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American Express has arguably been the most savvy credit card company when it comes to social media and consumer technology. This week they launched a new feature that allows people to instantly redeem Membership Rewards points for mobile gift cards on their smartphone and then redeem that card in-store on their phone.
Let me be blunt and say that the 1 cent per point value on these gift cards isn’t an amazing value by any means (compared to transferring points to travel partners, especially with transfer bonuses), but for those of you who are cash-strapped before the holidays but have points to spare and were considering using them on gift cards or for merchandise redemptions anyway, this could be an option for you. There have been many times in my life where I was “points rich and cash poor” and I used miles and points for non-maximal redemptions to help ease the strain of the gift giving season on my budget. At the end of the day, the best redemption is the one that makes the most sense for you. As great as it would be to transfer points for international first class travel, it isn’t a reality for many people so you might as well use points for what matters to you.
How to Get Mobile Gift Cards
Got to “My Cards,” scroll down and tap “NEW! Mobile Gift Cards.”
In the Mobile Gift Card catalog, browse through the selection of cards and choose the retailer you would like to purchase a card for.
Use the drop down menu to choose the dollar/point amount and tap “Checkout.” Your smartphone will then display a bar code with a card number and pin which can be used to make purchases through the retailer.
For security purposes, you may need to enter the 4-digit security code from the front of your American Express card, and the 3-digit security code on the back of the card.
Amex decided to launch mobile gift cards because a recent American Express Spending & Saving Tracker survey of U.S. general consumers showed almost a third of Americans (32%) plan to use their smartphones for holiday shopping this year, 16% will use reward points to offset the cost of holiday shopping, and the use of Membership Rewards Points usually increases by at over 30-40% during the holiday shopping season.
Although I personally get the most value from my points by redeeming them for premium travel experiences, it seems like a lot of people expect to redeem their points for present purchases this year, and if that’s a redemption method that interests you, at least you have another option that makes it easier this year to use your Amex points. That being said, earning 1 cent per points (1%) back on a Membership Rewards card that likely carries a big annual fee doesn’t make sense when you can get cash-back cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card that offer essentially 2% back on all spend.