Ahead of sweeping changes to the points-earning rate of American Express cards from April 2019, AMEX is doubling the points balance of a select group of cardholders. Are you set for a sudden Membership Rewards points bonanza?
Why American Express is doubling Membership Rewards points
The looming revamp of American Express' Membership Rewards program will impact both earning and conversion rates, with cuts of up to 63% to AMEX points-earning power.
But beyond how many points can be earned on purchases once the changes kick in from April 15 2019, cardholders are also concerned about the value of the points they’ve already piled up.
Once the new 'exchange rates' for converting Membership Rewards to partner airline or hotel loyalty schemes are introduced, any Membership Rewards points sitting in your account will effectively plummet in value.
For example, an AMEX Platinum Charge Card holder with 500,000 points in the Membership Rewards Ascent Premium scheme would currently be sitting on a bounty worth half a million frequent flyer points in programs like Velocity and KrisFlyer, given the current 1:1 transfer rate.
Yet once the conversion rates switch to a less-generous 2:1, those same 500,000 Membership Rewards points would be worth only 250,000 airline frequent flyer points.
To reduce the inevitable pain for many premium customers and offset this exchange rate reset, American Express is now offering to double the number of Membership Rewards points that some ‘high value’ cardholders have in their account.
Although a spokeswoman for American Express declined to go on the record and confirm this one-off arrangement, many of its Australian cardholders have received letters outlining how the double your points promotion will work.
American Express doubling Membership Rewards points: who’s eligible?
For starters, this isn’t a blanket offer open to all cardholders: it’s a targeted promotion mainly for Platinum Charge Card and Centurion customers, who earn points in the highest Ascent Premium tier of Membership Rewards.
As such, the doubling of points isn’t to be ‘expected’ – and double points can’t be requested, either – but if American Express decides that you’re eligible for this offer, you’ll find mention of it in the letter you’ll receive (or have already received) from AMEX, outlining the changes.
Here’s the line you’ll want to look out for:
As a valued American Express Platinum Card (or Centurion) Member and in recognition of the redemption rate changes, we will protect the value of your existing points balance by automatically crediting your account with the same amount of Membership Rewards points that you have at 1:00am AEST on 15 April 2019. For example, if your balance is 100,000 points we will credit an additional 100,000 points. The additional points will be added into your account by 15 June 2019. There’s no need to call us or enrol.
If the letter you receive from American Express doesn’t include this paragraph, or you’re unsure, “Card Members should refer to the letter they have received and call the number on the back of their card if they need any further information,” an AMEX spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller.
American Express doubling Membership Rewards points: what it means
If you’re one of those customers targeted by AMEX’s double points offer you can breathe easy, knowing that the value of the points you’ve already earned will be maintained from next year.
For example, having 500,000 Ascent Premium points in your account today would currently unlock 500,000 airline frequent flyer points, when converted at a 1:1 rate.
Once that rate changes to 2:1, but your existing balance of points is doubled, your new tally of 1,000,000 Ascent Premium points will still be worth 500,000 airline frequent flyer points.
It’s not a case of receiving double frequent flyer points, as such – the double points offer merely preserves the value of the points you’ve already earned, so that when you later convert them into frequent flyer points, you won’t be worse off compared to today.
Just note that while the new frequent flyer conversion rates kick in from April 15 2019, that serving of double points may not arrive until June 15 2019. You’ll temporarily have access to fewer frequent flyer points from your credit card until the system catches up and credits you with those double points, to get you back to where you were before the changes took effect.
It’s not that you’ll lose anything by converting your balance between April 15 and June 15 – the ‘double points’ received will be based on your April 15 balance, after all – it’s just that you’ll temporarily have access to fewer points during that short window, so plan your trips or points conversions accordingly.
American Express doubling Membership Rewards points: if you're not eligible
Australian Business Traveller understands that Membership Rewards Ascent and Gateway members are not being targeted by this double points deal, but as always, carefully read the letter AMEX has sent you, just in case: and for official confirmation on the changes.
Assuming your points balance isn’t being doubled, you’ll have until April 14 2019 to use or convert your Membership Rewards points at the current, more advantageous rates – that's generally 1:1 for Ascent members and 4:3 for Gateway members, before those rates become 2:1 from April 15.
Just watch out for each frequent flyer program’s points expiry rules – particularly if you don’t yet have a concrete plan as to how you spend those points – because a point expired is a point wasted!