Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What can your business do with Membership Rewards points?

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This article is sponsored by American Express

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:

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

In the last of our three articles looking at different ways that American Express can help your small business, I wanted to look at how you can earn American Express Membership Rewards® points from American Express® Business Gold® and American Express® Business Platinum® 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 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. This article refers to the UK scheme.

How do I earn Membership Rewards points?

Small business owners can earn Membership Rewards points from Business Platinum and Business Gold Cards.

The earnings rate is the same all both of the Cards – 1 point for virtually every £1 you spend 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 Business Platinum Card

You will receive 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend £6,000 within your first three months of Cardmembership. 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 Business Platinum (40,000 points) is bigger than the bonus on the personal The Platinum Card® (30,000 points)

You CANNOT get the sign-up bonus on Business Platinum 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, Marriott or Platinum Cashback American Express Card.

HFP Amex American Express Business Gold Card

American Express Business Gold Card

You receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 within your first three months of Cardmembership.

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 Business Gold if you already have, or have had in the previous six months, a personal Gold or The 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, Marriott or Platinum Cashback American Express Card.

What are American Express Membership Rewards points?

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:

  • 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 Qantas mile (oneworld)
  • 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 Membership Rewards points to 1 Eurostar mile. I wrote an overview on Eurostar and Membership Rewards points here.

Can I transfer points to the frequent flyer accounts of my staff?

No, transfers need to be made into a frequent flyer or hotel loyalty account with the same name as the American Express Cardmember.

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, Net-A-Porter, Waterstones, 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 other 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 statement – 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 Membership Rewards 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.

Conclusion

American Express Membership Rewards points can be very valuable to you and your small business. 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 Business Gold Card (20,000 points) and American Express Business Platinum Card (40,000 points) offer an easy way to get your collection off to a flying start.

American Express Services Europe Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Comments (19)

  • memesweeper says:

    The image for my Gold Business card has changed in the app and online to one that looks like it should be ‘metal’ rather than traditional plastic. Are they issuing metal Gold cards for businesses in the UK now?

    • Rhys says:

      Not that we know of….yet!

    • Rob says:

      They are going to roll out metal Gold cards. Sweden was the first place to get them a couple of months ago. Not heard anything about the UK market getting them. It could be part of a broader refresh, eg swapping Lounge Club for Priority Pass which is also coming.

      • memesweeper says:

        Ordered a replacement anyway. I’ll report here if it’s metal 🙂

        • Justin says:

          It’s not metal, just a redesign to make it similar to the platinum..
          However, in my opinion, the color is much nicer than the previous gold.

          • Justin says:

            I should say I know this because I received the redesign. Still plastic, buy I prefer it.

            The issue I have with metal cards it that, due to there weight, they’re not very secure in my wallet. Saying that, I do like them!

  • sayling says:

    Having recently applied for the Business Plat, I was surprised to see the welcome bonus given immediately and no tracker of qualifying spend or target in the app.

    A little reticent to state this publicly, but hey ho…

    • Rob says:

      Another reader reported this to me in the last few days too ….

      • Magarathea says:

        Same thing happened to me on the Business Gold. Any info of what will happen when I reach the spend target?

      • YB says:

        I had the same. Had to put a large transaction through over the weekend, and can confirm that the regular spend bonus also applies once you hit the threshold.

  • IO says:

    Off topic. I just spotted a 500 bonus points for a £500 spend on my BA AMEX premium. You can claim twice before 31 Jan.

    • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

      My wife and I both got spend £100 for 1500 avios on our BAPPs today – expiry 31/12/20

  • SL says:

    If I have a Business Plat card and a personal gold card at the same time, can I link the MR account so that if I cancel my Business Plat whilst retaining personal gold my MR points remain intact?

    • memesweeper says:

      Yes — I’ve business and personal cards feeding the same MR pot

  • jason says:

    has anyone got to the bottom of the tax consequences of gifting vouchers/items above £50 to employees via MR points redemptions? working on the basis the MR points are the company’s and therefore any gift purchased from the points is likely to create p11d tax responsibilities for the recipient?

    • Rob says:

      The points have no value – this is a HMRC policy. It would be very odd if you could create value from nothing to create a taxable liability, because that would also imply you create a taxable liability by using the points for miles for a flight (since you crystalise value then) which you don’t.

    • Track says:

      Contrary to Rob’s opinion above.

      You are handing in a voucher with value in pounds written on it…

      In this case, it’s not you/business just spending points, but there is gifting to another person involved.

      MR/airline points themselves having no notional value does not mean they can’t be turned into items which can’t be valued. If your gift is in points, then OK same no notional value approach applies. However if your gift is something tangible, such as a flight… then it can be seen as a benefit in kind (taxable).

      • jason says:

        Thanks both. If I understand correctly Rob you’re saying the points in HMRC’s opinion have no value, therefore to use points with no value to purchase a gift they can’t suddenly create a taxable liability where non previously existed? My worry is similar to what Track states, I think you can be right Rob, but it’s the second part of the transaction, the gifting of an item/voucher paid for with points, that creates a BiK for the employee. Would love to know if anyone is aware of the definitive position on this / clever way around it.

        • Rob says:

          I can’t believe you even waste time on this. Assume it doesn’t. If you are the 1 in 1,000 people who gets an HMRC examination AND they spot this AND they don’t like it, you can pay then with no penalty. Life is too short.

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