American Express’ Points for Presents – redeeming your Membership Rewards points for holiday gifts

American Express’ Points for Presents – redeeming your Membership Rewards points for holiday gifts

American Express recently approached me about being one of 12 “lifestyle experts” for their “Points for Presents” holiday campaign, showcasing how American Express card members can redeem Membership Rewards points for gifts this holiday season.

The opportunity turned out too tempting to pass up, if for no other reason than that it makes me a “lifestyle expert.” You see, my mother and I are always going back and forth about my life. She tells me my “lifestyle” of sitting in front of the computer 14 hours a day isn’t good for me. I remind her some of her habits aren’t good either. I figure after this I’m more credentialed as a lifestyle expert than her, which is a huge win in my case. With that out of the way…

Frequent readers of this blog know that I transfer most of my Membership Rewards points to American Express’ excellent airline partners (and I’m saving up points to fly Singapore Airlines Suites as we speak). That being said, at the end of the day a good use of your points is any use that makes you happy, and that’s something I’ll always stand by, whether you’re getting a value of one cent per point or 10 cents per point.

For those that like redeeming Membership Rewards points for merchandise, American Express has put together a great holiday gift catalog, which can be found here. They even have some discounts on really popular items, which is awesome. You can find all my picks and the picks of the 11 other “lifestyle experts” here.

With that in mind, here’s what’s on my list:

Bose® SIE2i sport headphones

I’ve flown over two million “butt-in-seat” miles, and I love the Bose Quiet Comfort headphones, which I’ve had for about eight years now. They’re simply fantastic. But over the years I’ve also found myself trying to make my carry-on as light and compact as possible, and part of that has involved removing the Bose Quiet Comfort headphones from my carry-on on many trips.

I made the switch to Bose in-ear headphones, and love them. First of all, they’re great on planes, and the audio quality is surprisingly good for such small headphones. But the other purpose they serve is that they’re great for hotels. If you’re on the road a lot and like to use hotel gyms, you’re probably sick of using the dirty, cheap on-ear headphones they provide. These headphones are a great substitute, as they can be plugged in almost anywhere. It’s great to have items in your carry-on that serve more than one purpose, and this is one of those.

The North Face® Apex Bionic Jacket

I recently moved to Seattle, which after a few months I’ve decided is merely a training facility for Chinese water torture (fortunately everything else about the city is awesome). Prior to moving to Seattle I didn’t actually have a rain jacket, though that changed the minute I got here. Back when I used to live in Florida I rarely traveled with jackets because they took up too much room. But this North Face jacket is quite compact, and has a spot in my carry-on no matter which climate I’m traveling to. Airplanes are almost always cold, so if nothing else it’s useful for staying warm while flying.

Apple iPad® with Retina display Wi-Fi + Cellular 16GB (4th Generation)

I’ve done everything I can to resist the iPad. It’s not that I don’t want one, I just dont’t want it taking up any more room in my carry-on. I already have a MacBook Air and iPhone, so I didn’t see much of a use for it. But for my past few trips I’ve thought about it more carefully, and am finally seeing the “light” as to situations where it would come in handy. I take about 200 flights per year, each of which begins boarding about 30 minutes before departure. That’s 100 “wasted” hours per year. I’d much rather be doing something during that time, be it catching up on email or watching an episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” It’s just one of the many cases where it would come in handy.

Transfer Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios

Through January 14, 2013, Membership Rewards is offering a 30% transfer bonus to British Airways Executive Club. This increases the transfer ratio to 1,000:1,300, and is a great way to fly friends and family home for the holidays. British Airways partners with both American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, so it’s possible to redeem Membership Rewards points for travel on them.

They also have a very reasonable award chart for short distances, as a domestic award will cost you as few as 4,500 Avios for a one-way ticket. While award availability over the holidays isn’t generally great this late in the game, there’s still some space out there, and airlines often open up even more space as the departure date approaches.

Travel over the holidays by transferring points to British Airways

Donate Membership Rewards points to Hurricane Sandy relief

American Express lets you donate your Membership Rewards points to charity, and there’s no better option than Hurricane Sandy Relief, given how many people are still affected by it.

Anyway, those are my top gift ideas. Now, since I’m a fashion expert/clothing reseller, and apparently lifestyle expert, can I help anyone with gift ideas? Let me know in the comments section and I’m happy to make some suggestions!

Disclosure: I was selected by American Express to help educate consumers about how to use Membership Rewards points. As such I was paid for my services as an ambassador, but all gift choices selected and opinions about the gifts and American Express are my own.


  1. Redeeming Membership Rewards points for merchandise has got to be the worst use of those points that I have seen. At least with gift cards you are getting $0.01 per point exactly. Most of the merchandise redemptions are at less than $0.01 per point, although you did manage to find a couple that are over $0.01 per point. The Bose headphones are $150 retail, or $0.01227 per point. The North Face jacket is $170 or $0.01243 per point. A 16GB iPad4 + Cellular is $630 or $0.00911 per point. It always amazes me the $500 cameras that they have for 80,000 points, and similar “deals”.

  2. A little disappointed in Lucky here for not calc’ing the points per dollar on each of these like LBB Flyer above did. I remain a huge fan of this blog, and grateful for all that Lucky does to open up the world of luxury travel for us… but this post really feels sponsored in a way that’s not a good deal for readers.

  3. Lucky, now that you’re a lifestyle expert… Can I hire you to come visit me and tell me how to change my life? It’s time for a change – new home, new job, new friends, who knows?! I’m hoping you. 🙂

  4. Without taking the time to calculate the points vs. dollars, I’m looking forward to seeing what items will be offered. My boss has everything and I hope to find interesting birthday and Christmas gifts. Thanks!

  5. Lucky! This is a great idea! I have a boss who seems to have everything. I’m always looking for unusual items for birthday and Christmas gifts for him; I could really use your help! Last year, we gave him an acre of land on the moon; its been a bit tough to top that one this year. I look forward to seeing what great items are going to show up! Thanks!

  6. @ Sundance — The discounted price displays for me. At what stage in the process is it not showing for you?

  7. This is an extremely dissappointing post. In the past you seemed to have been one of the better blogs in terms of not being a total sellout to the credit card companies. But this post suggesting people possibly redeem for merchandise is one of the worst blog posts I’ve ever seen from you. It’s very sad and dissappointing that you let the credit card companies start to control your blog content. 🙁

  8. This is one of your worst posts so far. Redeem 12,224 points for a $120 pair of headphones. From getting paid for this post and your very poor suggestions, it’s clear that your motivation is to help Amex fleece customers out of their points for a very poor rate of return.

    I am also disappointed in what this blog has become. It seems like half the content consists of stupid posts about selling sweaters in club lounges, stories about getting lost driving in Bellevue, or Diet Coke and lime. I used to see what updates there were every other day and now I check for updates on a weekly basis.

  9. @ Sundance — The discounted price displays for me. At what stage in the process is it not showing for you?

    When I click on your link, it shows the regular points price. Even when I sign in, and go the regular route to get to the item, the same thing…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *