Using American Express Points for Flights, Shopping & Subscriptions


(Part 1: Hotels & Experiences can be found here)

Read my review of the Amex Gold card here, for details of how to quickly gain American Express points.

Tip: Use our referral link to increase your Amex welcome bonus.

 
Here is a quick summary of how the current 20,000 bonus may apply to booking flights or be used for shopping and subscriptions. The bonus will return to 10,000 points on 29th June 2020. As above, using the referral link will increase either bonus by 2,000 points.


Flights


You can use Amex points to book flights with a range of Amex partners (12 airline schemes to be precise). Note that taxes and fees still apply for flight bookings. Partner airline schemes include: British Airways Executive Club (Avios), Emirates and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. You can transfer points at 1:1 to most schemes. 20,000 American Express points is worth 20,000 Avios points.

Avios is one of the most popular points schemes in the UK, and British Airways even has a handy calculator to work out the cost of reward flights. There is also a useful tool called BA Redemption Finder which helps to quickly identify reward flight availability (only a set number of seats per flight can be booked as reward seats). To give a good illustration of options, without you having to do the research, here are some examples of what 20,000 points could realistically get you with Avios:

2 Economy Seats for Return Flights from London to ‘Zone 1’ destinations including Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva, Copenhagen and Milan (off peak starting at 8,000 points + £35 taxes per person). This is based on Reward Saver seats during off peak dates. Reward saver seats on peak dates increase to 9,000 points for a return flight.

Fly to Copenhagen:


1 Economy Seat for Return Flights from London to ‘Zone 3’ destinations including Gran Canaria, Kiev, Malta and Moscow (off peak starting at 17,000 points + £35 taxes per person)

1 Business Class Seat for Return Flights from London to ‘Zone 1’ destinations including Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva, Copenhagen and Milan (off peak starting at 15,500 points + £50 taxes)

Or Switzerland:


In theory 20,000 points could also just about get you an economy long haul flight. For example, transferring from Amex to Virgin Flying Club would give you enough points for London to New York return. However, £270.72 taxes and fees apply and given that Virgin have some dates available from £295 return on the same route, a £25 discount doesn’t really make for a great use of 20,000 points! For long haul, the better option is usually to save up a few more points and use against an upgraded ticket. For example, the same route is 35,000 points + £448 taxes for a Premium seat, which represents much better value against the standard price which starts at £800+ (in this case you’re getting at least 1p per point).

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always worth doing the maths before you book (price ÷ points = point value). If you’re getting a lot less than 1p per point for flights, then it might be worth reviewing your options – for example, could you get better value using the points for the hotel rather than the flight?


Shopping


There are a few shopping options for Amex Membership Reward points (none of them offer anywhere near the value you can get on hotels, flights or experiences):

1) A direct statement credit – which you can use against any transactions on the card. For this you £4.50 per 1000 points, so £90 for 20,000 points.

2) You can transfer the points to Nectar, at a slightly better value of 0.5p per point (Amex to Nectar transfer at 1:1), so 20,000 points would give you £100 to spend at a Nectar partner.

3) Exchange for a Gift voucher via Amex – £25 voucher is 5,000 points, so again 0.5p per point and 20,000 points = £100. Partners include Amazon, Costco, TopShop, M&S.

Gift vouchers will give a better return than statement credits or ‘pay with points’, but you can only exchange set amounts (e.g. 5000, 10000 or 20000 points). However, assuming you’re making a purchase with a gift voucher partner – you could buy the maximum amount and then use any remaining points as a statement credit at a slightly lower 0.45p against that transaction.

So what could 20,000 points get you?

How about:

  • 82 litres of unleaded fuel at Sainsbury’s with Nectar points!
  • An Amazon Echo Smart Speaker or Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (both £89.99, so £10 spare if you use gift vouchers)
  • A £100 M&S Gift Voucher
  • £90 statement credit against a transaction at ANY store which accepts American Express

Subscriptions


Subscription payments can be set up directly through your American Express account. This means your monthly payments for applicable services can be paid automatically from your points each month. This feature is called ‘auto redeem’ and, as long as you have points on your account, they will be used against transactions with your selected service each month. These are applied at a standard rate of 0.45p per point (£4.50 per 1000 points) – again this is roughly half the value you’d get for some travel options. It means 20,000 points would get you £90 of subscription credit. The following subscription services are eligible:

Spotify – 20,000 points = 9 free months of Premium

Netflix – 20,000 points = 16 free months of basic or 9 free months of Premium.

As you’ll note from both of the 20,000 points articles, the returns you can get will vary significantly depending on your option, so it’s always worth doing some research. As an absolute minimum 20,000 points is worth £90 to spend, but potentially it could easily get you £200 worth of flights or hotel stays.

Don’t forget that if you’re considering applying then this link will bag you 2,000 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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