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The American Express Membership Rewards program has long been considered one of the most valuable and flexible credit card rewards programs out there. Because of this value and flexibility, many consumers focus on earning as many American Express Membership Rewards points as possible through welcome bonuses and credit card spending.
Although rewards can be used in more than one way, they most notably can be used for transfers to American Express airline and hotel partners. Still, you don’t have to travel to benefit from Amex Membership Rewards. You can also cash in your points for statement credits, gift cards or merchandise.
However, the value that you’ll get out of American Express Membership Rewards points varies depending on how you choose to redeem them. Keep reading to learn about American Express Membership Rewards points, how much they’re worth and how to get the most value out of them.
How much are American Express points worth?
American Express generously provides redemption values through its rewards calculator. This calculator makes it easy to know how much value you should receive from different redemption methods like gift cards, statement credits, travel and more.
According to valuations from Bankrate, points earned in the American Express Membership Rewards program are worth approximately 2.1 cents each, although how you redeem them will ultimately determine their value. With that in mind, some redemption options will help you to get considerably more value from your rewards than others.
When you redeem Amex points for statement credits, your points value will be 0.6 cents. So, 1,000 Amex points would be worth $6.
Redemption rates for gift cards are around 1 cent per point, but they vary widely depending on the merchant. You should be able to get 1 cent in value for most major retailers and restaurants, but some merchants may only have a value of 0.7 cents or 0.8 cents. For example, you could redeem 5,000 points for a $50 gift card to Olive Garden or Gap, but those same points would only get you a $42.50 gift card for Outback Steakhouse or a $35 gift card to Best Buy.
Pay with points
American Express lets you use your points to buy merchandise at select retailers. For this redemption option, you’ll link your Amex account with your merchant account and choose the option to pay with points at checkout to cover all or part of your purchases. When redeemed in this way, your points will be worth about 0.7 cents each.
You’ll get 0.7 cents in value when you pay with points at merchants like Amazon, PayPal, Best Buy, Dell, Grubhub, Newegg, Rite Aid, Seamless, Staples and Saks Fifth Avenue, among others. However, points redeemed for NYC Taxi are worth 1 cent each and points redeemed for Ticketmaster are worth 0.5 cents each.
Shop with points
Another option is to shop with points through the American Express shopping portal. Through this portal, you’ll see the cost of items in terms of dollars and points. When you use American Express points to shop for merchandise, points values vary, but you’ll likely receive around 0.5 cents in value.
However, it’s possible you may receive up to 1 cent in value per point. For example, you may see a Samsung TV worth about $1,000 or 100,000 points (1 cent in value), or a KitchenAid blender worth $450 or about 90,000 points (0.5 cents in value).
You can also use Amex points to shop for travel through American Express Travel. Here, you’ll get approximately 1 cent per point for flights and eligible flight upgrades and around 0.7 cents per point for hotels, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages.
Transfers to Amex partners
Redeeming points for transfers to airline or hotel partners is, by far, the most lucrative redemption option. According to Bankrate, this is where you can typically get 2.1 cents per point in value.
However, it should be noted that each partner loyalty program determines the transfer ratio for points redemption. While most Amex points transfer to partner programs at a 1,000:1,000 ratio, some Amex points transfer at a different rate. For example, Amex points transfer to Aeromexico at a 1,000:1,600 ratio and to Hilton Honors at a 1,000:2,000 ratio.
How to maximize American Express points
You’ll get approximately 2 cents per point in value when you transfer points to airline partners specifically, which is more than you’ll get with other redemption options.
To maximize value for airline transfers, you should start with comparing airline partners and figuring out which ones can get you to your destination. From there, you can check for award space on the flights you want while also figuring out how many miles you need for the redemption you want. Generally, you’ll get the most value from your points when you transfer points to airlines for international and domestic flights in premium cabins.
Otherwise, check flight prices in points on the American Express Travel site. While unlikely, it’s possible that a flight you want will be available through Amex Travel for a similar number of miles as you can book with a transfer partner. This typically takes place when a flight is on sale. In that case, it may be more convenient to book through Amex Travel.
Also, keep in mind that American Express occasionally runs transfer bonuses to airline and hotel partners — usually in the form of an extra percentage of miles when you transfer Amex points. If you frequently book flights with a specific airline like British Airways or Avianca LifeMiles, for example, keep an eye out for these bonuses and use them when you can.
The bottom line
When earning rewards with an American Express credit card, there are no “right” or “wrong” ways to redeem points. The points you earn are yours to spend how you wish, so you shouldn’t feel bad if you ultimately select a non-travel redemption option. That said, if you’re looking to get the most value out of your points, you should consider more lucrative redemption methods like Amex points transfers to airline and hotel partners.