The best ways to use American Express Membership Rewards points for holiday gifts

Dec 9, 2019

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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.

Related: Choosing the best American Express card for you

Transferring points to travel partners

Savvy flyers will be able to redeem PlusPoints to move up to Lufthansa first class. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
Traveling in Lufthansa first class would be an excellent gift that can be booked through multiple Star Alliance transfer partners. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

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:

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:

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.

You
You can redeem Amex Membership Rewards points to book Fine Hotels & Resorts stays. (Photo of the Park Hyatt Beijing by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

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.

Related: The ultimate guide to Amex Pay With Points

Redeeming for gift cards

(Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

RelatedWhat are the best credit cards for purchasing gift cards?

Bottom line

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:

Featured photo by Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
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  • $550 annual fee.
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