Best ways to use 120,000 Membership Rewards points

Forget long-haul air travel. Discover the best ways to redeem 120,000 Membership Rewards Points on the ground

If you’re an American Express Card Member, chances are you’ve heard of the Membership Rewards program. This flexible rewards scheme is linked to popular Amex credit and charge cards, including the American Express Platinum Card, American Express Explorer Credit Card and American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card.

120,000 Membership Rewards ‘Ascent’ points transfer to 60,000 points or miles with leading airline programs such as Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Velocity Frequent Flyer.

But how to best spend a stash of points in the current climate? We’ve put together an article to help you discover realistic redemption opportunities that are accessible in the short to medium term.

First up: Why I love the American Express Membership Rewards program

As a seasoned points collector, I value American Express Membership Rewards above all other loyalty programs.

Why? With the ability to transfer points to multiple airline and hotel partners, or to redeem for gift cards and charges, Amex Membership Rewards is about as flexible as it gets.

Plus, if you’d rather wait to redeem in the future, the fact that there’s no points expiry means you can save your nest egg and use it at a later date.

From domestic flights to credits on your account, future international travel and more, we’ve compiled a list of the very best ways Amex cardholders could look to redeem 120,000 Membership Rewards points right now.

Domestic redemptions with Virgin Australia (up to 60,000 Velocity Points)

When it comes to spending Membership Rewards points, frequent flyers in the know have traditionally opted for premium cabin seats and upgrades on international routes. But with ongoing restrictions on air travel, an increasing number of us are looking to redeem points closer to home.

Virgin Australia maintains an extensive network of domestic routes. A stash of 120,000 Membership Rewards points is the equivalent of 60,000 Velocity Frequent Flyer Points and enough to get you travelling extensively. Here’s what you could book.

virgin australia plane

Up to seven short-haul flights in Virgin Australia economy

With a balance of 60,000 Velocity Points, you could book seven zone one domestic flight rewards in economy. Zone one covers travel under 600 miles (965 km), with a redemption costing just 7,800 Velocity Points (excluding taxes/fees).

The Virgin Australia network is extensive, with a number of Zone One routes on offer. This includes:

• Sydney-Melbourne
• Sydney-Gold Coast
• Adelaide-Melbourne
• Perth-Kalgoorlie

Three short-haul Virgin Australia business flight redemptions

Prefer to travel in business class? A zone one business class redemption costs just 15,500 Velocity Points (excluding taxes/fees). With 60,000 Velocity Points, you could extract three one-way redemptions, with plenty of points left over. To extract maximum value, consider using your points to redeem for regional routes where cash fares are typically high.

Two upgrades to Virgin Australia business on trans-continental routes

Virgin Australia operates multiple trans-continental routes, including Sydney – Perth, Melbourne – Perth and Brisbane – Perth. While these routes are no longer operated on the A330, at over four hours of travel, many travellers would find it attractive to upgrade to a premium cabin for extra comfort.

A discount economy ticket on a trans-continental route requires 30,000 points to upgrade, so with 60,000 Velocity Points, it’s possible to nab two upgrades or a return journey.

Trans-Tasman redemptions

While international travel will be off the cards for some time, ongoing efforts to open up a ‘trans-Tasman bubble’ mean that flights between Australia and New Zealand may become a reality in the not too distant future.

And when it comes to flying across the ditch, the Membership Rewards program unlocks some of the best redemption opportunities to be found. Here’s how you could look to spend your points if a trans-Tasman travel bubble opens up.

Four one way Air New Zealand business redemptions between Australia and New Zealand (60,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles)

Did you know that it’s possible to book a jaunt in trans-Tasman business class for just 15,000 miles (excluding taxes/fees)?

Virgin Atlantic isn’t an airline program we hear much about in Australia, but it’s one that absolutely should be on your radar if you hold a credit card that earns into the Membership Rewards program.

American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at a 2:1 rate to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. So, by taking up our exclusive offer on the American Express Gold Business Card, you’d have enough points to unlock four one way redemptions between Australia and New Zealand in business class (excluding taxes/fees).

Virgin Atlantic counts Air New Zealand as a partner, unlocking flight redemptions in Air New Zealand business class between Australian cities and Auckland for just 15,000 miles one way (plus applicable taxes/fees). Conversely, a one way business class redemption on Qantas between Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide and Auckland costs 41,500 Qantas Points plus applicable taxes/fees.

Air New Zealand’s Business Premier product is true, international-grade business class, featuring pre-departure Lounge access, a spacious herringbone lie-flat seat, exceptional customer service and plenty of Champagne on pour.

Singapore Airlines increases the cost of Star Alliance redemptions
Air New Zealand dreamliner business class

When it comes to the practicalities of accessing this redemption, we’ve recently found good availability of seats on Air New Zealand’s routes between Australian cities and Auckland. You can find out more about award availability for this redemption in our post here.

Personally speaking, this is one of my favourite uses of Membership Rewards points, and I’ve booked a number of redemptions for later in the year in anticipation of the Australia and New Zealand travel bubble opening up.

Six one way Air New Zealand economy redemptions between Australia and New Zealand (60,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles)

Prefer to redeem economy? Booking in Air New Zealand economy class between Australian cities and Auckland costs just 10,000 Virgin Atlantic miles (plus taxes/fees), and this arguably represents great value, too.

The value proposition on offer here is especially good for Perth-Auckland, which is a medium-haul route at over seven hours.

And with Air New Zealand offering up to four seats on some dates, families who can’t usually push their points haul far could often find an opportunity to travel together.

Redeem for $600 value in gift cards (120,000 Membership Rewards points)

We don’t often cover gift card redemptions, simply because the value offered by Membership Rewards points here is typically much lower than flights or upgrades.

However, in the midst of the current pandemic, an increasing number of American Express card members are opting to redeem Membership Rewards points for gift cards.

When it comes to gift card redemptions, the Membership Rewards program is very straight forward. With a swag of 120,000 points, it’s possible to extract $600 in value from gift cards via multiple brands.

amex gift cards
Just some of the gift cards on offer via Membership Rewards. Source: American Express

We’ve listed out some of the most popular retailers in the table below:

RetailerValueMembership Rewards points needed

It’s worth noting that gift cards on offer via Membership Rewards come in specific denominations (usually $50, $100, $200 and $500). Depending on your preferred retailer, in order to redeem 120,000 Membership Rewards points for the full $600, you may need to purchase multiple Gift Cards.

Apply a $600 credit to your Card Account (120,000 Membership Rewards points)

Finally, did you know that you can use Membership Rewards points for credit on your card? Points can be used toward eligible charges that appear in your ‘Recent Activity’ or ‘Current Statement’.

Simply login to your online account. At the dashboard, select the ‘use points for charges’ option below your points balance and apply your points to charges with a single click.

American Express use points for charges

120,000 Membership Rewards points is the equivalent of $600 credit towards your Card Account.

Using points for charges could be a convenient redemption option for those who might be reluctant to redeem for travel or goods right now.

Summing up

In uncertain times, it’s not hard to see why flexible points currencies like American Express Membership Rewards hold great appeal.

In this article, we’ve focussed on tangible redemption options that are realistic in the short to medium term.

That said, if you’d rather wait to redeem in the future once international travel opens up, with no expiry on Membership Rewards points, you can save up your nest egg and plan that dream overseas redemption at a later date.

This article has been prepared in partnership with American Express.

The redemption options we’ve highlighted in this article are current as of 15 February 2021 and may be subject to change. Membership Rewards redemptions are subject to program T&Cs and availability.

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