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What is the best use of American Express points?

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What are American Express Membership Rewards points worth?

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.

What are Membership Rewards points worth?

I have pulled together both of these strands in this 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.

This article was updated on 19th October 2020, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.

How can you earn Membership Rewards points?

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

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Amex Reward Credit Card ARCC

American Express Rewards

The only ‘free for life’ Amex card which earns Membership Rewards Read our full review

The two most common business payment cards are:

American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

The complex rules on whether you qualify for an American Express 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).

How I value Amex 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 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)

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.

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:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Amex Gold is our recommended ‘first card’ for a miles and points beginner
  • You receive two free airport lounge passes when you sign up, and a further two passes each year if you renew
  • After your two free passes, you can visit further lounges for a small fee
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £140 from Year 2

Representative 56.6% APR variable, from Year 2, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit and £140 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases and in Year 1 22.2% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible, which is why we recommend this as the best choice for your first miles and points card.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the two free airport lounge passes and the ‘no fee in Year 1’ offer.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold comes with two free airport lounge passes.  These allow either you and a friend, or yourself twice, to visit any lounge in the Lounge Pass network.  You make additional lounge visits for £20 per person.  You receive an additional two free passes each year.

You earn double Membership Rewards points on all airline spend (made directly on an airline website) and all spend made outside the UK.

If you spend over £15,000 in a card year, you will receive an additional 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you renew.

Other benefits include a 10% discount on Hertz car rentals and special deals at 350 selected hotels worldwide, where Preferred Rewards Gold cardholders receive a $75 in-hotel credit per stay.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in five major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Annual fee: £575

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £575.

See if you qualify for the 30,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £4,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes The Platinum Card and Preferred Rewards Gold.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card, including the British Airways, Marriott and Nectar cards.  Holding a British Airways American Express card does not disqualify from the Platinum bonus.

If you cancel The Platinum Card at any point, you will receive a pro-rata refund of your membership fee.  You will not lose your sign-up bonus.

For clarity, you can still apply for The Platinum Card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the long list of other benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with an unrivalled list of benefits for the keen traveller.

Your personal travel patterns will determine which of these is the most valuable.  The key benefits are:

Full comprehensive travel insurance for you, your family and the family of up to five supplementary cardholders, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,300 airport lounges

Elite status in five major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold Elite), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold Elite), Shangri-La Golden Circle (Jade), MeliaRewards (Gold)

Access to Eurostar lounges, irrespective of travel class

£10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit

Amex Reward Credit Card ARCC

American Express Rewards

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Your best choice if you want a ‘free for life’ card which earns Membership Rewards points
  • A good choice if you want to close a Gold or Platinum card but keep your points intact
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 22.2% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 10,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 5,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Rewards card if you spend £2,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible. You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Rewards card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You may want to do this if you are thinking of swapping your Preferred Rewards Gold or Platinum card for a free alternative, and would prefer to keep your existing Membership Rewards points balance alive.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Rewards is the only ‘free for life’ American Express card which lets you collect Membership Rewards points.

We do NOT recommend this card if you would also qualify for the sign-up bonus on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold.  The Gold card is free for the first year, comes with two free airport lounge passes and has a higher sign-up bonus of 10,000 points.

The best reason to get American Express Rewards is if you are coming to the end of your free first year with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, or no longer want to pay the fee on The Platinum Card, but want to keep your Membership Rewards points intact.

American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £125 from Year 2

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £125 from Year 2, free in Year 1.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Business Gold card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 6 months, have held any other American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes Business or personal Gold, Business or personal Platinum and the personal American Express Rewards credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Business Gold card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the ‘no fee in Year 1’ offer.

Learn more about the card benefits +

You can apply for supplementary Amex business cards for your employees at no extra cost.

You will receive one consolidated statement showing the spend on your card and all of the supplementary cards.  All of the Membership Rewards points earned on the supplementary cards will flow into your personal account.

Depending on when in your monthly cycle you make a payment, you will effectively receive up to 54 days free credit on your spending.

American Express statements provide more underlying transaction detail for flights and certain other transactions than Visa or Mastercard statements, making it easier to reconcile transactions.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in five major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Annual fee: £595

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £595.

See if you qualify for the 40,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Business Platinum card if you spend £6,000 within 90 days.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 6 months, have held any other American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes Business or personal Gold, Business or personal Platinum and the personal American Express Rewards credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Business Platinum card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from all of the other card features.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Business Platinum comes with an unrivalled list of benefits for the keen traveller.

Your personal travel patterns will determine which of these is the most valuable.  The key benefits are:

Full comprehensive travel insurance for you, your family and the family of up to five supplementary cardholders, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,300 airport lounges

Elite status in five major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold Elite), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold Elite), Shangri-La Golden Circle (Jade), MeliaRewards (Gold)

Digital subscription to The Times and The Sunday Times, worth over £300

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.

Comments (41)

  • Martha says:

    Is the St Regis not 70000+?

  • Renaud says:

    I do think you’re undervaluing Club Eurostar points, they’re easily worth twice what you say unless you’ve booked months in advance.

    Less than a month in advanced, you’ll be hard pressed to find a peak hours weekend Standard return under £200 or a Standard premier under 300.

    I find that more valuable than many airline redemptions

    • Rob says:

      I am coming round to this view! I need to sit down and run a few numbers. Although, oddly, I paid cash when I came back from Paris recently because I was on a slightly off peak train and, even booked only 2 weeks in advance, cash was a better deal than an Amex transfer.

      I now have 500 points so next one will definitely be cash in Standard with an immediate 500 point upgrade to Standard Premier.

  • Nathan says:

    Slightly O/T, can anyone recommend marriott or hilton properties in europe with rooms with private pools that can be booked with points?

    • LST says:

      Hi. We have stayed many times at the Westin Costa Navarino where the majority of ground floor rooms have pools. It was easier when the kids were younger, as we travelled outside of school holidays, but out standard room on points has always been upgraded to either a pool room, or this summer, a family suite. It’s not guaranteed, but a nice email to the reservation team has always done the job.
      The resort itself is marvellous!
      LST

      • Nathan says:

        Thanks LST, looks really nice and not to expensive on points either. Am I right in saying the pools are not particularly private? Looks like a small divider between pools.

        • SimonW says:

          It’s a great resort. We had a pool room. I’d say you wouldnt want to be skinny dipping in it. (During the day).

  • 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

  • Mark says:

    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?