American Express is giving cardholders a new way to redeem Membership Rewards points.
On Tuesday, AmEx announced a new feature with the travel booking site Expedia to allow cardholders to apply Membership Rewards points directly toward certain Expedia purchases. That means you can use your AmEx points to book travel on Expedia without having to transfer them first.
Here’s how it works:
- Link your account. If you have an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points, you can link it to your Expedia account via this page. If you don’t have an Expedia account, you can create one for free.
- Book your trip. Select a flight or prepaid hotel on Expedia and you will be asked at checkout whether you’d like to apply your American Express Membership points to your total. Points are worth about 0.7 cents apiece when redeemed this way.
- Look for your savings. If you pay with points on Expedia, the American Express card linked to your account will be charged the full amount of the purchase. American Express will then apply your redeemed points as a credit on your account in two to four business days. For example, if you used 2,000 points toward your Expedia purchase, you’d get roughly $14 back as a statement credit.
This new feature comes with some caveats:
- The redemption value could be higher. Getting 0.7 cent per point is OK, but you can get more value out of your rewards by using American Express’s other redemption options, some of which offer 1 cent per point.
- Rewards can’t be combined. You can’t combine Membership Rewards points from different AmEx cards. Also, you also can’t combine your Expedia points with your Membership Rewards points.
- You can’t apply Membership Rewards points to all Expedia purchases. You can use Membership Rewards points only for flights and prepaid hotels — not other purchases, such as travel packages, cruises or car rentals.
In addition to the new integration with Expedia, American Express also has been sprucing up its point-transfer options.
Last month, it added British Airways and Spain’s Iberia Airlines as 1:1 transfer partners. (Previously, cardholders could make transfers to these loyalty programs only at a 5:4 ratio.) Through Sept. 17, 2017, cardholders can get 40% more points on top of that 1:1 transfer when they transfer rewards to these programs. The catch is cardholders will still have to pay a fee to make such transfers.
When you transfer AmEx points to a frequent flyer program, the company charges an excise tax offset fee of 0.06 cents per point, with a maximum fee of $99.
Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ideclaire7.