Key takeaways

  • In most cases, your best value for American Express Membership Rewards points is redeeming them for travel.
  • Amex offers a calculator that can help you decide how best to redeem your points.
  • Get the most value from your points by learning how to earn points as well as redeem them.

Many American Express rewards cards allow you to earn points within the flexible American Express Membership Rewards program. You can redeem these points for gift cards, merchandise, statement credits and Amex experiences. In most cases, you’ll get the most value for your Amex points if you use them for travel redemptions.

We’ve put together a list of the best ways to use your American Express Membership Rewards points, whether you book flights and hotels through Amex Travel, put your points toward a vacation package or transfer your points to qualifying airline and hotel partners. And if you’re happy with statement credits or discounts at popular retailers like Amazon and Grubhub, we can help you understand those options as well.

1. Transfer points to travel partners

Among top credit cards that allow you to transfer points to travel partners, American Express may be one of your best choices. Amex allows you to transfer points to 18 airlines and three hotels—which gives you plenty of opportunity to reach your destination and get a good night’s sleep!

When transferring points, you’ll want to pay attention to the transfer ratio, which can differ depending on the travel partner you choose. For example, you can transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards points for 1,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, those same 1,000 Membership Rewards points might get you double the points by transferring to Hilton Honors. Study your options to get the most value out of your points, and take a look at our current points and miles valuations to ensure you’re picking a transfer partner that helps you maximize your rewards.

2. Book your next trip through Amex

Rather than transfer your Membership Rewards points to another loyalty program, Amex allows you to book flights, prepaid hotels and more directly through its ou want to use your Membership Rewards points for travel but don’t want to transfer them to another loyalty program, you can always book flights, prepaid hotels and more through the American Express Travel Portal.

Booking travel with Amex is one of the best ways to spend your American Express points, especially if you plan your trip using the issuer’s rewards points calculator. If you have the Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, 10,000 Membership Rewards points are worth $100 toward flights, but only $70 towards prepaid hotels and prepaid car rentals. Use the calculator to get the most out of your points, so you can focus on getting the most out of your vacation!

3. Pay With Points when you shop online

Pay With Points makes it easy to use your points at checkout with participating brands that include Amazon, Best Buy, Grubhub and RiteAid. Just link your Membership Rewards account or — depending on the retailer — check out with an eligible American Express credit card. From there, you select Pay With Points, review your Amex points balance and use some or all of them to cover your transaction total.

If you aren’t planning any upcoming trips, using Pay With Points at checkout may be one of your better options. Though, here too, you can use Amex’s online calculator to confirm you’re getting the best use from your Amex points. If you have the American Express® Gold Card, for example, you’d see that 10,000 points are worth $70 at Amazon, Best Buy and other popular retailers — less than the $100 value you’d get if you booked a flight with

4. Turn points into statement credits

Like many issuers, American Express allows you to turn your Membership Rewards points into statement credits. Use your points to chip away at your credit card balance and avoid interest on your outstanding debt.

But keep in mind that no matter which Amex card you use, redeeming your Amex points for statement credits offers less value than if you’d redeemed your points for travel through Amex, a travel partner or Pay With Points at checkout. For instance, depending on your card, 10,000 points might total a low $60 in statement credits.

5. Deposit your points in an Amex checking account

If you bank with American Express, you have the option of depositing your Amex points directly into a Membership Rewards Checking or Amex Business Checking account. While Amex doesn’t share how much value you’ll get per point, it’s worth assuming that you might not get as much from making checking account deposits than you would if you transferred your points to travel partners or used them to book travel through Amex.

6. Shop popular brands through Rakuten

Many issuers offer a card shopping portal that helps you to maximize your points with popular brands and score deals, but Amex isn’t one of them. Rather, you can earn boosted points through Amex Offers or cash back through Rakuten.

Rakuten is among the top cash back shopping portals offering deals at more than 3,000 retailers selling clothing, electronics, home goods, food, travel and more. Sign up with Rakuten, link an eligible Membership Rewards account and earn points for every dollar spent through the platform. Earn a minimum 500 points to cash out what you’ve earned as Membership Rewards.

Rakuten deals can be lucrative, depending on your spending, with past offers including 30 percent cash back at food delivery service Green Chef and 6 percent cash back at Target Optical.

7. Redeem points for gift cards

Believe it or not, redemption toward gift cards may be one of the better ways to use your Membership Rewards points. Your points are typically worth about 1 cent each, which means 10,000 Membership Rewards points could be worth as much as $100 — on par with travel redemption.

The issuer offers gift cards that cover travel, dining, experiences and more. You can also use them to purchase American Express gift cards, sometimes at a discount, which act as a credit card you can gift to others or save for a rainy day. Get the best value out of your points by exploring your options on Amex’s gift card site.

What American Express cards earn you Membership Rewards?

If you want an American Express credit card that earns Membership Rewards, you’re in luck. Amex offers six personal credit cards and four business credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including popular credit cards like the Platinum Card from American Express and the Amex Gold Card.

If you’re considering the Blue from American Express card as a starter credit card, be aware that it offers fewer point redemption options — and less value per point — than other Amex cards on the list. The Blue card is an excellent credit-building tool, especially for people who are new to credit, but it may not be the best way to get the most out of your Membership Rewards points.

How to earn American Express Membership Rewards points

There are many different ways to earn American Express Membership Rewards points, whether you’re earning rewards on everyday spending, taking advantage of a valuable welcome offer or referring your favorite Amex credit card to a friend.

Here are the best ways to earn American Express Membership Rewards points:

  • Use your Amex credit card for everyday purchases: Every time you use your American Express card to make a purchase — in store, online or at the pump — you have the opportunity to earn Membership Rewards points. The Amex EveryDay Card — which offers 2X points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year), 2X points on prepaid rental cars booked through and 1X points on all other purchases — is a valuable option for people who want to earn Membership Rewards points without paying an annual fee.
  • Use your Amex card for bonus category purchases. Some American Express cards offer higher rewards when you shop in specific categories. The Amex Gold Card, for example, offers 4X points at restaurants worldwide, 4X points on Uber Eats purchases, 4X points on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $25,000 in purchases per year), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or and 1X points on all other purchases. To maximize your credit card rewards, choose an Amex card that offers high rewards in categories you shop often.
  • Earn your welcome bonus. New cardholders may have the opportunity to earn a valuable welcome bonus with their Amex credit card. Pick an Amex credit card that offers a welcome bonus with a minimum spending requirement you can afford, and then do your best to earn those extra points!
  • Take advantage of Amex Offers. Amex frequently offers discounts, statement credits or bonus points if you shop at specific retailers. These Amex Offers show up in your online credit card account or mobile app, so make sure you check regularly — and use our guide to Amex Offers to maximize your points.
  • Refer an Amex card to family or friends. Many people don’t realize that they can earn bonus rewards by referring their favorite credit cards to family or friends. Use our credit card referral guide to get started.

The bottom line

The American Express Membership Rewards program can be extremely valuable — if you know how to use it. Whether you’re redeeming your Membership Rewards points for travel or maximize your rewards at retailers, you’ll be better prepared to take advantage of every point you earn. If you don’t already have an Amex credit card in your wallet, see our list of the best American Express cards for high-value rewards programs and more.

*Issuer-required disclosure statement

Information about the American Express® Green Card, Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, Amex EveryDay® Credit Card and Business Green Rewards Card has been collected independently by Bankrate. Card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.