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7 ways to redeem American Express Membership Rewards points for holiday gifts

Nov. 26, 2022
9 min read
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Editor’s note: We've updated this post with new information.


If money is a little tight this year, you may find your American Express Membership Rewards points balance is higher than your savings account balance. If you fall into this camp, you might have wondered how to turn some of your Membership Rewards points into holiday gifts this winter.

Typically I’d recommend redeeming your points for a trip. Travel is one of the best gifts you can give anyone — especially if you can give your time and the gift of travel together. Also, redeeming your Membership Rewards points for travel will generally provide the most value for your points.

However, not everyone can travel or wants to travel. Although redeeming your points for travel generally provides the most value on a cents-per-point basis, the best redemption is the one that helps you meet your goals. Right now, maybe your individual goals look different than a flight or hotel.

Whether you want to gift travel, a toy or the latest and greatest gadget, let’s take a closer look at the best ways to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points for gifts this holiday season.

Transfer points to travel partners to book award travel

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Some transferable rewards programs let you share rewards with others. However, Amex is one of the more restrictive programs when it comes to sharing. Specifically, Amex only allows you to transfer Membership Rewards points to your loyalty accounts or the loyalty accounts of your authorized users.

Luckily, most airline and hotel loyalty programs allow you to book awards for others when traveling together. Some loyalty programs even allow you to book travel for others when they’re traveling without you. So you may be able to give the gift of travel this holiday season by booking award travel for others.

If you’re looking to book award travel this holiday season, you can transfer your points to the following Membership Rewards transfer partners:

  • Airline loyalty programs: Aer Lingus AerClub, Aeromexico Club Premier, Air Canada Aeroplan, Air France-KLM Flying Blue, All Nippon Airways Mileage Club, Avianca LifeMiles, British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles, Iberia Plus, JetBlue TrueBlue, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Singapore KrisFlyer and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
  • Hotel loyalty programs: Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy.

TPG’s valuations peg the value of Membership Rewards points at about 2 cents each. So, you'll generally want to aim to get at least 2 cents per point when you transfer to travel partners. However, make sure award availability exists before transferring.

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Although most transfers are instant, it can sometimes take up to 48 hours for points to transfer. See our post on how long American Express Membership Rewards transfers take to estimate transfer times.

Related: Which is the best American Express credit card for you?

Use Pay with Points to book travel

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Amex Pay with Points allows you to redeem Membership Rewards points for 1 cent each when you book airfare through Amex Travel. So, a $1,000 flight would cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points if you use The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card.

However, cardholders of select Amex business cards get a rebate when using Pay with Points for airfare as follows:

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Get 35% of your points back when you use Pay with Points for first- and business-class flights on any airline or flights in any class on your selected airline, up to 1 million points back per calendar year.
  • American Express® Business Gold Card: Get 25% of your points back when you use Pay with Points for first- and business-class flights on any airline or flights in any class on your selected airline, up to 250,000 points back per calendar year.
  • Centurion Business Card from American Express: Get 50% of your points back when you use Pay with Points for flights.

The information for the Centurion Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best of all, you can book a flight for anyone using Pay with Points.

You can also book prepaid hotels, cruises, car rentals and vacations using Pay with Points through Amex Travel. However, you’ll only get 0.7 cents per point, so $700 in prepaid hotel stays will cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points.

You'll get a slightly better redemption rate of 1 cent per point if you use Pay with Points for a prepaid stay booked through Amex’s Fine Hotels + Resorts program. However, only select Amex cardmembers can access this premium hotel program.

Related: Your complete guide to maximizing holiday purchases

Redeem for gift cards

POIKE/GETTY IMAGES

You can also redeem Membership Rewards points for a variety of gift cards. However, redemption rates depend on the type of gift card:

  • 1 cent per Membership Reward point (for example, $1,000 in gift cards for 100,000 points) for most gift cards.
  • 0.85 cents per point for select gift cards, including Apple, Best Western, Bonefish Grill, Macy’s and Panera Bread.
  • 0.7 cents per point for select gift cards, including Best Buy, Delta, Four Seasons, Hilton, Marriott, Starbucks and Uber.
  • 0.5 cents per point for American Express gift cards (a $500 gift card is 100,000 points).

You can get a physical or digital gift card for most redemptions. You can obtain gift cards in various values, but most start at $25 or $50.

Related: What credit cards should you use to purchase gift cards?

Use Pay with Points at checkout

BROTHERS91/GETTY IMAGES

Pay with Points isn’t just for travel. You can use Pay with Points at checkout when you shop with various merchants, including Amazon, Best Buy, Boxed, Dell, Grubhub, Newegg, PayPal, Rite Aid, Saks Fifth Avenue and Staples.

However, paying with points at these merchants usually isn’t a good use of your points if you're looking for the best return. You’ll only get 0.7 cents per point for the merchants listed above when you redeem Membership Rewards points. So, a $700 purchase would cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points.

The redemption rate is even worse at 0.5 cents per point if you use Membership Rewards points for event tickets through Ticketmaster.

Related: 5 ways to redeem 44 million American Express Membership Rewards points that aren't at Rite Aid

Donate points to charity

You can also donate your points to charity. Specifically, you can donate to more than 1.5 million U.S. charities through JustGiving with Amex Pay with Points. You’ll get 0.7 cents per point when you make a JustGiving redemption. So 100,000 Membership Rewards points would provide $700 toward the charity you choose.

Related: The best credit cards to maximize your nonprofit donation

Cover recent card charges

PHOTOALTO/LAURENCE MOUTON/GETTY IMAGES

If you buy gifts on your card from merchants that don’t participate in Pay with Points, you might consider using Membership Rewards points to cover your purchases. Although you can redeem Membership Rewards points to cover recent charges on your card, doing so will only provide a redemption rate of 0.6 cents per point. So, you’d need 100,000 points to cover a $600 charge.

Related: Maximizing points and miles to beat inflation and save money

Shop with points

Finally, you can also use Shop with Membership Rewards. However, when you buy products from the Shop with Membership Rewards catalog, you’ll only get 0.5 cents per point of value.

You'd need 100,000 Membership Rewards for $500 of purchases through the catalog. So, even when sales offer 30% off, you may still be better off redeeming for other options discussed above.

Related: Why I love the Amex Business Platinum’s Pay with Points perk

Bottom line

If cash is tight or you have a large stash of points, you may want to use your American Express Membership Rewards points for holiday gifts.

Want to give the gift of travel? You’ll get the best value from your points by transferring them to travel partners and then booking luxury hotel stays or premium-cabin flights for loved ones. You can also get 1 cent per point in value when using Pay with Points to book flights through Amex Travel.

Even if you don't want to give the gift of travel, you can still get 1 cent per point in value by redeeming points for select gift cards.

Understanding the redemption value before you redeem your points for holiday gifts is a good idea. One easy way to compare all the options for your Amex Membership Rewards points is to use Amex’s Rewards Calculator.

Featured image by MASKOT/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more