As travel hackers, we spend a lot of time earning points and miles as we wait for the big payday when we get to spend our hard earned rewards. So, of course, the next logical question becomes “what should I do with points and miles once I get them?” Sure, globetrotting while spending next to nothing in airfare remains the biggest goal, but are there other fulfilling ways to spoil yourself? Here’s my advice on how you should use your miles and points – keep in mind I’ll be referring to American Express because this is my favourite travel card:
Book Flights with Points
You don’t need to be a hacker to know that the best value for your membership rewards comes from transferring the points you earn through card purchases to airline partners. That’s why most people prefer redeeming for flights, with Aeroplan being the most popular rewards. You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points 1 to 1 to Aeroplan points. One thing you quickly discover as a frequent flyer is that the best value for points comes from travelling business class overseas. But don’t get me wrong: redeeming for economy seats is great too, especially if you’re able to book a flight last-minute or travelling as a family.
Aeroplan allows you to book a seat on all Air Canada flights or any other Star Alliance carrier shown below:
Aeroplan offers a number of short-haul routes at a cost of only 15000 miles return in economy class. You can also enjoy a round-trip business class flight to Western Europe (Europe 2) for only 90,000 miles.
The Aeroplan flight rewards chart below shows the list of destinations you can enjoy and the points it will cost you.
Booking flights using AMEX Membership Points on American Express Travel is another way to go.
Apart from Aeroplan, American Express MR points can be directly transferred to partner loyalty programs like British Airways Executive Club, Alitalia, Asia Miles, Delta Skymiles and Etihad guest. Conversion to Aeroplan and British Airways Executive Club is at a 1:1 rate and 1:0.75 for the other partner programs.
You can redeem your points in the catalogue membership rewards site below:
Before transferring your points you must first link your Membership Rewards account to a Travel Option account.
Book Hotels with Points
You can redeem your AMEX Membership Rewards Points in these partner hotels:
Aeroplan allows you to redeem miles for hotel stays at more than 2,800 hotels worldwide; this includes brands like Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Best Western, Westin, Sheraton, W Hotels, Le Meridien and St.Regis.
Starwood SPG has a network of over 1300 hotels represented by 11 brands and is available in over 100 countries. SPG and Marriott recently merged, meaning more travel destination options for customers. You can transfer your points between the two programs while maintaining elite status. SPG offers a conversion rate of 1,000 AMEX Membership Rewards Points for 500 Starpoints (2 to 1).
Marriott has nearly 6,000 properties in 120 countries around the world. It boasts 30 brands including Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, and The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts, to name a few.
SPG Starpoints transfer to Marriott Rewards points at a rate of 1 to 3 (1000 to 3000). You can convert your AMEX MR points to Marriott Rewards by first transferring them to SPG Starpoints (2:1 rate).
Hilton Inc. has over 4,922 properties and over 800,000 rooms spread across 104 countries and regions. It has a 3 membership levels: silver, gold, and diamond whose perks increase in the same order.
Hilton HHonors Points convert at a rate of 1,000 AMEX Membership Rewards Points for 1,500 HHonors Points (1 to 1.5).
You can also use Aeroplan and AMEX Membership Points to book a hotel directly from their web portals.
Enjoy Unforgettable Experiences
Redeeming your points for once-in-a-lifetime or unforgettable experiences is another option you have at your disposal. Through reward programs like SPG Moments and Marriott Rewards Experiences, you get to enjoy some of the biggest music, sports, and cultural events in the world. This is actually one of my favourite ways of using points, and I highly recommend it if you have the points to spare. In one of my outings, I was lucky enough to win SPG moments by auction and enjoyed the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend VIP Experience in LA where I used 65,001 SPG Starpoints.
Some of the experiences you can enjoy include:
- The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California with access to exclusive viewing areas, including all VIP areas – package for 2.
- NCAA Men’s Final Four in Phoenix, including two tickets to the semi-finals and the National Championship game, along with VIP passes to exciting events and music festivals.
- VIP Ultimate Weekend to Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monte-Carlo, including access for two to VIP hospotality on Yacht and Penthouse Apartment.
- VIP access to a live taping of The Rachael Ray Show in NYC, for a mix of entertainment, helpful tips and cooking demonstrations.
Some of the experiences you can enjoy include:
- Exclusive VIP Nightlife Experience in Las Vegas including SUV transportation, private VIP table with one bottle of vodka and Las Vegas Welcome Gift Bag.
- Two Days of Golf Instruction in Orlando, FL or Palm Desert, CA (in Marriott Hotels) including Lunch each day with your instructor and two consecutive nights’ accommodation.
- The Ultimate Bourbon Experience plus Two Nights Stay at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa in Lexington, KY.
- VIP concert tickets to the hottest musicians (Ie. The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Tom Petty, Barbra Streisand, Justin Bieber, etc..)
Redeem for merchandise, TVs, gift cards, shopping online …
This is not the best route to get value for points (usually between 0.6 to 1 cent per point), but if there’s something you’ve always wanted, I say go ahead and get it. You’ve earned them, and you can use your points however you want.
I’ve used points on a few things I always wanted, but could never justify buying with money like my passion for collecting autographed hockey jerseys; I’ve used Aeroplan points to get a Sidney Crosby Team Canada autographed jersey, as well as one from Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks.
But that’s me. There’s a ton of things you can pick from: electronics, entertainment, travel, watches, jewellery, gift cards, home furnishings, kitchen & appliances, TV’s, iPhone & iPads, golf, memorabilia… the list is endless. You can visit Aeroplan or American Express to see the different products you can buy with your points.
Paying off a charge
American Express allows you to use points to pay off your credit card bill at a rate of 1 cent per point. Not the best value, but not bad. But you can only offset bills for eligible card charges such as retail purchases, dining, groceries and more – for more information on purchases that qualify for this feature you can click here. To qualify you must have at least 1,000 available points.
My advice to you is to keep on saving your points if you want to enjoy the big payoff – your dream vacation!
Meanwhile, make sure you sign-up to my newsletter for more information to help you through your travel hacking journey.
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