Since July 2012, MS Society has offered 5,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for donations of $150 (or more). It’s a super easy way to top your Membership Rewards account – essentially you are buying points for 3c / point, however donations to charity are tax deductible, so depending on your income tax rate, you can get the real cost down to less than 2c per point.
It’s no secret around these parts that I love American Express Membership Rewards points – you can read my full Membership Rewards guide here. The flexibility Membership Rewards points offer, and the manner in which they can be earned faster than other Credit Card program points, are a great advantage over other programs in Australia. However, it’s always worth having on hand some options to boost your points balance, even if it does mean spending money, if you’re trying to reach a specific goal.
This bonus seems to be repeatable across multiple donations, despite the MS Society donation page having a slightly hidden popup which says bonus points are only available once. In practice, the bonus points have been credited for each transaction on my account, and the Amex offer terms don’t reference this restriction.
This ‘deal’ from MS Society has been around for nearly two years, but it’s worth resurfacing again as it could possibly end in June, and may yield Membership Rewards points for around 2c per point, depending on your tax rate. Note that I’ve reworked the original post on this from last year, and brought along the comments too as there’s some useful thoughts in there.
How I used this offer
Last year I was trying to increase my Membership Rewards balance for an exceedingly good redemption from Europe to Sydney on Malaysia Airlines, which we ended up flying over Christmas.
I was about 30,000 Membership Rewards points short to book for 3 people, so I needed a way I could get those points as quickly and reasonably as possible.
My thoughts on taking advantage of this
American Express themselves offer to sell you points at $25 per 1000 – an effective cost of 2.5c / point – so this is a better deal than buying points directly from the source, assuming your income tax rate provides an effective discount that’s greater than 16%.
MS Society most likely pay American Express a decent chunk for the 5,000 points they offer, but clearly it’s a worthwhile proposition for them – and it’s a nice warm fuzzy feeling to donate and receive points than just pay the bank for them.
My advice would be to not over-indulge in this deal – there are a few potential hoops to jump through or loopholes that might screw it up – Amex may not post the points quickly, your accountant or the ATO might not like the multiple donations, or the multiple donation loophole may get shut down. However this has been out there for nearly two years, so I can’t see anything changing any time soon.
I’ll let you draw your own judgment on this – but for me, I made 6 donations over the course of a couple of weeks and had points credit in good time for each. Now I’m done and won’t use it again.
In many circumstances, it’s not going to be worth ‘buying’ points at this price. However, with the combination of the Malaysia Airlines great value redemption on the route and dates I was interested in, it meant I could easily top my Membership Rewards account in a cost-effective way.