American Express has started to notify people about the changes to the T&C on their cards which are coming in from 2nd October. Whilst lengthy, there is nothing to concern most people apart from the end of pro-rata refunds when you can cancel a fee-carrying credit card.
There is one thing in the announcement that I didn’t know about. American Express is stopping the direct sale of Membership Rewards points on 1st October.
Did you even know this was possible? The facility is mentioned in the Terms & Conditions for the Membership Rewards scheme, for anyone willing to wade through them.
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.
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.
Let’s have a look at whether this is worth doing in the few weeks you have left.
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 the 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:
Compared to buying 10,000 Membership Rewards points for £150 ….:
- Avios – 10,000 Avios cost £195 directly (see here), you save £45
- Virgin Points – 10,000 points cost £165 directly (see here), you save £15 (although until 31st July there is a 60% bonus when you buy points directly which makes it the best option)
- Asia Miles – 10,000 miles cost £230 directly ($300, see here – can only be done at the point of redemption if already have 70% of the miles needed), you save £80 as well as getting around the ‘can only buy whilst redeeming’ issue
- Delta SkyMiles – 10,000 miles cost £270 directly ($350, see here), you save £120
- Emirates Skywards – 10,000 miles cost £230 directly ($300, see here), you save £80
- Etihad Guest – 10,000 miles cost £160 directly, you save £10
- 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 £223 directly (see here), you save £73
- Qantas Points – 10,000 points cost £200 directly (A$388, see here, points can only be purchased at the point of redemption to top up an existing balance), you save £50
- SAS EuroBonus – 10,000 points cost £146 directly (SEK 2,000, see here), no saving via Amex at the current exchange rate
- Singapore Airlines – 6,667 miles cost £205 directly ($267, you cannot buy online and can only buy 50% of whatever redemption you are planning), you save £55
- Hilton Honors – 20,000 points cost £154 directly ($200, see here), you save £4 – however, there is currently a 80%-100% bonus running when you buy points directly which clearly beats the Amex route
- Marriott Bonvoy – 15,000 points costs £145 directly ($187.50, see here), no saving via Amex at the current exchange rate
- Radisson Rewards – 30,000 points cost £162 directly ($210, see here), you save £12 – although it no longer makes sense to buy Radisson points now they have a fixed redemption value of roughly 0.2p
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 from American Express at 1.5p each and converting them. You need to do this by 1st October before the option is withdrawn.
This is not the case with hotel schemes, where buying Membership Rewards points to convert to hotel points rarely offers great value.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – September 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:
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: The sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points if you apply by 2nd October. You receive 15,000 Virgin Points with your first purchase and a further 15,000 points if you spend £3,000 within 90 days. 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
30,000 points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
30,000 bonus points (SPECIAL OFFER TO 2ND OCTOBER) 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 an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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.