One of the lesser known features of the American Express Membership Rewards programme is the ability to buy up to 10,000 Membership Rewards points per year for 1.5p each.
This facility is mentioned on the Amex website here – scroll down to Clause 3 – although it does not mention the price.
Note that a lot of Amex call centre agents will never have done this and may deny it can be done. You may need to hang up and call again.
Why buy miles indirectly via Amex when I can buy them directly?
Over the last few years, pretty much every airline and hotel programme has brought in a ‘buy points’ option. This is not surprising – it is easy money for the programme, and they are still charging you more than the marginal cost to them of redeeming the points.
Since American Express is willing to sell Platinum and Preferred Rewards Gold cardholders additional Membership Rewards points, you can use this method to buy yourself airline points for a discount on the price charged by the programme itself.
This method has got more attractive over the last couple of years for those airlines who sell miles priced in US$ or Euro, since the fall in Sterling has made them noticeably more expensive if bought direct.
American Express sells you Membership Rewards points priced in £ so that cost has remained constant.
Don’t do this during a mileage sale though
Of course, many airlines have occasional mileage sales which bring down the price below what you will pay using this route. Don’t use this method to buy miles speculatively which you don’t plan to use immediately.
This method does not work for hotel programmes, based on my maths.
Let’s take a look at a few examples, based on the points you get from converting 10,000 Membership Rewards points which you have bought from Amex for £150:
Avios – 10,000 Avios costs £175 directly (see here), you save £25
Virgin Flying Club – 10,000 miles costs £165 directly (see here), you save £15
*Alitalia – 10,000 miles costs £216 directly (€250, see here), you save £66
Asia Miles – 10,000 miles costs £234 directly ($300, see here), you save £84
Delta SkyMiles – 10,000 miles costs £273 directly ($350, see here), you save £123
Emirates Skywards – 10,000 miles costs £234 directly ($300, see here), you save £84
Etihad Guest – 10,000 miles costs £156 directly ($200, see here), only a marginal £6 saving at the current exchange rate
*Finnair Plus – 10,000 miles costs £112 directly (€129, see here), no saving at current exchange rate
*Flying Blue – 10,000 miles costs £238 directly (€275, see here), you save £88
Qantas Points – 10,000 points costs £214 directly (A$388, see here), you save £64
SAS EuroBonus – SAS appears to have suspended points purchases at present according to their website here
Singapore Airlines – 10,000 miles costs £312 directly ($400, see note below), you save £162
*Hilton Honors – 20,000 points costs £156 directly ($200, see here), only a marginal £6 saving at current exchange rate
Marriott Bonvoy – 15,000 points costs £146 directly ($187.50, see here), no saving at current exchange rate
Radisson Rewards – 30,000 points cost £164 directly ($210, see here), you save £14
Note that the programmes marked with a * are currently selling points at discount, so there is no advantage to going via American Express. Click on the ‘see here’ link for details.
This method also gets around arcane rules in some programmes. Singapore Airlines, for example, only lets you buy miles directly if you are are about to redeem and already have 50% of the miles you need. The Amex points purchase route avoids that. This method also gets around any annual caps on the amount of miles you can buy directly.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2021 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review
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
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these:
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review
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.