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06-06-2013, 10:19 PM #1
American Express Membership Rewards Point Value and Transfer Options
American Express Membership Rewards typically have a value of 1 cent per point or better, assuming you use them properly. Amex offers quite a few redemption options and some will slash that rewards rate down to only 0.5 cents per point.
To help you maximize your rewards and understand which options are worth your time, let's go over the point value and transfer options available, beginning with the most high-value options.
First and Foremost: Which Membership Rewards Program Do You Have?
The first thing you need to check is the Membership Rewards program you have, which is dependent on the card you hold. American Express introduced three tiers into their Membership Rewards program back in 2007: the Express program, the regular Membership Rewards program and the First program.
- Regular program: Premier Gold, Gold, Green and Corporate cards
- First program: Centurion and Platinum cards
- Express program: Blue and Zync cards
Here's a breakdown of the differences in these programs and how they affect you in terms of redeeming points.
Regular Membership Rewards Program
If you have a Premier Gold, Gold, Green or Corporate card, you have the ability to transfer points to airlines, typically at a 1:1 ratio. You can also take advantage of frequent transfer bonuses American Express offers, such as a 50% bonus when you transfer your points to Delta.
American Express states that MR points transfer at the 1:1 ratio, except in the following exceptions:
- JetBlue Airways: 250 MR points = 200 JetBlue TrueBlue points and points must be transferred in 250 point increments
- EL AL Israel Airlines: 1,000 MR points = 20 Matmid points
- Starwood Preferred Guest: 1,000 MR points = 333 Starpoints
- Hilton: 1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points
- Virgin America: 200 MR points = 100 Elevate points and points must be transferred in 200 point increments
- Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts: 2,300 points = 100 Sirius Points and points must be transferred in 2,300 point increments
Along with transferring points to hotel and airline frequent customer programs, you can also use points for free rental certificates with National, Avis and Enterprise.
Cards that are not eligible to transfer points to frequent customer programs include: Blue cards, Optima cards, Platinum cards and the Zync card.
First Membership Rewards Program
If you have the First Membership Rewards program with your card, you have a unique benefit: a 25% bonus on Pay with Points redemptions for travel, which means 1 point will equal 1.25 cents.
If you use your Platinum or Centurion card to book a hotel stay, you'll also get free room upgrades, breakfast, late checkout and other benefits, plus cruise booking discounts and a free companion ticket when you buy an international full-fare first class or business ticket.
Membership Rewards Express Program
If you have one of the popular AmEx cards in the Express program, including the Blue cards, you cannot transfer your points to hotel or airline programs. If you acrue a great deal of points, you can get a card with the true Membership Rewards program and your Express points will covert to regular MR points.
You also have the ability to link an Express card with a regular Membership Rewards account, which will convert your points to regular MR points.
For the most part, the American Express cards with no annual fee fall into this program, so you need to be careful when you redeem your points to make sure you get the highest value.
Transfer Options with Your MR Points
Unless you have an Express card, you can transfer those hard-earned Membership Rewards points into frequent customer programs. Here's a look at your transfer options, and how it breaks down.
1. Frequent Flyer Programs: 1 - 3+ cents per point
Transferring points to frequent flyer programs usually earns you the highest redemption rate, especially when you factor in the transfer bonuses American Express offers. With most partners, you'll get a 1:1 transfer ratio, except in the exceptions covered above.
It's usually a good idea to hold onto your points until you need them, unless you see a really lucrative transfer bonus, which may be too good to pass up.
Airlines and hotels want these transfer bonuses because American Express pays their partners for the miles or points. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. These bonuses change fairly frequently and may range from 10% to 50%.
Airline transfer partners include the following: Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Delta, Singapore Airlines, Frontier, El Al, Air France, Hawaiian, ANA, JetBlue, Iberia, Alitalia, AeroMexico and Air Canada.
The value of your points using this option depends on the award you find, any transfer bonus you grab and any surcharges the airline charges. The better the awards you find, the higher your redemption rate. It's not uncommon to get a value of 2 to 3 cents per point by transferring your points, and you can maximize this with some tips:
- British Airways usually offers the best transfer bonuses but they also have high surcharge fees and taxes for trips to Europe. Both Iberia and British Airways use Avios, however, and both are transfer partners.
You can take advantage of that transfer bonus by transferring points to British Airways Avios and then converting them to Iberia Avios. Book through Iberia and you can save more money as Iberia has lower carrier-imposed surcharges and fees than British Airways.
- Consider transferring to Hawaiian airlines to take advantage of their non-alliance partners, including JetBlue, ANA, Delta and Virgin America. As an example, you need only 55,000 Hawaiin Miles to travel from the US to Europe on Delta in Economy class, versus 60,000 Delta Skymiles.
This can also be an advantage if you want to fly Virgin America, which has a fare-based redemption model, so higher fares cost more points.
Hawaiin provides a distance-based table for Virgin America awards. As an example, you need 60,000 Hawaiian Miles to fly from LA to New York, versus 50,000 Elevate points (which cost 100,000 MR points!). You can save half your points by transferring first to Hawaiian to redeem Virgin America flights.
- If you see a great redemption flight on an airline but you don't have enough points, you can borrow up to 60,000 MR points from American Express if yo have a Platinum card (or 15,000 points otherwise) and take up to 1 year to repay them. If you don't repay them, though you'll be charged 2.5 cents per point.
2. Hotel Programs: 0.5 to 1 cent per point
Hotel programs usually have a lower redemption rate than the frequent flyer programs, with a redemption ratio that breaks down like this:
- Starwood - 3:1 (Starwood points are worth 2 cents each, but this is a low conversion ratio)
- Hilton - 1:1.5 (value of 0.3 to 0.5 cents per point)
- Best Western 1:1 (value of 0.5 cents per point)
- Choice Hotels - 1:1 (value of 0.6 cents to 1 cent per point)
- Jumeirah - 23:1 (partnership expire July 31, 2013)
Hilton stands out as the best with 1,000 MR points equal to 1,500 HHonors points.
Useful Trick: Transfer your points to Virgin Atlantic first and then call them to transfer your points to HHonors for a transfer rate of 1:2, transforming 75,000 MR points into 150,000 Hilton points. That means the sign-up bonus you get from an American Express card can be redeemed for 4 nights at the Hilton Bora Bora, for example, which has a retail value of over $4,000.
It's not worth it to transfer your MR points to the other hotel programs as they have terrible transfer rates.
Redeem MR Points for Gift Cards: 1 cent per point
You can redeem MR points for gift cards starting at only 1,000 points for a $10 gift card. This option earns you a full 1 cent per point and the ability to redeem small numbers of points at any number of stores makes this as good as cash.
Note that not all gift cards have equal redemption costs, however. Redeeming for a $25 AmEx gift card costs 5,000 points (or 0.5 cents per point) while redeeming for a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card costs the same, for a full 1 cent per point value.
Sometimes American Express also offers promotions on gift cards, saving you more points when you redeem.
2. Travel Pay with Points: 0.6 cents to 1 cent per point
The Pay with Points option can make sense in some situations. If you use it to book air travel, your points will be worth 1 cent each. Avoid using Pay with Points to book hotels or car rentals, however, as your points value will go down to about 0.6 cents each. You can earn miles on the flight you book and search for the flight you want.
Previously, you used to get a 20% rebate while using Pay with Points as a Platinum cardholder, but this great benefit is no more. While you can still use this feature to earn miles or points on flights, you'll need to make sure you're still getting a good deal first as you can't go through discount sites like Kayak.com to book your flight.
3. Amazon Pay with Points: 0.7 cents per point
Yo have the option to redeem your MR points directly through Amazon.com for purchases, although it's not worth your time as your points will only be worth 0.7 cents each. That means 100,000 MR points will only be equal to $700 at Amazon.
4. Offset a Charge: 0.6 cents per point
American Express allows you to use your MR points to offset everyday charges above $5, but only specific categories may be offset. This includes business services like office supplies, communications like telephone, cell, internet and cable service, merchandise, transportation and utilities. Interestingly, you can even use your Membership Rewards points to offset the convenience fee when you pay your taxes online. The bad news? This option comes with a low conversion rate of 0.6 cents per point.
5. Redeem Points at shopAmex: 0.5 cents per point
You can also shop through American Express's storefront, although the discounts they offer are nothing special. You'll also notice gift cards available through shopAmex that have even worse conversion rates than those in the main rewards area.
6. Redeem MR Points for Merchandise: 0.3 to 0.5 cents per point
Redeeming your Membership Rewards points for merchandise is one of the worst redemption options. You will rarely approach 1 cent per point, which makes this option worse than getting a gift card and buying the merchandise yourself.
Here are a few examples of current redemption options:
- Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7" for 34,630 points (Retail value is $199 for a redemption rate of only 0.5 cents per point)
- Canon PowerShot A2600 16MP Digital Camera for 26,990 points (Retail value is $117 for a redemption rate of only 0.4 cents per point)
- Black & Decker Classic Iron for 6,970 points (Retail value is $24.95 for a redemption rate of only 0.4 cents per point)
While American Express offers a wide range of ways to redeem your Membership Rewards points, most are not worth your time. Despite this, Membership Rewards is the best rewards program in the game with versatility that no one else matches.
To maximize your points, transfer MR points to airline or even hotel programs or, if you have the Express program, stick with gift cards to avoid falling below the 1 cent/point value.Bad Credit? Read This >> The Ultimate List of Resources For Building Your Credit
- Regular program: Premier Gold, Gold, Green and Corporate cards
04-23-2014, 02:36 AM #2
Yes, very informative people get membership rewards and points in American Express.