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I was selected by American Express to help educate consumers about the Amex EveryDay Credit Card. As such, I was paid for my services, but tips and opinions shared about American Express and the Amex EveryDay Credit Card are my own.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how to maximize those Amex Membership Rewards points that the Amex EveryDay and multiple other American Express cards can rack up. As you likely know, there are many different types of credit card points out there, and they are very much not all created equally. American Express Membership Rewards points are one of the oldest types of credit card points, and in my view, one of the most valuable. However, their value is relative and reliant on your knowledge of how to get the most value out of each point.
I often talk about how to earn Membership Reward points via cards like the The Amex EveryDay Credit Card or The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card, but in this post I want to talk about the different ways to use them, including some tips on the uses my family finds to be the most valuable. As you will quickly learn in this hobby, earning points is just half the battle. Being wise about when and how to use points is essential to meeting and exceeding your travel goals.
The many ways to use Membership Reward points can be broken down into three basic categories.
- Merchandise or gift cards.
- Fixed value toward things like statement credits, on travel, taxis, etc.
- Transferring to hotel and airline partners.
First, know that there is no right or wrong way to use your Membership Reward points. If you are redeeming them in a way that makes you happy and gets you something that you want or need, then that is great and keep on rocking. However, some redemption options will get you a higher value per point than others, and that is valuable information to at least be aware of, if not utilize.
Redeeming Points for Merchandise or Gift Cards:
You can redeem your Membership Reward points for gift cards at a large number of retailers including airbnb, Hertz, Bellagio, Cole Haan, LegoLand, ski resorts, and many more. You often get one cent per point in value toward the retailer and dining gift card and slightly less with some of the travel partner gift cards. You can occasionally hit a “sale” where you get more value per point, but one cent per point seems to be the average for many retailers.
Here are a few examples from my account:
Gap $10 gift card: 900 points (sale)
airbnb $100 gift card: 10,000 points
Banana Republic $25 gift card: 2,500 points
Amex Gift Card $25: 5,000 points
Crate and Barrel $50 gift card: 4,500 points (sale)
This means if you earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points, you can often get roughly $100 in retailer gift cards.
At a fixed value toward travel, statement credits, and more:
If you prefer your rewards to come in the form of merchandise, you can “Shop With Points” for things like iPads, UGG boots, golf clubs, and more. The return per point varies a bit there, but seems to hover around $0.006 per point. If the zeros throw you off, that is 6/10 of one cent per point.
If you want to use points toward statement credits to off-set charges on your card, that rate is also around $0.006 per point.
You can also use your points to pay for hotels, flights, cruises, and more via Amex Travel. The minimum redemption is 5,000, but you can use a mix of cash and points to book your travel. Here your points will get you one cent in value per point, but the beauty is you can book any flight they have for sale with no blackout dates and they earn frequent flyer miles since they are paid tickets. If you happen to have a Platinum Amex card, you can get 20% of those points back.
Membership Rewards also has partnerships that allow you to use points to pay for things like Uber, Amazon, NYC cabs, and more at a one point = one cent ratio.
Hotel and Airline Transfer Partners:
Membership Rewards has over twenty hotel and airline partners that you can transfer your Membership Rewards points to in order to book award flights and rooms via those programs. These partners include hotels and airlines such as Delta, Air Canada, ANA, British Airways, Frontier, Hawaiian, jetBlue, Best Western, Hilton, and more.
Here the value you get per point is going to vary tremendously based on the award chart per your program transfer, and which type of redemption you are going to make. That variability may sound like a bad thing, but hang with me because it can be a very good thing.
If you are lucky, sometimes you can even time your transfer to one of these partners with a transfer bonus from Amex. For example, there is currently a 40% transfer bonus to British Airways, that means that when you transfer 5,000 Membership Rewards points you get 7,000 British Airways Avios instead of the standard 5,000 Avios. Utilizing periodic transfer bonuses is how to really take your maximization of Membership Reward points to the next level!
I love using hotel and airline transfer partners in order to maximize all their award charts, and award chart sweet spots. For example, flights on British Airways start at just 4,500 points, which as I already mentioned can be transferred in from Membership Rewards. The British Airways award chart is distance based, so that means that flights less than 650 miles are just 4,500 points and you can fly on their partners such as American, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines. In practice this means flights like Miami – Nassau or JFK – Montreal on American are available for just 4,500 points + taxes/fees. Those flights would both usually be over $100 each, so that is like getting over two cents per point in value at that price. Of course when you transfer during a transfer bonus, your return per point can go even higher…
Membership Rewards points also make luxury within reach, as you can transfer points to ANA and use them to fly on partner United Airlines, also using a distance based chart, from the East Coast to Europe and back in lie-flat business class seats for as low as 63,000 points round trip. That same flight could easily cost $4,000 or more if you were paying with cash. That is a return of 6 cents per point at that price, but most wouldn’t value it quite that highly if you wouldn’t have paid that high with cash. Still, you can see you are getting way more bang for your Membership Rewards point by redeeming via these transfer methods.
Successfully using points by transferring to hotel and airline partners does require more skill than say redeeming at a flat rate of one cent per point for a Pottery Barn gift card. Also remember that once you transfer your points, your awards are subject to award availability with the hotel or airlines you transferred points to (which you should absolutely check before transferring points). Despite hotel and airline transfers requiring a little more strategy and skill, it is by far the most rewarding way to use Membership Rewards points for my family.
How do you like to use your Membership Rewards points?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.