The best ways to use 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points
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Earning welcome bonuses from the top travel rewards credit cards are the best way to boost your points and miles balances quickly. The American Express® Green Card is doing its part, with a welcome bonus of 30,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases on your new card in the first three months of account opening — plus up to $100 in statement credits towards any eligible purchase from Away (this offer ends Jan. 15, 2020).
The card’s recently been overhauled with excellent bonus categories and a catalog of useful statement credits. If you’re interested in this offer or recently applied, you may be curious about the value of the card’s welcome bonus. TPG values Amex Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, which makes the bonus worth $600 — but it’s possible to get more value than that with the right redemptions.
You can transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to 22 different airline and hotel partners, which means you can fly and stay just about anywhere for nearly free. However, some partners are significantly better than others.
Note that you’ll need to link your frequent flyer accounts with your Amex Membership Rewards account before you transferring any points:
- Login to your account at americanexpress.com.
- Click on your Membership Rewards-earning card (if necessary), then click on Explore Rewards
- Click on the Transfer Points option, then click View All
- Click on the partner whose account you want to link
- Select a card holder, verify your card details, enter the corresponding program’s account number, then click Link Account
Important: Before you transfer points to an airline or hotel, ensure there is award availability. Transferring points is a one-way street; once you transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to a partner, you cannot convert back into Membership Rewards.
Also, you’ll pay an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point (capped at $99) for transferring your points to a U.S. airline. For example, if you transfer 30,000 Membership Rewards points to Delta, you’ll pay $18 as well, so that’s something to consider.
I’ll show you the best ways to use 30,000 Amex Membership Rewards points.
1. Round-trip economy flight to Hawaii
A TPG crowd favorite is using Amex Membership Rewards points to reach Hawaii for cheap. Flying to Hawaii with points and miles is getting easier all the time, thanks in no small part to Membership Rewards. There are several different options for reaching Hawaii for 30,000 points or less.
West Coast residents will have the least-expensive prices for reaching Hawaii and there are multiple options. One of our favorite strategies is transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to Singapore Airlines. Many West Coast cities offer nonstop Alaska Airlines flights to Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Kona. You can fly round-trip in economy for as little as 24,000 Singapore Airlines miles.
Another option is transferring your points to British Airways to fly on partners American Airlines or Alaska Airlines for 26,000 miles round-trip in economy. British Airways uses a distance-based award chart, so if you fly from Los Angeles (LAX) and Phoenix (PHX) on American as well as nonstop flights from Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN), Oakland (OAK) or Bellingham (BLI), you should have no problem. Keep in mind Amex sometimes offers transfer bonuses which can reduce your points cost even further.
If you’re not flying from the West Coast, you can nearly reach Hawaii with the American Express Green welcome bonus. By transferring your points to Singapore Airlines, you can fly round-trip in coach to Hawaii from the East Coast on United Airlines for just 35,000 miles. Remember, once you achieve the card’s bonus, you’ll have at least 32,000 Amex Membership Rewards points.
2. Business-class flight to Spain
Alright, this one also requires slightly more than 30,000 miles. But again, you’ll have at least 32,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after meeting the card’s spending requirements.
When you transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to Iberia, the national airline of Spain, you can reserve a business-class seat between New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), or Washington, D.C. (IAD) (starting May 1, 2020) and Madrid for just 34,000 miles each way. That’s an excellent deal, and one of the absolute lowest prices you’ll see for a transatlantic lie-flat seat. I reserved just such a seat for later this year.
It’s important to note that you’ll only receive this price if you book a nonstop flight on an actual Iberia plane (not one of their partners, like British Airways). You should expect to pay about $100 in taxes, as well.
Iberia flies from other U.S. cities, incluidng Miami and Los Angeles, but you’ll be charged more because of Iberia’s distance-based award chart.
3. Transfer to Delta for frequent award sales
Delta binned its award chart long ago in favor of dynamic award pricing, which means the cost of an award can vary wildly. Because of this, it can be more difficult to know how much a flight to your favorite destination will cost.
Delta has frequent award sales, and some of them are downright spectacular. We’ve seen round-trip economy flights to Europe for 22,000 miles, long-haul domestic economy flights for as little as 11,000 miles andround-trip flights to the Caribbean for as little as 12,000 miles. No matter where you want to go, you should keep an eye on Delta flash sales with a stash of points on-hand. The Amex Green Card welcome bonus is one of the best ways to be prepared.
4. Up to 7 one-way short-haul flights
If you’re planning a bunch of short hops during your international trips, you’re going to love this little secret.
When you transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to British Airways, you can redeem as few as 4,000 Avios for an international British Airways flight of 651 miles or less in distance. Or, you can redeem 4,500 Avios to fly a British Airways partner airline within the same distance. For example, here are some of the flights available from Vienna for just 4,500 Avios.
Realize that these flights aren’t usually costly anyway, so do the math to see if it’s a better value to just buy the short flight and save your British Airways Avios for something else.
You can also reserve flights that are 1,151 miles or less in distance for just 7,500 Avios each way. That’s a long distance in Europe. You could book two round-trip flights from London to Rome with the Amex Green Card welcome bonus.
5. Pay with points and avoid blackout dates
If you’re finding the process of identifying a good deal and transferring your points to partner airlines a hassle, you can always redeem your points through the Amex Travel Portal at a rate of 1 cent each. This means your 30,000 Amex Membership Rewards points are worth $300 in travel. That’s far from the best value you’ll get, but the simplicity that comes with it has value, as well.
If you’re someone with a rigid travel schedule, or if your plan are rarely flexible, this could be the route for you. Buying travel through the portal means you don’t have to worry about blackout dates or available award flights. You’ll essentially just purchase your travel as you normally would but pay with points instead.
The Membership Rewards program can provide immense value, particularly when transferring points to its many useful partners. Your points are worth 1 cent each when you redeem them for flights through the Amex Travel Portal, but that value skyrockets if you transfer your points to the right partner. With the 30,000-point bonus from the American Express Green Card, you’ve got a world of free travel possibilities.
Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.