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Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

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Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

I am new to MR points. Actually, I am new to credit cards in general. Always been a "if I can't pay with cash, I don't need it" type. Just started consciously building credit in March of this year.

 

I have a Gold Card, just got my SUB, and have a little over 52k points on it.

 

I have no loyalty program memberships and no specific preferences on things like airlines and hotels.

 

I am about to plan a trip to Europe. Details are still in flux, but something like: trip for two, to Vienna or Frankfurt, September or October (or if timing doesn't work, it might slip to spring).

 

Based on my research so far, I am thinking I should buy tickets wherever they're cheapest, and use the MR points for hotels. Is that a good plan? Do MR points go further with Hilton or Marriott? Again, I have no brand preference. Marriott seems more straightforward to price out with points.

 

I am a bit confused about situations where there are several points systems that work for overlapping airlines, and since I am not a member of any of those programs, I sometimes hit a wall trying to find actual prices. I will see a price range, but when I try to see the specific point cost, I sometimes am prompted for login info I don't have yet. Not sure if I should go ahead and sign up for eight or ten programs just to check prices.

 

I'm a fish out of water and I know that this is second nature for a lot of people here, so hoping somebody can give me a head start. Thanks!


FICO 8 scores are deceptively high. My profile is young with a lot of new accounts and even more inquiries from 2019. The Barclay AU card is not on TransUnion; and, Equifax has some old positive accounts from 2011 that are not on the other two. That is the reason for the variation in scores. No derogs. Over 5/24 until fall 2021.
Cards

Authorized user / Corporate / Auto loan

Closed but still on reports: ExxonMobil, $950, 10/08-02/11 (Equifax only) | Citi secured, $200, 045/19-09/19 | Capital One secured, $300, 04/19-08/19 | My Jewelers Club, $5,000, 05/19-08/19 | Green Dot Primor, $300, 05/19-08/19 | Self Lender secured $500 loan, 04/19-01/20 | Unsecured personal loan from Coastal, $1,000, 06/19-08/19.

Goals: Late 2020 - Ducks Unlimited card; scores in high 700s with inquiries aging. Long-term goal - Prime rate mortgage; able to qualify for most standard credit products.
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Re: Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

Being a free agent for airlines and hotels is a bit foreign to me, but as a rule you will likely do better using the points toward airfare.

For Amex Travel, you’re essentially going to get 1 cent per point. For Marriott, depending on the hotel, when you stay, and for how long makes it variable. Anywhere from 0.7 cents to 3 cents is a range, with the higher end easier to accomplish when you book higher end hotels in increments of 5 nights since the 5th award night is always free with Marriott. Keep in mind when calculating cents per point with hotels, go all the way to the checkout screen for the cash price as award fares have $0 in taxes, and hotel taxes can easily be 20% or more in many cities. Hilton is not as easy to get good value for points, but it’s possible. There is zero harm in signing up for loyalty programs. You may consider using shipping portals to help build up points, also. Rakuten (formerly eBates) has an option now to earn MRs instead of cash.

Airline value will depend on which class you are flying, which airline (partners often come into play; for example much cheaper in points usually to book Delta flights through Virgin rather than Delta), when, etc.

What is your home airport?
Message 2 of 12
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Established Contributor

Re: Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

RDU

 

Thanks!


FICO 8 scores are deceptively high. My profile is young with a lot of new accounts and even more inquiries from 2019. The Barclay AU card is not on TransUnion; and, Equifax has some old positive accounts from 2011 that are not on the other two. That is the reason for the variation in scores. No derogs. Over 5/24 until fall 2021.
Cards

Authorized user / Corporate / Auto loan

Closed but still on reports: ExxonMobil, $950, 10/08-02/11 (Equifax only) | Citi secured, $200, 045/19-09/19 | Capital One secured, $300, 04/19-08/19 | My Jewelers Club, $5,000, 05/19-08/19 | Green Dot Primor, $300, 05/19-08/19 | Self Lender secured $500 loan, 04/19-01/20 | Unsecured personal loan from Coastal, $1,000, 06/19-08/19.

Goals: Late 2020 - Ducks Unlimited card; scores in high 700s with inquiries aging. Long-term goal - Prime rate mortgage; able to qualify for most standard credit products.
Message 3 of 12
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Regular Contributor

Re: Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

I have used awardhacker.com to see which airlines fly to different areas. It will also show you which airlines accept which point system, MR, UR, MB, etc. As @K-In-Boston said, it is sometimes better value to book through a partner airline as flights can be booked with less points sometimes.

In addition, AMEX will sometimes offer transfer bonuses for Airline and Hotel, it would be worth looking at those also to see if any would be applicable to your flights.

Good luck in your search. Keep racking up the MR points!
Rebuilding Since 2016
6/5/2019 - Fico 8 Scores - EQ 672 TU 683 EX 674
6/15/2019 - FICO 8 Scores - EQ 682 TU 698 EX 690
8/10/2019 - FICO 8 Scores - EQ 706 TU 705 EQ 689
9/15/2019 - FICO 8 Scores - EQ 710 TU 713 EX 690

Message 4 of 12
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Moderator

Re: Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

RDU is a Delta focus city. For Frankfurt, you’d be looking at about 2 cents per point buying a Main Cabin round trip ticket for about 50,000 SkyMiles. I am not sure if you can get a decent award to Vienna. If you don’t mind a Eurostar train ride that frees you up for additional destination cities, though.

Virgin Atlantic will likely not be good because you will need a connecting flight to Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, NYC, etc. and the pricing would likely only work out well for you if you were doing Delta One and you need a whole lot more points to make that happen.

Air France and KLM can be a great option for you, but you’ll need to play with dates and destinations. Their awards are wacky; it can often cost less points to fly business than economy, and I’ve seen weird things like 58,000 points from Boston to New York, or 52,000 points from Boston to Tel Aviv connecting on that same 58k flight to New York. LOL
Message 5 of 12
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Valued Contributor

Re: Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

Start off using awardhacker.com to get a general idea of the cost and routings.

Once you do that. It’s all about finding availability on said routes.

KLM/AF have pretty decent sales and as KIB mentioned their new award scheme is wacky as all get out but it’s got some serious value if you can make a sale work.

Take a good hard look at Air Maroc booked through Etihad Guest. It’s 44K in business each way. Not the greatest airline but it’s lie flats for peanuts and it’s really not bad. I’ve flown them once and would happily do it again for 88K.
I know you don’t have enough miles but realistically 30,000 miles should be quite easy to obtain.

Another favorite of mine is ANA. An amazing program if you can find the space and are willing to do a round trip. It’s a partner award so it’s a tad bit more (55,000 I believe ? ) since it’s partner you can sometimes avoid high YQ.

Another worthwhile look is lifemiles for *A alliance bookings. There’s some serious value in lifemiles as well.

MR points will always have the best value transferred to an airline partner program. If you’re considering using the portal or transferring to hotels Amex isn’t the right card for you. The portal at 1 CPP is terrible and so is the value for Hilton and Marriott (despite what KIB claims 😝)

Start with the stuff I mentioned and if you have any questions I will do my best to answer.




Total Revolving Limits $229,300

FICO 8 scores 04/2019
EX-778
TU-714
EQ-716
Message 6 of 12
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Moderator

Re: Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

@Shadowfactor  Bonvoy and I need to have a word with you... outside.  Smiley Indifferent

 

Seriously, though, there are a ton of great ways to use MRs.  And I even used 20k or so to (gasp) book a one-way KLM flight from LHR-AMS-BRU through Amex Travel at 1cpp a few months ago, but there was added value for me in that I got SkyMiles back and added to my elite qualifying miles for 2020 status.

 

One thing worth noting is that @KJinNC  mentioned two people would be going, and it could be as early as a month or two from now.  So while 30k or so MRs honestly might not that be difficult to rack up (especially watch those Amex Offers; they can be huge), 110k or so more for two tickets might be and if time constraints are in play, we know that Amex holds MRs hostage for a full statement cycle.  Not much use in snagging an awesome lie-flat seat if your companion doesn't have the means or desire to pony up the $4-10,000 cash fare!  Planning award travel for 2 or more people can be a lot more challenging, not only with the points needed but also the availability.

 

But I will certainly defer to others on better usage outside of Delta and its partners.

Message 7 of 12
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Super Contributor

Re: Amex MR point experts, your advice sought


@KJinNC wrote:

I am new to MR points. Actually, I am new to credit cards in general. Always been a "if I can't pay with cash, I don't need it" type. Just started consciously building credit in March of this year.

 

I have a Gold Card, just got my SUB, and have a little over 52k points on it.

 

I have no loyalty program memberships and no specific preferences on things like airlines and hotels.

 

I am about to plan a trip to Europe. Details are still in flux, but something like: trip for two, to Vienna or Frankfurt, September or October (or if timing doesn't work, it might slip to spring).

 

Based on my research so far, I am thinking I should buy tickets wherever they're cheapest, and use the MR points for hotels. Is that a good plan? Do MR points go further with Hilton or Marriott? Again, I have no brand preference. Marriott seems more straightforward to price out with points.

 

I am a bit confused about situations where there are several points systems that work for overlapping airlines, and since I am not a member of any of those programs, I sometimes hit a wall trying to find actual prices. I will see a price range, but when I try to see the specific point cost, I sometimes am prompted for login info I don't have yet. Not sure if I should go ahead and sign up for eight or ten programs just to check prices.

 

I'm a fish out of water and I know that this is second nature for a lot of people here, so hoping somebody can give me a head start. Thanks!


I'm no expert but I think you can get the most bang for your buck by exchanging for one of their airline travel partners.


Total revolving limits 644000 (568000 reporting)
FICO 8's EQ 710 TU 733 EX 717



Message 8 of 12
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Established Contributor

Re: Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

I just priced out a flight using Delta SkyMiles. It is cheaper to fly to from RDU to Dusseldorf than Frankfurt for the date range I picked, so I went with that. Round trip for main cabin economy for two people comes to 144,000 miles plus some fees. So, if I transfer my 52k points into 52k SkyMiles, I guess I'd get a little more than 1/3rd off.

 

I have priced tickets (cash purchase) at around $2,000 or $2,200 elsewhere, so, depending what I'd need to pay along with the points, that makes me think those points would be worth around $700.

 

Does this seem like a good approach, or would I probably come out ahead to use some other partner? Thanks!


FICO 8 scores are deceptively high. My profile is young with a lot of new accounts and even more inquiries from 2019. The Barclay AU card is not on TransUnion; and, Equifax has some old positive accounts from 2011 that are not on the other two. That is the reason for the variation in scores. No derogs. Over 5/24 until fall 2021.
Cards

Authorized user / Corporate / Auto loan

Closed but still on reports: ExxonMobil, $950, 10/08-02/11 (Equifax only) | Citi secured, $200, 045/19-09/19 | Capital One secured, $300, 04/19-08/19 | My Jewelers Club, $5,000, 05/19-08/19 | Green Dot Primor, $300, 05/19-08/19 | Self Lender secured $500 loan, 04/19-01/20 | Unsecured personal loan from Coastal, $1,000, 06/19-08/19.

Goals: Late 2020 - Ducks Unlimited card; scores in high 700s with inquiries aging. Long-term goal - Prime rate mortgage; able to qualify for most standard credit products.
Message 9 of 12
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Valued Contributor

Re: Amex MR point experts, your advice sought

Personally I wouldn’t use points + cash. The value is rarely good. 

 

If you don’t have enough points now for the entire airfare, I would just pash cash. You should be able to find a sub $500 TATL fare if you look around. 

 

Stalk secret flying or TPG deals. They usually post some good airfare deals for economy 





Total Revolving Limits $229,300

FICO 8 scores 04/2019
EX-778
TU-714
EQ-716
Message 10 of 12
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