American Express Membership Rewards cards have a somewhat hidden option – you can buy points to top up your account for a redemption, and the cost is not actually that unreasonable.
This is possible for Membership Rewards-linked cards, and at $25 for 1,000 points, or 2.5c per point, they are not worth buying speculatively. It’s still cheaper than buying from the airline though, and there are some circumstances where buying points at this price does make sense.
In this guide I’ll run through why you might want to make a points purchase and how to do it.
There’s no existing information about this on the American Express website that I’ve found – the info in this post has been collated from various conversations from American Express phone agents and points-purchasers themselves.
And this only applies to cards issued by American Express directly.
So if you do find differently to any of the pointers in this guide, please let us know in the comments.
Why you might want to purchase Membership Rewards, Velocity or Qantas points from American Express
This means that you’ll get most value by seeing how many points you already have, figuring out how you want to use them, and if you’re short – buy up to how many you need.
Now most frequent flyer programs that Membership Rewards partner with do not allow points purchases, or if they do, it is at a much higher rate than 2.5c per point and have to be bought alongside making a specific redemption.
Buying a top-up when you’re a few thousand points short, and you know there’s a seat waiting to be redeemed that suits your needs, could be a useful way to secure it earlier – rather than having to wait until you’ve earned another few thousand points from your day to day spend.
Qantas (for Platinum Charge cardholders only), Velocity, KrisFlyer and Asia Miles will be the key candidates where this makes sense. In some cases Etihad Guest also. There are plenty of other guides on Point Hacks on the best use of your points, so I won’t go into that here.
Things to know when making the purchase of Membership Rewards points
This is all completed over the phone with American Express through the regular phone number you call on the back of your credit or charge card.
The pricing is $25 per 1,000 points, and points need to be purchased in 1,000 chunks.
(Note that I have heard that pricing for some American Express cards like the Gold Charge card could be different. If you find this, please comment to let us know).
There are no documented maximum limits to the number of points that can be bought, although I guess these could be imposed if some kind of abuse of the system was put in place. I can’t think what that would be though.
When you buy Membership Rewards points you’ll need to redeem/transfer them over to a partner program at the time of purchase, so you probably should be in the mindset of buying them for a specific use.
If there is a points transfer bonus promotion running – I’m looking at you Velocity – then the purchased points should also pick up the bonus on offer as well.
Points should be purchaseable immediately on request, with the transfer initiated at the same time (with then the usual lead times applicable for transferring points to partner programs).
And finally, you won’t earn more points on the purchase of points too.
Summing up – when and why to purchase points from American Express
This makes most sense if you need a specific number of points to ensure you can make a specific redemption happen – say if you have enough points for 2.5 tickets in your family, not three, and you can see the award space available to book now.
In some niche cases it could make sense to buy points outright to redeem them immediately – those are few and far between at the 2.5c per point price.
This option is essentially just another tool to add to your points earn and redemption toolbox if you hold an American Express-issued rewards credit or charge card.