Edited by: Juan Ruiz
& Keri Stooksbury
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American Express Membership Rewards has long been one of the most valuable transferable points currencies. There are tons of ways to earn Membership Rewards points through your credit card purchases.
Thanks to plentiful airline and hotel transfer partners, you’ll also have plenty of ways to redeem Membership Rewards for some amazing flights and stays that can take you just about anywhere you want to go.
Amex Membership Rewards is a credit card rewards program that lets cardholders earn points on almost all purchases.
The number of points you will earn per dollar depends on which card you use and the category of your purchases, as some are bonus categories. Bonus categories can help you earn between 2x and 5x points per dollar on some purchases.
There are many ways to redeem Membership Rewards points, but transferring your points to airline partners to book award flights is how you can get the most value out of your points.
Earning rewards points can be done in a variety of ways. However, to begin earning points at all, you will need to have at least 1 American Express Rewards credit card. Consider our favorites:
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus offer of up to 125k (or 150k) points with the Amex Platinum. The current public offer is 80,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)
The Amex Platinum card is the classic Amex Membership Rewards card. It comes with a variety of benefits including access to over 1,300 airport lounges, complimentary Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (upon enrollment), and more.
Additionally, this card earns 5x points per dollar on flights purchased directly with airlines. Flights and prepaid hotels purchased through Amex Travel also earn 5x points per dollar (note that 5x on flights is capped at up to $500,000 in purchases per calendar year). It earns 1x points per dollar on all other purchases.
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus offer of up to 90,000 points with the Amex Gold card. The current public offer is 60,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)
The Amex Gold card has been given a major upgrade for travelers and foodies. It earns 4x points per dollar at restaurants and 4x points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 spent per calendar year (1x thereafter).
You’ll also earn 3x points on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel.
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a huge welcome bonus offer of up to 170,000 points with the Amex Business Platinum. The current public offer is 120,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)
The Amex Business Platinum card has very similar benefits to the personal version of the card (the lounge access and hotel status bumps are the same).
It earns 5x points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotel purchases made through Amex Travel.
Additionally, it does earn 1.5x for eligible purchases on your card made at U.S. construction material and hardware suppliers, at U.S. electronic goods retailers and software and cloud system providers, and at U.S. shipping providers, as well as on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more everywhere else (up to $2 million in purchases per calendar year).
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a huge welcome bonus offer of up to 110,000 points with the Amex Business Gold card! The current public offer is 70,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)
The Amex Business Gold card is one of the best cards for heavy spenders. That’s because you’ll earn a whopping 4x points on 2 select categories where your business spends the most each month (on your first $150,000 spent each year).
Although there are no luxury travel benefits like lounge access or airline fee credits, this card earns lots of points on top of business purchases very quickly.
Probably the best non-premium business card, the Amex Blue Business Plus card earns 2x points per dollar for everyday business purchases on up to $50,000 in spending each calendar year. After that, it earns 1 point per dollar.
Hot Tip: You can also earn Amex Membership Rewards points from the American Express® Green Card, Blue from American Express®, and Business Green Rewards Card from American Express for a total of 10 cards that earn Membership Rewards points.
When you log in to your account home page, you can scroll to the bottom of the page to find the Amex Offers & Benefits section.
There, you can add offers from select merchants. When you make purchases that qualify for an activated offer, you will earn the offer’s reward. These offers can be additional rewards points, cash-back, or a cash discount.
There are often great offers available, such as earning 2x points per dollar at Amazon or discounts on your cell phone or cable bills. Amex also advertises its services in this area, and you can find referral links here.
Note that to take advantage of the offer, you must use the specific card to which the offer is attached. You must add the Amex Offer to your card before making the purchase.
Most American Express Membership Rewards cards will earn 2x points per dollar when booking through the Amex Travel portal.
Unfortunately, if you’re using a card that earns 3x points for flights, you will only earn 2x points in the portal. That’s because Amex requires you to purchase travel directly from the airline to get the higher bonus.
However, the Amex Platinum card and Amex Business Platinum card will earn 5x points per dollar when booking flights and select hotels through Amex Travel, including prepaid Fine Hotels & Resorts booked online.
Hot Tip: You’ll only earn hotel points if you book through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program (you may not earn hotel points with online prepaid bookings).
In the portal, you will find deals exclusively for Amex cardholders that are only available online. Additionally, you can still earn frequent flyer miles when booking through the portal, which is a bonus.
Not everything in the portal will be eligible for 2x points per dollar: exceptions include car rentals, non-prepaid hotels, and non-prepaid Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings or those made over the phone.
However, the 2x points per dollar may be a better value than hotel points, and you may get a cheaper room through the portal.
If you find a better deal somewhere else for the same room and dates, the portal offers a low-price guarantee for its prepaid hotel rooms so that you can get a refund for the difference.
One last thing to note is that booking through the rewards portal may cost you a service fee. Depending on the deal and how you value your points, this may not be worth it for you. You’ll pay $6.99 for a domestic plane ticket and $10.99 for an international one, but hotel bookings are free. Amex Platinum cardholders get these service fees waived.
The Amex Travel portal will show you what benefits you have when you log in, including waived fees and which lounges you have access to with your cards.
The American Express “refer a friend” links can be found at the bottom of each of your account summary screens in the Amex Offers & Benefits section.
Click on the Refer Now button and you’ll be taken to another screen where you can enter multiple emails and choose which card you want to refer to.
That screen will tell you what your current referral offer is (often 5,000 to 10,000 points or $50 to $100 for cash-back cards). It will also tell you the offer your friend can get, so they can compare that to any offers they already have.
Note that American Express seems to have some trouble with these referral links, and they may not always work once the person receives the email.
Many cards have specific benefits, such as travel credits and complimentary hotel elite status. Your American Express account makes it easy to review and activate these benefits right from your account summary screen.
Go to the menu bar and click Rewards & Benefits and select Benefits from the drop-down menu to see a benefits summary screen. From this screen, you can review everything your card offers and find links to sign up for all applicable benefits.
Membership Rewards can be redeemed in multiple ways, but travel is where you’ll get the most value for your hard-earned points. Specifically, transferring to airline partners is your best option.
This is almost always the highest-value option, as you can typically multiply the value of your points many times over using transfer partners.
Most Membership Rewards cards will allow you to transfer points to travel partners — these cards also happen to be some of the most lucrative cards you can get. However, there are some cards that do not allow transfers (Amex isn’t accepting applications for many of these cards, so you shouldn’t worry about it too much).
As we’ve mentioned, transferring to airline partners is the best way to use your Membership Rewards points. To transfer Membership Rewards points, you’ll only need to follow a few simple steps.
Select Rewards & Benefits on the homepage of your online account, then click Earn & Redeem to expand a dropdown menu. From the dropdown menu, click Transfer Points on the Membership Rewards page and you’ll be taken to a page with all of your transfer options.
Select your desired transfer partner and you will be taken to a page where you can choose how many points to transfer. Most transfer options require you to transfer blocks of 1,000 points. Many of these transfers take place almost instantly, but others can take several days.
If it is your first time transferring to a partner, you will be required to link your airline or hotel loyalty program accounts prior to the transfer. To do this, you will need the appropriate loyalty program membership number.
Once a transfer has been completed, it cannot be undone.
Another thing to note on transferring points: for every point you transfer to a domestic carrier, you will pay a $0.0006 fee, up to a maximum fee of $99 (equal to 165,000 points). Unfortunately, this is a slight hit to the value of the points.
American Express allows you to offset the fee with points, but this is a terrible value at only $0.005 per point.
Below is the full list of Amex’s airline transfer partners:
|Amex Airline Transfer Partner||Min Transfer||Transfer Ratio|
(Amex > Partner)
|Aer Lingus||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Air Canada||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Avianca LifeMiles||1,000||1:1||Almost instant|
|British Airways||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Cathay Pacific||1,000||1:1||Up to 1 Week|
|Delta Air Lines||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Etihad Airways||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Flying Blue Air France/KLM||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Singapore Airlines||1,000||1:1||1-2 days|
|Virgin Atlantic||1,000||1:1||1-2 days|
Transfer partners like Emirates and Etihad are outside of these alliances and have a large network of partners, meaning you have a lot of interesting ways to redeem Etihad Guest miles or Emirates Skywards miles.
Finally, you can transfer your points to several of Amex’s hotel partners, but you’ll get more value sticking to airline partners.
|Amex Hotel Transfer Partner||Min Transfer||Transfer Ratio|
(Amex > Partner)
|Choice Privileges||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Hilton Honors||1,000||1:2||Almost Instant|
|Marriott Bonvoy||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
All Membership Rewards cards can book Amex Membership Rewards travel using points. When booking with points, you’ll get 1 cent per point for flights or Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings and 0.7 cents per point for everything else.
Note that booking rewards travel with points will still incur the service fee if you don’t have the Amex Platinum card, which waives these fees.
Hot Tip: If you hold the Amex Business Platinum card, you’re eligible for a 35% Pay With Points rebate when you use Membership Rewards points to book select flights through Amex Travel, which effectively gets you a redemption value of ~1.54 cents per point.
There are other ways to redeem Membership Rewards points, but all of them are subpar.
You can use your points to pay off statement balances directly. Unlike most other points programs, however, points are not worth 1 cent apiece. Instead, using this feature only provides a value of 0.6 cents per point.
If you use points for gift cards, the value of your points will be between 0.5 cents and 1 cent per point depending on the gift card you choose.
There are a lot of different categories of cards and you can choose the type you’re looking for on the American Express gift card portal.
There are also vouchers available for other businesses, but these values change depending on the choice of the partner. For instance, you could buy a 1-day ski pass at Vail for 15,900 points, which isn’t that great of a value.
Shopping redemption options are found in the Membership Rewards portal when you click the More Ways to Use Points button at the top.
Amazon is a big partner of Amex right now and you can pay for purchases directly with Amex Membership Rewards points. However, the points will only be worth $0.007 each.
Similarly, you can use your points at Best Buy to receive the same value.
You can also use Shop With Membership Rewards Points to redeem your points. This option is the American Express shopping mall, similar to Shop through Chase. Points in this mall are only worth $0.005, although you can mix and match paying with points and cash.
A charitable donation is a great option for those with some extra points. You can donate to many different charities at a value of $0.01 per point for the first 500,000 points in a year. The minimum donation is 1,000 points.
American Express gives you many different options to use your points, so it can be confusing as to what the points are really worth.
There are always options for redeeming at the standard value of $0.01 per point. These include booking flights and gift cards. Other redemption options, however, come in at a much lower value.
If you take advantage of the points transfer to Amex travel partners, you can increase the value of your points to 2 cents per point or more (this depends on how you redeem them through the airlines or hotels).
As long as you have at least 1 active Amex Membership Rewards card open, your points don’t expire.
Since Membership Rewards points pool into a common account instead of on individual cards, you won’t lose any points on a certain card if you don’t transfer them (like you would with Chase Ultimate Rewards).
If you decide to close an account, make sure to transfer your points to an Amex travel partner first. You may have a 30-day grace period once you close the account, but you’ll need at least 1 other open Amex card.
There is the possibility that you can reinstate your points if you lose them. Work with American Express’ customer service to determine whether this is possible.
Now that we’ve discussed how to earn and redeem Membership Rewards points, let’s make sure you know how to navigate the American Express website.
To manage your account, go to americanexpress.com, click the Log In button in the top-right corner, and simply sign in with your Amex login info.
From there, you can select the Rewards & Benefits link to take you to the Membership Rewards page. This page will show you how many points you have in your account and you can select how you would like to use them.
From here, you can select Transfer Points to be taken to your airline partner options.
The way this system is set up, you won’t have to worry about switching between cards to take advantage of benefits that you get from one versus another.
For instance, having an Amex Platinum card allows you to waive Amex Travel booking fees, and that will automatically be detected in your account.
To change between cards on the Amex account home screen, you can click in the upper right-hand corner or in the menu at the top left.
You can get some amazing value out of Membership Rewards points, but how do they stack up compared to other transferable points programs?
Both programs feature lucrative credit card options. There are significantly more Amex card options that can help you earn Membership Rewards compared to the number of Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards.
Membership Rewards also has significantly more transfer partners than Ultimate Rewards. However, Chase’s transfer partner World of Hyatt is by far the best hotel partner between the 2 programs.
Starting with Ultimate Rewards is the way to go because of Chase’s 5/24 rule. However, Membership Rewards should be a big part of your points-earning strategy going forward.
The big advantages to Membership Rewards are that there are plenty of credit card options and the cards offered have some great bonus categories.
The advantages to earning Marriott Bonvoy points are the 35+ airline transfer partners and that transfers of 60,000-points blocks earn you a bonus of 5,000 miles (on some partners). However, transferring Marriott Bonvoy points can take longer and there are fewer Marriott Bonvoy-branded credit cards (from Amex and Chase) currently open for new applications that can help you earn them.
Marriott Bonvoy points can also be used for hotel stays at Marriott properties.
Both programs provide great award travel opportunities and can be very useful in your earning strategy.
It can definitely be a useful program down the road, but Membership Rewards should be a higher priority.
Capital One has fewer transfer partners than Amex, and since nearly all of the Membership Rewards transfer partners transfer at a 1:1 ratio, many find these points more valuable than Capital One miles. The programs also share many of the same transfer partners, excluding Capital One’s partners in ALL – Accor Live Limitless and Turkish Airlines.
Amex’s personal and business cards have more points-earning options compared to Capital One, though many have higher annual fees.
As you can see, the Amex Membership Rewards program is fairly extensive with lots of cards and many options for earning points.
Your card options include some that are good for both business and personal use. There are plenty of redemption options, although only transferring to airline partners really provides good value.
American Express has a restriction that only allows you to earn 1 welcome bonus per card per lifetime, so make sure you apply when a card has a high bonus.
Overall, you should use American Express Membership Rewards if you are planning to transfer points to travel partners and redeem them at a value above 2 cents per point.
Otherwise, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Marriott Bonvoy cards may be an easier and more valuable choice.
The information regarding the Blue from American Express® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Business Green Rewards Card from American Express was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Green Card, click here.
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