Key takeaways

  • In order to earn Amex Membership Rewards points that have unrestricted redemption options, be sure the Amex credit card you choose isn’t marketed as a cash back card.
  • You can redeem your points for travel, gift cards, select merchandise or statement credits, or you can transfer your points to Amex travel partners.
  • You'll typically get the most value from your points when you transfer them to Amex airline or hotel partners.

While some rewards credit cards only let you earn points or miles within a specific airline or hotel loyalty program, others, like the American Express Membership Rewards program, let you earn flexible rewards points that you can redeem in more than one way. For example, you can redeem Membership Rewards points for travel, gift cards, merchandise, statement credits and Amex experiences, or you can transfer points to Amex hotel and airline partners.

Below, we dive into the American Express Membership Rewards program, including how to earn points, how much points are worth and the best ways to redeem them.

What are Amex Membership Rewards points?

American Express Membership Rewards points are what Amex cardholders are awarded when they make purchases with their credit card. These points make up a lucrative credit card currency that can be redeemed through the Membership Rewards program for a variety of uses, including to travel.

Earning points in the American Express Membership Rewards program requires you to have an eligible American Express credit card. Even though all Amex cards earn these points, some Amex cards restrict how you can use them.

For example, some of the top American Express credit cards are marketed as cards that earn cash back — such as the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. While these cards do technically earn Membership Rewards points, they don’t allow cardholders to redeem them for things like travel. Instead, cardholders have to redeem their points for cash back-related options like statement credits or gift cards.

Pros and cons of American Express Membership Rewards

Green circle with a checkmark inside


  • More transfer partners than other rewards programs: The program currently has 18 airline and 3 hotel partners.
  • Many high-value transfer partners: Amex Membership Rewards points have some of the highest redemption values on average, thanks to their transfer partners. 
  • Flexible redemption options: Points can be redeemed for everything from gift cards and statement credits to travel and shopping purchases.
Red circle with an X inside


  • High annual fees for some cards: To take full advantage of Amex Membership Rewards, you often need a credit card that allows points to be used for travel. Amex’s most popular cards in this category tend to have high annual fees.
  • Can’t share points with other accounts: If you want to give your points to someone else who isn’t on your Amex account but is still an Amex cardholder, for example, you’re unable to do so. 
  • Many redemption options under 1 cent per point in value: While Amex Membership Rewards points offer excellent value when it comes to travel, that value can dip when it comes to redeeming those points in other ways, such as for statement credits.

How to earn Amex Membership Rewards points

You can earn Membership Rewards points by charging purchases to your card (enough to also earn a welcome bonus), by using Amex Offers and by referring others to get the card. Here’s how to maximize your points earned with each option:

Charge eligible purchases to your credit card

For the most part, the easiest way to earn rewards in this program is by making purchases with an eligible credit card, especially in your card’s bonus categories. Some cards are designed for everyday spending, with higher rewards rates on grocery and gas purchases. Other Amex cards offer a higher rewards rate for travel purchases like flights and hotel stays.

While there’s no limit to how many Amex Membership Rewards points you can earn overall, there might still be restrictions on certain bonus category rates. For example, the Amex Blue Cash Everyday Card allows cardholders to earn 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. online retail purchases, but has a purchase limit of $6,000 per calendar year in each category. After that, you’d only earn 1 percent in those categories.

Spend enough money on the card to reach your welcome bonus

Many Amex credit cards offer welcome bonuses for new cardholders. If you sign up for the American Express® Gold Card, for example, you could earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points by spending $6,000 in eligible purchases within the first six months of opening the account.

Add Amex Offers to your cards

Another way to earn more Amex Membership Rewards points is through Amex Offers. All American Express credit cards let cardholders add Amex Offers to their respective cards, and you can pick and choose which merchant offers you’re interested in. You’ll have the chance to earn Membership Rewards points or bonus cash back on eligible purchases.

Send out referrals

You can also earn points by referring a friend or family member to American Express through the issuer’s referral program. If they’re approved for a consumer or business card, you’ll get a referral bonus.

How to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points

You can use these valuable points in a variety of ways, including to do the following:

Book travel through American Express Travel

One of the best ways to use your points is on travel through the American Express Travel portal. The American Express Travel portal allows you to search for travel and choose from different flights, hotels, cruises and more. You can pay for travel with points, cash or a combination of the two.

Transfer points to Amex travel partners

Another way — and often the most lucrative way — to use Amex Membership Rewards points is by transferring points to Amex Membership Rewards travel partners. You’ll typically get even more value from your points when you transfer them to airlines for premium cabin redemptions.

The options vary widely depending on where you plan to travel and where you are departing from, but there are plenty of ways to get Bankrate’s latest valuation of 2.0 cents per point on average considering the stellar partners like Hawaiian Airlines, Emirates, Avianca, Aeroplan and others. So make sure to compare transfer partners that fly where you plan to travel.

Use Pay with Points

Many retailers participate in the American Express Pay with Points program, including:

  • Amazon
  • Dell
  • Best Buy
  • Rite Aid
  • Staples

All you have to do is connect your American Express card to your retail account. Then, when you shop online with that retailer, you’ll be able to pay with Membership Rewards points at checkout.

Get a statement credit

You can also redeem points for statement credits to cover charges posted to your account, but this option usually offers less value than travel options. If you have a cash back credit card, however, this would be one of your best options since you wouldn’t be able to use your points for travel.

Get gift cards

Another option is to redeem points for gift cards. You can choose from more than 100 retailers, including:

  • Apple
  • Best Buy
  • Sephora
  • Walmart
  • Target

Options are subject to change, so you may want to check back periodically to see which options are available.

You can get up to 1 cent per point in value when you redeem Amex points for gift cards. Note that you’re more likely to get 1 cent per point in value for dining gift cards, whereas some retailers and travel brands provide less than 1 cent in value.

Buy merchandise on the Membership Rewards site

You can also opt to shop with points directly on the Membership Rewards website instead of shopping on a retailer’s websites. You can shop by brand, department and featured offers. As you explore items, you’ll see both dollar amounts and point values. After you make a purchase, the retailer will process the order and Amex will issue you a purchase credit.

Donate to charity

American Express also allows cardholders to donate some of their unused points to charitable causes through its partnership with the company JustGiving. This is an excellent way to support worthy causes while also spending points you’re not going to redeem in other ways.

How much are Amex Membership Rewards points worth?

The value of Amex Membership Rewards points varies depending on how you redeem them. For example, Amex points are worth 2.0 cents each on average when transferred to high-value airline or hotel partners, according to the latest Bankrate valuations.

If you’re not transferring your points, you can figure out the value of your points using the American Express rewards points calculator. This chart shows the current values of different redemption options based on that calculator:

Redemption option Membership Rewards points value per point
Travel booked through American Express Travel 0.5 cents – 1 cent
Statement credits 0.6 cents
Purchases using Pay with Points 0.7 cents – 1 cent
Gift cards 0.5 cents – 1 cent
Merchandise from the Membership Rewards portal 0.5 cents
Charitable donations 0.7 cents

You’ll typically get 1 cent per point when you book flights or fine hotels and resorts through American Express Travel and 0.7 cents per point when you book prepaid hotels, cruises or vacation packages. Paying for your excise tax offset fee with points would get you a value of 0.5 cents per point.

Gift cards also vary in redemption value. For example, cards from certain partners like Adidas, Banana Republic and Saks Fifth Avenue have a redemption value of 1 cent per point, while other partners like Instacart and Starbucks have a redemption value of 0.7 cents per point at the time of writing. American Express-branded gift cards are typically worth 0.5 cents per point.


Bankrate’s take: For the most part, we suggest avoiding Amex Membership Rewards points redemptions that offer less than 1 cent per point in value. While your rewards are definitely yours to spend, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you focus on redemption options that net you at least 1 cent per point each.

How does Amex Membership Rewards compare with other programs?

American Express Membership Rewards isa popular rewards program, but there are plenty of others you can take advantage of, too. Here’s how Amex Membership Rewards points compare to some of the best credit card rewards programs:

Rewards program Baseline value Bankrate estimated value
American Express Membership Rewards 1 cent 2.0 cents
Bank of America travel rewards 1 cent 1.0 cents
Capital One miles 1 cent 1.7 cents
Chase Ultimate Rewards 1 cent – 1.5 cents 2.0 cents
Citi ThankYou Points (Citi Premier® Card only) 1 cent 1.6 cents
Star Alt

Keep in mind: Bankrate valuations are based on an average of the issuer’s five highest-value transfer partners (if that data is available). This estimated value shows how much your points could be worth on average when transferred, but your results will vary.

Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners

To get the highest value out of your Membership Rewards points, consider transferring your those points to a reward program of one of American Express’s many transfer partners.

The bottom line

Amex Membership Rewards points offer flexible redemption options, don’t have overall earning limits and don’t expire. Not only that, but you can shop around for travel to ensure you get the best deal, whether that means booking through American Express Travel or transferring your points to an airline or hotel partner. And since you can also always redeem points for gift cards, merchandise and statement credits, you’ll be able to use your rewards no matter what.

Before redeeming points, make sure you consider all of your options and determine which ones might provide the greatest return. Also, don’t forget to compare American Express Membership Rewards cards against other cards with flexible rewards programs, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, to ensure you have the ideal card for your spending style.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Amex Membership Rewards

  • No, Amex Membership Rewards points never expire. The value of those points, however, can change often depending on how you wish to redeem them. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of a good deal when you find it.
  • You cannot transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to friends and family members, but you can allow them to take advantage of some of the perks you get if they are authorized users on your account.
  • According to American Express, you may be able to buy points when you’re in the process of using points and you don’t have enough points for redemption. In this case, points must be purchased in increments of 1,000 points (worth $25).
  • Amex’s Upgrade with Points feature was a way for cardholders to score seat upgrades on flights. Cardholders used points to place an offer on an available seat so that they could essentially purchase an upgrade. This feature was discontinued on December 3, 2023.
  • If you cancel your Amex card while you still have unused points on your account, you will lose those points entirely. If you’re considering canceling your card, make sure you use up all of your points first, even if you just have a small amount. You can always donate those points to charity if you don’t plan on redeeming them another way.