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

The various points and miles loyalty programs have a range of values thanks to the diverse set of redemptions they offer. Among the most valuable are transferable point currencies, which give you tremendous flexibility to ensure that you can redeem them for maximum value. However, there are a lot of poor value redemptions out there, and today I want to highlight a particularly unattractive one and share a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t link your accounts to Amazon.com.

Let’s first review the different ways to redeem your points at Amazon. TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr wrote a detailed post on these options last year, but in short, you can redeem three major transferable point currencies (American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards) directly for your purchases. Here’s a quick summary of the value you’d get, how that compares to TPG’s valuations and how to link your accounts:

Currency Value at Amazon TPG’s Value Where/How to Link
Membership Rewards 0.7 cents per point 1.9 cents per point Visit this page, click “Get Started” at the right and follow the instructions
Ultimate Rewards 0.8 cents per point (or 1 cent per point for gift cards) 2.1 cents per point Visit this page, click “Get Started” at the right and follow the instructions
ThankYou Rewards 0.8 cents per point 1.6 cents per point Visit this page, click “Get Started” at the right and follow the instructions

As you can see, the value you get is at best half of what you could get with other redemption options. Here’s an example of what you can get with each currency:

At this point, you may be wondering why anyone reading The Points Guy would ever consider this as an option for redeeming points. However, even if you never redeem for award travel and decide to link your transferable point accounts to Amazon, you are opening yourself up to a much greater chance of fraud. Let me explain.

Automatic Linking

If you use your Amex Platinum at Amazon, you may wind up automatically enrolled in the site’s Shop with Points option.

Back in mid-November, I was traveling in Europe when I received an email from Amazon confirming an order. The only problem was that I hadn’t placed the order. Sure enough, the confirmation listed a different name and had a shipping address in New Jersey, so it was clear that someone had hacked into my account. To make matters worse, the fraudster had redeemed close to $200 worth of Amazon gift cards I had loaded in my account.

I immediately changed my password and notified Amazon of the fraudulent charge. The order was canceled and apparently never even shipped out of the warehouse. However, it took almost a month and five phone calls to get my gift card balance replenished.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to the end of December. I had to purchase a couple of items from Amazon and thought it would be a great option for meeting the minimum spend on my brand-new Platinum Card from American Express (especially given the card’s triple points offer that ran until December 31). About a week later, I received an email from Amazon that included the following language (emphasis mine):

“For your convenience, American Express and Amazon have worked together to launch a new feature that automatically enrolls your American Express Membership Rewards® card to Shop with Points at Amazon.com. Now that you’ve used your card for your Amazon.com purchases, you can view your Membership Rewards® point balance and redeem for eligible purchases on Amazon.com, without the extra hassle of manually registering online.”

In other words, Amazon and American Express linked my accounts automatically, without my consent. While a points and miles neophyte may think this is a convenience, I knew better.

That’s when I put two and two together. What if this had happened before my account had been compromised? What if the fraudster had accessed my Amazon account and redeemed my 100,000+ Membership Rewards points? If it took me almost a month to get my Amazon gift card back — who knows how long it would take to get my points back?

Many rewards programs allow you to redeem points directly on Amazon.com, though it’s typically a poor value proposition.

Sadly, American Express isn’t the only credit card issuer to offer this type of automatic linkage. Here’s what Amazon has to say about its similar program with Citibank (emphasis mine):

“If you have an eligible Citi credit card issued in the U.S., you will be automatically enrolled in Shop with Points and will activate the ability to use your points simply by adding your Citi credit card to your Amazon account and using it to make a purchase.”

If I had made a purchase with my Citi Prestige Card, the same thing would’ve happened, putting my entire balance of ThankYou points at risk.

Fortunately, it appears that Chase doesn’t have a similar auto-enrollment feature (for now).

Even if your Amazon account isn’t hacked (like mine was), there are still some risks to having your cards linked to your Amazon account:

  1. Family member mistakes: My wife frequently uses my Amazon account when we’re purchasing items for the baby. While I am quite confident that she would never redeem Membership Rewards points or Ultimate Rewards points for these purchases, there’s still the risk that a family member using your Amazon account could select “Pay with Points” upon checkout. Removing the chance of this happening is critical.
  2. Your own mistakes: No one is perfect, and no matter how many times you check and double-check your work, mistakes do happen. If you aren’t careful when placing an order, you could wind up inadvertently paying with your points if your accounts are linked. However, if you remove this payment option entirely, you never have to worry about it.

How do I unlink?

So how do you go ahead and take away this option? Or, if you previously linked one (or more) of your accounts and want to undo it, how can you make that happen? Fortunately, the process is very simple:

1. Log in to your account at Amazon.com.

2. From the homepage, hover over the “Accounts & Lists” drop-down and select Your Account.

3. Scroll down to the Amazon Wallet section and click on Shop with Points.

4. Click on your enrolled account to expand the details, then click the Unenroll icon.

5. Click Unenroll to confirm that you want to remove the card from the Shop with Points option.

Note that even when you unenroll the applicable card from Shop with Points, it will still show up as an option to be reenrolled at any time:

To completely remove this as an option, go back into your Amazon Wallet, open up your payment methods and delete that card from the list of cards associated with your Amazon account. This will completely remove the card and prevent anyone who gains access to your account from reenrolling it and draining your valuable points.

Bottom Line

There are many ways to utilize your hard-earned points and miles, but certain redemptions bring you very poor value, like using your transferable points at Amazon.com. While both American Express and Citibank will automatically enroll you in this option, it’s essential to turn this option off to prevent accidental or unauthorized use of your points in this fashion. Hopefully this post serves as a warning to those of you who frequent Amazon.com and want to keep your valuable point balances intact.

What are your thoughts on Amazon’s Shop With Points option?

Featured image courtesy of Shane_D_Rymer via Getty Images.

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