(Part 2: Flights, Shopping & Subscriptions can be found here)
Article 1: Hotel Stays & Experiences
If you’re new to point collecting, travel hacking or just trying out (or considering) your first American Express card then it’s likely you’re wondering what 20,000 points is worth, and what you’ll get for it. This is because, 20,000 is the welcome bonus new cardmembers receive when they spend £2,000 in their first 3 months with the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card. This is the UK Amex card every travel hack blogger is raving about, and most people start with, because in my opinion (for year one at least) it’s just about the best deal out there. We covered the card in post number one here – but just to recap:
– The card is free in year one (£140 thereafter, but can be cancelled at any point)
– It comes with two free airport lounge passes (generally worth about £20 each) – wait for your next flight in comfort, with food & drink included!
– The bonus for a £2,000 spend in 3 months is 20,000 points, which (as we’ll explore below) could be worth anywhere from £100-200
-There is another 10,000 points bonus if you spend over £15,000 in a year.
-There is a $75 hotel credit for any bookings of 2 nights+ through the ‘Hotel Collection’.
-Plus you get all the benefits of being an American Express member, such as targeted offers and access to reserved tickets for gigs and events.
(Note the whopping 56.7% APR though – this is definitely to be used only as a rewards card, i.e. you’ll want to pay your statement in full each month)
You can also increase the welcome bonus to 22,000 points if you use this referral link. Given that, as an absolute minimum, this equates to about £100 in Amazon vouchers – even ignoring the other benefits and even if you don’t keep the card thereafter – you’re effectively earning £100+ just for putting normal spending on this card for 3 months. Of course you can also increase this return further by following my 6 steps to earning serious cashback advice.
So, what can you get with 20,000 points?
There’s no way I can highlight every points option, and there are already some great articles out there which cover point value, so the objective here is to highlight some interesting examples of what 20,000 points could get you under five main categories: hotel stays, experiences, shopping, flights and subscriptions. This first article will look at some contrasting options for hotel stays and experiences, a second article exploring shopping, flights and subscriptions can be found here. Hopefully this will give you some insight, inspiration and also an illustration of just how much, or how little, the points can be worth depending on how you use them. Generally there are two ways of using your points: 1) You spend them within American Express, e.g. via Amex travel or as a statement credit or 2) You transfer them out to any of a range of other loyalty schemes (e.g. Avios, Nectar, Hilton Honors). Here I’ll highlight options with partner schemes.
For hotel stays you can take your pick from Hilton, Marriott/ Starwood and Radisson. You’ll need to set up a loyalty account with the partner scheme and then transfer your points across. The first time you do this it may take a 2-3 days whilst the link is set up and the points transferred.
Here are some starters for your 20,000 points:
Hilton: 20,000 Amex Reward points converts to 40,000 Hilton Honors points – enough for 4 whole nights at Hampton by Hilton Newport (cheapest UK redemption) or 1, perhaps slightly more exciting, night at Hilton Barcelona or Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona. In fact, with the referral bonus, and the points on your spending (which would bring you up to 24,000 points) you’d actually have enough for one night in the spring at the fantastic luxury Conrad Algarve, which I’d highly recommend at 46,000 points. (Note these are based on stays in March 2019).
Believe it or not – for cash value, the Newport redemption actually wins here though! The four nights have an equivalent value of £188, giving 0.94p per point vs Conrad Algarve at £170/night giving 0.85p per point.
Hilton Diagonal Barcelona:
Starwood/Marriott: 20,000 Amex Reward points converts to 30,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points. 25,000 is enough for a night at the ‘affordable boutique’ Moxy brand London Heathrow (which you could get for just £52 though, so very poor points value) or perhaps the University Arms Autograph Hotel, Cambridge instead (which would be £201, so fantastic points value). If you want to go further afield, it would also get you a night at Sheraton Niagara Falls, Canada, at $104 you can see how much the cash value fluctuates though!
It’s always worth doing the maths before you use your points for a hotel stay – if you divide the cash price by the points you’ll get the pence per point value. As you can see with these that could be anything from 1p to 0.25p per Amex point on these options alone.
Radisson: 20,000 points would get you 60,000 Radisson Reward points. This is enough for one night at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt hotel in Kensington (50,000 points) or two nights at Park Inn Radisson Cardiff. The cash value on both of these options (for the dates I looked at in March) were £177 and £194, which gives a decent point value, as both are approaching 1p per point on the original 20,000 Amex points. Further afield, Radisson Blu Milan is 44,000 for a one night stay.
Note Radisson also appears to have some decent points + money prices. On the Milan option above, for 10,000 Radisson points (3,333 Amex points) you could reduce the cash price by 40-60 Euros, depending on the date, which is roughly £50 for 3333 points = 1.5p per point.
Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt:
N.B. The above are all based on samples of point and cash prices for November and March, points and cash prices can vary significantly depending on the brand and hotel.
You can get a number of fairly standard tourist experiences via Amex travel (tours, boat trips, etc.) but if you’re after something different have a look at these options (all valid at the time of writing) which appear on Marriott Moments, Hilton Honors Experiences and Emirates Skywards:
Marriott Moments: 30,000 points (20,000 Amex) could get you:
- VIP Tickets for Florence & The Machine at the O2 London (including food & drink)
- Luxury Suite Tickets for the Los Angeles Clippers (including food & drink)
- VIP Tickets for Cirque du Soleil at Mercedes Benz Arena Berlin (including food & drink)
Florence & The Machine:
Hilton Honors Experiences: 40,000 points (20,000 Amex) could get you:
- Standard Tickets for Florida Panthers vs Chicago Blackhawks ice hockey (sorry I had to put this in, I’m a big NHL fan!)
- Good Charlotte Concert tickets, Las Vegas – Reserved Seats
Emirates Skywards Culture & Sport: 20,000 miles could get you:
- Arsenal, Paris-SG, Real Madrid, Benfica or Hamburger SV football tickets.
- Varying prices depending on team and opponent, but starting from 5,000 miles per seat for standard tickets.
- Arsenal hospitality tickets from 10,500 miles for lowest category games (good value considering this includes food & drink). However, note that I couldn’t find any current games which weren’t sold out, but maybe worth keeping an eye out for any new cup games.
The value of these redemption’s varies – the Hilton Experiences are the weakest. Florida Panthers tickets start at $30, so two for 40,000 points could be as ridiculous as 0.12p per point! At the other end, hospitality tickets for a Premier League team can be £150+, so potentially more like 1.5p per point from Emirates.
Marriott Moments often have some very interesting one-off opportunities at what seem like very reasonable point prices, so their site is worth keeping an eye on. Sometimes point prices also reduce, recently I was keeping my eye on Counting Crows VIP tickets, and they suddenly reduced from 30,000 to 15,000 points – and unfortunately sold out before I could transfer points!
Let me know the best options you’ve spotted for 20,000 points, and don’t forget to check out article 2 (flights & shopping) here. If you’re considering applying for any American Express card then this link will bag you additional bonus points if you hit the spend target (scroll down and you will find the gold card listed under credit cards).
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