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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN

TPG reader Victoria tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy- “How do I determine whether it’s better to use the Pay with Points option or transfer my Amex Membership Rewards points to a frequent flyer program?”

I love Amex Membership Rewards points, and I use them almost exclusively for transfers to airline partners, because that’s where I can get the most value. However, you can also use the Pay with Points option on the Membership Rewards website to purchase airfare at 1 cent per point, or 1.25 cents per point if you have The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN (which I do).

The answer to this particular question is fairly simple. When you redeem via Pay with Points, you get a fixed return of 1 cent per point, and because your ticket counts as a paid fare, you’ll also earn frequent flyer miles and elite qualifying credit for your flight, which adds to the overall value.

I think 1.25 cents is a reasonable threshold, so if transferring to a partner offers you less than 1.25 cents per point, then stick with the Pay with Points option. If you can surpass 1.25 cents per point in value by transferring, then that’s the better option. (I’d adjust that threshold to 1.5 cents per point if you have the Amex Business Platinum card.) Transferring to a partner often makes the most sense for Business or First class tickets, as those redemptions typically offer the greatest value on a per point basis.

Transferring you Amex points to a partner airline will usually offering you more bang for your buck, but it always depends on the situation. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Transferring Amex points to a partner airline is the best value, but it depends on the situation. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

For example, if you transfer 90,000 points to Aeroplan for a $5,000 international Business class flight, you’re getting well over 5 cents/point in value. Using Pay With Points you’d need to redeem 500,000 points for that same flight,  so transferring to a partner airline and booking an award flight  is clearly the better option in that scenario, as it tends to be with more expensive tickets. You wouldn’t earn any miles on the flight, but you’d save 410,000 Membership Rewards points!

Run the numbers for yourself and see what your options are before booking. If you’re desperate for some elite qualifying miles, then Pay With Points will be more worthwhile. It all depends on your circumstances!

If you have any other questions, please tweet me@thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

With great transfer partners like United and Hyatt, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
5.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are 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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.