The best ways to redeem points and miles for Amazon purchases
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While you’ll get the most bang for your buck (on paper, at least) redeeming your points and miles for expensive international flights and five-star luxury hotels, not everyone is interested in traveling that way. Many people would rather stretch their points further, and use them to cover as many different expenses as possible so they can keep their hard-earned cash.
As we head into the busiest shopping season of the year and you work your way through your holiday gift list (or decide to treat yourself to a Black Friday deal), you may be looking to redeem your points and miles for Amazon purchases for yourself or for a loved one. While this generally won’t net you the best redemption value (you’ll usually get 1 cent per point or less), you do have a few options to consider if you decide to go this route.
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Redeeming points for Amazon purchases
The simplest answer, though it isn’t usually a great value, is to redeem your points directly for Amazon purchases or Amazon gift cards. The sneaky thing is that most credit card issuers give you a worse rate when you redeem your points directly for Amazon purchases, as opposed to redeeming them for Amazon gift cards. Here are the current rates for doing so:
Transferable points programs
Chase Ultimate Rewards: up to 1 cent per point
Chase Ultimate Rewards allows you to link your Chase and Amazon accounts, which you can do by logging into your Ultimate Rewards account and clicking the Amazon button at the top. Once linked, you’ll see an option to pay with points when you check out with Amazon.
Buried in the bottom of the terms and conditions is the redemption rate, a paltry 0.8 cents per point, well below TPG’s valuation of Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each.
Chase also give you the option to redeem your points directly for Amazon gift cards, and here you’ll get a marginally better rate of 1 cent per point.
Perhaps the best option though is to simply charge your Amazon purchase to your Chase card and redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for a statement credit. Not only will you get 1 cent per point, but you’ll earn more points on the purchase and get the benefit of purchase protection and extended warranty if your Chase card offers those perks.
Amex Membership Rewards: 0.7 cents per point
American Express Membership Rewards also gives you the ability to link your Amazon account and redeem points at checkout, though the option will only appear if you click on a Membership Rewards-earning card as your payment method. The rate is even worse, as you’ll only get 0.7 cents per point (again compared to TPG valuing Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each).
Citi ThankYou Rewards: 0.8 cents per point
Capital One Miles: 0.8 cents per point
Capital One was the latest issuer to join the transferable miles club, and it too is now adding the ability to shop with points at Amazon. If you’re using a cash-back card you’ll get a 1:1 ratio (i.e. $1 of rewards is worth $1 at Amazon), but if you’re using a miles-earning card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, you’ll only get 0.8 cents per mile.
Marriott Bonvoy: up to 0.33 cents per point
Rounding out the world of transferable points is Marriott Bonvoy, which offers the ability to redeem points for Amazon gift cards at a rate between 0.25 and 0.33 cents per point, well below TPG’s valuation of Marriott points at 0.8 cents each.
Delta SkyMiles: up to 0.41 cents per mile
Head to the SkyMiles Marketplace, where you can redeem your miles for a wide variety of gift cards. Redeem miles for a $5, $10, $25, $50 or $100 Amazon gift card, with prices starting at 1,400 miles. I’d only redeem in this manner if I had seven figures or more in SkyMiles, as you get as little as one-third of a penny per mile in value (or a maximum of 0.41 cents per mile).
Southwest Rapid Rewards: up to 0.74 cents per mile
Southwest has a More Rewards section underneath the Rapid Rewards drop-down menu. This link brings you to a site that allows you to redeem points for hotels, merchandise and gift cards. Here you can redeem your Rapid Rewards points for $25 and $50 Amazon gift cards, costing 4,050 and 6,750 points, respectively.
You’ll want to redeem for $50 gift cards to get the maximum redemption value of 0.74 cents per point. Still, you’ll get even more value if you redeem points toward flights on Southwest with the airline’s revenue-based award system.
Hilton Honors: 0.2 cents per point
Hilton Honors lets you link your account to Amazon to shop with points, but at a rate of just 0.2 cents each it’s one of the worst offers out there, even after accounting for the relatively lower valuation of Hilton points.
IHG Rewards Club: up to 0.26 cents per point
IHG Rewards Club allows you to redeem your points for $25, $50 or $100 Amazon gift cards, but again you’ll want to opt for the $100 denomination to get the best possible value.
Buying Amazon gift cards
If you’ve decided to be a little more conservative with your redemptions and not use your points for a low-value reward like Amazon shopping, there are still a few other ways you can maximize your returns.
One popular strategy is to buy Amazon gift cards at stores that offer a category bonus, like an office supply store that earns 5% cash back (or 5x points per dollar) with the Ink Business Cash Credit Card. If your local supermarket sells Amazon gift cards you can also use your American Express® Gold Card and earn 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar on your first $25,000 spent each year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarkets.
It’s also worth noting that if you go this route and use an Amazon gift card for your purchase, you’ll be forgoing benefits like extended warranty or purchase protection. This might not be important if you’re buying a gift for a friend or a consumable product, but if you’re taking advantage of a Black Friday deal to load up on a new tech gadget that you plan to keep for a while, you’ll have to weigh the tradeoff of a higher return versus long-term protections.
Look out for Amex Offers
Just a few days ago we saw Amex launch a highly-targeted Amex Offer, allowing select customers to earn up to 4 bonus Membership Rewards points per dollar on Amazon purchases (up to 1,500 bonus points total). This is a great way to supercharge your earning, adding an extra 8% to your return based on TPG’s valuations. Amex Offers for Amazon are rare and they’re usually highly targeted, but it’s always worth checking what offers you have available to you before you start shopping online.
We tend to focus most of our efforts on travel rewards here at TPG, and for good reason. Once you go through the effort of earning points and miles, you want to get as much value out of them as possible and Amazon redemptions are not usually the way to do that.
If you’re set on redeeming your points for Amazon purchases, consider a workaround like redeeming for a statement credit instead that will allow you to earn bonus points on the purchase, or buying Amazon gift cards with a high bonus multiplier to supercharge your earnings. You’ll always want to calculate your redemption value before you checkout to see what kind of a deal you’re getting, and pay attention to whether your payment method (credit card versus Amazon gift cards) offers any type of purchase protection or extended warranty.
Additional reporting by Richard Kerr.
Featured photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images.
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