Update: The current sign-up bonus has reduced to 35,000 miles
Readers have been asking what they can do with 75,000 to 100,000 Membership Rewards points. A few weeks ago there was a 100,000 point American Express Platinum card and up to January 28th there is a 75,000 point Business Gold card available.
1. Travel Using Pay With Points
The simplest way to use Membership Rewards points is to use the “Pay with Points” feature and get 1 cent per point towards air travel booked through the Membership Rewards portal. You get less than 1 cent per point if you book hotels and car rentals through the portal, so best to use Pay with Points for air travel.
This means that 75,000 membership Rewards points will get you $750 and 100,000 Membership Rewards points will get you $1,000 towards air travel expenses.
The advantage of using Pay with Points is that you get lots of flexibility with booking your travel because you don’t have to search for only low availability flights. If there is a flight for sale, you can use points to book it. You will also earn miles on the flight you book.
The downside is that the car rental portal often has higher rates than elsewhere and that you may be able to get more “value” by transferring to airline partners and then redeeming for international first and business class flights. But these are YOUR points so use them in a way which makes sense for YOU!
2. Gift Cards & Amazon
Another way to earn 1 cent per point is to redeem Membership Rewards points for gift cards. So 75,000 points = $750 in gift cards & 100,000 points – $1,000 in gift cards.
If you seek Big Clothing with Small Money then perhaps Saks Fifth Avenue, Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus or Coach gift cards are for you.
Or if you want more Frugal Clothing with Small Money, there is the Options Gift Card which can be redeemed at Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Pipeline and Athleta stores. There is a limit of 5 cards per online redemption, but nothing limits you to only 1 online redemptions.
Or you can redeem points for 1 cent per point for Victoria’s Secret, Home Depot, Pottery Barn, L’Occitane, Nike, Talbots, Zappos, Barnes & Noble, a few restaurants, and other stores.
You can also redeem for Amazon.com purchases, but you only get 0.7 cents per point, which isn’t a great value. This means that 100,000 points will get you $700 in Amazon purchases and 75,000 points will get you $525 in Amazon purchases.
3. TRANSFER TO Airlines
You can transfer Membership Rewards points to airline partners and then redeem for flights within the US, to Hawaii, and the rest of the world. The bad news is that most partners charge fuel surcharges on international awards which vary by the partner airline you fly on.
US Air is NOT a Membership Rewards partner, but The Points Guy explains how to transfer Membership Rewards Points US Air at a ratio of 0.85 US Air miles for every 1 Membership Rewards points. This means that 100,000 Membership Rewards points = 85,000 US Air miles and 75,000 Membership Rewards points = 63,750.
US Air has a generous chart (and no fuel surcharges!) where you can fly from the US to Asia via Europe for only 90,000 miles in business class, or to Africa for 70,000 miles in coach or 110,000 miles in business class. So it could make sense to transfer points at a 15% discount, but save money on fuel surcharges to international destinations. However, you can no longer (officially) book First Class on Lufthansa using US Air miles.
American Express has frequent transfer bonuses to British Airways, and British Airways Avios are a great use for short distance travel.
At some point I’ll write a series on American Express Membership Rewards points, but until then here’s a great series of posts, from One Mile at a Time, on how to use Membership Rewards points after transferring them to airline partners.
If you want to travel on a suite in Singapore Airlines, transferring Membership Rewards points to Singapore Airlines is perhaps the best way to get it!
4. TRANSFER TO HOTELS
You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Starwood hotels (SPG points), but the transfer ratio isn’t especially good. You get only 333 Starwood points for every 1,000 Membership Rewards point transferred.
You usually get 1,500 Hilton points for every 1,000 Membership Rewards points transferred, but up to January 31, 2013 you get 2,000 Hilton points. So 100,000 Membership Rewards points becomes 200,000 Hilton points or 75,000 Membership Rewards points becomes 150,000 Hilton points.
After the transfer bonus to Hilton ends, you can get more Hilton points by usually transferring your Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio. You can then transfer Virgin Atlantic Points to Hilton points by calling the Virgin Atlantic service center (800-365-9500 ) at a 1:2 ratio. So 100,000 Membership Rewards points becomes 200,000 Hilton points or 75,000 Membership Rewards points becomes 150,000 Hilton points.
Membership Rewards points aren’t as easy to use as Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but there are lots of possibilities if you investigate the options. Of course, none of these options may make sense for you, so study the options before applying for a card with a high spending requirement.
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