OK, so you couldn’t resist the recent offer on Amex Platinum. I know at least a few of my readers got the card. Now you just need to figure out what to do with 100K Membership Rewards points that will be coming your way in a few months. Side note: $450 annual fee does NOT count toward the $3,000 minimum spending requirement.
If you are currently sitting on a decent stash of Membership Rewards points and are not sure what to do with it, hopefully, this post will provide some inspiration. And if you are thinking about collecting MR points via everyday spending, this info is definitely for you.
IMO you should only consider redemption options where you will get at least 1 cent per point. Even that is a bit low, but everyone has unique needs, so do what you have to do and don’t worry about what others think about your choices. So, let’s take a look at which options you should consider, and which you should probably stay away from. First, you go to this page of your Amex profile and click here:
Scroll all the way down and you will find this option:
After you click on it, you will see this:
This user-friendly page will show all of your redemption options and value you can get depending on the amount of MR points you plan on using.
Mileage transfer partners and best uses
The most lucrative option by far is transfer to various frequent flyer programs. Here are your available choices:
Not surprisingly, this is also the most complicated option of all, but is definitely worth investigating. Don’t worry, it’s not rocket science and with some patience, anyone with half a brain can do it. When you see the word “offer” on the mileage program logo, that means that there is a transfer bonus going on at this time.
A quick word of warning: don’t get caught up in ridiculous CPM (cents per mile) valuations. Let’s say a flight to a far flung destination costs $10,000, but you can get it for only 100,000 miles instead. However, at the moment, you are short on cash and absolutely have to take a flight that costs $1,600 or 100,000 miles. Which one is a better deal when it comes to using your MR points? For me, the second option, hands down.
Awhile back, I put together a 2-part post highlighting some of the best Membership Rewards airline partners when it comes to family travel. Most programs have a 1:1 transfer ratio (1 MR point=1 mile), unless otherwise noted. To recap:
For United flights: Use Aeroplan Air Canada and Singapore Airlnes KrisFlyer programs. Also consider ANA, though roundtrip award ticket is required (see a post on Lazytravelers for excellent overview of its new program).
For American flights: Use British Airways Executive club (800 Avios miles=1,000 MR points) and Etihad Guest.
For Delta flights: Use Delta (duh!) and Air France.
For Alaska Air flights: Use British Airways Executive club and Delta.
For JetBlue flights (revenue based program): True Blue Jet Blue ( 200 points=250 MR points) It’s mostly a good option for flights to Caribbean and parts of South America where 1 True Blue point can be worth as much as 1.8 cents. So even with poor transfer ratio from Amex, you will still get more than 1 cent per MR point.
Here are a few of the best uses of MR points when it comes to travel in economy. All options allow one-way travel at half the cost:
Flights within lower 48 States: Use British Airways Avios for short non-stop flights on American Airlines and Alaska Air (cost starts at 7,500 Avios points one-way). You can also utilize Delta miles for its own flights or those operated by Alaska Air. The cost varies and currently, some Delta flights will run you only 5,000 miles one-way.
Aeroplan is good for United flights at a fixed cost of 12,500 miles one-way. Jet Blue and Virgin America both operate a revenue-based program where each point is worth a fixed amount towards airfare.
Flights to Alaska: Use British Airways Executive Club points (Avios miles) for flights from Western United States, operated by Alaska Air. The cost is 7,500 Avios one-way. See my post on Avios program and its quirks. You can use Aeroplan Air Canada program for flights on United, and Delta program for its own flights or codeshares with Alaska Air. The cost is 25,000 miles roundtrip via both programs. See my post for more information on this topic.
Flights to Hawaii: Use Singapore KrisFlyer program for flights operated by United at a cost of 35,000 miles roundtrip. You can also use Air France program for flights operated by Delta at a cost of 30,000 miles roundtrip. Note that I have been able to find flights for only 25,000 miles, so check various departure cities. See my post for more on this subject.
You may also consider Virgin America when there is a transfer bonus promo going on. Normally, the transfer ratio is abysmal at 2:1, but occasionally, Amex increases the ratio. See my post for more on Virgin America program and its sweet spots.
Flights to Europe: Use Air France for flights to Europe (includes Israel) and pay 25,000 miles one-way plus minimal fuel surcharges. This program regularly discounts award flights from certain US cities, so on occasion, you may pay as little as 12,500 miles in economy.
Virgin Atlantic program can also be a good deal for economy flights originating in US, especially when Amex is running a transfer bonus. Singapore program can be a good option for certain Star Alliance partners (avoid Lufthansa). Read my post for more on this subject.
You may also consider Etihad for flights operated by American Airlines. As of now, you can still fly to Europe for only 20,000 miles one-way during off-peak dates. Be aware, many people have reported having difficulty finding competent agents while calling Etihad center and trying to book an award on American.
Flights to South America: Use Etihad program for flights on American Airlines. You can still fly there for only 40,000 miles roundtrip during off-season if you can get a good agent. Do your research before calling and have flight numbers handy. You can also consider using Aeroplan program to book flights on United Airlines at a cost of 60,000 miles roundtrip.
Important! Before you perform any mileage transfer from Amex MR program, call and double check award availability. Sometimes, just because you see “Low” (or saver) award on your chosen airline, doesn’t mean it’s also released to a partner.
Frequent flyer miles can really come in handy during an emergency when last-minute ticket prices are sky-high. They can also be extremely useful on expensive routes, such as ones to Alaska and Hawaii.
For example, a roundtrip flight from Orlando to Anchorage can cost as much as $600, yet I can get there for only 25,000 miles via several airline programs. In this case, I would get over 2 cents per MR point in value. Of course, first I have to find award availability.
Hotel transfer partners
Unless there is a transfer bonus, Choice will be the only option worth considering, especially if you are heading to Europe. Normally, you are allowed to buy up to 50,000 points per year/per account at a cost of 1.1 cents. MR transfer could top off your stash for a specific award. Read my post on Choice program and its co-branded credit card for more on the subject.
A minimum of 5,000 MR points is required for this redemption, and you will only get 1 cent per point on flights. You are not subject to blackout dates and can earn miles (or points) on these tickets.
You can also book hotels, cruises and vacation packages, but it’s simply not worth it because you will only get 0.7 cents per MR point. Stay away from this option if you possibly can. That’s not a very good return on your MR currency.
You have several choices where you can use your MR stash to pay for certain services right on the spot. Those are:
Obviously, this isn’t the most lucrative option, but could make sense for some. Keep in mind, in general, you can find McDonalds gift cards at a discount by shopping on reselling sites like Giftcardgranny I routinely buy them at 15% off. Update: McDonalds option is no longer available.
You can find various promos on Uber via other sites, but it could be a good no-hassle option if you are points’ rich and cash poor. If you don’t have Uber account, you can join via my referral link and get $15 off your first ride.
Again, transferring to miles will usually yield a better return. That said, if you are miles-rich and rarely book revenue flights, you may want to consider redeeming MR points on gift cards. Your best option by far will be gift cards that have marginal reselling discount, which you can check on sites like Giftcardgranny
Out of all the options listed, your best bets will probably be Home Depot and Staples. Those sell at 8% off through third-party resellers. You should probably avoid gift cards to stores like Victoria’s Secret because you can often find a 25% discount on those. Some gift cards cover a unique niche and rarely show up on reselling sites. Just one such example is Amtrak, where you can redeem 5,000 points on a $50 gift card.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that at some point later this year I plan to sign up for Amex Everyday no-fee card. You can see my comparison between this version and Amex Everyday Preferred. I really hope I can find a working link that gives a bonus of 25,000 points. Amex Everyday will allow me to keep my MR points in a state of flexibility. I don’t like to pay an annual fee on cards without some sort of perk in return, so this is the best strategy for my situation. Emphasis on the word “my.”
I’m very intrigued by ANA program for flights to Japan which cost 55,000 miles in economy/90,000 in business on United Airlines (ANA partner) with no fuel surcharges. My husband has been talking about visiting Tokyo for years, and hopefully, one of these days we’ll make it there. It’s a challenging program because no one-ways are allowed and we need 4 tickets.
In all likelihood, though, I’ll end up redeeming miles for flights to Europe so we can visit my family. If I’m short on cash, I won’t hesitate to burn MR points on revenue flights to bring my parents here. You heard me.
All in all, MR program presents many exciting possibilities and I look forward to digging deeper into its many transfer programs. Hopefully, soon I’ll have 206,000 Membership Rewards points to work with. This is my passion: exploring award charts, finding sweet spots and leveraging them for travel with my family.
Readers, did you get this offer? What are your plans for MR points?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.