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What Are $26 Million In American Express Rewards Points Worth?


The Justice Department's investigation into FIFA was aided in part by an American informant named Chuck Blazer. He was on FIFA's executive board until 2013 - that's when he pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering and money laundering also tied to soccer. And CONCACAF, the group we mentioned earlier that runs soccer in the Caribbean and the Americas, had its own questions about how he did business. The organization revealed that he had charged business expenses to his personal American Express card. Not a dinner or two out, but $26 million worth of expenses.

BRIAN KELLY: My first reaction is, wow, I'm pretty impressed. This guy's savvy. You know, 26 million AmEx membership rewards points are really valuable.

SIEGEL: The thought that Brian Kelly had there is one of the actual explanations for why Chuck Blazer may have done this - he wanted the American Express reward points. We couldn't resist calling Kelly. He's the founder of thepointsguy.com, a website that advises on how to maximize your points for travel, and we asked him what Blazer could've done with $26 million worth of points.

KELLY: Something tells me he's probably a first-class traveler, so he'd be able to get 208 round-trip, first-class flights to Europe. And at 9,000 bucks a ticket, that's over $1.8 million in value.

SIEGEL: Not too shabby. And while this amount is over the top, Kelly says that for a lot of companies, this practice is business as usual.

KELLY: A prime example of a business that rakes-in points - I know several high-end travel agents that book all the travel for their clients, and then they get paid by check. So they spend hundreds of thousands a years on safaris and flights, and they earn all the points personally.

SIEGEL: If you're racking-up the points and are more of a homebody millionaire, there are other options. Consider this offer on AmEx's website - a 56-foot, above-ground metal storm shelter for only 13 million points. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.