Points for Presents – Using Membership Rewards for Holiday Shopping

Can you believe it’s that exciting time of year when we gather with friends and family to celebrate the season, forget about our diets, and of course, make a mad dash to the mall to buy gifts.

Thanks to American Express for helping to ease the pain of shopping by allowing their Cardmembers to earn and use Membership Rewards points. You probably already know you can earn points for almost every purchase you make (and with no expiration date). But did you know you can use your points on a wide variety of gift cards, retail purchases, travel and entertainment events?

I was selected by American Express as one of 12 experts to give my readers advice on how to use Membership Rewards points. As such I was paid for my services, but all gift choices selected and opinions about the gifts and American Express are my own.

I’m participating in the #PointsForPresents Holiday program with American Express to show you how easy it is to use your points for all your holiday shopping.

American Express has an online catalog that is full of gift ideas for the holidays, and beyond that, there are some other ways you can turn points into gifts. I looked through it all and these are my five recommendations that are sure to please any traveler on your list.

Bushnell Voyager Telescope 700x60mm (25,500 points)
I haven’t been camping lately, but when I do you can bet I’m bringing a telescope so I can check out the stars up close after I learn which ones are which with one of the stargazing apps.

Maui Jim Nakalele Sunglasses with MauiPure (35,700 points)
There’s nothing like wearing Maui Jim polarized sunglasses when you travel – at times you feel like you are Superman because you can see through windows, waves and other reflective surfaces better than with the naked eye. It also helps that they are stylish and they have the best customer service. I sent back an old pair all scratched up and they returned a brand new pair for just the $10 service fee.

Garmin nüvi 50LM U.S./Canada GPS Navigator with Lifetime Map Updates (29,370 points)
I would love to have one of these in my carry-on bag when I travel. I can’t even fathom how much time and aggravation it would’ve saved me in the old days. Being late and lost is a horrible feeling, and I would’ve saved tons of money in the long run instead of throwing down $15 a day to rent a navigation system from a car agency.

 

Scottevest from Amazon.com
I’m a huge fan of Scottevest because of its innovation and multiple pockets make it ideal for traveling. Most of their jackets have around 20 pockets that are designed to hold things like sunglasses, water bottles, cameras, maps, passports and even an iPad, all without making you look bulky.  It’s ideal when you need a third carry-on but the airline won’t let you. And using your points on Amazon is really easy. All you have to do is set your American Express card to the default card and when you go to check out you have the option to pay in full or even partially with points.

Hotel Gift Cards
I just got married and my wife registered us at Crate & Barrel which is nice and all, but what would’ve gotten me excited when I opened up the envelopes is if there were gift cards inside for hotels! For my friends that didn’t want to spend their cold cash they could’ve used their American Express Membership Rewards points and purchased hotel gift cards from a number or different hotels and for different denominations. For example, Marriott starts their gift cards at $50 for 6,000 points.  Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton both have them for $100 for 12,000 points; $250 for 30,000 points; $500 for 60,000 points and for my rich friends, $1,000 for 120,000 points. Now that’s the gift of travel for anyone! Note: This isn’t the best value to burn your points but if you have tons of them and/or just don’t want to spend cash than it’s a good option.

Have you racked your brain for gift ideas for that special someone but come up empty? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below and you could be chosen to get my personal gift recommendation.

*This is a sponsored post by American Express.

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