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. How do I unlink my BAEC account to my BAPP Amex card? Got about 500k in BAEC which is plenty for us for now, but I’d like to just keep them in my Amex account to use with other airlines.

    • You can’t. BAPP spending only earns Avios. If you want to retain flexibility on where your points go you need to apply for a Gold, Platinum or Amex Rewards card and move your spend onto that.

    • You can only book other airlines with Avios via BAEC anyway so you’re not losing out on anything. Non-Oneworld airlines aren’t bookable with Avios, if you want to book with other alliances you need a Membership Rewards-earning card as Rob says.

  2. Thanks for this article.
    I’m soon to upgrade to Plat do some cross referrals and cancel so need to know where my MR points will be heading.
    I’m stuck between sending to Singapore and hilton. Singapore because I think there are some good redemption like you mentioned but I’m not sure if I will have enough for 2 within the time frame of expiry of KrisFlyer miles
    Hilton because I’m drooling over their new maldives properties but again…not sure if I will have enough for 5 nights ….unless amex want to be nice and offer me the offer too…

    OT small shops, are people going to shops on the map or are they just winging it to see if any accept amex and hoping for credit back? I want to bulk out on oyster as it will save a huge out for work travel. Still looking for some shops that will accept though
    Thanks

    • Voltron says:

      The new Waldorf Astoria looks alot better than the aged Conrad, will wait and see reviews

  3. Hi
    I was wondering if the option to convert to melia rewards points is not there anymore? Tried searching for it but nothing comes up. Seems a bit unusual to give elite status but not letting you convert points to the chain?
    Can someone shed any light?
    Thanks in advance

    • That offer was pulled about 18 months ago I think, with no notice.

      You can still convert Avios, via Iberia, into Melia rooms I think. This are direct redemptions (eg x,xxx Avios for a room at a ME) and not a transfer to MeliaRewards points.

  4. Spurs Debs says:

    I’ve got Amex gold charge card can I hold gold credit card at same time? If yes can I then have just one account for my points or do I have to have two separate?

    Thanks

  5. OT: Can you close Iberia account online pls?

    • I read that you have to email them with a request, quote the new GDPR rules and request that all your data be deleted.

    • Yes you can – just go through my account, and then I think there’s a link at the bottom of one of the pages. You need to upload a scan of your passport, but then it was processed very quickly despite the 30 days warning.
      I would check the exact menus to go through, but I don’t have an account any more!

  6. I have amex gold cc and SPG cc. am I right in that I cant get BAPP as I already have 2 cc?

  7. OT: Can I just confirm that both shop small, and normal amex offers that you save down, can be activated and used on supplementary cards, separately from the main card holder? I’m sure the answer is yes for shop small, but just wanted to check that it works for other offers too. Thanks.

  8. OT – Lots of shop small credits for Saturday spends have arrived across my accounts. Happy days – none of the mess of last year!

    • RussellH says:

      As well as Shop Small credit, this morning I also received credit for my Morrisons purchase last Wed, which was contactless and did not trigger an e-mail.

      • There were comments over the weekend about the official map (not AJ’s) not showing retailers on the map view however if you search by retailer name it is found.
        1. Do any contributors have any evidence that these ‘hidden’ retailers are crediting correctly?
        2. What about retailers who have many branches and only some of them are ‘hidden’ – with others outlets not showing at all (on the map or when searching for the retailer name).

        It might be a day or two before I can get to try these out for myself, would be interested to find the experience of others too!

        • Got £5 back for lunch in our local Italian on Saturday and that isn’t on the map. Unfortunately the bill came to £120 (and two of the four people present were kids who only had a plate of pasta) so still not a bargain 🙂

        • Shoestring says:

          Got £10+ of battered cod from the local chippy just now (on the SS map & SS POS on the counter) – no success email

        • I told my local chippy (on SS) that selling gift cards would be a great idea for Christmas presents. Naturally a £10 card would be ideal for stocking fillers. And me.

  9. OT: Anyone received points from the virgin insurance from a few months ago?

  10. 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!

  11. (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!!

      • 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…

    • 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

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