American Express Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards

6 min read
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American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are two of the most popular flexible rewards programs available today, and it’s easy to see why. Both let you earn points with their respective rewards credit cards and offer several different ways to cash in your points. Some of the premier travel credit cards in each program also come with superior benefits like travel insurance, airport lounge access, annual travel credits and fee credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.

But, which of these flexible programs would be best for you? That really depends on which rewards credit cards align best with your average spending, as well as how you might ultimately redeem your points. Your preference of programs should also depend on the transfer partners you’ll utilize most often.

Redemption options

One of the biggest benefits of both of these programs is the fact that, unlike airline and hotel programs with limited redemption options to choose from, flexible programs let you cash in your rewards in a plethora of ways.

Amex Membership Rewards redemption options

With American Express Membership Rewards, you can redeem the points you earn with select American Express credit cards in several different ways that have nothing to do with travel. For example, you can:

  • Cash in points for statement credits to cover charges on your account
  • Redeem rewards for gift cards
  • Use points to upgrade flights
  • Go shopping on the American Express website
  • Pay with points at checkout with retailers like GrubHub, Walmart.com and Amazon.com

With each of these options, you’ll generally get a value of less than one cent per point. However, the value you will receive depends on exactly how you redeem them, so make sure to run the numbers before you cash in your points.

When it comes to travel redemptions, you can redeem your American Express Membership Rewards points through AmexTravel.com. This website lets you search for airfare, cruises, hotels, rental cars and vacation packages with various travel vendors 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 one cent per point in value when you redeem your points for flights through the Amex portal, yet this value is slightly less 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 AmexTravel.com. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, gives cardholders a 35 percent airline bonus on premium cabin flights or flights with your pre-selected airline, which means you get 35 percent of your points back when you redeem for eligible airfare through the portal with an annual limit of 500,000 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 cash back at a rate of one cent per point, and the same redemption value applies to gift cards, experiences and shopping with points through Amazon.com or Apple.com. The main non-travel exception is the fact that some gift cards are frequently listed on sale, where you can get more than one cent per point in return.

Chase also lets you redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, yet how much your points are worth varies from card to card. Most cards let you get one cent per point when you redeem for travel, but there are three Chase credit cards that offer more value — specifically, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card give you a 25 percent bonus, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card gives you 50 percent more travel when you redeem points through Chase.

The information about the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Transfer partners

As mentioned already, both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards let you transfer points to airline and hotel programs. And believe it or not, some of their transfer partners overlap.

This is one area where you’ll want to pay a lot of attention. The transfer partners for each program will likely help you determine which one might work best for you. American Express Membership Rewards often comes out ahead for individuals who frequently travel internationally and want a more diverse selection of international transfer partners, whereas Chase travel partners are easier to use closer to home.

American Express transfer partners

Most Amex transfer partners let you move points at a ratio of 1,000:1,000, but there are a few outliers with different transfer ratios. Here’s a list of the current Amex transfer partners you should know about. Each transfer partner comes with a 1,000:1,000 ratio unless noted otherwise:

Airline partners

  • Aer Lingus
  • AeroMexico 1,000:1,600
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Air France / Flying Blue
  • Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • Avianca
  • British Airways
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • El Al Israel Airlines 1,000: 20
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue Airways 250: 200
  • Qantas 500:500
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Hotel partners

  • Choice Privileges Rewards
  • Hilton Honors: 1,000:2,000
  • Marriott Bonvoy

Chase transfer partners

All Chase Ultimate Rewards travel partners let you transfer points on a 1:1 ratio, which makes things easy to keep track of. Chase does have fewer transfer partners than American Express, but they may make more sense depending on how you travel.

Here are all the Chase transfer partners you should know about:

Airline partners

  • Aer Lingus
  • Air France / Flying Blue
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic

Hotel partners

  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

Best credit cards for rewards

To earn points in either program, you’ll need to have a rewards credit card that lets you earn rewards. Fortunately, there are a ton of cards to consider in either program, and you can even combine cards. For example, some people collect the Amex trifecta or the Chase trifecta — popular trios of cards in either program — as it allows you to maximize rewards in certain categories while securing a solid combination of travel benefits along the way.

Best for earning Amex Membership Rewards

Card name Rewards rate Welcome offer Annual fee
American Express® Gold Card 4X points on dining worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1X); also earn 3X points on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel.com Earn 35,000 points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening $250
The Platinum Card® from American Express 5X points on airfare and hotels booked through AmexTravel.com as well as airfare booked directly with airlines; 1X points on other purchases Earn 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 on your card within three months of account opening $550
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express Earn 2X points on up to $50,000 in spending each year, then 1X points None $0
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express* Earn 2X points on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1X points) and 1X points on other purchases; also earn 20 percent bonus rewards each billing period you make at least 20 purchases with your credit card 10,000 points when you spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening $0

*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.

Best for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards

Card name Rewards rate Welcome offer Annual fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred 2X points on travel and dining and 5X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2022); 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

*Through May and June of 2020, most cardholders earn 3X points on $1,500 in grocery spending each month

60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months $95
Chase Sapphire Reserve 3X points on travel and dining and 10X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2022); 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

*Through May and June of 2020, most cardholders earn 5X points on $1,500 in grocery spending each month

50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months $550
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 3X points on the first $150,000/year in combined travel, shipping, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines and 5X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2022); 1 point per dollar on all other purchases 100,000 bonus points if you spend $15,000 within three months of account opening $95

How to choose the right rewards program for you

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

If you can’t decide, don’t despair; many frequent travelers pick up cards in both programs. Since some transfer partners overlap — like Air France/Flying Blue, Emirates, Aer Lingus, British Airways and Marriott Bonvoy — having cards in both programs can be an excellent way to earn even more points in the programs you use most.