Whilst there are a wide range of personal credit and charge cards which offer rewards on your spending, your options are smaller if you are looking for a Small Business payment card with a rewards scheme. There is very little out there, but the good news is that American Express has two rewards-earning charge cards:
I wanted to take a look today at how you can earn American Express Membership Rewards points from these cards, to benefit either yourself, your staff or your business.
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?
Small business owners can earn Membership Rewards points from Platinum Business and Gold Business charge cards.
The earnings rate is the same all both of the cards – 1 point for virtually every £1 spent on the card.
You can also earn bonus Membership Rewards when you sign up for a card
Most American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points also come with a generous sign-up bonus when you are approved for the card and spend a certain amount.
Focusing just on the two Small Business cards, the cards which offer a sign-up bonus are:
American Express Platinum Business
You will receive 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend £6,000 within 3 months. This is a very generous incentive as long as you are confident of meeting the spending target. It offsets the majority of the £595 annual fee for the first year.
It is worth noting that the sign-up bonus on Platinum Business (40,000 points) is bigger than the bonus on the personal Platinum Card (30,000 points)
You CANNOT get the sign-up bonus on Platinum Business if you already have, or have had in the previous six months, a personal Gold or Platinum Card or any other card which earns Membership Rewards points.
For clarity, you will definitely receive the sign-up bonus – assuming the restrictions above don’t apply – if you already have a British Airways Amex, SPG Amex, Platinum Cashback Amex or any Amex issued by Lloyds Bank.
American Express Gold Business
You receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 within your first 3 months. This is a very generous incentive given that the card has no annual fee for the first year. The annual fee after the first year is £125.
You CANNOT get the sign-up bonus on Gold Business if you already have, or have had in the previous six months, a personal Gold or Platinum Card or any other card which earns Membership Rewards points.
For clarity, you will definitely receive the sign-up bonus – assuming the restrictions above don’t apply – if you already have a British Airways American Express, SPG American Express, Platinum Cashback American Express or any American Express card issued by Lloyds Bank.
How can I spend Membership Rewards points on travel rewards?
Some of the best Membership Rewards redemptions are for travel rewards. As a Head for Points reader, you will know how to make the most of your miles and points and so maximise the value of your Membership Rewards points.
If you are a small business owner, you can use your points to make substantial savings on your travel costs. You can really maximise the value of your frequent flyer miles if you use them to book a last-minute flight, or to book a hotel room on points at a time when a city is premium priced due to a conference or other major event.
When I attend major travel events such as ITB in Berlin or Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, which tend to sell out the entire city, I make substantial savings by redeeming for my flights and hotel.
Here are the key links to the American Express website:
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
- 1.5 Mariott Bonvoy points
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.
And don’t forget the other Platinum Business travel benefits
As we covered in our last full review of Platinum Business, it comes with many other travel perks which can make your day to day business life easier.
These include airport lounge access via Priority Pass, Plaza Premium lounge access (useful for BA’s Heathrow Terminal 5), Gold status in Marriott Bonvoy, Gold status in Radisson Rewards, access to the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts Programme and comprehensive travel insurance. American Express is also opening its first UK Centurion airport lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3 later this year.
Can I transfer points to the frequent flyer accounts of my staff?
No, transfers need to be made into an frequent flyer or hotel loyalty account with the same name as the American Express cardholder.
How else can I use my points to reward my staff?
One way of using your Membership Rewards to reward your staff is via retailer gift cards. Points can be used for gift cards for stores such as Marks & Spencer, Currys PC World, Topshop, IKEA, Waterstones, Starbucks, Costco, Amazon, Harrods and many more.
There are a mix of options based on whether you would prefer a physical or electronic gift card.
How else can I use my points to reward myself?
There are other Membership Rewards options which you can use for your own benefit. You can link your Membership Rewards account to your Amazon account, and pay for your purchases with your points directly from the Amazon app or website. There is a similar option with Ticketmaster, with American Express Travel and with selected retailers who are part of the American Express SafeKey programme.
How can I keep track of my Membership Rewards points?
You can download the American Express app to your smartphone, which will allow you to check your points balance – as well as see your transactions and pay your card bill – at any time.
You can also check your balance on the American Express website and the Membership Rewards website.
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 to a travel rewards programme 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 compiled a list of Membership Rewards transfer times with help from Head for Points readers.
What happens to my points if I cancel my card?
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 Membership Rewards account by spending or transferring the points.
For simplicity, it is best to empty your Membership Rewards 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.
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.
If you have a small business, the big sign-up bonuses on American Express Gold Business (20,000 points) and American Express Platinum Business (40,000 points) offer an easy way to get your collection off to a flying start.