American Express Co. cardholders can now use their Membership Rewards points to pay for all or part of their purchases on Amazon.com Inc.
Under the program announced Monday, 1,000 Membership Rewards points can be exchanged for a credit of $7 at the online retailer, or about 143 points per dollar.
Amex said the Amazon.com deal is an extension of the Pay with Points feature it launched in 2005, which lets cardholders use points toward travel purchases, such as hotel stays and airline tickets, and toward tickets from TicketMaster.
"We're always looking for ways to enhance our Membership Rewards program, and we've seen over the past few years that our Pay with Points program with travel has been extremely popular and one of the most popular redemption options, as well as the points redemption we have with TicketMaster," an Amex spokeswoman said in an e-mail. Cardholders like to shop at Amazon.com, so it made sense to offer them the option of applying their points towards purchases there, she said.
Cardholders must link their Membership Rewards account and their account on Amazon.com.
The ability to use points at one of the world's biggest online retailers is significant, analysts said.
"Consumers will feel they can get much more value from their points because it allows them to use points however they see fit. It's no longer choosing items from a catalog or online mall," said Adil Moussa, an analyst at Aite Group. "This is pretty much open choice for the consumer, and it's a significant step forward."
It also will set Amex's rewards program apart from its rivals, he said.
Keeping customers happy is crucial, Moussa said. "Retention is going to be good once you offer consumers what they want," he said.
Amazon.com also has a cobranded Visa Inc. rewards card program with JPMorgan Chase & Co., though it does not allow cardholders to use points directly for purchases on Amazon.
A JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman said cardholders earn triple points for spending on Amazon.com, and can redeem the points for Amazon gift cards. She said that "the Amazon Visa card's points provide full value of a point, where 2,500 points enables a $25 gift card — a customer would need 3,571 points from American Express for $25 in Amazon value."