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American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are the two most popular travel credit card reward programs on the market today. They provide the ability to leverage your credit card spending into free travel via transfer partners or by booking through their travel portals.
The point currencies of these programs are especially valuable because of their versatility and breadth of redemption options. Not only do they provide a wide variety of options for redeeming your points, including statement credits, gift cards, and travel, but they also allow you to easily transfer points to a variety of airline and hotel partners so you can redeem travel directly through those programs.
This guide will explain everything you need to know about the American Express Membership Rewards program and how to earn and use points to maximize their value.
What are American Express Membership Rewards Points?
Membership Rewards is the credit card rewards program of American Express that allows cardholders to earn points with every purchase they make with select American Express credit cards.
How to earn Membership Rewards
Membership Rewards can be earned in a variety of ways, including sign-up bonuses, credit card spending, category bonuses, referrals, Amex offers, or by booking travel through the Amex travel portal.
The easiest and most straightforward way to earn Membership Rewards points is by charging your purchases with an American Express Membership Rewards earning credit card.
What cards earn Amex Membership Rewards?
American Express provides a variety of credit cards and charge cards, both personal and business, that earn Membership Rewards points. Each card is different in terms of how many points you can earn and what categories will earn bonus points.
Amex credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points include:
- American Express Green Card
- American Express Gold Card
- Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express
- Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express
- The Platinum Card from American Express
- American Express Business Gold Card
- Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express
- Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
- Business Platinum Card from American Express
Earn Points with Amex Offers
All American Express credit cards are part of the Amex Offers program. This program allows you to add “offers” to your card for either cash back or bonus points when you make a purchase with a designated Amex merchant. These merchants cross several purchase categories including shopping, travel, and dining.
Amex offers can be found when you login to your American Express account via their website or phone app. They are easy to find – just log into your account home page (or app) and scroll to the bottom of the page to find a section titled “Amex Offers & Benefits.”
From here, you can add offers that provide cash back or bonus points when you make purchases with the merchants that are offering a bonus. Bonus points typically come in the form of additional points per dollar spent at certain merchants.
However, before you can take advantage of an offer, you must first add the offer to your card and then use that card to which the offer is attached. Offers and merchants will vary across the different American Express credit cards.
Earn Points with Amex Referral Bonuses
Another great way to earn bonus Membership Rewards points is to take advantage of the American Express “Refer a Friend” program. This program is a great way to get rewarded by referring your friends and family to sign up for an American Express Card.
Just go to Amex’s referral page and log into your account. Here you will see all the cards that you are eligible to refer. Scroll down and you’ll see that you can email the referral, post it to social media or get a link that can be posted on a blog.
When someone is approved for an Amex card through your link, you’ll earn bonus Membership Rewards points. The actual number of points you earn will vary from card to card.
Earn Points When Booking Through the Amex Travel Portal
American Express Travel is a third-party booking site, just like Orbitz or Expedia, that gives you the option of paying with a credit card or redeeming American Express Membership Rewards to pay for your trip (or just a part of your trip, like the hotel or flight).
All American Express Membership Rewards cards will earn 2X points per dollar when booking through the Amex Travel portal. This gives you the potential to earn an extra point per dollar when you book through their portal, however, there are some things you want to be aware of before doing this.
You’ll only earn hotel points if you book one of the hotels offered in the Fine Hotels and Resorts program. So, for example, if you book a normal Hilton property, you won’t earn any Hilton Honors points or receive any Hilton elite benefits with your stay.
When it comes to airfare, you will still earn frequent flyer miles when booking flights through the portal, but you will have to pay a service fee. Amex charges $6.99 for a domestic plane ticket and $10.99 for an international plane ticket. Hotel bookings are free and if you have an Amex Platinum Card the airline service fees are waived.
Overall, you are better off just booking directly with the Airline or Hotel if you are going to be paying for your flights. The travel portal may be an option for redeeming points, but in most cases, it’s not a good option for trying to earn points with paid travel.
How to Redeem Membership Rewards Points?
There are a variety of redemption options with Membership Rewards, including gift cards, statement credits, and travel. As with Chase Ultimate Rewards, all redemptions are not treated equally. We’ll review the different travel options and advise what are considered the best and worst uses of Amex Membership rewards points.
American Express Travel Portal Redemption Options
The Amex Travel Portal allows you to redeem your Membership Rewards points directly for travel reservations and activities (rather than transfer your rewards to one of their travel partners like Delta, Air France, or Hilton). Basically, it’s the same as booking with any OTA, but in this case, you will be paying with points instead of cash.
While it’s not always the best use of points, one nice feature is that you don’t have to worry about blackout dates or other situations when loyalty points and miles aren’t available.
The table below represents the value you will receive for your Membership Reward points, by category, when booking through the Amex travel portal
|Redemption Description||Value per point|
|Cruises & Vacations||0.7 cent|
|Fine Hotels & Resorts||1.0 cent|
Amex Transfer Partners
American Express partners with some great hotel and airline programs, enabling you to convert your Membership Rewards points into their hotel points and airline miles at a 1:1 ratio (in most cases).
The Airline partner transfers will give you the best value for your Amex points. Hotel transfers can be good for topping off some points if you are a few short when booking a Marriott or Hilton award stay, but that’s about it.
American Express currently has 18 airlines that allow you to convert Membership Rewards points into their program’s frequent flyer miles. These airlines include:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Canada
- Air France/ KLM
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Delta Air Lines
- Etihad Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
These airline partners include members of all three airline alliances, giving you the ability to book flights on just about any airline. Some great examples are using British Airways Avios for short-haul American Airlines flights and Virgin Atlantic miles for direct Delta flights.
- Oneworld Alliance (Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia)
- SkyTeam Alliance (Flying Blue, Delta, Aeromexico)
- Star Alliance (Singapore, Air Canada, ANA)
American Express has three hotel partners that allow you to transfer your Amex points into their hotel loyalty program, including:
- Hilton Honors
- Marriott Bonvoy
- Choice Privileges
Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio for all partners and must be transferred in increments of 1,000 points. Below is a table with the travel partners, transfer ratio, and transfer time. Most transfers happen immediately, which is a great feature when booking travel since time can be of the essence when trying to secure an award flight or room.
How Long Does it Take for Membership Rewards to Transfer?
Most of the transfers to Amex Membership Rewards partners are instant, which is great when trying to plan travel. Below is a summary of the transfer partners and the amount of time it will take for your Membership Rewards points to transfer to their loyalty program and show up in your account.
|Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)||1:1||Immediate|
|All Nippon Airways (“ANA”)||1:1||2 days|
|Cathay Pacific||1:1||2 days|
|Singapore Airlines||1:1||1 day|
Best Use of Membership Rewards
While there’s no “right or wrong way” to redeem your Membership Rewards points, there are some redemptions that offer a much better value than others.
The best redemptions for Membership points are almost always going to be in the travel category, specifically with airline transfer partners. If you find an exceptionally low fare, booking your flight with points through the Amex travel portal can be a good value as well.
Worst Use of Membership Rewards
The following are some of the redemptions that offer the lowest value for each point. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a mistake to use these options. It all depends on your personal situation and preferences for spending, but anything less than 1 cent per point is not considered a great value for your Amex points.
Here are just a couple of examples of redemptions that offer a low value for each point:
- Shopping with Online Retailers – With Membership Rewards, you’ll get just 0.7 cents when using your points with Amazon, Best Buy, and several other retailers.
- Statement Credits – statement credits are only worth 0.6 cents per point.
- Booking hotels and vacations through the Travel Portal – you’ll get just 0.7 cents when using your points for these travel purchases.
Frequently Asked Questions
Membership Rewards points don’t expire, but if you cancel your Membership Rewards credit cards before transferring them, they will be removed.
No. Membership Rewards cannot be transferred to another person’s Amex account