Can you buy American Express Membership Rewards points? Interestingly, yes.
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 in the Terms & Conditions for the Membership Rewards scheme 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. I know someone who made a purchase this week – which is what prompted me to update this article – so it is definitely still possible.
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.
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.
How much can you save by buying 10,000 Membership Rewards points?
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.
This is the full list of airlines and hotel companies offering transfers from Membership Rewards in the UK:
Avios – 10,000 Avios cost £175 directly (see here), you save £25 – however, until 10th July 2022 there is a 50% bonus running when you buy Avios directly which clearly beats the Amex route
Virgin Flying Club – 10,000 points cost £165 directly (see here), you save £15
Asia Miles – 10,000 miles cost £245 directly ($300, see here), you save £95
Delta SkyMiles – 10,000 miles cost £286 directly ($350, see here), you save £136
Emirates Skywards – 10,000 miles cost £245 directly ($300, see here), you save £95 – however, until 27th June 2022 there is a 50% bonus running when you buy miles directly
Etihad Guest – 10,000 miles cost £163 directly ($200, see here), you save £13 – however, until 30th June 2022 there is a 50% bonus running when you buy miles directly which clearly beats the Amex route
Finnair Plus – 10,000 miles cost £110 directly (€129, see here), no saving via Amex at the current exchange rate
Flying Blue – 10,000 miles cost £236 directly (€275, see here), you save £86 – however, until 30th June 2022 there is a 120% bonus running when you buy miles directly which clearly beats the Amex route
Qantas Points – 10,000 points cost £214 directly (A$388, see here), you save £64
SAS EuroBonus – 10,000 points cost £171 directly (€200, see here), you save £22
Singapore Airlines – 6,667 miles cost £218 directly ($267, you cannot buy online and can only buy 50% of whatever redemption you are planning), you save £68
Hilton Honors – 20,000 points cost £163 directly ($200, see here), you save £13 – however, until 19th July 2022 there is a 80%-100% bonus running when you buy points directly which clearly beats the Amex route
Marriott Bonvoy – 15,000 points costs £153 directly ($187.50, see here), no noticeable saving at current exchange rate – in any event, until 15th July 2022 there is a 40%-50% bonus running when you buy points directly which clearly beats the Amex route
Radisson Rewards – 30,000 points cost £171 directly ($210, see here), you save £21
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. Asia Miles has a similar rule. The Amex points purchase route lets you get around this. The method also, of course, gets around any annual caps on the amount of miles you can buy directly.
As you can see from the numbers above, there is a big difference between the airline and hotel schemes.
There is often a good saving to be made by NOT buying airline miles directly and, instead, buying up to 10,000 Membership Rewards points per year from American Express at 1.5p each and converting them.
This is not the case with hotel schemes, where buying Membership Rewards points to convert to hotel points rarely offers great value.