WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

What kind of cool travel getaway can you go on with 150,000 Membership Reward points? How about a romantic trip for you and yours truly to a tropical car-free island in Mexico where you go swimming with the world’s largest fish and bring back video of your underwater adventures and top it off with a Mexican feast and tequila distillery tour.

That’s the trip Spot Cool Stuff chose when American Express challenged us to create a WOW factor getaway with 150,000 Membership Rewards points.

With Pay With Points, available through American Express Travel, you aren’t limited to exchanging points for airplane tickets. You can also book hotels, resorts, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages. And you aren’t even limited to those. Link your Membership Rewards account to and you can use your points to buy anything that the internet retail metasite sells. Or you can select deals on the shopAmex website. And even those aren’t your only options. How about meals at any restaurant bookable through Open Table? Or dining, music, and theater rewards available specifically for American Express charge cardmembers? Or movie tickets? Or mystery trips?

So many choices. So little time. In the end, our travel editors decided to use Pay With Points available through American Express Travel to journey to Mexico’s Isla Holbox. Over the next week, we’ll publish reviews of our experience. Click below to check those out . . .

space WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward PointsPOST TITLE PUBLICATION DATE
Swimming With Whale Sharks published!
Exploring Isla Holbox: The Other Side of Cancun published!
Stay at La Nubes de Holbox Hotel published!

space WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

. . . or sign up for an American Express charge card (if you don’t already have one) and use Membership Rewards to create your own cool experience. Here’s the inside scoop on how we pulled off ours:

isla holbox amex 1 WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points follow me on pinterest button WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

space WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

How We Spent Our Membership Rewards Points

The itinerary

Day 1: Arrive early at Cancun Airport. Drive a rental car to Chiquila and take a ferry to Holbox Island.

Day 2: Go snorkeling with whale sharks, taking underwater video with a new diving mask.

liquid image video mask s WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points follow me on pinterest button WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points Day 3: Animal watching and beach swimming in the morning. Then return to Cancun. Enjoy an authentic Mexican meal and take a tequila tour before returning on the flight home.

The Cost

Add up our two air tickets, rental car, hotel, video camera diving mask, top quality road map and tequila tour dinner and our cool Mexico getaway came out to 146,414 Membership Rewards points. Had we used our regular airline credit card frequent flier program it would have cost 229,600 miles—and that’s without the map, video camera mask and tequila-saturated dinner. Our only out-of-pocket costs were for one lunch, one dinner, parking, island ferry and whale shark tour.

Item   Cost With Membership Rewards Cost With Typical Airline Credit Card1
  Plane ticket   Two Boston-Cancun round trip tickets   34,900 x 2 points2   70,000 x 2 points
  Rental car   Compact car for one week from Cancun airport   11,820 points   33,500 points
  Resort hotel   Premier pool view room at La Nubes de Holbox   47,578 points   56,100 points
  Underwater video mask   Liquid Image Explorer Series 5.0MP3   9,900 points   not available
  Road map   National Geographic Northern Yucatan map3   1,016 points   not available
  $50 Open Table Card   Dinner and Tequila Tour at La Destileria   6,300 points   not available

1 Costs can vary a bit from one airline card to another. We assumed travel with a large, recently merged airline based in the United States for the values in this chart.
space WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points
2 Based on a ticket booked through American Express Travel on our specific travel dates. Membership Reward points required depend on the departure airport and specific dates of travel.

space WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

3 Purchased using Membership Rewards on

amex card WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points follow me on pinterest button WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

space WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

Tips For Spending Your Membership Rewards Points

Pay With Points, available through American Express Travel, offers a huge array of point spending possibilities. With so many options, figuring out the best way to take advantage of the program can be a bit of complicated. Our rundown of some of what you can get using Membership Rewards.

Air tickets

There are three ways to purchase airline tickets using Membership Rewards:

Direct booking. Go to the American Express Pay With Points website and search for airfare exactly as you would at any other travel booking site. The points from your Membership Rewards account will automatically be deducted. There are absolutely no blackout dates or airline restrictions. Another huge advantage booking directly through AmEx: You’ll earn frequent flier miles on your trip!

Transfer Membership Rewards points to your airline frequent flier account. Flying from Saskatoon, Canada to Siem Reap, Cambodia? Booking on some routes (especially to/from small out-of-the-way airports) require fewer airline frequent flier miles than Membership Rewards points. For such cases, you can use your AmEx points to “buy” flier miles. That’s also a great option if you want to use up your frequent flier miles but don’t have enough for your trip.

Purchase airline certificates. American Express airline partners often offer special deals. If your travel plans are flexible you can stretch your Membership Reward Points far. Literally far. At the time of writing, for instance, South African Airways were offering a deal: 95,000 points for a certificate good for one round trip ticket from the USA all the way to Africa. Through the frequent flier program of South African Airways (or that of another Star Alliance carrier) the same trip would take require 130,000 frequent flier miles.

Hotels & car rentals

As with air tickets (above), you can directly book hotels and rental cars on the American Express travel website. Or you can convert your Membership Reward points to another loyalty program (eg. Starwood Hotel’s SPG) and make your reservation through them. We found it worth researching both options to see which is the most efficient for your purposes.

Cruises & vacation packages

Cruises include the offerings from the major cruise lines and also river cruises in Europe, Russia and Egypt.

For vacations, you can put together your own airline and hotel package. If your feeling adventurous you can use your points to pay for a Nextpedition custom made mystery trip.

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American Express has a huge number of shopping partners, from Adams Golf to Zynga4, keen to exchange your Membership Rewards points for good and services. In addition to those, you can Pay With Points on anything sold through Amazon.

4 Zynga is a developer of social games for kids. We didn’t know who they were either.

Dining & entertainment

As is the case with shopping (above), American Express partners with a variety of dining and entertainment brands. Use points for movie tickets through AMC Theaters or Regal Cinema, concerts through, entrance to SeaWorld or dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse. And those are just some of the options.

published: 25 August 2011
space WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

 WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

space WOW on 150,000 American Express Reward Points

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