Buying Amex Membership Rewards Points from American Express - Worth It?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Today I was reading through the updated Membership Rewards terms and conditions that came with my Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express to see if anything new caught my eye and thought it would be good to do a refresher post on how you can actually buy Membership Rewards points and if it's really worth it at 2.5 cents per point.
If you don't have enough points in your account for a redemption, American Express gives you the option to buy a certain amount of points in 1,000-point increments depending on the credit card you have linked to your account. Some cards will allow you to buy up to 100,000 points per calendar year, while you can buy up to 500,000 points per year with other cards. If you have a card from each category linked to your account, both cards will be eligible to buy up to 500,000 points total - you get the greater benefit of your cards. Each Membership Rewards account can only purchase up to 500,000 points, so even if you have two cards in the 500,000-point category and they're linked to the same MR account, your limit is still 500,000 points.
You can buy up to 100,000 points per calendar year if you have the:
Blue for Business® Credit Card
Blue for Students® Card
Some Blue from American Express® Cards
Business Management Account
Gold Optima® Card Optima® Credit Card
Platinum Optima® Card
Platinum Business Credit Card®
You can buy up to 500,000 points per calendar year if you have the:
Amex EveryDaySM Credit Card
Amex EveryDaySM Preferred Credit Card
American Express® Gold Card
American Express® Green Card
American Express® Rewards Plus Gold Card
American Express® Senior Gold Card
American Express® Senior Green Card
American Express® Traditional Gold Card
American Express® Traditional Green Card
Ameriprise Gold Card
Business Centurion® Card from American Express OPEN®
Business Gold Card
Business Gold Rewards Card
Business Green Card
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN
Business Purchase Account
Some Costco Business Cards*
Executive Business Card
Fidelity Green Card
Mercedes-Benz Credit Card from American Express
Morgan Stanley Credit Card from American Express
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
Small Business Card
No More Point Advances
Amex used to give cardholders the option to advance points, but they removed this part of the program on June 30, 2013. Points advance was a versatile Membership Rewards benefit because if a redemption you wanted or lucrative transfer bonus became available, you could have enough points in your account for it, even if you hadn’t earned enough points yet, and you’d have 12 months to earn the points you’d advanced yourself through normal spending. Then if you didn’t earn them back, Amex would simply charge you 2.5 cents per point – not cheap, but it could still make sense depending on the redemption.
Since points advance is no longer available, buying points may be a good idea if you're falling short for a great redemption. I wouldn't speculatively go buying Membership Rewards points, but if you need a few thousand extra to top up your account for a specific, imminent redemption, they could be worth it. Or if you were going to do something like buy Delta or Flying Blue miles or British Airways Avios, it might make sense to buy Amex points instead and then transfer to the airline partner. Especially if there is a transfer bonus going on that would bring your per-mile cost even lower.
This is also more of an option to consider since Chase Ultimate Rewards also stopped allowing cardholders to buy points toward the end of 2013 as well.
To purchase Membership Rewards points, you need to call American Express at the phone number on the back of your card, enter your card number and security pin and then say “Membership Rewards.” Your points purchase must be part of a transfer, so you can’t just buy points to have them sit in your account.
This isn't an option I plan to use anytime soon, but it is good to know you have this option. If you need to top up any of your Membership Rewards transfer partners, it could be cheaper to buy Amex and transfer instead of buying through the frequent flyer program itself!