American Express’ Points for Presents — topping an acre of land on the moon

As one of the 12 “experts” for American Express’ Points for Presents campaign, I was asked to give advice to a reader about how they should spend their Membership Rewards points. Reader LeiolaB asked the following:

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!

Now, an acre of land on the moon may be tough to top, though fortunately there are a wide variety of things you can use your Membership Rewards points for.

For 30,000 Membership Rewards points you could get your boss a hot air balloon ride. If things go badly there’s a chance he may just visit his acre of land on the moon (or is my understanding of science a bit off?).

If your boss hasn’t been nice to you the past year, how about spending 540 Membership Rewards points on a FarmVille Purple Cow? If he sends it to the moon it will produce milk which will yield a farmer six coins, and may produce a purple calf if placed in a Nursery Barn. He’ll be the richest land owner on the moon.

Or if he has been a really good boss, how about a catered dinner for two in his home?

Or, how about a telescope for 24,240 Membership Rewards points from which he can see his acre of land on the moon?

Or, if you’re like me and like to spend points on experiences, here’s one other idea. Why not book him a four night trip to Hawaii using your points? I’ve asked LeiolaB where her boss lives and she said San Diego, so that works out perfectly.

Membership Rewards is presently offering a 30% transfer bonus to British Airways, and they charge just 12,500 Avios for a one-way between San Diego and Hawaii for travel on their partner, Alaska Airlines. So for 50,000 Avios (40,000 Membership Rewards points) you could book him and a guest roundtrip to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines, as follows:

Then take advantage of the 35% transfer bonus Membership Rewards is offering to Virgin Atlantic to rack up some Hilton points. Transfer 56,000 Membership Rewards points, which will net you 75,600 Virgin Flying Club miles. Then you can transfer those to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio, netting you ~150,000 Hilton HHonors points.

If you have a Hilton HHonors American Express credit card, that would be enough for four nights at the Hilton Hawaiian Village using an AXON award.

Then if you really want to hook up your boss, get him some $50 Roy’s gift cards for 5,000 Membership Rewards points each, as there’s a Roy’s within walking distance of the hotel.

And remember, should your boss decide to take you as his guest, you may be entitled to compensation.

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.

Filed Under: American Express
  1. I’m kind of shocked you’d recommend anything other than points & travel. You know better than anyone that products/experiences are not the best use of points!

  2. Bingo. It’s a business decision though and it’s not one aimed at pleasing those of us who value air travel and hotel stays more than poor value redemption options like hot air balloon rides. ($100 value in my neck of the woods when the balloons are flying – awful, awful value for points)

  3. As for the Axon award option, that’s not too terrible really and it’s been discussed around the blogosphere and forums in depth. If you don’t want / can’t travel, the Roy’s option isn’t terrible either. 1 cent per point is the most common option on any gift card redemption method in the majority of programs, I believe.

  4. Wow, I hate that TravelBuzz blog garbage, but he’s right…. what a huge sellout Lucky

    Getting paid off by Amex to “help educate consumers” on different ways, most of which you would never in a million years ever recommend were it not to come with an AMEX paycheck (and not even remotely a disclosure of “oh btw… redeeming your points for a balloon ride is a horrific value”)

    I expect this transparently blatant shilling from TPG, but not from you

  5. I say take Amex’s money and run! Anyone who reads your blog on a regular basis knows this asignment is a marriage of convenience. I equate your “purple cow” suggestion to a POW discretely flipping the bird to the camera so his family will know he hasn’t been turned. Don’t let them break you Ben!

  6. So, the needle is a tough one to thread. Take Amex’s money and know that they’re going to read what you say so you can’t just take the $$$ and run because then, well, you won’t be invited back to the party next year. And you can’t be too “l00k at these AMAZING DEALZ!!!!” because you’d absolutely lose whatever credibility some people think you have left (and I’d bet cc signups pay more than Amex – even though there’s a bit of intertwining there).

    I’d rate this post as somewhat less sellout-y than the first one and I can tell you took some time to find redemptions that are close to a penny apiece. So, there’s that.

    And folks, remember, we know better. For those that don’t, let them redeem at the crappy rates above so the average cost of an MR point to Amex is lowered. Just a mercenary devil’s advocate way of looking at it. 😉

  7. Thanks, Lucky, those were some interesting (and funny) suggestions! We’ll have to work on this more as he hates to travel (though he owns 2 jets) and he’s 81 so he doesn’t know how to play Farmville (much less use his new iPhone!) I like the Roy’s gift card idea … he does like to eat! Thank you for your help.

  8. I took it basically as humor with some amusing ways to use points that I’d obviously never use but also didn’t know about before. Not every post has to be about how to get 5X spend on a gift card using such-and-such portal. They get a kickback which they were up front about and the readers get a post that they can take or leave. It’s no different than a banner ad, just in a different form. And there was no implication that these were the BEST uses of points, just that they existed. Lighten up, and Merry Christmas.

  9. Lucky,

    Did you realllllllly select Roy’s all on your own? 😉 AMEX constantly sends me targeted promos for Roy’s at Staples Center, perhaps one day they will realize I’m not interested.

  10. Hopefully Lucky will learn the value of being someone that people trust with his advice. Now I question any of his opinions on the value of a particular redemption, credit card offer, etc.

  11. I like J.J.’s comment. Lighten up, everybody! We all do what we need to do to pay the bills, right? Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

  12. well FWIW, I don’t even play FarmVille but I kinda want a purple cow after reading this post… 🙂 it’s only a measly 540 points!

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