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 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.

Membership Rewards sensibly chose to discontinue ‘physical’ redemptions this year.  You can no longer redeem your points for a toaster.  This is good news because the toaster was, unsurprisingly, poor value for your points.  If you still want a free toaster, redeem your points for an Amazon gift card!

The Amex Membership Rewards website is here if you want to look for yourself at what is available.

The three main ways to earn Membership Rewards points in the UK from a personal payment card are:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – 10,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus, 1 point per £1 spent (double points on foreign and airline spend), no fee in Year 1

The Platinum Card from American Express – 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus, 1 point per £1 spent, £575 fee

American Express Rewards credit card – 5,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus, 1 point per £1 spent, no fee

The two most common business payment cards are American Express Business Gold (20,000 points sign-up bonus and 1 point per £1 spent) and American Express Business Platinum (40,000 points sign-up bonus and 1 point per £1 spent).

The complex new rules on whether you qualify for a sign-up bonus are explained in my article here.  Fundamentally, it is fairly easy to qualify for the bonus on Business Gold and Business Platinum (you cannot have held any Membership Rewards card for six months) and personal Platinum (you cannot have held a personal Green, Gold or Platinum for 24 months).  It is a lot harder to qualify for personal Gold or American Express Rewards (you cannot have held ANY personal Amex card for 24 months).

Best use of American Express Membership Rewards points

How I value Amex Membership Rewards points:

0.75p – 1.5p per point (my target value)

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 20,000 points for taking out the free (in Year 1) Amex Gold, are so valuable.

(20,000 points is a special offer until 29th June 2020.  The standard bonus is just 10,000 points.  I strongly recommend applying whilst the higher bonus is running.)

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 7.6m 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 35,000 Miles & More miles business class one-way redemption on Lufthansa from the UK to Dubai – far exceeded this.

1p per point (my target value)

Radisson Rewards hotel transfersRadisson Rewards is probably the least understood of the American Express hotel partners, but their points can have real value.

I explain my valuation in this 2018 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 realistic.  Radisson points are poorer value at the bottom end, with the cheapest UK Park Inn hotels now requiring 28,000 points.  Radisson Rewards in the UK covers Radisson Blu, Radisson RED, 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 Marriott Bonvoy programme.  It is currently very easy to get 0.5p per Marriott Bonvoy point although, now that peak pricing has been introduced, I am keeping an eye on my valuation.

0.5p per Marriott Bonvoy point means, at a 2:3 exchange rate from Membership Rewards, you should be getting 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.

I have had some exceptionally good returns this year which have got me far more than 0.5p per Bonvoy point.  These include St Regis New York for 60,000 Bonvoy points (40,000 Amex points) when cash rates were $1,100 + tax, and the new The Langley country house hotel for just 35,000 points (23,300 Amex points).

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.  Over time I have come to believe that 0.33p per point is a fair valuation for a Hilton Honors point.  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.  I get a feeling that I undervalue Club Eurostar points, however, because they offer guaranteed availability – if there is a seat for cash, you can book it for points – which means that you are more likely to be redeeming onto peak trains which are peak priced for cash.

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 pointLNER has also been offering annual ‘double up’ promotions recently which got you a guaranteed 1p per point.

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!

0.45p 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.

I hope this gives you some ideas for using your points for maximum value.

How do I use Membership Rewards points?

Learn more about the credit cards mentioned above

Here is the legally required interest rate information on the credit cards mentioned above, together with links to our detailed reviews:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – sign-up bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 in three months – apply hereour American Express Gold review is here – representative APR 56.6% variable including fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.2% variable

The Platinum Card from American Express – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £4,000 in three months – apply hereour American Express Platinum review is here – this is a charge card which must be repaid in full each month

American Express Rewards – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 in three months – apply hereour Amex Rewards review is here representative APR 22.2% variable

American Express Gold Business – sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 in three months – apply hereour Amex Gold Business review is here – this is a charge card which must be repaid in full each month

American Express Platinum Business – sign-up bonus of 40,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £6,000 in three months – apply hereour Amex Platinum Business review is here – this is a charge card which must be repaid in full each month

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. Nic Evans says:

    One use you don’t cover is use of points during payment authorization.
    I was paying on the BA website for the tax and duty on flights paid with Avios. When the amex authorization screen came up I was asked if I wanted to pay with amex points. Of course with the clock ticking I didn’t have time to check if it was a good use of amex points. Given the opportunity to get flights without paying cash for tax and duty I took it!

    • Shoestring says:

      going to be 0.5p/ MR point, always is

      if you got your points ‘for free’ through flying for business, it saves you spending your own money I guess

      turn it around and most of us would rather keep the MR points if it’s only 0.5p, pretty much the same as buying points for 0,5p

  2. I’m trying to compare cards so I know what to sign up for in 2020, and could use some advice.

    For context, I’ve had a Gold Charge Card from Jan 2018 until Feb 2019, and since then, I’ve had a Nectar card.

    My options are currently the BA Plus card, a(nother) Gold Credit Card, or the free Membership Rewards Card. I know I’m unlikely to receive bonus rewards on the last two.

    But this might sway things… should I go for the Gold Credit Card, would I count as a “Year 1” customer and get it for free, or would I automatically be put on the paid tier?

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