The best ways to use American Express Membership Rewards points for holiday gifts
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In my opinion, travel is the best gift you can give anyone — especially if you can give your time and travel together. But even if you can’t go on a trip with someone, American Express Membership Rewards® points can be used for travel and other holiday gifts in a number of different ways. Here are some of the best ways to redeem those points for gifts this holiday season.
Transferring points to travel partners
If you’re looking to book travel, you can transfer your Membership Rewards points to various airline and hotel travel partners:
- Airlines: Aer Lingus AerClub, Aeromexico Club Premier, Air Canada Aeroplan, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia MilleMiglia, All Nippon Airways Mileage Club, Avianca LifeMiles, British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, El Al Matmid, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles, Iberia Plus, JetBlue TrueBlue, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Singapore KrisFlyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Hotels: Choice, Hilton, Marriott
You can get significant value by transferring Membership Rewards points to partners, especially if you redeem them for first and business-class tickets or luxury hotels. However, you should make sure award availability exists before transferring. While most transfers are instant, sometimes it can take up to 48 hours for points to transfer (like with ANA, Cathay Pacific and Iberia).
Note that you can only transfer Membership Rewards points to your own loyalty accounts, but you can book awards for others from most loyalty programs. If you’re ready to transfer points to give the gift of travel, check out the following guides:
- How long do American Express Membership Rewards take to transfer?
- Best ways to redeem Amex Points on Oneworld airlines, SkyTeam airlines and Star Alliance airlines
- How to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points for hotels
- Do this before booking award tickets for your family
- TPG Lounge readers’ best American Express Membership Rewards redemptions
Pay With Points
Pay With Points allows you to redeem for 1 cent per point toward airfare, so a $1,000 flight would cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points. But, cardholders of three select Amex business cards offer a rebate when you Pay With Points for airfare:
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: 35% rebate up to 500,000 points back per calendar year, which gives a redemption value of 1.54 cents per point
- American Express® Business Gold Card: 25% rebate up to 250,000 points back per calendar year, which gives a redemption value of 1.33 cents per point
- Amex Business Centurion Card: 50% rebate, which gives a redemption value of 2 cents per point
You can book a flight for anyone using Pay With Points.
Hotels can be reserved using Pay With Points through Amex Travel at the rate of 0.7 cents per Membership Rewards point. This means $700 in hotel stays will cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points.
Bookings through Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program get a slightly better redemption rate of 1 cent per point. But, since TPG’s valuations value Amex Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, paying for hotel stays through Pay With Points usually isn’t an ideal redemption.
Pay With Points isn’t just for airfare and hotels though. There are also various merchants, including Amazon, that allow you to pay with Amex Membership Rewards points. However, paying with points at these merchants usually isn’t a good use of your points. For example, you’ll only get 0.7 cents per point when you redeem your points toward Amazon purchases, so $700 in Amazon purchases will cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points.
You can also make a donation to your preferred charity through JustGiving using Pay With Points. The charity receives 0.7 cents per point, so 10,000 Membership Rewards points provides $70 toward the charity you choose.
Redeeming for gift cards
You can also redeem your Membership Rewards points for a variety of gift cards. However, the redemption rates depends 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 Membership Rewards point for select gift cards including Apple Store, Best Western, Bonefish Grill, Hilton, Macy’s and Panera Bread
- 0.7 cents per Membership Rewards point for select gift cards including Best Buy, Delta, Four Seasons, Marriott, Starbuck’s and Uber
- 0.5 cents per Membership Rewards point for American Express gift cards, so a $500 gift card is 100,000 points
You can get a physical gift card or a digital gift card for most redemptions. Gift cards can be obtained in a variety of values, but most start at $25 or $50.
If you’re points rich, you may want to use your American Express Membership Rewards points for holiday gifts. 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.
But, sometimes being able to redeem for a gift instead of paying cash can be a good value for you even if you get less than TPG’s stated valuation of 2 cents each for Amex points. One easy way to compare all the options for your Amex Membership Rewards points is to use Amex’s Rewards Calculator.
If you’re still looking for holiday gifts, the following guides may help:
- Holiday gift guides: 10 ultimate TPG staff picks, 9 gifts for the extravagant traveler, 10 gifts for the business traveler, 7 gifts for $10 or less for the jetsetter in your life and family travel picks
- The best cards for holiday purchases
- Ultimate guide to maximizing your holiday purchases
- Credit card perks you can give for the holidays
Featured photo by Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images.
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