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How to Redeem Your American Express Membership Rewards Points for Holiday Gifts

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If money is a little tight this year, you may find your American Express Membership Rewards points balance is higher than your savings account balance. If you fall into this camp, you may wonder how you can turn some of your Membership Rewards points into holiday gifts this winter.

Give the Gift of Travel

Typically I'd recommend redeeming your points for a trip. Travel is one of the best gifts you can give anyone — especially if you can give your time and the gift of travel together. Also, redeeming your Membership Rewards points for travel will generally provide the most value for your points.

However, not everyone can travel or wants to travel. Although redeeming your points for travel generally provides the most value on a cents-per-point basis, the best redemption is the one that helps you meet your goals. Right now, your individual goals may not involve a flight or hotel.

Booking Award Travel for Others

Some transferable rewards programs let you share rewards with others. However, Amex is one of the more restrictive programs when it comes to sharing. Specifically, Amex only allows you to transfer Membership Rewards points to your loyalty accounts or the loyalty accounts of your authorized users.

Luckily, most airline and hotel loyalty programs allow you to book awards for others when traveling together. Some loyalty programs even allow you to book travel for others when they're traveling without you. So, you may be able to give the gift of travel this holiday season by booking award travel for others.

Transfer Partners

If you're looking to book award travel this holiday season, you can transfer your points to the following Membership Rewards transfer partners:

  • Airline 1
  • Airline 2
  • Hotel 1
  • Hotel 2

Pay with Points

Amex Pay with Points allows you to redeem Membership Rewards points for 1 cent each when you book airfare through Amex Travel. So, a $1,000 flight would cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points if you use The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card.

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However, cardholders of select Amex business cards get a rebate when using Pay with Points for airfare as follows:

  • Cardholder 1
  • Cardholder 2
  • Cardholder 3

Best of all, you can book a flight for anyone using Pay with Points.

Gift Cards

You can also redeem Membership Rewards points for a variety of gift cards. However, redemption rates depend on the type of gift card and current (targeted) offers available:

  • Gift Card 1
  • Gift Card 2
  • Gift Card 3

Pay with Points at Checkout

Pay with Points isn't just for travel. You can use Pay with Points at checkout when you shop with various merchants, including Amazon, Best Buy, Dell, Grubhub, Seamless, PayPal, Rite Aid, Saks Fifth Avenue and Staples.

However, paying with points at these merchants usually isn't a good use of your points if you're looking for the best return. You'll only get 0.7 cents per point for the merchants listed above when you redeem Membership Rewards points. So, a $700 purchase would cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points.

Donate to Charity

You can also donate your points to charity. Specifically, you can donate to more than 1.5 million U.S. charities through JustGiving with Amex Pay with Points.

You'll get 0.7 cents per point when you make a JustGiving redemption. So, 100,000 Membership Rewards points would provide $700 toward the charity you choose.

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Cover Your Purchases

If you buy gifts on your card from merchants that don't participate in Pay with Points, you might consider using Membership Rewards points to cover your purchases.

Although you can redeem Membership Rewards points to cover recent charges on your card, doing so will only provide a redemption rate of 0.6 cents per point. So, you'd need 100,000 points to cover a $600 charge.

Shop with Membership Rewards

Finally, you can also use Shop with Membership Rewards. However, when you buy products from the Shop with Membership Rewards catalog, you'll only get 0.5 cents per point of value.

You'd need 100,000 Membership Rewards points for $500 of purchases through the catalog. So, even when sales offer 30% off, you may still be better off redeeming for other options discussed above.

If cash is tight or you have a large stash of points, you may want to use your American Express Membership Rewards points for holiday gifts. Whether you want to give the gift of travel or redeem points for gift cards, there are plenty of ways to make the most of your rewards this holiday season.