American Express is a credit card industry pioneer in many ways. One of which is the invention of transferrable points. Amex’s transferrable points are called Membership Rewards (MR) points and they can be very valuable. This post ponders how to use up American Express Membership Rewards points.
Transfer partners are by far American Express’ most valuable and popular redemption option for MR points. Amex’s partners are best suited towards domestic and international flights. However, they also have a few hotel options.
MR points transfer at a 1:1 ratio (except where noted) to the following partners:
- Choice Privileges
- Hilton (1 MR = 2 Hilton Honors Points)
- Aer Lingus
- Aeromexico (5 MR = 8 Premier Points)
- Air Canada
- Air Italia Millemiglia
- Asia Miles
- Avianca Lifemiles
- British Airways
- Delta Airlines
- El Al Israel Airlines (50 MR = 1 Matmid Point)
- Etihad Guest
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue (5 MR = 4 TrueBlue Points)
- KLM Flying Blue / Air France
- Nippon Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
Your mileage may vary for each partner. But for most partners, you should be able to easily redeem your points for at least 1.5 cents per point (CPP).
Bidding For Airline Upgrades
This is the newest redemption option from American Express. And as its name implies, this option is an online auction that lets you bid for seat upgrades. Points are worth a flat 1 CPP. Airlines set a minimum bid for any ticket, as well as suggested higher bids to win the auction. Upon bidding, you will be notified closer to departure whether your bid is successful.
Your mileage may vary here as upgrades are not always better priced than purchasing the upgrade for cash. That depends on the airline, auction scenario, and equivalent cash price.
Gift cards are another decent way to redeem points. I suggest using this method if you have fewer than 1,000 points to redeem and you need to redeem them quickly.
Most gift cards will provide a value between 0.6 and 0.9 CPP. American Express’ own gift cards are on the lower extreme with a value of 0.5 CPP. However, certain brands will have gift cards with values of at least 1 CPP on the upper extreme.
Using points for merchandise can be done in two ways: American Express’ own online store and online shopping with some major retailers
American Express’ Online Store
American Express has an online store that lets you redeem points for merchandise. However, I suggest steering clear of this option for two reasons. The first is that a lot of their products are overpriced. And the second is that points are worth 0.8 CPP with this option, further inflating the prices.
Pay With Points at Checkout
This option lets you use your points to help pay for merchandise at various online stores. Retailers include Expedia, Amazon, and Best Buy. But your mileage may vary here as points can be worth between 0.5 and 1 CPP. Any way you look at it, you will be getting terrible value. Therefore, I suggest steering clear of this option too.
American Express’ Travel Portal
Amex’s travel portal is like Chase’s, but you will get a lot less value when using it. Points are worth just 0.7 CPP when using them to book travel. I find this to be terrible value, especially since Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth a minimum of 1 CPP in their portal. The 1 CPP can be earned by using the portal with a no annual fee Chase card.
MR points can also be redeemed for statement credits. But this is not the best way to redeem as points are worth just 0.6 CPP. You are better off with a cash back card if you prefer redeeming for a statement credit.
American Express is the pioneer of transferrable points and partners. However, redeeming their points is more difficult than redeeming points from Chase, Citi, and even Capital One. That is because there are a lot of options that provide less than 1 CPP in value. The moral of this post is that American Express Membership Rewards points are best used for transferring to partners. Do not fall for the illusion of choice.