Why you should transfer your Membership Rewards points to Avios before redeeming them through Amex Travel

Jul 11, 2021

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There are plenty of ways to redeem Membership Rewards, the points currency of American Express. One of the lesser-known ways is to book travel directly with American Express. The reason we don’t talk about that option much here at TPG is that it’s not usually a great way to redeem your Membership Rewards points.

Today, I’m going to have a closer look at why.

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Amex Travel provides an easy way to redeem your points against any cash travel costs through its travel platform, including flights, hotels and car hire.

(Image courtesy of Amex Travel)

Let’s say you want to the green-list island of Ibiza for a week, next weekend flying British Airways. Flights probably aren’t going to be cheap, right?

Related: Ibiza, Mallorca or Menorca: How to choose the right Balearic Island for your holiday

Cash fares are very high. You can book these flights at very civilised times through Amex Travel for £653 per person in Euro Traveller economy, or 96,025 Membership Rewards points (with no fees, taxes or surcharges to pay on top).

This gives each Membership Rewards point a value of 0.68p each. This is well below our valuation of Membership Rewards points of 1.4p each and you’ll see why in a moment.

(Image courtesy of American Express)

You can transfer your Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios at a rate of 1:1, so 96,025 Membership Rewards points from the example above would become 96,025 Avios.

Now, in an ideal world, you would book Ibiza flights like these six or more months in advance when there’s plenty of economy Avios redemption availability. But, if you’re planning to fly next weekend to such a popular destination in the middle of summer, there’s unlikely to be any economy availability using Avios.

It’s a fair complaint that on the most popular flights, on peak dates a few weeks in advance, there is no availability. The cash fares are so high to reflect the demand right now to fly to a green list destination.

Related: The hardest and easiest long-haul routes on which you can typically find Avios availability

So is Amex Travel the only option for these expensive flights? No, it’s not — here’s why it’s such a poor value deal.

As is the case with lots of European flights in peak travel periods, there is Club Europe business-class availability using Avios for these Ibiza (IBZ) flights, even though there is no economy availability.

If you were to transfer your Membership Rewards to Avios at a rate of 1:1, you would only need less than half the 96,025 points quoted from Amex Travel in economy to book the exact same flights in business class, plus a measly £1 in fees and taxes.

(Image courtesy of British Airways)

So you can fly Club Europe for far fewer points than Euro Traveller simply by transferring your Membership Rewards points to Avios rather than redeeming through Amex Travel. Redeeming 44,500 Membership Rewards points, via Avios (plus that £1) rather than spending the £652.97 would give your Membership Rewards points a value of 1.4p each — right on our valuation of Membership Rewards.

And you’ll be flying in Club Europe business class rather than Euro Traveller economy.

Related: TPG reader question: What is the best value amount of cash to pay for the fees and taxes for my Avios redemption?

You’ll receive priority boarding, security and baggage, extra checked baggage allowance, a blocked middle seat and a full meal.

On a recent Euro Traveller flight, this was all the food and beverage served to the cabin:

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

This was what was served in Club Europe on a flight of a similar length:

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Membership Rewards are a really valuable points currency because there are so many ways you can use them. While the Amex Travel platform does seem like an easy way to redeem points without any restrictions, it’s a poor value redemption option. You should definitely check the value you can get transferring to airline partners first.

Featured image by amoklv/Getty

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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