The Best Ways to Use American Express Membership Rewards Points for Holiday Gifts

Dec 13, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express

I just returned home from a crazy round-the-world trip with my parents, and to say I’m behind on my holiday shopping would be an understatement. Luckily, I’ve got a boatload of American Express points by maximizing my spending on my Platinum Card from American Express, which gives me 5x points on airfare, and on my Business Gold Rewards Card, which gives 3x points in one of the following categories:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • US purchases for advertising in select media
  • US purchases at gas stations
  • US purchases for shipping
  • US computer hardware, software and cloud computing made directly from select providers
  • 2x in all other categories and 1x on everything else.

By maximizing my personal and business spend, I’ve got well over one million American Express Membership Rewards points, and I plan on using them for gifts for my family members, friends and employees this holiday season. Here are some of the best ways to redeem Membership Rewards points for gifts.

In my opinion, travel is the best gift you can give anyone — especially if you can give your time and travel together. But even if you can’t go on a trip with someone you love, Membership Rewards points can be used for travel in a number of different ways.

Membership Rewards offers cardholders the opportunity to transfer points to 20 reward program partners:

  • Airlines: Aeromexio, Aeroplan, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia, ANA, Asia Miles, British Airways, Delta, El Al, Emirates, Etihad, Hawaiian, Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore, Virgin America
  • Hotels: Choice, Hilton, SPG
  • Other: Plenti

I get the most value transferring Membership Rewards points to partners because I can redeem them for first and business-class tickets. For example, I recently transferred 68,000 points to British Airways (plus $462 in taxes/fees) to fly first class from London to Accra — a flight that would have cost more than $11,669 to buy. My 68,000 Amex MR saved me more than $11,000, netting me 16 cents a point! And the kicker is that my parents and I ended up being the only people in the cabin, so it felt like our own private jet.

While I got a great redemption there, you need to make sure award availability exists before transferring. While most transfers are instant, sometimes it can take up to 48 hours for points to transfer (like with Singapore Airlines). I love Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer because that is the only way you can redeem for the carrier’s first class and Suites product, which is incredible (you get to choose either Dom Perignon OR Krug!).

I recently used 92,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to fly from Singapore to Hong Kong to San Francisco — an awesome flight with a huge first-class seat. Note that you can only transfer Membership Rewards points to your loyalty accounts, but you can book awards for others from most loyalty programs.

Pay With Points allows you to redeem for 1 cent per point toward airfare, so a $1,000 flight would cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points. Note that if you have the Business Platinum Card from American Express you get a 35% rebate, so that $1,000 flight would only cost 65,000 Membership Rewards points, getting you just more than 1.5 cents a piece. My Business Centurion gets me a 50% rebate, so 2 cents per point in value. You can book a flight for anyone using Pay With Points.

You can also redeem for Uber at 1 cent per Membership Rewards point.

Hotels can be redeem at the rate of 0.7 cents per Membership Rewards point, so $700 in hotels will cost 100,000 Membership Rewards.

You can also redeem for a variety of gift cards at varying value per Membership Rewards point:

  • 1 cent per Membership Reward point (for example, $1,000 in gift cards for 100,000 points) at most retail outlets.
  • 0.7 cents per Membership Rewards point with Delta, and Ritz-Carlton to name a few.
  • 0.5 cents per Membership Rewards point for American Express gift cards, so a $500 gift card is 100,000 points

You can also make a donation to your preferred charity, for example the PeaceJam foundation, which is our charity of choice at TPG. The charity receives 1 cent per point, up to 500,000 points a year, and 0.5 cents after that. So 10,000 Membership Rewards points = $100 toward the cause, and you also get the satisfaction of knowing you made a difference in the world. For a full list of charities go here.

No matter what you want to buy for the loved ones in your life, you can use American Express Membership Rewards points to do it!

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