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One of the great things about American Express Membership Rewards points (loyalty points earned via the American Express Green, Gold and Platinum cards) is their flexibility. For anyone collecting miles and points they are, in my opinion, the best currency to have a stockpile of.
I say this because the transfer options are very wide, and it is really easy to move them around. For example, if I see a redemption opportunity with British Airways (perhaps because I have a Companion Voucher from the BA Amex, which you can hold at the same time), I could transfer them across into Avios. Likewise if there was something that I fancied from Etihad Guest (who do offer some great value redemptions), it would be no problem to send my points there. If I just had my points with Avios, I would not have the flexibility to choose here. Your Membership Rewards points can go wherever there is value.
The Membership Rewards airline partner options cover all three major alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam), so there is an enormous range of airlines that you can potentially apply your points to.
But they’re not just for airlines…
There are various options for Membership Rewards points beyond flying. One potentially good use is exchanging them for hotel points: in the past I have transferred my points to Starwood Hotels’ loyalty scheme, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) at a rate of 2 MR points to 1 SPG point, which I then used for a points-redemption hotel stay in New York. You can also exchange them for gift cards and even use them as statement credit although, although, as Ian said here, this is one of the worst options you could take so we don’t recommend it.
However, if like me you are an Amex credit card “churner” (i.e. you open your Amex credit card account for the bonuses, get the bonuses, close it and then re-apply in six months to do the process over again) you will quite regularly find yourself closing down your Membership Rewards account.
I’m thinking about this because it is coming to the end of my year with the American Express Gold card. Before I close the account I need to transfer the points somewhere so I don’t lose them. I currently have over 61,000 points.
If I transferred these points to British Airways Avios I would have a healthy balance. However I do have other ways of collecting Avios – through flying, my British Airways American Express card, and Tesco Clubcard to name my three most lucrative options. My main hotel chain is IHG, but they are not a direct transfer partner (you can send points to Virgin Flying Club and then on to IHG, but this is not very efficient), so I could add to another balance, such as SPG or Hilton – but as I don’t have any redemptions in mind with them, it seems like a bit of a gamble.
I think that I will leave them with American Express as long as I can and if nothing better catches my eye, I will send them across to British Airways – after all, I know that I will be able to use them!
But what if I do? I’m going to be left with a small number of points that are “untransferable”!
Tidying up the smaller points balances
One top tip when closing down an Amex card is, rather obviously, to make sure you transfer all the points. But it’s not immediately obvious how to do it. For example, British Airways allow a minimum of 1,000 points in multiples of 500, so I would be able to move 61,000 points into Avios, but would have 458 points left over.
If they are still there when the account closes, these will be lost.
This is where the rather wonderful Nectar option comes in. You can transfer Membership Rewards point to Nectar on a 1:1 basis, and crucially, there is no minimum transfer amount. So those 458 spare points will not be lost on closure of my account – I transfer any remaining points to Nectar prior to closure, which gives me 0.5p/point and a nice little boost for the Christmas shop at Sainsburys!