How best to use 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points this summer
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Usually, our advice on how to best use valuable Membership Rewards points is the same. We think you’ll get the best value transferring them to an airline partner programme and redeeming them for long-haul, premium flights. If you have a Companion Voucher, you can really maximise your travel by transferring to British Airways.
But summer 2020 is a whole new travel world. Do you usually have a holiday planned in the United States? Forget it this summer. An exotic remote island? Your usual airline probably doesn’t even fly there right now. Dreaming of a sumptuous onboard feast in first class? You’re in for a rude shock when you see the catering downgrades. Australia? They won’t let you in right now.
If you have cancelled trips you had booked over the past three months you might be sitting on a big stash of points and miles. I sure am. While you can’t transfer points and miles from an airline or hotel programme back into the Membership Rewards programme, if you have a large stash of Membership Rewards points that you want to use this summer, here are some tips.
While 100,000 points would be an ideal amount for a redemption through British Airways Executive Club or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to somewhere like New York (NYC) in business class, you can’t enter the U.S. with a European passport right now and I don’t expect that will change anytime soon.
It’s also a good amount for the same type of redemption to the Middle East. While certain parts of the Middle East are starting to reopen to tourists, remember this area is searingly hot during the summer so it’s not where I’d be thinking of heading right now.
Instead, if you do want to fly somewhere this summer, consider destinations in Europe where there is no longer a travel ban imposed by the U.K. government and no quarantine on your return. You might be surprised how good award availability is this summer to destinations that are usually very popular. This is because airlines are adding more flights as travel restrictions lift and many people are planning to skip a summer holiday this year, so availability for you and your family may be much better.
You could consider transferring Membership Rewards to Avios or Flying Club for a short-haul redemption to Europe. Unless there’s no economy availability I wouldn’t recommend splurging on a business class redemption right now — the seats are the same (and if your flight isn’t full the middle seat may well be empty in economy), lounges may be closed and catering is likely to be worse than you would expect in economy class.
If you use a British Airways Reward Flight Saver, you could book a family of four to somewhere like Malaga (AGP), Naples (NAP) or Barcelona (BCN) in economy for 60,000 Membership Rewards points if you transfer to Avios (7,500 per flight x 2 x 4). This would give you 40,000 Membership Rewards points to put towards a hotel stay, or save for when travel returns to some form of normality.
Transfer to hotel points
Remember, you can also convert your Membership Rewards points to the certain hotel points at the following rates:
- Hilton Honors: 1:2
- Marriott Bonvoy: 2:3
- Radisson Rewards: 1:3
This means your 100,000 Membership Rewards points would become either:
- 200,000 Hilton Honors points (worth around £800 by our most recent valuations)
- 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (worth around £1,050)
- or a huge 300,000 Radisson Rewards points (worth around £900)
It would seem to make the most sense to transfer to Bonvoy but given you have the flexibility to transfer to any of these three programmes, let’s see what would make the most sense if you were wanting to redeem them for a hotel staycation in the U.K. this summer.
You could book four nights at the Hilton Bournemouth for 180,000 points in August, saving you around £600 on the paid rate.
Staying in Bournemouth, you could book the Bournemouth Highcliff Marriott Hotel for four nights for exactly 150,000 Bonvoy points, saving around £560 off the paid rate for four nights.
Using Radisson Rewards points instead, while there are no Radisson properties in Bournemouth, there’s the lovely looking Radisson Blu Waterfront hotel in Jersey which has rooms for 66,000 points per night. You’ll have almost enough points to book five nights here with 100,000 Membership Rewards points, saving you a whopping £850 off the cash rate of £170 per night.
Now, you might be wondering why the value you would receive with each of these examples is lower than our standard valuation of these points (except for the Radisson Rewards example which is just about bang on). This is because, with such reduced demand this summer, cash rates for hotel rooms are much lower than the normal prices they would charge. For this reason, I would absolutely check the cash prices of hotels before moving any Membership Rewards points to any hotel programmes — you might be pleasantly surprised at just how cheap hotel rooms are for cash this summer.
You could redeem 100,000 of Membership Rewards for a £450 Amazon gift voucher. While this will be very easy to use, you’re getting far less value for these points than these flight and hotel options, so we would recommend you avoid this option.
Transferring 100,000 Membership Rewards points to airline programmes to redeem for long-haul premium cabin redemptions should usually give you well over £1,000 in value from the points. However, this summer, even if you can physically fly anywhere you’re likely to be disappointed with the premium cabin experience. You may wish to save those valuable Membership Rewards points for next year where hopefully the flying experience will be more normal.
If you are looking to spend the points this summer though, consider short-haul flight redemptions to popular places in Europe for the whole family. You could also transfer to hotel programmes. In both cases always check the cash prices of flights and hotels you are considering — you may be surprised at just how much cheaper is this summer than previous summers.
Featured photo by Marriott Hotels
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