American Express Essential Guide

The American Express Essential Card comes with a range of benefits that are appealing to the mainstream consumer – but not necessarily those that are reward points focused. I’d say that rewards points are a benefit of the card, rather than a focus.

The card has no annual fee (as a feature of the card, not an offer), comes with smartphone screen insurance, and 0% on balance transfers for 12 months.
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The ultimate guide to the American Express Membership Rewards program

American Express Membership Rewards is the go-to program of choice for the savvy points collector, with the most airline and hotel points transfer partners of the major credit card points programs.

It is where I focus most of my efforts in collecting my points and is the first rewards program I advise anyone who wants to spend a little time understanding the value of flexible points programs to look at. Continue reading…

Guide to the American Express Referral Program

The American Express referral program is a simple way to gain some extra bonus points from your American Express credit card account by referring friends or family for their own new account by using a personalised referral link.

The program has been expanded to allow referrers to promote other American Express cards within the same ‘family’, beyond only the card they hold.

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When should you use points vs cash at Starwood hotels across Australia & the Pacific?

Starpoints are at the top of our list of favourite points currencies due to the relative difficulty of obtaining them (meaning they are less popular) and their excellent versatility in redemption options at Starwood, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties, as well as transferring to a wide range of airline partners for flight redemptions.

If you haven’t read up on the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program, here is a good place to start.

In this guide, we identify all Starwood properties in Australia and the Pacific Islands and analyse when it makes sense to use your Starpoints and when to use cold hard cash. Continue reading…

American Express Lounge Sydney overview

I first visited the American Express-branded lounge at Sydney International Terminal 1 when it opened back in 2015. Since then, the Point Hacks team has gotten to visit the lounge a number of times, so we’ve updated this guide with new photos, a wifi speed test and a comparison with the SkyTeam Lounge next door.

There is a range of American Express cards on the market that will offer you access to the lounge, which is a really solid perk, so for Sydney residents who are premium American Express cardholders (or anyone who has to travel through Sydney International a lot), this is a nice benefit.

I also got the chance to chat with the Product Manager at American Express who was responsible for launching the lounge about how it came about. In this guide, there’s a mix of American Express-supplied images along with my own photos, and I’ll give you my take on the lounge too. Continue reading…

Are you getting up to 10,000 bonus Amex points by shopping local?

American Express first launched their Local Champion game back in 2013, which allows users of their apps to earn an additional bonus point per $ spent at retailers where they shop the most.
 
The premise is pretty simple: Amex knows the physical merchants where you use your card the most and is willing to reward you with an additional bonus point per dollar spent at those merchants if you become the ‘Local Champion’ for that specific store. Continue reading…

What can you use 100,000 Amex Ascent Membership Rewards points for?

Amex Membership Rewards is one of the most valuable and versatile points reward programs out there, with plenty of airline partners and good transfer rates all round. If you are not familiar with the program, you can check out our full guide to Amex Membership Rewards here.

In this guide, we cover the main airline partners to see what sort of redemptions you can score with 100,000 Membership points.

An overview of Amex Membership Rewards

Redemption options can be grouped the into four broad categories:

  1. Flights (which we delve into in this guide)
  2. Shopping
  3. Experiences
  4. Hotels

One of the best aspects of Amex Membership Rewards is its flexibility. If you do not have a specific redemption in mind that you are saving up for, keeping your points in your Membership Rewards account lets you keep your options open. Membership Rewards points also will not expire.

Not only that, the conversion rate that you get between Amex and its partner programs will not devalue your points. Amex also run transfer bonuses every now and then that are worth looking out for.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between American Express Membership Rewards:

  • Ascent points, which transfer to most partners at a higher ratio of 1:1 but are only available through cards with generally higher annual fees like the Platinum Charge; and
  • Gateway points, which transfer at a lower rate of 1:0.75 but are accessible through cards with lower annual fees, like the Explorer

At the ordinary rate, the conversions on 100,000 Membership Rewards points are shown in the table below:

Partner program100,000 Amex Membership Points convert to
Qantas Frequent Flyer100,000
Virgin Australia Velocity100,000
Asia Miles100,000
Singapore KrisFlyer100,000
Etihad Guest100,000
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club100,000
Emirates Skywards75,000
Air New Zealand Airpoints1,000
Hilton HHonors100,000
Marriott Rewards
(formerly SPG)
66,666

Flight redemptions

Flights are going to be the obvious reward for most people, and there are plenty of choices.

Flight redemptions can also deliver the best value in terms of bang for your buck (or rather, bang for your point). If you are new to points redemption, check out our article on how to get the most value per point.

We have covered some of the redemptions you can get with your 100,000 Membership points for each airline below.

Sydney-San-Francisco-QF73-Qantas-Business-Class.jpg

You can fly in Qantas Business Class from Sydney to Tokyo return for 80,000 Amex Membership Rewards points transferred to Asia Miles

In the interest of keeping things simple, we intentionally have not covered upgrade redemptions. However if you already have plans to fork out for a flight, you may want to consider an upgrade.

If you are not fussy about which airline you fly with and just want to get the best value for your points, we recommend going straight to Asia Miles, since they seem to be able to get you to the furthest places for the lowest amount of points.

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Qantas fans should check out our best value Qantas redemption guide.

Qantas A380 on take-off

Whilst Economy Class redemptions often do not represent the best value redemptions, at least you’ll be on the jet lag-reducing A380 flying from Sydney or Melbourne to LA or Dubai return for 90,000 points

With 100,000 Membership rewards you can get the following return Qantas flights:

Fare ClassOriginDestinationPoints
EconomySydney or MelbourneLos Angeles90,000
EconomySydney or MelbourneDubai90,000
EconomyBrisbaneJohannesburg90,000
Premium EconomySydneyHong Kong90,000
BusinessSydneyBali or Jakarta100,000
BusinessMelbourneFiji (Nadi)100,000
BusinessPerthAuckland100,000

However, if you are planning on flying with Qantas, it is worth checking in with Asia Miles first since they are a Qantas partner and the redemption may cost you less points through Asia Miles than if redeemed directly through Qantas.

Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer

If you are a Velocity fan, be sure to read our guide on the six ways to get the most out of your Velocity points. You can get these return routes if you convert your Amex points to Velocity:

Fare ClassOriginDestinationPoints
EconomySydney or MelbourneLos Angeles89,600
EconomySydney or MelbourneSan Francisco89,600
EconomyPerthAbu Dhabi84,000
Premium EconomySydneyHong Kong89,400
Premium EconomyMelbourneHong Kong89,400
Premium EconomyBrisbaneTokyo89,400
BusinessPerthKuala Lumpur99,000
BusinessMelbourneBali99,000

If you wanted to splurge on only a one-way Business Class leg of your journey, 100k points could also get you from Sydney or Brisbane to Los Angeles, with nearly all flights on Virgin’s new 777 Business product below:

Virgin Australia new 2015 Business Class A330-777 Seat (9)

Got another place in mind? You can check out the Velocity points table to see how far your points can go.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Asia Miles is a flexible airline program with 25 airline partners including Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines.

In terms of flight redemptions, Asia Miles is often the best option out of all of the Amex Membership reward programs for travel with oneworld airlines. Not only does it give you broad flexibility in terms of airlines and destinations, it also has the lowest cost redemptions.

Even if you are dead set on flying with Qantas, it is best to check with Asia Miles first before converting your Amex points, since it might offer more value.

For instance a return Sydney to New York economy flight redeemed through Qantas would cost you 120,000 points. However, the same Qantas flight through Asia Miles only costs 94,000 points.

New York

Get to New York on the same Qantas flight for 26,000 points less just by redeeming through Asia Miles instead of Qantas Frequent Flyer

We have listed some interesting redemption options below, but you can search for any specific redemption cost here.

Fare ClassOriginDestinationAirlinePoints
EconomySydneyNew YorkQantas or American Airlines94,000
EconomyMelbourneVancouverQantas94,000
EconomyPerthParisQantas or British Airways94,000
BusinessMelbourneShanghaiAir China100,000
BusinessSydneyTokyoQantas100,000

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

KrisFlyer is also one of the better redemption options for flights. With KrisFlyer, your 100,000 Membership points can get you First Class return flights to many places in Asia, or return Economy flights as far as Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Note that Krisflyer announced some changes on their award pricing from 23 March 2017 onwards, eliminating both the 15% online booking discount and fuel surcharges. All figures below have been updated accordingly.

Fare ClassOriginDestinationPoints
EconomyAustralia (excl Perth/Darwin)Los Angeles110,000
EconomyAustralia (excl Perth/Darwin)Europe (Paris,
Amsterdam, London etc.)
106,000
Premium EconomyAustralia (excl Perth/Darwin)Hong Kong90,000
BusinessPerth or DarwinBeijing or Shanghai100,000
FirstPerth or DarwinHong Kong95,000
FirstPerth or DarwinKuala Lumpur95,000
FirstPerth or DarwinBangkok95,000

Singapore First Class

Singapore Airlines has one of the best First Class products in the world

This handy table shows the points redemption cost for other destinations with KrisFlyer.

Emirates Skywards

Flight redemption options with Emirates are limited.

Converting to Emirates will net you 75,000 Skyward Miles. This will get you from Australia to Emirates’ Dubai hub, but no further.

Alternatively, if you paid for your own Emirates flight in Economy Class to Europe, you could use points to upgrade one leg of your journey to Business Class.

Upgrades from Australia to a number of European locations (e.g. Paris, London, Amsterdam) would cost 78,000-81,250 points. However, your original fare would need to be at least a Flexible Economy ticket.

Check out the Emirates calculator if you have specific redemptions in mind.

Etihad Guest

Etihad also has limited redemption options compared to Qantas and Virgin.

If you would like the option of flying Etihad but you are not completely set on it, you might want to consider transferring your points to Velocity instead, since Etihad is a Velocity partner. That will also give you the option of throwing in any additional Velocity points you may have earned elsewhere.

In terms of direct redemptions, 100,000 Etihad Guest miles will only get you from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi return in Economy. Alternatively, if you paid for that flight in $$ you could upgrade it to Business from Economy Saver for 88,000 points.

Other than that, 100,000 points will not get you much else by way of flights. You can use this calculator to see where you can go.

Air New Zealand Airpoints

Airpoints is not the most attractive option when it comes to flight redemptions.

Converting your 100,000 points would get you 1,000 Airpoints, which are worth $1 AUD each when redeemed. Depending on when you fly, this probably will not get you too far.

Summing up

The flexibility of Amex Membership Rewards means that you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to redemptions.

In my view, the best use of 100,000 Amex points would be a flight redemption or upgrade through Asia Miles. But as usual, make sure you take taxes into account when crunching the numbers.

KrisFlyer also has some tempting First Class redemptions available in that price range.

One thing is for sure, if you don’t know what to do with your Amex points, you should keep them in Membership Rewards. They won’t expire and you have plenty of time to work out the best way to redeem them.

American Express Platinum Charge - Up to 80,000 Membership Rewards points

With 80,000 Membership Rewards points bonus available on sign up, the American Express Platinum Charge Card is a great card for those who want to earn Membership Rewards points on everyday spend with lots of new and enhanced additional benefits. Read the Point Hacks guide for the full rundown.

  • 80,000 Membership Rewards points signup bonus
  • $450 travel credit annually
  • 3 Membership Rewards points earned per $1 spent at restaurants, 2 points earned per $1 on travel spend, and 1 point everywhere else except 0.5 points per $1 for utilities and the ATO
  • Unlimited access to over 1,200 lounge across 130 countries - including Virgin Australia Domestic, Delta, Priority Pass and American Express lounges globally
  • Access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts perks & discounts
  • Complimentary status & memberships with a number of hotel loyalty programs including Accor Plus Membership valued at $395 per year
  • Complimentary The Australian Financial Review Premium digital subscription
  • Complimentary Travel Insurance cover extended to additional card members (PDS)
  • $1450 p.a. annual fee
  • Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for this offer. Previous and existing bank-issued American Express companion cardholders are eligible for this offer.
  • Minimum spend of $3,000 in the first 3 months is required to receive bonus Membership Rewards points
  • Charge card, not credit card - balance requires payment in full each month but with no pre-set spending limit - more about this

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks receive a maximum of $300 per applicant for this card. More about this →


Looking for more inspiration for how to spend your hard-earned frequent flyer points?

Here is a comprehensive list of all of our Best Uses of Points guides. There may be some overlap but each guide has its own twist.

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Velocity Frequent Flyer

Asia Miles

KrisFlyer

Etihad Guest

Emirates Skywards

American Express Membership Rewards

Super guide! How to use points from non-Qantas credit cards for Qantas flights

It’s no secret to anyone who has been reading for a while that we think the American Express Platinum Edge card is one of the most useful credit cards around for collecting points, with its bonus point earn categories matching well to where a lot of household spend goes, and is one to consider for people starting to look into optimising their frequent flyer points.

Amex’s Membership Rewards program being a flexible rewards program offers a lot of transfer partners and gives you a lot of options with where to redeem your points.

One of the biggest objections, however, I hear from people is that you can’t transfer your points to Qantas Frequent Flyer, and that they prefer to fly on our national airline – but there are ways to use these points for Qantas flights. Continue reading…