From the North Pole to the Serengeti: How to use 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points

Apr 19, 2020

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Membership Rewards, the points currency of American Express, are one of the most valuable points currencies out there. Because they’re a transferrable currency, they can be transferred to 12 different airline partners and three different hotel partners. Until 29 June, our favourite credit card for beginners, the Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card from American Express has doubled its welcome bonus to 20,000 points, which you’ll get after spending £3,000 in the first 90 days of cardmembership.

Those 20,000 Membership Rewards points are worth £280 based on TPG’s current monthly valuations of miles and points. It’s easy to reach that welcome bonus even without leaving your own home. Once you’ve earned your bonus, here are the best ways to use it.

For this list, I’ll consider redemptions of up to 23,000 Membership Rewards points, seeing as you would be earning an additional 3,000 Membership Rewards points for spending the £3,000 required to earn the welcome bonus.

Membership Rewards can be transferred to the following programmes at the following rates in the following time periods. Transfer partners that are bolded are those I think are a good use of your 23,000 Membership Rewards points.

Airline and Hotel Programmes Ratio Transfer Time
Air France-KLM Flying Blue 1:1 4 working days
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1:1 3 working days
British Airways Executive Club 1:1 3 working days
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 1:1 3 working days
Delta SkyMiles 1:1 up to 30 minutes
Emirates Skywards 1:1 2 working days
Etihad Guest 1:1 5 working days
Finnair Plus 1:1 3 working days
Iberia Plus 1:1 4 working days
SAS EuroBonus 1:1 5 working days
Singapore KrisFlyer 1:1 3 working days
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1 usually 30 minutes
Hilton Honors 1:2 5 working days
Marriott Bonvoy 2:3 5 working days
Radisson Rewards 1:3 10 working days

A British Airways plane taxis at the London City Airport, in east London, on March 16, 2020. - IAG, the owner of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia, said Monday it would slash the group
A British Airways plane taxis at the London City Airport (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

In This Post

1. Luxury hotel stays

You can transfer 23,000 Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy where they will become 34,500 Bonvoy points. That’s enough for a standard night up to a Category 5 property, which includes luxury options like:

If you were to book a lower category property at an off-peak date, you book up to six nights accommodation with your welcome bonus. For example, the Courtyard Istanbul West is only 5,000 points per night off-peak.

If you would rather a Radisson brand instead, at a transfer rate of 1:3, those 23,000 Membership Rewards points will convert into a huge 69,000 Radisson Rewards points. That means you could book:

The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul. (Photo courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul)

2. Anywhere in Europe British Airways flies

We love British Airways Reward Flight Savers here at TPG because they provide low-cost redemptions to British Airways’ extensive Europe network. Membership Rewards transfer to Executive Club at a 1:1 rate, meaning 3,000 Amex points are worth 3,000 Avios.

You could book two people, return on peak or off-peak dates to the following popular destinations:

  • Amsterdam (AMS), Netherlands
  • Berlin (TXL), Germany
  • Copenhagen (CPH), Denmark
  • Geneva (GVA), Switzerland
  • Munich (MUC), Germany
  • Nice (NCE), France
  • Salzburg (SZG), Austria

If you want to fly further afield, your 23,000 Membership Rewards points would be more than enough for one person, return on peak or off-peak dates to:

  • Athens (ATH), Greece
  • Budapest (BUD), Hungary
  • Corfu (CFU), Greece
  • Gran Canaria (LPA), Spain
  • Istanbul (IST), Turkey
  • Malta (MLA)
  • Split (SPL), Croatia

Better yet, double the value you could be getting by using a Companion Voucher so you and travel partner can travel to these destinations together.

Backlit perspective of the Parthenon in Athens. (Photo by Christopher Chan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christopher Chan/Getty Images)

3. A return Air France or KLM flight to Northern Africa or Eastern Europe

If you transfer your Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club programme at a rate of 1:1, you can use 20,000 miles for one person return on an off-peak date flying from the U.K. on Air France or KLM to the likes of:

  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Israel
  • Morocco
  • Russia
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey

Given you should have 23,000 Membership Rewards points for meeting the minimum spend, if you can reach an extra 1,000 points, your 24,000 Flying Club points could fly one person return even further afield to Cape Verde, Georgia, Kenya, Oman, Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates.

Africa, Tanzania, Serengeti - February 2016: Zebras on the road in Serengeti national park in front of the jeep with tourists.
Africa, Tanzania, Serengeti. Photo by Gettys Images

4. A return British Airways flight to the Middle East

Again, those Membership Rewards points can be transferred to British Airways Avios at a rate of 1:1. You could use them for two passengers return to Europe as a Reward Flight Saver, but if you’re looking further afield, the 23,000 Avios would be enough for a return, off-peak flight on British Airways from the U.K. to:

  • Amman (AMM), Jordan
  • Beirut (BEY), Lebanon
  • Cairo (CAI), Egypt
  • Kuwait City (KWI), Kuwait
  • Tel Aviv (TLV), Israel

Better still, if you have a Companion Voucher, two of you can travel together for the same number of Avios.

PETRA, JORDAN - OCTOBER 16: General overview of Al-Khazneh in the ancient Nabatean city of Petra on October 16, 2016 in Petra, Jordan. (Photo by Boris Streubel - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Petra, Jordan. (Photo by Boris Streubel – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

5. (Almost) anywhere in Europe on on Star Alliance airlines

Europe is incredibly well served by Star Alliance airlines, flying to dozens of destinations that British Airways doesn’t fly to. If you transfer your 23,000 Membership Rewards points to Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer programme, you only need 2,000 more miles before you can book yourself a return from the U.K. to anywhere in Europe.

While this might instantly seem like a better deal than British Airways Reward Flight Saver option by transferring your Membership Rewards points to Avios, if you are trying to reach somewhere very remote that would otherwise cost hundreds of pounds, it could be a sensible option.

Here are some ideas to get your wanderlust going:

Dog sledding can be a great non-ski-day activity image by Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld / Getty Images)
Dog sledding in Lapland, Finland. (Image by Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld / Getty Images)

Bottom line

If you’ve been following our series on how to best maximise Companion Vouchers with six-figure Avios balances, 20,000 Membership Rewards points might not seem like much. But with the versatility of Membership Rewards points, you have so many options to use them, from the North Pole through to the Serengeti.

Note that for the flight redemption options, fees, taxes and charges are also payable.

Featured image by Gettys Images

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