What to do with 75,000 to 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards Points? [Expired]

Update: The current sign-up bonus has reduced to 35,000 miles

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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.

Membership Rewards Points Value 2

Using Pay With Points For 1 Cent Per Point

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.

Membership Rewards Points Value 3

Gift Card Redemptions at 1 Cent per Point

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.

Membership Rewards Points Value 4

Not a Great Value to use With Amazon

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.

Membership Rewards Points Value

Transfer to Airlines

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.

You can also transfer to Choice Hotels & Best Western, but I don’t see much value in that unless you can snag a cheap room on points in Europe or other expensive destinations.

Bottom Line

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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These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

61 Responses to What to do with 75,000 to 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards Points? [Expired]

  1. Amex sometimes has sales on gift cards. You need to be paying attention, but between my dad and I, we wound up buying about $5000 worth of option (gap/old navy) gift cards. It did take some work to “spend” them.

  2. I need something to pek or hkg, from anywhere in the us!! Do you already have something like that prepared?

  3. I used my MR points: Boston to Amsterdam on Air France…flying Delta metal….25,000 points and $19.20 (flying home we’re using Avios miles because I didn’t like what was available on Air France).

  4. Has anyone tried using AmEx points for a Dinning? According to their site for 40,000 MR points they can secure a reservation at the restaurant of your choice and pick up the tab. Can they actually make a reservation for me at one of those hard to get in places (like PerSe or French Laundry) and pick up the check? Thanks!

  5. D, thanks for this post. It’s so nice to see the options in 1 concise place. Even if some of the options are not so great it makes it quick and easy to make informed redemption decisions…. And plans for future points.

  6. y on MR site it says 100k MR =50k spg

  7. Trying to Learn

    Darius, help me! Trying to get over to Cape Town next winter and return from Jo’burg. I have about 225,000 AmEx reward miles. Who should I transfer them to to get there?

  8. If I use Pay with Points for a Trip with AA specifically, do I still earn Elite Qualifying miles based upon the fare code purchased? Or is it treated with AA as a AAdvantage Award with no additional miles / EQP earned. I’m assuming that AMEX is actually paying AA for the cost of the trip.

  9. Darius, thanks for all the help you offer on the blog. Quick question – how do I use US Air miles to fly to a destination that is not included in US Air’s search engine (but that I know partner airlines fly to). I assume I just have to do it over the phone? Is it safe to assume that US Airways has the same access to seats that United would have – i.e., if a Luftansa flight shows up as available on United’s search engine, would I be able to use US Air miles to get that same flight? Thank you!

  10. Diamond Vargas

    @Trying to Learn – Check out Section 3 of Daraius’ post, click on the link to One Mile at a Time’s series, and then click on the Middle East / Africa section.

    @Dean T Rose – Yes, you earn miles on those tickets as if you paid with cash.

    @Mark – Yes, just use United’s search engine. All of that inventory is available using US Airways miles, albeit sometimes at redemption rates which are different (and generally slightly lower) from the ones shown by United. The US Airways redemption chart is available on their website. US Airways’ own search engine doesn’t show any partner airlines, and there is pretty much no reason to ever use it.

  11. @David – What redemption rate were the gift cards on sale?

    @Matt – You could transfer to US Air and then fly on Star Alliance airlines or see this post for more options.

    @Lively – That’s a very good use!

    @Tanya- The terms say “Packages are based on certain costs and times associated with products and services. If these change, point redemption may increase.” I don’t think it would be valid at any restaurant, but I’ll do some digging.

    @e – Thanks!

    @hey
    – I see 1,000 MR for 333 SPG points.

    @Trying to Learn
    – The best option could be to transfer to US Air since they have slightly reduced rates for travel to Africa. If you can find Star Alliance flights on the United website or using the ANA tool, you can call US Air to book them.

    @Dean T Rose
    – You sure do since AMEX is essentially buying a ticket for you.

    @Mark - You can’t book Lufthansa First Class with US Air miles, but can book them in coach or business. Otherwise, US Air should be able to book the same flights which you can see on United.com or using the ANA tool. All non-US air flights have to be booked via the phone.

    @Diamond Vargas
    – Thanks for helping out!

  12. I found that of the gift cards, Home Depot ones sell the best ($ *I* got net of all fees vs points I paid) at places like plasticjungle. I got instant paypal payments – I think the $500 GC got me $430 or something around that.

  13. Whenever I read about Avios it’s how good they are for short haul flights. and I know that’s because flying to Europe has fuel charges. but what about flying to Asia? the avios calculator says there are small charges if you took a one world partner from NA to Asia. an I missing the charge somewhere? does it only show when you check out?
    or is transferring/ using miles on a partner with avios going to arise some problem?
    and would I have problems using avios for a JAL flight? do they transfer 1:1?

  14. In my opinion, the best way to use these points is by transferring them to airlines. While we pay cash for credit card points at http://www.flipmymiles.com, I always advise my clients that if they would be traveling first or business class and can find a seat available on an airline, they should definitely transfer the points to receive the best value. They would essentially be doing the same thing we do with these Amex points!

  15. @hey:
    a while ago Gary@VFTW said he had MR-SPG at 2:1 but no one else had that, all 3:1. How did you see that?

    has MR ever had a bonus for SPG?

  16. @dj – Yes, it was 2:1 ratio last year.

  17. Robert Barron

    I have to agree with Juda…I think, that on the average, you get the best value/use of your AMEX points when you use them to book air travel. The best example I can offer is my upcoming trip to Nunavut- the Canadian Arctic- in April of this year. Cost to fly, when booked (2 airlines to make the trip) on Vayama.com? $2,700.00. Cost using Amex pay with points? 90K points. Cost using miles transferred to Air Canada/Aeroplan? 40K miles. That works out to a redemption value of 6.75 cents per mile…YAY!

  18. Robert Barron

    Forgot to mention I had to pay around/about $150.00 in taxes and fees…but it’s still a KILLER deal.

  19. @Corey – There will be fuel surcharges for redeeming on JAL. But they are currently no fuel surcharges for redeeming on American Airlines or LAN within the Americas.

  20. Hi Darius,
    I just received an offer from Amex for a Business Gold Rewards Card OPEN
    The offer is for 50k reward points after spending $5,000 before June 14.
    The conditions state that Eligible Purchases (towards $5k ) are purchases for foods and services and exclude purchasing travelers checks, purchases or reloading prepaid cars, or purchases of other cash equivalents.
    do you know in what category gift cards fall?
    Thanks,
    Maria

  21. One of the best aspects of the Gold or Platinum card is the ability of advance points. As a Platinum, you can advance up to 60k points a year and then you have a year to earn them back. So you can just wait until you need the points, transfer them and then work on redeeming them. No planning ahead required!

  22. what’s a good transfer option for LAX to SGN w/ 100K MR? You can probably do 100k MR–>85 US by points.com, 65k ANA (not sure about taxes), 75k aeroplane for economy.

  23. @Maria – Spending on gift cards should count towards the limit if you buy them in retail stores.

    @The Miles Professor – That’s a very good feature of the Membership Rewards program!

    @webazoid – Depends on the airline you fly and if it is 1-way or not.

  24. I have lot of membership rewards that I received from the business gold. I just applied and was approved for the personal amex premier rewards gold. Can the membership rewards be combined into one membership rewards acct? How do I do this? Can I have the same log in for those two acts?

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  27. Didn’t Plat AmEx cardholders used to get 1.2 cents per Membership Reward on pay with points travel?

    Does the AmEx biz Plat still get that?

  28. @Kathy – The points can be pooled together, but you usually have a separate login for the business and personal accounts.

    @Sean – Biz Platinum still get the 1.2 cents, but personal does not.

  29. Pingback: 50,000 Membership Rewards Points With AMEX Business Gold | Million Mile Secrets

  30. Not sure if this has been addressed but AE apparently charges $.0006 per point transferred to a US based airline up to a max fee of $99. So 100,000 rewards points transferred to say Delta or Hawaiian Airlines would cost you $60. Not sure about hotels. Wondering how long these fees have been in effect or if it’s something relatively new.

  31. @Kent C – These have been in place for a while, but aren’t charged for transfers to foreign airlines.

  32. I applied for an American Express Gold Business with a 100,000 mile bonus after spending $10,000 in 3 months back in January 2013. I just completed my $10,000 spend and was only credited with 75,000 points. I called American Express about the points (unfortunately I did not make any screen copies of the offer ) they said they would look into the problem but I have not heard back from them. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks for your great info. I love your site.

  33. Can i transfer MR points to SPG then transfer SPG points to alaska airline miles?

  34. @Mindy – You could call them back (and sometimes they give you bonus points, if you ask for them for the inconvenience). Or you could call their executive office.

    @Zhi - You could do that, but the transfer ratio from MR isn’t great.

  35. Question – I’m planning a trip to Europe in September, leaving from South Carolina, business class (at least for the leg over the Atlantic) – I have a bunch of Delta and American miles, but they’re pretty much worthless until November/December or later, which doesn’t help me out. United offers plenty of flights out of South Carolina and nearby Charlotte, so they’re usually my best bet for a rewards flight. I barely have enough United miles for the trip, at 100k per ticket.

    I also have 200k AmEx membership rewards points, which I can transfer to Air Canada, which seems to offer many of the same flights for 90k per ticket (business class). As long as I make sure my transatlantic flights are offered by United/US Airways/NAS/Swiss (no fuel surcharges), is there a downside to doing this? My wife and I have kids, so we’re a one big vacation per year type of family and I don’t see myself using the membership rewards points for anything else before years end, when I’ll probably cancel the Green card that keeps them active.

    Am I missing something, or is the membership rewards points –> Air Canada exchange a good idea. That way, I can bank my United miles (which are the best value for my geographic area) for later.

    Thanks for your opinion on this!

  36. @Michael – You can also convert AMEX MR to Aeroplan and from Aeroplan to US Air, but will lose 15% of the points. Then you can book round-trip awards on US Air for as long as US Air remains in the Star Alliance (~9 to 12 months). But note that US Air requires you to travel round-trip. Otherwise, your plan with Aeroplan makes sense (besides the fuel surcharges).

  37. Thanks!

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  39. Amex told me that my points were not eligible to be transferred due to the type of Amex Rewards Program my Blue card was in. I wonder if there is a way around this.

  40. @ Ian – no way to mix Amex Blue (cash back) with Membership Rewards (points). Just use your cash back to pay down your balance. Hard to get better value than 6% from your Blue (presuming you’ve only been spending in grocery)

  41. Hi – I tried to transfer membership rewards points today for the first time, to Hawaiian Airlines. Turns out that Amex wants to charge me a fee for the transfer. for 50k points the fee is either $30 or 6000 points. I have not seen a fee mentioned in any of the miles&points blogs so wondering if that’s new or just a thing with Hawaiian. Any thoughts?

  42. @Cat – There is a small fee for transferring AMEX points to Hawaiian Air.

  43. BA Avios works pretty well for AA since we cannot go straight to AA with AMEX points. It was going to cost me 50K per First Class tickets (DFW-LAS) round trip booking with my AA miles. That is using the Milesaaver tier ticket. Transfered AMEX points to AVIOS and got the same tix for 45k + $5 fee ($2.50 per segment). BA only has access to the milesaaver tier, for First Class, so be sure they are available for the flights you want before transferring points. I believe there are only 2 per flight at the tier on AA. You can check the availability on BA.com.

  44. Staples gift cards are easy to cash out with their free after rebate products. But you’ll need to pay for sales tax and wait for a bit of time.

  45. noticed that they are having a couple promotions. They are offering a 20% decrease on select Gift Cards (I only see myself buying the Home Depot one). Or 40% reduction in points when I buy anything on the Shop Amex website. Anyone have thoughts on that?

  46. @Jacob – It still isn’t as good as using it for travel, but do what makes sense for you!

  47. Pingback: 7 Business Cards With 50,000 Miles or Points | Million Mile Secrets

  48. Howdy! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to
    all your posts! Keep up the outstanding work!

  49. Hi friends,

    Anyone know if the MR to Virgin to Hilton deal still works? I’m looking to turn my 75K MR into 150K Hilton points.

    Thanks!

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  53. The best part of MR points used to be the transfer bonuses they offered, they no longer seem to really offer these (or offer terrible bonuses) which is a real shame. It’ll be interesting to see if they decide to beef this product up any time in the future.

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  57. Hello Darius,
    What is the best transfer (in terms of low fuel surcharges) for award ticket booking between US & India (coach is fine)…

    So far – based on my reading aeroplan sounded good – but I’m yet to actually find the numbers.

    If you could help me with your views/experience on this matter, much appreciated.

  58. @Srini – You could consider Delta as well to fly on Saudia (if you live in a Saudia) departure city. Aeroplan does charge surcharges on Lufthansa which usually has lots of awards to India.

  59. If I buy restaurant gift cards will they come with an expiration date?

  60. @MR – They usually don’t have expiration dates, but some might.

  61. Steven Gilbert

    Hi Darius,

    Re Amex Gold MR points. How do I find about special points transfer deals at better than 1:1 points to miles? I am airline agnostic although being closest to Newark and LaGuardia, UA has the most flights out of Newark, while LaGuardia favors Delta, US Air, and American.

    Thanks,
    Steve

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