American Express has released one of its more aggressive promotions to turn Membership Rewards points into statement credits, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the summer of 2020, albeit on a targeted basis.
Targeted: Redeem MR Points for Statement Credits at 1.2cpp or 1.5cpp
Until September 30, 2022, select American Express cardholders can redeem Membership Rewards (MR) points against statement purchases at a rate of 1.2 or 1.5 cents per point (cpp). Thus, 1,000 MR points could be turned into either $12 or $15, depending on the verbiage of the offer you’ve received.
Of course, this promotion is for a limited time only, and appears to be designed to incentivize cardholders to clear large amounts of points from Amex’s books. Still, this is one of the most lucrative redemptions for cash equivalents that we’ve seen for years.
The lower offer, but still elevated from the norm, can be found on the American Express Cobalt Card for those who were targeted.
To check if you’ve been targeted for the promotion, visit the “Use Points for Purchases” section of your Amex dashboard. If you see a ratio of “1,000 Points = $15” or “1,000 Points = $12”, you’ve been targeted for the elevated redemption rate.
Otherwise, you’ll continue to see “1,000 Points = $10” as the standard rate for redeeming points for statement credits.
There’s also scope for the promotion to be more useful to cardholders of other American Express cards, because it’s possible to link your MR points together from different American Express cards.
Thus, if you’ve been selected for this promotion, you could redeem the points that you’d earned through spending or welcome bonuses on, say, the American Express Gold Rewards Card, at the elevated offer specific to its Platinum cousins.
Before you ask – nobody knows exactly what logic goes into determining which cardholders are targeted for this promotion. You either get it or you don’t, and there’s no way of determining why that’s the case.
Should You Redeem for Statement Credit or Transfer to Partners?
Before taking advantage of this limited-time offer, consider whether it’s truly worth it to you as a consumer. Getting a redemption rate above the normal 1cpp certainly isn’t a terrible value – but what about the opportunity cost that you forgo should you choose to transfer your points to airlines or hotels instead?
At present, we value Aeroplan points at 2.1cpp. Therefore, you could see a potential “loss” of 0.6cpp or 0.9cpp by redeeming for statement credit at 1.5cpp or 1.2cpp, depending on which offer you received. Similarly, we value British Airways Avios at 1.9cpp, so you could see a potential loss of 0.4cpp or 0.7cpp there.
However, before thinking too hard on these abstract points values, consider something else about booking flights on points: are you booking a flight that you want, to a destination you desire?
It’s super cool to be able to go to the Maldives on a carrier such as Qatar Airways, but if your upcoming travel goal is actually to go to Milwaukee for a convention you could redeem points against those purchases at 1.5cpp, then why look a gift horse in the mouth?
Similarly, if you’re seeing enormous dynamic pricing for a short-haul economy flight, you can consider redeeming points for a statement credit after booking a cash fare. You may wind up with a better deal this way, and you’ll also earn towards status with a cash booking.
When we analyze hotel redemptions, a similar pattern emerges. Marriott Bonvoy includes ridiculously expensive aspirational properties in their portfolio, which offer excellent value when using points. What can compete with them?
In my opinion, it comes down once again to what you value. For example, with Japan reopening, I’m feeling tempted to use my MR points to offset a prepaid stay at the oldest continuously-operating hotel in the world, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiukan. This is the sort of redemption that Bonvoy can’t buy!
Old Strategy, New Spin
Back in the summer of 2020, when lockdowns were all the rage and the light at the end of the proverbial COVID-19 tunnel seemed far away, American Express flabbergasted us with the “Double Rewards” promotion on the Platinum Card.
This had temporarily made Membership Rewards probably the single most generous cash back rewards program in Canadian loyalty history. At that time, spending at restaurants alone would net a lucky cardmember 12% in rewards!
With Double Rewards in 2020, my theory is that American Express wanted to burn its liabilities (in the form of points) at a time when the entire market felt somewhat uncertain, while also increasing goodwill with its customer base.
The reintroduction of another cash back promotion, albeit at a significantly reduced rate and on a targeted basis this time, shows that the company had seen some success in their approach, and is continuing to experiment with rewarding customers in new, more flexible ways. In a market that’s subject to rampant inflation and points devaluations, that’s a most welcome trend.
American Express is once again rolling out an enticing promotion for cardholders. Until September 30, eligible cardholders have an opportunity to meet their travel goals in any way they so choose by redeeming MR points against purchases at 1.5cpp (on the Platinum Card or Business Platinum Card) or 1.2cpp (on the Cobalt Card).
Be sure to consider whether you’d value your MR points more for a high-value Aeroplan, Avios, or Marriott Bonvoy redemption, or whether you’d rather take the cash. Everyone’s choice will be different, so make sure that you redeem points in the way that aligns with your own travel patterns.
Until next time, fly high and in style.