American Express Co. customers whose reward points are too meager for flights, ballet tickets or even a yoga mat are getting a new list of options: a McDonald's menu.
Starting this week, Amex's U.S. cardholders can spend points at select McDonald's Corp. restaurants. The conversion rate is 100 points for each $1 spent, so someone with a robust cache and no wanderlust can skip the trip to Paris (say 100,000 points), and stay home with 208 Big Macs (110,240 calories).
The deal is a landmark Amex's first letting cardholders redeem points at a cash register, according to Leslie Berland, who oversees the lender's digital partnerships. By December, consumers will be able to redeem points inside McDonald's across the U.S. or use their card at a drive-thru and apply points later using an Amex website or mobile app.
Amex is looking to McDonald's to help expand its customer base. Earlier this year, the New York-based lender introduced its first no-fee credit product, the "EveryDay" card, that targets U.S. mothers (note: a Happy Meal is about 300 points and comes with a toy). Amex has been bolstering its reloadable prepaid products, including BlueBird and Serve, which are geared for consumers who don't have access to traditional banks.
"We're constantly looking for ways to make life easier for our customers," Deborah Wahl, the chief marketing officer at McDonald's USA, said in a statement.
How much do you have to spend on your Amex to get a free lunch? Most cards earn one point per $1. So spend $200 on a facial and one-hour massage in Manhattan, and the cashier can legitimately ask, "Do you want fries with that?"
Make a large enough purchase, and you'll never have to cook again. Chinese collector Liu Yiqian used his Amex Centurion Card to buy an ancient ceramic cup for a record $36 million in April, racking up almost 422 million points. Alas, his card is denominated in yuan. With a U.S. card, he could have earned about 36 tons of fries.