A Trick for Getting an ‘Advance’ on Amex Membership Rewards Points…

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American Express Membership Rewards Points are my favourite points/miles ‘currency’. The ability to transfer them to a wide range of airline and hotel partners at decent conversion rates makes them incredibly useful and I value that flexibility highly.

Sometimes though, you might find yourself in a situation where you would like to make a transfer in order to book your perfect redemption, but you don’t have enough Amex MR Points in your account yet.

I think it’s fairly common knowledge that one way you can remedy that situation is to pay for something refundable (like a refundable flight or hotel booking), transfer the MR Points from that purchase across to your chosen programme once the points hit your Amex account, then cancel the booking for a refund – ideally before you actually need to pay the balance off.

If you do that, you will find yourself with a negative Amex MR Points balance soon after the refund has been processed. That’s not a problem – it just means that your normal points earning will go towards rectifying that negative points balance, until it’s back to zero. After that, your points will accrue as normal.

You are not getting any free points in this situation. Instead, you are effectively just giving yourself an advance on points that you will earn in the future. I (and many others) have done this and I’ve never heard of Amex having a problem with it.

If you just need a few thousand points (or happen to have a very large credit limit if you need more points) it’s a useful strategy.

What if I need more points?

If you have an Amex Gold Card, you may know that it offers 3 MR Points per £1 on purchases through Amex Travel, rather than the usual 1 MR Point per £1 on standard purchases. Should you ever need to ‘advance’ yourself a large number of points, this is an extremely useful feature.

Simply make a refundable hotel booking through Amex Travel and pay using your Gold Card. A few days after the transaction appears on your account, your points balance will reflect the purchase – including triple points. Transfer the points to your preferred programme and then cancel the booking.

So, say for example that you were 9,000 British Airways Avios short of your dream redemption and didn’t want availability to disappear before you had earned enough points, this is what you could do:

  • Spend £3,000 with Amex Travel using your Amex Gold Card. MAKE SURE THAT THE PURCHASE IS REFUNDABLE FIRST!!! Seriously, check the cancellation requirements, and then check them again.
  • Once the points hit your account, transfer them to British Airways Executive Club.
  • Once they have arrived in your BA account, cancel the Amex Travel booking.
  • Shortly after the refund has been processed, you will have a negative balance of 9,000 Amex MR Points.
  • Over the next x months, earn 9,000 Amex MR Points (from normal spend, referrals, etc) and your MR balance will be back to zero, meaning you can start saving up for future redemptions again.

Potential pitfalls…

Amex Travel can be a bit slow at processing refunds. I would recommend starting this process at the beginning of your statement cycle, to make sure you are refunded before the bill is due.

That said, I would only consider this if you have enough ready cash to cover the bill anyway – just in case there is a delay to the refund or something unforeseen happens.

Amex may not approve of this sort of behaviour. Even though I haven’t heard of any issues, it’s not something I would recommend making a regular habit of.

Obviously, if/how you choose to use this information is entirely at your own risk.

Bottom line

Being able to ‘advance’ yourself some Amex Membership Rewards Points just adds to their tremendous flexibility…

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