BA sale

What can you do with Amex Membership Rewards points?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

Starting tomorrow, I am re-running our series of credit card reviews.  These cover all of the core UK credit and charge cards which offer travel rewards.

As the first four reviews cover cards which earn American Express Membership Rewards points, I wanted to run this article first to set the scene and to allow me to link back to it.

It has been a while since I looked at the programme in detail, so I though it was worth updating this overview of the rewards available.  It will help you answer the question ‘What can you do with Membership Rewards points?‘.

This is very much an article for beginners who have not yet, or who have only just, applied for their first Membership Rewards-earning card.  This is usually American Express Preferred Rewards Gold which I regard as the best starter card for a miles and points beginner as I explained here.

What are Membership Rewards points?

Membership Rewards points are a global currency used by American Express to reward 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?

You earn Membership Rewards points from Centurion, Platinum, Gold, Green and their equivalent Corporate and Small Business charge cards.

There is also the Amex Rewards Credit Card – this is the only ‘free for life’ U.K. card which earns points.

The earnings rate is 1 point for every £1 spent on the card.  The exception is the Gold card – you earn double points on airline transactions and on foreign spend – and on all cards for American Express Travel transactions

By far the most popular Membership Rewards card is American Express Preferred Rewards Gold.  This is due to its good sign-up bonus of 10,000 points and the fact that the first year is FREE.  Heavy travellers can also get value from American Express Platinum, despite the £575 fee, because of its strong benefits package.

My review of Amex Gold is here and my review of Amex Platinum is here.

Small business owners may be attracted by the generous sign up offers available for the Business Gold and Business Platinum variants.

It is important to remember that you must retain an American Express charge or credit card which earns Membership Rewards points 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 MR account.

For simplicity, it is best to empty your MR account before cancelling the card.  Strictly speaking, according to the Membership Rewards terms and conditions here (p18+), you have 30 days from the day you cancel the card.

There is an alternative.  Getting the free Amex Rewards Credit Card lets you cancel your fee paying card and keep your points alive.  I explained more about how that works in this article.

How does Membership Rewards work

Where can I spend Membership Rewards points?

Here are the key links to the American Express website:

  • the UK Membership Rewards home page is here
  • the UK airline rewards home page is here and
  • the UK hotel rewards page is here

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.

How do I maximise the value of my Membership Rewards points?

There are other reward options – store gift cards and travel gift vouchers etc.  The list got a lot shorter in 2019 when American Express removed all ‘physical goods’ redemptions – it is no longer possible to redeem for a toaster!

However, in almost all cases, these are based on a simple formula which gets you no more than 0.5p per point redeemed (eg 10,000 points for a £50 voucher).  Some of the easiest ones to use are Amazon and iTunes gift vouchers.

You can also transfer your Membership Rewards points into Nectar points at a rate of 1:1.  If you are a Sainsburys shopper, you can swipe your Nectar card at the till and redeem them instantly at – again – a rate of 0.5p per point.  It is occasionally possible to get more than 0.5p of value from Nectar – you need to keep an eye on our Shopper Points website for details of good redemption promotions.

For the truly lazy, you can also redeem your points for a credit against your Amex statement.  This gets you a poor 0.45p per point.

In general, you can get FAR more than 0.5p per MR point by redeeming into an airline or travel programme.  I value airline miles – very conservatively – at 0.75p to 1p each, depending on programme and route but it isn’t hard to beat this.

I value Hilton Honors points at around 0.33p so that would be 0.66p per MR point.  Radisson Rewards needs 70,000 points for their most expensive hotels, so arguably you can easily get 1p per MR point by transferring 23,333 Amex points into that.  I tend to value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.5p per point, which means you’re getting 0.75p per Membership Rewards points.  You can do substantially better than this if you need a hotel room on a peak date in a peak city.

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 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 recently compiled a list of Membership Rewards transfer times with help from Head for Points readers.

Can I transfer to another persons frequent flyer account?

This is a common question – and the answer is ‘No’.  Until recently, the US Membership Rewards scheme let you transfer to an airline or hotel account in any name.  This has never been the case in the UK.

It is possible, if you are transferring to someone with the same surname, it will work with some partners who only verify the account surnames match.

Are there conversion bonuses?

We have not seen any UK airline conversion bonuses for the last few years.

My understanding is that American Express has been trying to reduce the number of people who redeem for airline miles, as these are substantially more expensive than ‘0.5p per point’ gift card redemptions.

There have been two 50% Hilton Honors transfer bonuses in the last 12 months.  The first was narrowly targetted but the recent one seemed to be open to all.

Conclusion

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.

The big sign-up bonuses on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (10,000 points) and The Platinum Card (30,000 points) offer an easy way to get your collection going.

BOOK NOW: 175 new IHG PointBreaks hotels for just 5,000 to 15,000 points!
Take a look at the impressive new British Airways lounge at Milan Linate
Click here to join the 14,500 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Amazon ad
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. ChattyG says:

    OT – My partner and I have booked a trip to New York for next April. Any recommendations for a hotel near Central Park which will not cost us too much? We 55K BA points – not sure if we can use these towards a place to stay.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      You can but may not want to given the poor value…

      https://www.headforpoints.com/2019/03/20/how-to-use-avios-for-hotel-redemptions/

    • Easter?? Expect to pay high. Outside easter, maybe to soon to book.

    • Airbnb is far better value than hotels in New York

    • I got great rate at The Parker NY 56th St last summer, peak time. The rooms could do with a refresh but they are large (by NY standards) and the Lobby area is quite pleasant for breakfast, bar, burger spot. As someone else said it’s too early to book… I normally get something cancellable this far out and watch the market, if you then see a bargain, snag it quick !!

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      First time in New York?

      I lived just off Central Park for about 8yrs and to my mind, it is the best location. But, Manhattan is very easy and cheap to get around. If you can secure a place in Central Park then grab it but dont be afraid to look a little further afield. Unless you are on your honeymoon then there is no good reason to spend anything other than the bare minimum of time in your hotel when in NYC.

      Good luck and enjoy.

  2. Lady London says:

    As a first Amex in many years, if eligible for a Plat Business, would everyone say take the Plat Business rather than a personal Plat? Other than not getting the Eurostar lounge on Business Plat, it seems the benefits are better on the Business one for not much more?

    (Let’s leave aside whether £600 p.a. is worth it for either of the UK Amex Platinum cards! once you take the become-useless-in-UK Priority Pass out of the equation.)

    • I think it comes down to which you value more – £10pm Addison Lee credit or the Times subscription. Referrals from biz earn 18k MR Vs 12k MR for the personal.

  3. Is it possible to have both Gold Personal and Gold Business cards at the same time?

  4. Wetboy1uk says:

    Why is it that credit card bonuses aremuch more generous in the usa than uk? Take the BA example for the usa below which even gives credits on taxes and fees. We are always screwed in the uk even by a company that has british in its name. https://creditcards.chase.com/a1/britishairways/naep/100KN?CELL=6H8X&AFFID=icnah_4E0Es-GIZpAJcQTdR3JHnHqfqqXg&pvid=7140825b02784084a765f64376a583dd&jp_cmp=cc/680525/aff/3-10003281/na

    • Because credit card companies in the US can get away with charging shops more per transaction.

      • More precisely, they are not legally capped. US Mastercard / Visa fees are around 1.75% and Amex 2.75% vs 0.3% in the EU.

        However the EU has just capped fees on ALL cards used in the EU, not just EU issued ones, which is a tiny nail in the coffin of generous US bonuses.

        Genuinely shocked that this continues. Walmart has $400 BILLION of US revenue. Let’s assume 50% is on a Visa/MC. This means it pays well over $3 BILLION in swipe fees vs $600 million if it was making the same sales in the EU. I would be spending a lot of money on lobbying if this was me.

        • Three-party schemes such as Amex are still exempt, though, as long as they’re not co-branded, right?

          Although the caps on what other cards can charge sets expectations rather differently than in the US, so Amex will still have to charge less than in the US if they want to actually persuade shops over here to accept it…

  5. MR points transfer

    {………It is possible, if you are transferring to someone with the same surname, it will work with some partners who only verify the account surnames match.”}

    I tried this and didn’t work. I have a Platinum and my wife wants to transfer her few rewards to my card so she can close her Platinum account. The agent also checked with the supervisor and not possible even with same surname and address. The only option suggested was Nectar or Amazon!

  6. Is there any way to transfer amex points from a UK account to a US account (in the same name)?

    • Shoestring says:

      yes, if you relocate to work in US for example – it’s apparently straightforward to move card & points from an a/c in one country to another when somebody moves abroad (google the Amex page)

      which implies you’d need an address and maybe some proof such as an IRS number

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.