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Where some rewards credit cards let you earn points/miles within a specific airline or hotel loyalty program, others, like the American Express Membership Rewards program, earn flexible rewards that you can redeem in more than one way.
You can cash in Membership Rewards points for various travel redemptions as well as gift cards or merchandise, and even transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Amex hotel and airline partners.
While the American Express Membership Rewards program is for American Express credit cardholders, not all Amex cards come with access to Membership Rewards. Some Amex credit cards earn cash back instead, so make sure you know which cards offer which type of rewards before you apply.
How to Earn American Express Membership Rewards
Earning points in the American Express Membership Rewards program requires you to have an eligible Amex credit card or charge card. For the most part, the easiest way to earn rewards in this program is by making purchases with your card.
There are a number of American Express credit and charge cards that earn Membership Rewards points. Some cards are designed for everyday spending, with rewards structures made for grocery and gas purchases. Other cards offer valuable rewards for travel purchases. Business owners also have a few American Express credit and charge cards to choose from for business-related spending.
A quick reminder: American Express’ charge cards are different from standard credit cards. With a charge card, you have no spending limit and you must pay off your balance in full every month. Amex does offer a “Pay Over Time” feature if you need to carry a balance on a charge card, but the cards are designed to be paid off in full each billing cycle.
There are a few other ways to earn extra Membership Rewards points. For example, you can log in to your Membership Rewards account and look for Amex Offers. Some of these offers give you additional points if you make purchases with selected retailers.
You can also earn points by referring a friend to American Express — if they’re approved for a card, you’ll get your rewards bonus.
Here are a few of Bankrate’s picks for American Express credit cards and charge cards that you can use to earn Membership Rewards points:
- Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points after making $1,000 in purchases in the first three months
- Earn 2X points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000/year in purchases, then 1 point per dollar, plus 1X points on all other eligible purchases
- Use your card to make 20 or more purchases in a billing period and earn 20 percent more points on eligible purchases
- No annual fee
The information about the Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
- Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards points after making $1,000 in purchases in the first three months
- Earn 3X points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000/year in purchases, then 1 point per dollar; 2X points at U.S. gas stations and 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases
- Use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 50 percent more points on those purchases
- $95 annual fee
The information about the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
- Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards points after making $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
- Earn 3X points on eligible travel and 3X points at restaurants worldwide, plus 1X points on all other eligible purchases
- Receive up to $100 LoungeBuddy statement credit and up to $100 statement credit for CLEAR each year
- $150 annual fee
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening
- Earn 4X points on dining worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 spent each year, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on AmexTravel.com and 1X points on other purchases
- Receive up to $120 dining credit and up to $100 airline fee credit with a select airline each year
- $250 annual fee
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $5,000 on your card within three months of account opening
- Earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines and flights and hotels booked through AmexTravel.com; earn 1X points on all other eligible purchases
- Receive up to $200 in Uber credits each year, up to $200 airline fee credit with a select airline, airport lounge access, a credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck and more
- $550 annual fee
- Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months
- 4X points on the two categories (among a list of given categories) in which your business spends the most, on up to $150,000/year in combined purchases, then 1X; 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases
- Get 25 percent points back when you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked through Amex Travel (up to 250,000 points back per calendar year)
- $295 annual fee
- No welcome bonus
- Earn 2X points on the first $50,000 you spend on your card each year with no category restrictions, then 1X points
- No annual fee
- Earn 75,0000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 in the first three months of account opening
- 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com; 1.5X points on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million points per year); 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases
- Get 35 percent points back when you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked through Amex Travel (up to 350,000 points back annually)
- Receive up to $200 airline fee statement credit with one select airline, up to $200 Dell credit, airport lounge access and other perks
- $595 annual fee
There are a handful of additional cards that earn Membership Rewards, many of which require you to be a member of a specific financial institution. For example, you must be a member of Morgan Stanley to access the Morgan Stanley Credit Card from American Express®. Other Membership Rewards cards, such as the American Express® Centurion® Card, require an invite from Amex — you can’t apply for them on your own.
You can also leverage different cards’ rewards structures to maximize your spending even further. If you have more than one card that earns Membership Rewards, your points will pool into a single Membership Rewards account.
How to redeem Amex Membership Rewards
Redeem your points through the Membership Rewards portal, accessible through your American Express account or by visiting MembershipRewards.com. Once you’re there, you can choose from the various American Express Membership Rewards options available to you.
Book through AmexTravel.com
If you already know you want to use your points on travel, you can go directly to AmexTravel.com. That’s where you’ll end up if you select “book travel” through Membership Rewards or using your mobile app, too.
AmexTravel.com works a lot like any other travel portal in that you’ll search for the travel you want and then have the ability to choose from different flights, hotels, cruises and more. The difference is, you can choose to pay for travel with points, cash or a combination of the two.
Transfer points to transfer partners
You can also transfer points directly to American Express Membership Rewards partners from your account. All you have to do is head to your Membership Rewards page and click on “transfer points.”
American Express Membership Rewards points are typically worth two cents each, according to valuations from The Points Guy. You’re most likely to get this maximum value when you transfer points to Amex airline and hotel partners.
American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners include the following (all transfer partners come with a 1,000:1,000 ratio unless otherwise noted):
- Aer Lingus
- AeroMexico 1,000:1,600
- Air Canada (Aeroplan)
- Air France / Flying Blue
- Asia Miles
- British Airways
- Delta SkyMiles
- El Al Israel Airlines 1,000: 20
- Etihad Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways 250: 200
- Qantas 500:500
- Singapore Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Choice Privileges Rewards
- Hilton Honors: 1,000:2,000
- Marriott Bonvoy
Pay With Points
If you’re not big on travel and you prefer other types of rewards, you can also redeem points through American Express’s Pay With Points at Checkout option.
Many retailers, including Amazon, Walmart and Grubhub participate in Pay With Points — 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.
Statement credits and other options
Other redemption options include statement credits for charges posted to your account or gift cards to select retailers like Best Buy, Target and The Home Depot. You can also opt to shop with points directly with American Express instead of shopping with select retailers.
Explore available redemptions through your American Express account and click through to read about each. Gift cards and merchandise options are subject to change, so you may want to check back periodically to see which options are available.
While points or miles earned in a specific program can be worth pursuing if you know you can use them, flexible points like American Express Membership Rewards points allow you to earn rewards on all your spending, then wait to decide how to use them when you’re ready. Not only that, but you can “shop around” with flexible points for travel to ensure you get the best deal, whether that means booking through AmexTravel.com or transferring 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.
Make sure you consider all your options and which ones might provide the greatest return before making your redemptions and don’t forget to compare American Express credit cards against other rewards credit cards to ensure you have the ideal card for your spending style.
Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.