Usually, I argue against using bank points, airline miles, or hotel points to get “free gifts”. In most cases, when using points to buy merchandise, you’ll get at best 1 cent per point value where you could have done much better by purchasing travel. Worse, when you use points this way you almost always forgo store coupons and portal rewards that could have made your purchase much cheaper.
Still, whether you want stuff for yourself or to gift to others, there’s something great about “free”. Whether or not it’s rational, when you use points to buy something, it feels like its free. And that can be a great feeling. Sadly, to those of us who dwell on the value of our points, it can also feel like a big wasted opportunity.
Fortunately for those with Amex Membership Rewards points, there is currently a very nice way to have your free cake and eat it too. That is, you can get good value from Membership Rewards points when buying merchandise with points, and you can use coupons and portals too.
The Deal (Valid through December 31 2016)
Since July, Amex has offered a 50% transfer bonus of Membership Rewards points to Plenti.
Plenti points can be redeemed at AT&T, Exxon, Macy’s, Mobil and Rite Aid at a value of 1 cent per point. Thanks to the 50% transfer bonus from American Express, this means that Membership Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each towards purchases from those merchants as long as you transfer points to your Plenti account first.
Earning Membership Rewards Points
Many Amex cards earn Membership Rewards points: Everyday and Everyday Preferred cards, Platinum cards, Gold cards, Green cards, some Blue cards, etc.
The primary options for earning Membership Rewards points are:
- Signup Bonuses. Many Membership Rewards cards have excellent signup bonuses. You can find an up-to-date list of the best Membership Rewards signup bonuses here, on our Best Offers Page.
- Credit Card Spend. Some Membership Rewards cards offer terrific category bonuses that make it possible to earn anywhere from 1.5 to 5 points per dollar on all spend. The best, in my opinion, are the EveryDay Preferred for grocery and gas and non-category spend, Platinum cards for flights, and the Business Gold Rewards card for business purchases (advertising, shipping, computer stuff).
Most Membership Rewards cards allow transfers to loyalty programs, but a few no-fee cards do not. You need to have at least one card that offers the ability to transfer points in order to make use of this Plenti deal. One great option for those who want to avoid annual fees is the no-fee Everyday card.
Earning Plenti Points
In addition to transferring points from Membership Rewards, you can earn Plenti points simply by shopping at a number of merchants. See the Plenti website for details. With some (AT&T, for example), all you have to do is link your Plenti account and you’ll automatically earn Plenti points each month when you pay your bill. Others require showing your Plenti card when checking out.
Spending Plenti Points
Currently, Plenti Points can be redeemed through only 5 merchants: AT&T, Exxon, Macy’s, Mobile, and Rite Aid.
Simply present your Plenti card at checkout to use the points. Points are worth 1 cent each. 1000 points = $10. See the Plenti site for more details.
Step By Step: Buying Macy’s Stuff with Membership Rewards Points (and saving big too)
The following assumes that you have a stash of Membership Rewards points and you want to use those points to buy stuff at Macy’s. Here’s how to get a great deal…
1. Link your Plenti and Macy’s accounts
If you don’t already have accounts with Plenti and Macys.com, create them first. Then, go to macys.com, hover your mouse over the top menu titled “My Account” and click on “My Plenti”. Follow on-screen instructions to link your Plenti account to your Macy’s account.
2. Find the best Macy’s Coupons
Check your newspaper, your mailbox, Google, etc. Macy’s regularly offers coupons worth up to 20% off, but often with many exclusions. Make sure that what you want to buy is included.
3. Comparison Shop
If the stuff you want to buy is available elsewhere for a lot less (after accounting for Macy’s coupon discounts), then you’re probably better off keeping your points for something else. If the Macy’s price is similar, then continue…
4. Find the Best Portal
Use CashBackMonitor to find the best online portal option for Macys.com. At the time of this writing, TopCashBack is offering 11% cash back at Macy’s and the AAdvantage eShopping Portal is offering 15 miles per dollar!
NOTE: In some cases when you pay with points you won’t earn portal rewards. We don’t yet have data with regards to Macy’s as to whether or not this works. Hopefully a reader will soon report results via the Frequent Miler Laboratory and I’ll update this note.
5. Check for coupons listed within the portal
Many portals offer coupon codes directly. And, usually, the terms state that you won’t earn portal rewards when using other coupons. In practice, that’s usually not true. But, if the portal has a coupon code that’s as good as the one you were planning to use anyway, then you might as well use it.
6. Click through the portal to Macy’s and load up your cart
After adding items to your cart, go to check out. Apply coupon codes to find your final balance. The amount owed, in pennies, is the number of Plenti points you’ll need if you want to pay for the entire thing with points. For example, if the total came to $144.96, then you can use 14,496 Plenti Points to pay for the whole thing. You can also choose to pay partially with points.
7. Transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards to Plenti
Now that you know how many Plenti points you need, you can transfer from Membership Rewards to Plenti. In my experience, the transfer is instant.
A. First, log into your Amex account and look for the box that shows your Membership Rewards points total:
B. Click on “Use Points”, then “Travel” (yes, “travel”)
C. Click “Transfer Points”
D. Scroll down to find Plenti, under “Retail”
E. Transfer points!
If this is your first time transferring to Plenti, you’ll have to link your accounts first.
8. Pay with points
On the Macy’s payment screen, you should see your Plenti points balance, along with a button to “REDEEM POINTS”. Click it.
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