What Other Ways Can I Redeem Amex Membership Rewards Points Besides Travel?
"Reader Questions" are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
Having 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points at your disposal is the dream of many points and miles enthusiasts, so we were a bit surprised by this Facebook message from TPG reader Vishal...
[pullquote source="TPG Reader Vishal"]I have 100,000 Amex points. What's the best way to maximize them without actually booking travel?[/pullquote]
Hmmmm. OK, we're going to put aside our overwhelming urge to ask "why on earth would you want to do that?" and instead answer Vishal's question. Because there could be legitimate reasons one might want to liquidate Amex points via non-travel means. Maybe a person is unable to travel for health or legal reasons, or just doesn't have any interest in traveling in general.
So we'll roll with this one, but let's also stipulate up front that all the non-travel methods of redeeming Membership Rewards points get much less value than the travel redemption options, and none of them are nearly as good as a top cash-back credit card. If your reason for collecting credit card rewards isn't travel, then you shouldn't collect Membership Rewards points in the first place.
But let's say you had built up a balance of 100,000 points with the intention to travel, and now for whatever reason you aren't going to use them that way. What are your other redemption options, and which ones are best and worst? Well, aside from travel, there are three main ways to redeem Membership Rewards points — shopping, buying gift cards and statement credits.
The most straightforward of these is the last one, as you can easily redeem points against existing charges online. However, the simplest option also comes with the worst redemption rate. As you can see, you'll only get six-tenths of a cent ($0.006) per point by redeeming this way. Not ideal.
The next-easiest option is using your points to buy gift cards, which can also be done online. The redemption value varies on this one depending on which card you end up picking, but can run as low as half a cent per point and as high as 1 cent per point. So gift cards can be a little better than straight statement credits, though you need to choose wisely.
Finally, there's the option to use your points for shopping. This can be done in two ways — either online at americanexpress.com or at a retailer who accepts Membership Rewards points, such as Amazon or Uber. Redemptions also vary when using points this way from half a cent per point to 1 cent per point.
American Express also sometimes runs specials on its site that slightly increases the redemption rate. In fact, right now Amex has a Mother's Day special through May 31 that offers a 25% point discount when you shop with points, meaning the value of your points increases from $0.005 per point to $0.0067 per point.
As we mentioned before, none of these redemptions are recommended. TPG currently values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, so even in the best scenario, you're only getting half that value with these options. But an unused point is the most worthless point of all, so Vishal, if you're not going to travel, you're better off getting something for your points rather than nothing. Thanks for the question, and if you're a TPG reader who'd like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.