer – although you also then get into the complex issue of tax treatment and how the cash ticket is tax deductible ….

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