Key takeaways

  • American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are two popular rewards programs with flexible points redemption options.
  • Both programs offer the ability to transfer points to various airline and hotel partners, but the partners differ between the two programs and could be a deciding factor when choosing a program to pursue.
  • Some frequent travelers choose to utilize both programs to maximize their rewards potential.

American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are two of the most popular rewards programs available to cardholders today.

You can use either of these programs to earn flexible rewards points with eligible rewards credit cards, then cash in your points for some potentially high-value redemptions. Some of the premier travel credit cards in each program also come with coveted benefits like airport lounge access, annual travel credits, travel insurance and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credits.

But would you fare better with Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards points? Below, we’ve compared the two programs to help you decide.

Amex vs. Chase comparison

American Express Membership Rewards Chase Ultimate Rewards
Transfer partners 21 partners: 18 airline, 3 hotel 14 partners: 11 airline, 3 hotel
Bankrate point valuation About 2.0 cents per point when transferred to a high-value transfer partner About 2.0 cents per point when transferred to a high-value transfer partner
Travel transfer redemptions Most programs transfer at a 1:1 value, but some vary Points transfer at a 1:1 value
Other redemption options
  • Statement credits
  • Gift cards
  • Pay with points
  • Book via American Express Travel
  • Statement credits
  • Gift cards
  • Shop with points
  • Chase Dining experiences
  • Book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
More details
  • Transferring points to travel partners is the best way to get more value; non-travel redemptions are typically worth less than 1 cent per point.
  • Some Amex cards offer points boosts when you book airfare through the Amex Travel portal
  • Some Chase cards offer boosted rewards for travel redemptions.
  • Some Ultimate Rewards points-earning cards do not earn transferable points, and cannot be transferred to partners without a premium card

Amex vs. Chase: Redemption options

One of the biggest benefits of both of these programs is the flexibility you’ll have to choose from multiple redemption options.

Amex Membership Rewards redemption options

You can earn American Express Membership Rewards points with many top American Express credit cards, and then redeem them in different ways. Redemption options include:

  • Statement credits to cover charges on your account
  • Gift cards for popular merchants
  • Paying with points at checkout on sites like Amazon, PayPal and BestBuy
  • Shopping with points through the American Express shopping portal
  • Booking or upgrading travel through American Express Travel
  • Points transfers to airline and hotel programs

With many of these redemption options — except for travel and points transfers — you’ll generally get less than 1 cent per point in value. However, the points value you’ll receive depends on how you redeem your points, so make sure to compare and do the math beforehand.

When it comes to travel redemptions, you can redeem your Amex points through the American Express Travel portal. This website lets you search for airfare, cruises, hotels, rental cars and vacation packages with various travel vendors all in one place, and you can pay with points, cash or a combination of points and cash. You will need at least 5,000 Membership Rewards points in your account to pay for travel with points, however.

You’ll typically get 1 cent per point in value when you redeem your points for flights through the Amex portal, but only 0.7 cents per point when you redeem for hotels, cruises and other travel.

Some American Express credit cards do give you a bonus when you redeem points for airfare specifically through For example, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express provides a 35 percent Airline Bonus on premium cabin flights or flights with your pre-selected airline, which means your points will be worth 1.35 cents per point when you redeem them for eligible airfare through the portal. Note that there’s an annual limit of 1 million points back per calendar year.

Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption options

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is slightly more straightforward when it comes to the program specifics and respective redemption values. You can redeem points for:

  • Statement credits or direct deposits
  • Gift cards from popular retailers
  • Exclusive event experiences
  • Takeout, reservations or experiences through Chase Dining
  • Shopping with points at Amazon or via PayPal
  • Shopping at Apple
  • Shopping through the Chase shopping portal
  • Travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • Transfers to airline and hotel partners

Statement credits and direct deposits typically have a value of 1 cent per point, and the same redemption value usually applies to gift cards, experiences and shopping with points through Apple. However, some gift cards frequently go on sale, so you’ll be able to get more than 1 cent per point in return. purchases, on the other hand, usually provide less than 1 cent in value.

When redeeming points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, your points value will vary from card to card. Most cards allow you get 1 cent per point when you redeem for travel, but there are three top Chase credit cards that offer more value. Specifically, those cards are the:

Amex vs. Chase: Transfer partners

Both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards let you transfer points to popular airline and hotel programs, and some of their transfer partners overlap. Still, this is one area where you’ll want to pay a lot of attention. If you do most of your flying with one airline, or tend to stay in the same hotel chain, and you’re already a loyalty member with those brands, you may want to ensure they’re partners of the program you choose.

For example, the American Express Membership Rewards program often comes out ahead for individuals who frequently travel internationally and want a more diverse selection of international transfer partners, whereas domestic travelers may have more options with Chase.

Amex transfer partners

Most Amex transfer partners let you transfer points at a 1:1 ratio, but there are a few outliers with different transfer rates. For the following transfer partners, all points will transfer from Amex to its partners at a 1,000:1,000 rate unless otherwise noted

    • Aer Lingus
    • Aeromexico (1,000:1,600)
    • Air Canada
    • Air France / KLM
    • ANA
    • Avianca
    • British Airways
    • Cathay Pacific
    • Delta Air Lines
    • Emirates
    • Etihad Airways
    • Hawaiian Airlines
    • Iberia
    • JetBlue (250:200)
    • Qantas (500:500)
    • Qatar
    • Singapore Airlines
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • Choice Privileges
    • Hilton Honors (1,000:2,000)
    • Marriott Bonvoy

Chase transfer partners

All Chase Ultimate Rewards travel partners let you transfer points at a 1:1 ratio. Although Chase has fewer transfer partners than American Express, Chase’s partners may make more sense for you depending on how you travel.

    • Aer Lingus
    • Air Canada
    • Air France / KLM
    • British Airways
    • Emirates
    • Iberia
    • JetBlue
    • Singapore Airlines
    • Southwest Airlines
    • United
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • IHG One Rewards
    • Marriott Bonvoy
    • World of Hyatt

Is the Ultimate Rewards program worth it?

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is worth it whether you’re just getting started with credit card rewards or you’re an old pro, especially if you primarily use your rewards for hotels. For new users, the program is simple to understand with its consistent 1:1 transfer partner options; plus, the boosted redemption opportunities for Sapphire and Ink Business Preferred cardholders within the Chase travel portal make it easy to snag some extra value without even trying to navigate transferring to travel partners.

For those with more experience, there are exceptional deals and value to be found with strategic transfers.

Is the Membership Rewards program worth it?

The Membership Rewards program is also worth it, but more so for people who already have experience with other travel rewards programs and are looking to expand their horizons with transfer partners.

Admittedly, the Membership Rewards program is more complicated than the Ultimate Rewards program and doesn’t offer the same boosted value when using the portal. Therefore, it’s likely most worth it for people who are going to take the step to understand and optimize strategic transfers to partners. The list of international airlines is expansive and there are excellent values to be found, in particular.

How to choose the best rewards program for you

Either one of these programs can help you earn and redeem rewards for travel and more, but the right rewards card for you depends on your normal spending, budget and how you plan to redeem your points. Before you decide, take time to compare all the rewards credit cards offered in each program and their respective earning rates and benefits, as well as transfer partners you’re most likely to take advantage of.

Fortunately, there are plenty of cards to consider, and you can even combine cards. For example, some people collect the Amex trifecta or the Chase trifecta — popular card trios within either program — which allow you to maximize rewards in certain categories while securing a solid combination of travel benefits along the way.

Another option many frequent travelers use is to pick up cards in both programs. Since some transfer partners overlap — like Air France/KLM, Emirates, Aer Lingus, British Airways and Marriott Bonvoy — having both Chase and Amex cards in your wallet can be an excellent way to pad your reward banks. Just make sure you’re getting enough value from your rewards to justify any annual fees, and you only spend on the cards what you can afford to pay down in full.

The bottom line

The Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards programs offer flexibility and value for a variety of cardholders and lifestyles. In fact, many people could benefit from building rewards with both programs and redeeming them strategically.

As with any credit card decision, take your credit score, lifestyle, needs and goals into account before applying for a card that gets you into one of these rewards programs. No amount of rewards will offset poor credit card management or even choosing a card that simply doesn’t fit your spending habits. If you’re unsure where to start, check out the Bankrate CardMatch tool to explore some personalized options.