Guide to American Express Membership Rewards
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- In order to earn Amex Membership Rewards points, be sure the Amex credit card you choose earns points in this program and not cash back
- Unlike Amex's cash back credit cards, Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards points offer more redemption options
- You can redeem your points for travel, gift cards, select merchandise or statement credits, or else transfer your points to Amex travel partners
- You'll typically get the most value from your points when you transfer them to Amex airline 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 transfer points to Amex hotel and airline partners.
Below, we’ll 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.
Amex Membership Rewards basics
Earning points in the American Express Membership Rewards program requires you to have an eligible American Express credit card. Even though the American Express Membership Rewards program is for American Express credit card holders, not all Amex cards come with access to Membership Rewards. Some of the top American Express credit cards earn cash back instead — such as the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express — so make sure you know which cards offer which type of rewards before you apply.
There are a number of American Express consumer and business credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points. 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.
How to earn Amex Membership Rewards points
Eligible credit card spending
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. It’s also worth mentioning that there are no limits to how many Amex Membership Rewards points you can earn overall (though restrictions may apply to certain bonus category rates on certain Amex cards).
Earn points through Amex Offers
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.
You can also earn points by referring a friend (or family member) to American Express. If they’re approved for a consumer or business card, you’ll get a referral bonus.
How to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points
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
The best way to use Amex Membership Rewards points is by transferring points to Amex Membership Rewards travel partners. However, you’ll typically get even more value from your points when you transfer points 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 2 cents in value per point with partners like Hawaiian Airlines, Emirates, Avianca, Aeroplan and others, so make sure to compare transfer partners that fly where you plan to travel.
For example, using the Air France/KLM Flying Blue program, you can frequently book round-trip, economy flights to Europe that cost $1,200 or more with less than 50,000 miles per person. At that rate, you’re getting an outsized value at 2.4 cents for each mile you redeem. The Delta SkyMiles program can also be lucrative when it comes to finding flights for a reasonable number of miles, but that’s especially true when you use miles to leverage one of the frequent SkyMiles Deals (which change every few weeks).
Use Pay with Points
Many retailers, like Amazon, Dell and Best Buy, participate in American Express’ 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.
Get a statement credit
You can also redeem points for statement credits to cover charges posted to your account, but this option usually offers the least amount of value.
Get gift cards
Another option is to redeem points for gift cards. You can choose from more than 80 retailers, including Apple, Athleta, Best Buy, Sephora and Target, among many others. 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 retailers’ websites. You can shop by brand, department and featured offers. As you explore items, you’ll see both dollar amounts and points values. After you make a purchase, the retailer will process the order and Amex will issue you a purchase credit.
How much are Amex Membership Rewards points worth?
The value of Amex Membership Rewards points varies depending on how you redeem them. For example, we estimate that Amex points have a value of 2.1 cents each when transferred to high-value airline or hotel partners.
However, you’ll only get 1 cent per point when you book flights through American Express Travel and 0.7 cents per point when you book prepaid hotels, cruises or vacation packages. Additionally, you’ll typically get 0.7 cents per point when you redeem your rewards for purchases made through an Amex Pay with Points partner. And you’ll get 0.6 cents per point when redeeming points for statement credits and up to 1 cent per point for gift cards.
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 do Amex Membership Rewards points compare with other programs?
Here’s how Amex Membership Rewards points compare to some of the best credit card rewards programs:
|Rewards program||Baseline value||Bankrate value|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1 cent||2.1 cents|
|Bank of America travel rewards||1 cent||1 cent|
|Capital One miles||1 cent||2 cents|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||1 cent – 1.5 cents||2 cents|
|Citi ThankYou Points||1 cent||1.9 cents|
Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners
- Aer Lingus
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- ANA Mileage Club
- Avianca LifeMiles
- British Airways Executive Club
- Cathay Pacific
- Delta Air Lines
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest
- Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Choice Privileges
- Hilton Honors
- Marriott Bonvoy
Top credit cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards points
The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for luxury travelers
The Platinum Card® from American Express, which comes with a $695 annual fee, is one of the best premium travel credit cards on the market. To start with, you can earn 80,000 points after you spend $6,000 in your first six months of card membership. You’ll also earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 per year), 5X points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel and 1X points on all other purchases.
This card also comes with numerous travel perks and statement credits, including airport lounge access, up to $200 in statement credits each year on select prepaid hotel bookings through American Express Travel (terms apply), up to $200 in statement credits per year for incidentals with a qualifying airline, up to $189 in statement credits for Clear Plus membership and plenty of other benefits.
American Express Gold Card: Best for food and travel lovers
The American Express® Gold Card offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first six months of card membership. It also offers 4X points on restaurants (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.), 4X points on Uber Eats purchases, 4X points on supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1X points), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel and 1X points on all other purchases.
Plus, the statement credit benefits this card offers can help recoup its $250 annual fee. You can earn up to $120 annually in statement credits ($10 per month; enrollment required) for dining with eligible restaurants, up to $120 in annual Uber Cash ($10 per month; expires at the end of the month) and up to a $100 hotel credit with The Hotel Collection when you book two consecutive nights or more through American Express Travel.
American Express Green Card: Best mid-tier card for travel and food
The American Express® Green Card, which comes with a $150 annual fee, is a great option for occasional travelers who are still looking for some travel and dining perks. This card offers 3X points on select travel and transit purchases (including flights, hotels, buses, trains and more), 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide and 1X points on all other purchases. As for a welcome offer, you can earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first six months of card membership and earn 20 percent back on eligible travel and transit purchases made during your first six months of card membership (up to $200 back in the form of a statement credits).
Some of this card’s featured benefits include up to $189 per calendar year in statement credits for Clear Plus membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you pay for membership with your card, up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year on your LoungeBuddy purchases when you use your card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy, trip delay insurance and no foreign transaction fees.
Amex EveryDay Credit Card: Best for no annual fee
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card*, which comes with no annual fee, is a great entry-level credit card for the Amex Membership Rewards program. It offers 2X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1X points) and 1X points on all other purchases. New cardholders can also earn 10,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card: Best for low annual fee
If you don’t mind paying an annual fee — but you don’t want to pay a high annual fee — The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card* is a good alternative to choose since it comes with a $95 annual fee. This card offers 3X points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1X points), 2X points on U.S. gas station purchases and 1X points on all other purchases. You can also earn a welcome offer of 15,000 points after spending $2,000 within six months of account opening.
Amex Membership Rewards points never expire.
You cannot transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to friends and family members.
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 a redemption. In this case, points must be purchased in increments of 1,000 points (worth $25).
The bottom line
While points or miles earned in a specific program can be worth pursuing if you know you can use them, Amex Membership Rewards points offer flexible redemption options, don’t have 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 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.
*All information about Amex EveryDay® Credit Card and The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.