If money is a little tight this year, you may find your American Express Membership Rewards points balance is higher than your savings account balance. If you fall into this camp, you may wonder how you can turn some of your Membership Rewards points into holiday gifts this winter.
Typically I’d recommend redeeming your points for a trip. Travel is one of the best gifts you can give anyone — especially if you can give your time and the gift of travel together. Also, redeeming your Membership Rewards points for travel will generally provide the most value for your points.
However, not everyone can travel or wants to travel. Although redeeming your points for travel generally provides the most value on a cents-per-point basis, the best redemption is the one that helps you meet your goals. Right now, your individual goals may not involve a flight or hotel.
Whether you want to gift travel, a toy or the latest and greatest gadget, let’s take a closer look at the best ways to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points for gifts this holiday season.
Transfer points to travel partners to book award travel
Some transferable rewards programs let you share rewards with others. However, Amex is one of the more restrictive programs when it comes to sharing. Specifically, Amex only allows you to transfer Membership Rewards points to your loyalty accounts or the loyalty accounts of your authorized users.
Luckily, most airline and hotel loyalty programs allow you to book awards for others when traveling together. Some loyalty programs even allow you to book travel for others when they’re traveling without you. So, you may be able to give the gift of travel this holiday season by booking award travel for others.
If you’re looking to book award travel this holiday season, you can transfer your points to the following Membership Rewards transfer partners:
- Airline loyalty programs: Aer Lingus AerClub, Aeromexico Rewards, Air Canada Aeroplan, Air France-KLM Flying Blue, ANA Mileage Club, Avianca LifeMiles, British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, HawaiianMiles, Iberia Plus, JetBlue TrueBlue, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Qatar Airways Privilege Club, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Hotel loyalty programs: Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy
TPG’s valuations peg the value of Membership Rewards points at about 2 cents each. So, you’ll generally want to aim to get at least 2 cents per point when you transfer to travel partners. However, make sure award availability exists before transferring.
Although most transfers are instant, it can sometimes take up to 48 hours for points to transfer. See our post on how long American Express Membership Rewards transfers take to estimate transfer times.
Use Pay with Points to book travel
Amex Pay with Points allows you to redeem Membership Rewards points for 1 cent each when you book airfare through Amex Travel. So, a $1,000 flight would cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points if you use The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card.
However, cardholders of select Amex business cards get a rebate when using Pay with Points for airfare as follows:
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Get 35% of your points back when you use Pay with Points for first- and business-class flights on any airline or flights in any class on your selected airline, up to 1 million points back per calendar year.
- American Express® Business Gold Card: Get 25% of your points back when you use Pay with Points for first- and business-class flights on any airline or flights in any class on your selected airline, up to 250,000 points back per calendar year.
- Centurion Business Card from American Express: Get 50% of your points back when you use Pay with Points for flights.
The information for the Centurion Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Best of all, you can book a flight for anyone using Pay with Points.
You can also book prepaid hotels, cruises, car rentals and vacations using Pay with Points through Amex Travel. However, you’ll only get 0.7 cents per point, so $700 in prepaid hotel stays will cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points.
You’ll get a slightly better redemption rate of 1 cent per point if you use Pay with Points for a prepaid stay booked through Amex’s Fine Hotels + Resorts program. Keep in mind, though, that only select Amex cardmembers can access this premium hotel program.
Redeem for gift cards
You can also redeem Membership Rewards points for a variety of gift cards. However, redemption rates depend on the type of gift card and current (targeted) offers available:
- 1 cent per Membership Reward point (for example, $1,000 in gift cards for 100,000 points) for most gift cards
- 0.85 cents per point for select gift cards, including Best Western, Bonefish Grill and Macy’s
- 0.7 cents per point for select gift cards, including Best Buy, Four Seasons, Hilton, Marriott, Starbucks and Uber
- 0.5 cents per point for American Express gift cards (a $500 gift card for 100,000 points)
On my Amex Platinum Membership Rewards account, I can purchase Apple and Panera gift cards at 1.06 cents per point; they were previously 0.85 cents per point. Additionally, Delta Air Lines gift cards are currently being offered at 0.87 cents per point; they were previously valued at 0.7 cents per point.
You can get a physical or digital gift card for most redemptions. You can obtain gift cards in various values, but most start at $25 or $50.
Use Pay with Points at checkout
Pay with Points isn’t just for travel. You can use Pay with Points at checkout when you shop with various merchants, including Amazon, Best Buy, Dell, Grubhub, Seamless, PayPal, Rite Aid, Saks Fifth Avenue and Staples.
However, paying with points at these merchants usually isn’t a good use of your points if you’re looking for the best return. You’ll only get 0.7 cents per point for the merchants listed above when you redeem Membership Rewards points. So, a $700 purchase would cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points.
The redemption rate is even worse at 0.5 cents per point if you use Membership Rewards points for event tickets through Ticketmaster.
Donate points to charity
You’ll get 0.7 cents per point when you make a JustGiving redemption. So, 100,000 Membership Rewards points would provide $700 toward the charity you choose.
Cover recent card charges
If you buy gifts on your card from merchants that don’t participate in Pay with Points, you might consider using Membership Rewards points to cover your purchases.
Although you can redeem Membership Rewards points to cover recent charges on your card, doing so will only provide a redemption rate of 0.6 cents per point. So, you’d need 100,000 points to cover a $600 charge.
Shop with points
Finally, you can also use Shop with Membership Rewards. However, when you buy products from the Shop with Membership Rewards catalog, you’ll only get 0.5 cents per point of value.
You’d need 100,000 Membership Rewards points for $500 of purchases through the catalog. So, even when sales offer 30% off, you may still be better off redeeming for other options discussed above.
If cash is tight or you have a large stash of points, you may want to use your American Express Membership Rewards points for holiday gifts.
Want to give the gift of travel? You’ll get the best value from your points by transferring them to travel partners and then booking luxury hotel stays or premium cabin flights for loved ones. You can also get 1 cent per point in value when using Pay with Points to book flights through Amex Travel.
Even if you don’t want to give the gift of travel, you can still get 1 cent per point in value by redeeming points for select gift cards.
Understanding the redemption value before you redeem your points for holiday gifts is a good idea. One easy way to compare all the options for your Amex Membership Rewards points is to use Amex’s Rewards Calculator.