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’re cooped up at home, spending more time shopping online than usual, 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: redeeming points for Amazon purchases isn’t usually a great value. Instead, 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:
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards allows you to link your Chase and Amazon accounts 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 at 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 gives you the option to redeem your points directly for Amazon gift cards. Here, you’ll get a marginally better rate of 1 cent per point.
Perhaps the best option is to simply charge your Amazon purchase to your Chase card and redeem 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.
Through Sept. 30, Chase has temporarily increased the redemption rate to 1.5 cents for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders and 1.25 cents for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Amex Membership Rewards
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 at 0.7 cents per point (again compared to TPG valuing Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each).
Occasionally, American Express will run targeted promotions that allow you to redeem just one point for $50 off your Amazon purchase.
Citi ThankYou Rewards: 0.8 cents per point
At the moment, Citi is offering targeted cardholders 20% off at Amazon for redeeming just one Citi ThankYou point, capped at $30. This is an excellent use of Citi ThankYou points and certainly higher than TPG’s valuation.
Capital One Miles
Capital One was the latest issuer to join the transferable miles club and has added the ability to shop with points at Amazon. With the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, you’ll only get 0.8 cents per mile which is not a great redemption.
Rounding out the world of transferable points is Marriott Bonvoy, which offers the ability to redeem points for Amazon gift cards at a rate of 0.25-0.33 cents per point. That’s well below TPG’s valuation of Marriott points at 0.8 cents each.
Delta SkyMiles and Southwest Rapid Rewards members used to be able to redeem their miles for a wide variety of gift cards, including Amazon, for 0.41-0.74 cents per mile. While we never recommended redeeming in this manner, both programs have temporarily suspended these non-travel redemption options due to circumstances resulting from coronavirus.
Delta provided TPG the following statement:
“Suspension of Delta Gift Card redemptions available for SkyMiles members was a decision made as Delta continues to manage the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business. Marketplace continues to offer a wide selection of merchandise, Apple products, and travel experiences. Anyone can continue to purchase Delta Gift Card at delta.com/giftcard through a credit/debit card transaction.”
Hilton Honors lets you link your account to Amazon to shop with points, but at a rate of just 0.2 cents each. This makes it one of the worst offers out there, even after accounting for the relatively lower valuation of Hilton points.
IHG Rewards Club
IHG Rewards Club allows you to redeem your points for $25, $50, or $100 Amazon gift cards. You can get up to 0.26 cents per point again by opting for the $100 denomination.
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) on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year with the Ink Business Cash Credit Card. If your local supermarket sells Amazon gift cards, you can also use your Chase Sapphire Reserve and earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on up to $1,500 spent at grocery stores through June 2020.
Beyond that, you could use the American Express® Gold Card to 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 limited-time offers
Amazon frequently offers various targeted discounts for redeeming American Express, Chase or Citi points on your order. For instance, you can currently save up to $50 on Amazon purchases using just one Amex point and up to $30 off your next Amazon order using just 1 Citi ThankYou point.
To be targeted for these offers, make sure that all of your cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards are linked to your Amazon account. Here’s how to link each type of card with Amazon:
We’ve also seen Amex Offers, 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 earnings, giving you an 8% 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 check and pay attention to whether your payment method (credit card versus Amazon gift cards) offers any type of purchase protection or extended warranty benefit.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg and Richard Kerr.
Featured photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images.
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