Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What do Sunday Telegraph readers do with their Amex Membership Rewards points?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

I advised on an article in The Sunday Telegraph this week about how to use American Express Membership Rewards points.

Here’s a link although the site is paywalled. There’s nothing in it that I haven’t written about on HfP multiple times so you aren’t missing much if you’re a regular reader.

I thought you might be interested in extracts from the comments section under the article. Telegraph readers are generally literate (verbally and financially) so you would expect sensible feedback.

Sunday Telegraph American Express article

Here are a few:

From Chris:

If you have got enough money to be spending £100k per year on Amex then can you really be bothered spending time exchanging points for pennies?

Er, yes Chris. I suspect Chris believes that wealthy people keep warm in winter by throwing large piles of £50 notes into a roaring fire. In reality the majority of people with cash wealth (as opposed to housing wealth) got it via running their own business and have spent a lifetime focused on cost control.

From Joe:

When I closed the account to which my Amex card was linked they booted me out without any chance of paying from any of my other accounts, despite having been a client for almost two decades. And they kept all my points. Wouldn’t trust them as far as I can throw them.

No idea what Joe is on about 🙂 Failed Direct Debit? Let’s move on.

From Ale:

Avios is a complete and total waste of time. Worth nothing these days, most flights are unavailable and you can still get a cheaper flights elsewhere at the time you actually want to go.

Feedback for IAG there I think ….

From Alan:

I can’t see anywhere on the BA site that lets me convert avios to nectar points

The first Google search result for ‘BA nectar’ is the relevant page.

From Gavin:

You will never be able to use those lounge access vouchers. All lounges are full now all the time and only accept paid entry or business class passengers.

Fair point at peak times in the UK (not internationally).

From Richard:

I don’t fly much, so using the points on Amazon or Laithwaites wine works for me.

I had specifically written in the article that converting points to Nectar via Avios gets you 50% more value than doing what Richard does, getting himself 0.45p per point.

From Bennett:

Just use the Amex points as credit to clear your credit card balance.

See my reply to Richard above.

From LIz:

Wine Flyer – that’s a good way to use up your Avios.

As we showed here, you’re getting 0.68p per Avios via Wine Flyer so, admittedly, it’s not terrible. It’s not great either – we’d be aiming at over 1p – but there are far worse options. Such as:

From Julian:

just use them on amazon.

See my reply to Richard above.

From Jane (replying to Julian):

But then your return on the points is 10% less than buying [Amazon] gift cards, for example, as shown by the figures in the article. I just get get Amazon or M&S gift cards, as I shop there anyway.

No, Jane, don’t do it!

There are some thoughtful contributions from other Telegraph readers, which elevate the discussion to something nearer the HfP comments level:

From Al:

I accumulate thousands of points a year but rolling them into airmiles type schemes is a waste of time as it’s usually cheaper to buy the flights/upgrades elsewhere.

What can be useful with Amex is their rewards discounts. Most of them are pointless overpriced luxury brands, but I tend to make >£300 a year with the more regular ones. For example, LNER has 12% Amex cashback plus another 2% discount booking via LNER directly.

From Chris:

If you’re persistent enough and flexible you will find your seats depending on your flexibility. I have only flown First & Business since I started collecting in 2005.

From Bret:

The best thing about Amex (aside from their human customer service if I ever need to phone them up) is that if you are going overseas for work and need a local credit history (e.g. in the US for a few years), utter the magic words “Global Transfer” and Amex in your new country will use your UK credit history to support your application where you have no local creditworthiness to evidence. So far as I know, they’re the only major global credit provider that will do this.

From George:

I have been an Amex Platinum member since 1995, with gold 2 years prior to that and indeed have had good points benefits because I earned a lot in my working life.

The annual cost has increased hugely and whilst the cost to benefit ratio used to be good now I am over 70 the travel insurance no longer applies ( I though it was to 75 and was surprised that Amex never reminded me that I would loose it at 70). Indeed I still get letters that made me think I still had this.

You would think Amex would want to retain its senior members but now there is little to no point in me retaining the card at £575 a year.

From John (re lounge access):

You will struggle to use them in the UK but in the rest of the world, you should be fine. Lounge entry refusal is a UK phenomenon. At worst in places like the AENA-run lounges across Spain, they may ask you to wait at the door till the next flight boards to smooth out capacity. Whereas in Manchester, the airport-run Escape lounges put a “We’re full, please F off” sign outside when about 25-30% occupied.

From William (re ‘Avios are a waste of time’):

That may be true for short haul destinations, but you can get 1p per avios on many long haul routes even in economy (eg. to South America), thanks to the recent reduction in the required cash component via Reward Flight Saver. You can also redeem on Iberia and Qatar, which gives excellent value. I am flying from Singapore to London on Qatar Business class for 75000 avios plus £180. The cash fare for this same route would be £2500+. Finally this doesn’t take into account the extra value from the 2 for 1 voucher you can earn on the BA Amex, which substantially increases the worth of your avios.

It’s true that certain routes are practically off limits for redemptions (eg. BA Australia/Singapore) and you often need to book close to a year in advance. But with a little flexibility you can get good deals.

What can you take from this?

What you need to remember, as a HfP reader, is that you are very much in the minority in terms of knowing how to maximise the miles and points that you earn.

I think the comments above, from what in theory should be an above-average audience in terms of street smarts, show that.

This is good news for us though. The more people who redeem for sub-optimal redemptions, the lower the pressure on the financial performance of the programme and the more likely it is that higher value redemptions will remain – if only because of their PR value via sites like this.

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – June 2023 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points. Apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

30,000 points bonus (to 13th June) and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend 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 offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

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

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (128)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Mayfair Mike says:

    Quite ironic that the comments section in this HfP article is one of the most toxic we’ve seen in recent memory, when it set itself out to be a higher pedigree of posters! Personal attacks on people (calling them racist, homophobic etc) they don’t even know, based on their choice of a highly regarded broadsheet newspaper!
    From the comments Rob posted, none seemed to insult or abuse another cohort of readers – just anecdotes or frustrations with the avios process itself.

    I wonder if there’s a spot of underlying jealousy here. I know plenty of wealthy people, who have better things to do than run spreadsheets on avios values or wake up at midnight to book a T+364 flight. They accumulate points and redeem them on wine or shopping and are perfectly happy to do so, with very little stress. Some of these arrogant, rabid responses on here highlight some mentally troubled people, or are just insular cranks in middle management!

  • Rich says:

    A reasonably financially-literate friend was complaining that he had ‘all these Nectar points’ from his energy company and nowhere to spend them.

    Me: Why don’t you just spend them in Sainsbury’s.

    Him: I don’t shop in Sainsbury’s. I shop in Tesco.

    Me: But you could get your shopping for free if you went once. There’s one at the end of your road.

    Him: Oh yeah. I hadn’t thought of that.

  • Martin says:

    The comments here mirror my experiences recommending AmEx to friends. They’re all high earners.

    Person 1: referred a Gold card about 6 years ago. He still has it. He didn’t do any player 2 referrals and spends his points at Amazon via the option that appears when you’re checking out.

    Person 2: referred a Platinum. He holds it for the “prestige”, so he can flash it when paying for meals on dates etc. Again, no player 2 referrals and spends his points at Amazon via the option that appears when you’re checking out. He doesn’t use the lounge access or the dining credit even, as it’s apparently too complicated.

    Person 3: Told me that AmEx is funded by high merchant fees and as such its immoral to have one!

    Person 4: Small business owner who puts £250,000 a year through a debit card with no benefits. But apparently cards with an annual fee are usually a ripoff and its “too much hassle”.

    As for me personally, I get value out of my BAPP, mainly from being able to book flights last minute without paying exorbitant rates, and being able to cancel Avios bookings for only £35. The flexibility is worth a lot to me as I often change my plans. The 2-4-1s are also great, although I did let one expire around Covid time, sadly.

    I’ve held the platinum for the last year too, but if it wasn’t for the signup bonus and overseas car rental insurance (which Ionely needed this year for a road trip), I would have made a loss on the annual fee. I can see where some of the Telegraph readers are coming from. I think it’d be even more difficult to get value out of the paid cards if I had children and had to plan travel around the school holidays, unless one speonds a lot of time to develop the knowledge about how to get the best out of the system.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.