Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What is the best use of Amex Membership Rewards points, after the Avios / Nectar deal?

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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 covers the bulk of the pseudo-cash, cash and travel options.

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

Why has the Avios / Nectar partnership changed the game?

From 21st January, British Airways Avios points have been freely transferable into Nectar points. You can find out more and link your accounts on ba.com here.

The transfer rate is 1 Avios to 1.6 Nectar points.

In 99% of cases, a Nectar point is worth 0.5p when you redeem it. This is what you get if you spend them at Sainsbury’s, Argos or eBay.

This means that 1 Avios is worth 0.8p (0.5p x 1.6) when redeemed for Nectar points.

Nectar Avios light

How does this impact Membership Rewards?

1 American Express Membership Rewards point can be transferred into 1 BA Avios point.

This means that Membership Rewards points now have a ‘floor’ value. You are GUARANTEED to get 0.8p per Membership Rewards point if you transfer them to Avios, and then to Nectar, and then spend them in Sainsbury’s, Argos or on eBay.

There is virtually no reason, at all, to make a Membership Rewards redemption for anything else that gets you under 0.8p of value.

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

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

For the purposes of this analysis, I have broken down Membership Rewards redemptions into three categories:

  • “still worth it”
  • “only worth it as a top-up”
  • “absolutely not worth it as Nectar offers more value”

Which Membership Rewards redemptions are worth more than getting 0.8p per point via Nectar?

Airline miles – worth 0.8p – 1.5p per point (my target)

Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 to British Airways / Avios, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Alitalia, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Finnair, Flying Blue, Qantas and SAS.

My 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.

It is impossible to tie down a tighter range than 0.8p to 1.5p because of the number of different airline partners and the various ways (upgrade, long-haul, short-haul, economy, premium) you can redeem. 

My personal spreadsheet of the last 7.8m 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 far exceeded this.

Radisson Rewards hotel transfers – 1p per point (my target)

Radisson 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.

Which Membership Rewards redemptions are now poor value given that Nectar offers 0.8p per point?

Marriott Bonvoy hotel transfers – 0.75p per point (my target)

Amex Membership Rewards points convert at 2:3 into the Marriott Bonvoy programme.  It is fairly easy to get 0.5p per Marriott Bonvoy point when redeeming.

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 to redeem at, including Le Meridien, Sheraton, Westin, W, Marriott, Autograph, Design Hotels, The Luxury Collection, The Ritz-Carlton, St Regis etc etc.

As I wrote recently, I got a whopping 1.2p per Marriott Bonvoy point when I redeemed 400,000 in the Middle East over Christmas.

Because of the potential to outperform my valuation relatively easily, Marriott Bonvoy is a marginal call. In truth, if forced to choose, I would move Amex points to Bonvoy instead of Nectar because of the potential to beat the 0.5p valuation target if I was smart.

You will, of course, still get value from transferring to Bonvoy if you are topping up your account to a certain level for a redemption.

Hilton Honors hotel transfers – 0.66p per point (my target)

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.

Importantly, my personal belief is that it is harder to beat 0.33p per Hilton point than it is to beat 0.5p per Marriott point.

I struggle to see the value in moving large chunks of Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors to receive – in all likelihood – 0.66p per point when Nectar offers a guaranteed exit route at 0.8p per point.

It is also worth noting that Hilton Honors often sells points at 0.39p each when there is a 100% bonus running, as there is at the moment. If you cash out your Membership Rewards points today for Nectar credit, you could buy back the Hilton points in the future if you needed them and be no worse off.

You will, of course, still get value from transferring to Hilton if you are topping up your account to a certain level for a redemption.

Club Eurostar transfers – 0.66p per point (my target)

I value a Club Eurostar point at 10p. Last year I did a detailed analysis explaining my valuation of Club Eurostar points.  The 15:1 transfer rate into Club Eurostar means you are getting 0.66p per point.

There is some opportunity to outperform because Club Eurostar offers guaranteed availability – if there is a seat for cash, you can book it for points. If you redeem for a peak train at short notice you will beat 0.66p.

That said, you probably won’t beat it enough to be getting well over 0.8p per point, which is what Nectar offers you in pseudo-cash.

You will, of course, still get value from transferring to Club Eurostar if you are topping up your account to a certain level for a redemption.

Eurostar e320

Which Membership Rewards redemptions are now worthless, given that Nectar offers 0.8p per point?

Retailer gift cards – 0.5p per point (guaranteed value)

Waterstones, M&S, Harrods, Currys PC World and iTunes are amongst the vouchers available available.

20,000 Amex points will get you a £100 shopping voucher, for example. Why would you want to do this when 20,000 Amex points now gets you £160 to spend in Sainsbury’s, Argos or eBay via Nectar?

Nectar points – 0.5p per point (guaranteed value)

This is where your head might start to hurt.

You can transfer transfer Membership Rewards points directly into Nectar points at a transfer rate of 1:1. It would be unbelievably silly to do this, given that you can go Amex to Avios to Nectar and get a transfer rate of 1 to 1.6.

The only reason to transfer directly from Amex to Nectar is that the minimum transfer is just 1 point. Routing via Avios requires you to move points in chunks of 400. If you closing a Membership Rewards account and have a handful of points left, Nectar – with no minimum transfer – is the obvious place to send them.

Amazon credit – 0.45p per point (guaranteed value)

Linking your Amex account to amazon.co.uk and paying for your purchases directly with points (more in this article) will get you 0.45p per Membership Rewards points.  

This was always a slightly silly option, however, as you can also redeem for Amazon gift cards and get 0.5p per point. It is now utterly useless as you can get 0.8p per point by going Amex to Avios to Nectar.

Redeeming for Amex statement credit – 0.45p per point (guaranteed value)

This is also of no value now. There is no reason to redeem Membership Rewards points for 0.45p off your Amex statement balance when you get 0.8p to spend at Sainsbury’s, Argos or eBay via Nectar.

Conclusion

The Avios / Nectar partnership is good news for American Express Membership Rewards collectors. It means that your points are now worth AT LEAST 0.8p.

It is more of a headache for American Express, which is now faced with offering multiple redemptions which offer very poor value, in comparison, to their cardmembers.

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

Bonus: 20,000 Membership Rewards points

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
  • You receive £120 of Deliveroo credit each year (24 x £5 credits)
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £140 from Year 2

Representative 56.6% APR variable.  Annual fee applies after the first year.

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 Priority 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.

Starting in May 2021, you receive £120 of Deliveroo credit each year.  Amex will repay you £5 for the first two Deliveroo orders charged to your Gold card each month.

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

Bonus: 30,000 Membership Rewards points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four 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.

This is the ONLY personal American Express card where you still qualify for the bonus if you already hold a British Airways American Express card.

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.

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 four major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold), 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

Bonus: 5,000 Membership Rewards points

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 5,000 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

Bonus: 20,000 Membership Rewards points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £175 from Year 2
  • Points transfer at 1:1 into Avios, Virgin Points and other airline schemes

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £175 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 six 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.

You are OK if the only American Express card you have had in the previous six months was a British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy, Nectar, Platinum Cashback or Harrods American Express card.

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 receive £100 of Dell statement credit per calendar year.  This is made available in two parts.  You receive a £50 credit on Dell purchases made between January and June and a £50 credit on Dell purchases made between July and December.  There is no minimum spend requirement.

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

Bonus: 40,000 Membership Rewards points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four 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 six 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.

You are OK if the only American Express card you have had in the previous six months was a British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy, Nectar, Platinum Cashback or Harrods American Express card.

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 four major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold), MeliaRewards (Gold)

£150 of Dell statement credit per year – you receive £75 credit on Dell purchases betweeen January and June and £75 credit on purchases between July and December

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.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Card Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (33)

  • Oti says:

    That would be a great article Rob. If you are an average spender with £20k spend per year, what card combination will offer the best £ return? (excluding sign up bonuses)

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