Program Overview And History
The American Express Membership Rewards program was launched in 1991 and initially called Membership Miles. According to American Express, its the worlds largest credit card rewards program.
You can earn Membership Rewards points with any of these 9 personal and business credit cards:
Keep in mind that to get approved for a credit card in the Membership Rewards program, you typically need to have good or excellent credit, which starts at a FICO score of 670.
Also, American Express allows only one welcome offer per card per lifetime. So if youve had one of its cards in the past, earned the welcome offer, and later dropped the card, you wont be eligible for the offer again if you apply a second time.
How The Value Stacks Up Against Other Programs
Amex Membership Rewards isnt the only major transferable points currency. It has fierce competition from other major banks, including programs like:
- Capital One Rewards
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Citi ThankYou points
As discussed in the last section, Chase has a slight edge over Amex Membership Rewards when redeeming for paid travel and cash back on select purchases. That said, I think that Amex has a huge edge over Capital One, Chase and Citi when it comes to transfer partners Ive found theyre more flexible and powerful across the board.
For example, Chase only has United MileagePlus and Singapore Krisflyer as Star Alliance transfer partners. On the other hand, Amex has Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA Mileage Club, Avianca LifeMiles and Singapore Krisflyer. For most awards, youll get a far better redemption value with Avianca, ANA or Air Canada than you would with United or Singapore Airlines, barring a few exceptions.
On the flip side, Chase has an edge over Amex when it comes to hotel transfer partners. You can transfer Chase points to World of Hyatt and take advantage of reasonably-priced hotel redemptions. On the other hand, you can transfer Amex points to Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors and , which generally presents a poor value compared to redeeming for flights.
Redeem For Gift Cards
You can redeem your points for gift cards through the AmEx site at several dozens of retailers, from Home Depot to iTunes, and the point value varies by retailer. At Target, a $25 gift card costs 3,572 points, making each point worth about 0.7 cents. At Tiffany, a $250 gift card costs 25,000 points, making each point worth 1 cent.
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Pros Of American Express Membership Rewards Programs
The American Express Membership Rewards Program has the following pros:
- Flexibility: The main benefit of the rewards program is its flexibility. You can use your points on pretty much everything from entertainment and dining to travel and grocery shopping. Since American Express partners with a large number of retailers and airlines, youre likely to get a good deal.
- Easy to Earn: Its also easy to earn Membership Rewards Points, especially if you have a business card. For instance, the American Express Gold Card gives you 4x points on dining, 4x points on groceries and 3x points on flights.
- Extra Perks: Along with the reward points, American Express Membership-eligible cards also give you extra perks. For instance, the American Express Platinum Card gives $200 worth of hotel credit and $240 for digital entertainment that can be used to pay for The New York Times, Audible and other subscriptions.
- Promotions and Bonuses: Cardholders also get bonus points and promotions based on the criteria for each card. These bonuses help cardholders earn points quickly and get close to their next major redemption.
Do American Express Membership Rewards Points Expire
American Express Membership Rewards points never expire, which is a major plus. However, there are some situations where you can forfeit your points, including making late payments on your card or canceling your card account without having another card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points.
Also, note that American Express transfer partnersincluding airline and hotel partnersdo have their own unique expiration policies, so you will want to monitor your points after they leave your Amex account and land in a partner account.
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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.
Transfer Points To A Hotel Or Airline Partner
Just like with any transferable points program, the best potential value you can get is from transferring your Amex points to a partner program. Amex has 18 airline and three hotel loyalty program partners, and you can transfer points to any of them.
This is particularly valuable for flying, as opposed to hotel stays. In many cases, the cash price and the miles price of a ticket aren’t linked, so it’s possible to get exponentially increased value from your points by transferring them and booking an award ticket instead. That means potentially being able to fly long-haul in first or business class with points, among other things.
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Redeeming Amex Points For Cash Back
If long-haul flights represent one of the best possible values for Amex points, then redeeming them for statement credits is one of the worst.
You can technically use your Membership Rewards points to erase eligible charges from your statement . Still, I strongly recommend against ever doing this since Amex only values your points at 0.6 cents each if you redeem this way. This is far less than half of TPGs valuation.
If your goal is to earn cash-back rewards to go shopping or help pay the bills, check out TPGs list of top cash-back credit cards instead of using Membership Rewards points this way.
Later: Fly Singapore Airlines Business Class From Australia To Singapore For 36500
Singapore Airlines offers one of the best Business Class products in the world. Were lucky to have flights to Singapore from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra.
Depending on the route, you could enjoy the latest A380 version or a slightly older product, like the seats found on Airbus A350s and Boeing 777-300ERs.
From Perth, youll only pay 36,500 miles from the other cities, its 62,000 miles. The good news is that taxes are less than AU$100 in both directions.
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The Worst Uses Of Amex Points
The least-valuable Amex redemption options only provide 0.5 cents per point in value. As there are so many more valuable ways to use Membership Rewards points, these redemption options should be avoided:
- Pay With Points at Ticketmaster: Although you’ll generally get 0.7 cents per point when you Pay With Points, the redemption rate is only 0.5 cents per point for Ticketmaster purchases.
- Excise Tax Offset Fee: Amex collects excise tax when you transfer points to US-based airline mileage programs. You have the option to use points to cover this cost, but the redemption rate is only 0.5 cents per point. So, it’s better to pay this excise tax out-of-pocket.
- American Express Gift Cards: The redemption rate for travel, retail and dining gift cards varies between 0.7 and 1.0 cents per point. However, you’ll only get 0.5 cents per point when redeeming points for American Express gift cards.
- Shop with Membership Rewards Points: You can buy a variety of merchandise products directly from American Express through the Shop with Membership Rewards Points website. However, you’ll only get a value of 0.5 cents per point. So, it’s better to purchase merchandise directly and use Cover Your Card Charges to get 0.6 cents per point. Or, you can Pay With Points at Checkout at Amazon, Best Buy, and other retailers at 0.7 cents per point.
American Express Points Value
How much your American Express Membership Rewards points are worth depends on what you use them for. Most people will use their points for a statement credit when booking travel expenses. In this scenario, it takes 1,000 MR points to claim $10 in travel. That would give your points a value of 1 cent each. This is without a doubt the easiest way to use your points since you can redeem them for any type of travel expense.
|Up to 2 cents per point|
|Merchandise||.70 â .75 cents per point|
While the standard travel redemption rate is not bad, you can double your value if you take advantage of the fixed points travel program. Gift cards, statement credits, and merchandise should be avoided since theyre worth the least, but if you find yourself in a financial emergency, do what you got to do.
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Transfer Points To Travel Partners
AmEx has multiple transfer partners more than any other major U.S. card loyalty program and you can transfer your points directly to those partners’ loyalty programs. The transfer rate varies by partner, but in most cases, it’s 1-to-1, meaning that when you transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards points, you get 1,000 points in the partner program.
One thing to keep in mind: When transferring Membership Rewards points to U.S. airlines, you’ll owe a fee of 0.06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99. For a 1,000-point transfer, that comes out to 60 cents.
For details on transfer ratios, see AmEx’s website.
The exact value you ultimately get per point depends on which program you transfer to and how you redeem the points within that program, but NerdWallet estimates the overall transfer value at 2 cents per point.
Best Approach For Transferring Points To Hotels
Finding value in hotels can be a tad bit more challenging, but it’s possible. You can use the same google approach, but let’s face it… hotels can be a little more personal when compared to airlines.
It will work for popular locations, but if you’re visiting family in a non-major city, you’re better off just look at the list of options available in the area.
Generally, Marriott will offer you the highest chance of getting great value out of your point transfers, especially if you make use of their 5th night free benefit which allows you to book 5-night award stays for the cost of 4.
Hilton is a little more of a challenge, but there’s value to be found out there. This is more common with their popular resorts. Hilton has four credit cards that offer excellent value, so you’ll want to consider those for building points in the Hilton Honors program.
You will not find much value in the U.S. when it comes to booking Choice Hotels, but there can be some solid value in the U.K. and Australia with a little research.
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Use Points For Charges
American Express Membership Rewards Points can be used to pay for eligible purchases made to an AMEX credit card. This pretty much behaves like a ‘cash back’ option in which you’ll get £0.004 per point.
This is one of the worst uses of Membership Rewards Points. If you’re looking for cash back, I’d suggest considering American Express Cash Back credit cards as you’ll get a better return on your spend in most cases.
Membership Rewards Redemption Options To Avoid
For the most part, we suggest avoiding Amex Membership Rewards points redemptions that offer less than one cent per point in value. This includes using rewards to cover charges made to your account, which would only net you 0.6 cents per point in value. Also, be aware that you will only get 0.7 cents per point if you use your rewards for travel other than flights through AmexTravel.com, for example.
While your rewards are definitely yours to spend, youll get more bang for your buck if you focus on redemption options that net you at least 1 cent per point each.
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Redeeming Points Through The Amex Travel Portal
While we focus a lot on the value of transferable points here at TPG, you can only maximize them if your preferred airline or hotel has award space available. If you need to travel on fixed dates especially on a premium route like New York to Los Angeles this might pose a problem. If youve exhausted all your other options, you can get an OK value by redeeming your points directly through the Amex Travel portal.
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Where Can You Redeem American Express Membership Rewards Points
You can redeem American Express Membership Rewards points in the Rewards section of your online account. Alternatively, you can call American Express to redeem your points by phone.
Here’s a list of all American Express transfer partners. As you’ll see, it’s extensive, which is a strong suit of these travel cards. Transfer ratios are even except where otherwise noted.
- Aer Lingus
- Shop for products with points
- Pay with points at checkout
- Redeem as cash back towards previous charges
Although there are quite a few redemptions in the list above, they don’t offer much value. The only one worth considering is to book or upgrade a flight through American Express Travel. You can get $0.01 per point that way with all American Express travel cards except Blue from American Express®. It’s not great, but it’s acceptable if you can’t transfer points for the airfare you want.
What Are Membership Rewards Points Worth
The value of American Express points varies based on what you use them for and how you go about redeeming them. Consider the following scenario:
You have been approved for the American Express Green Card. After spending $2,000 in the first three months, you are awarded an introductory bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points. If you spent $1,000 on dining and eligible travel , youd have 33,000 points at a bare minimum. With 33,000 points in hand, some of your redemption options include:
- Booking airfare through American Express Travel total value of points: $330
- Transferring points to Delta Air Lines and converting to SkyMiles total value of points: $531.30
- Redeeming points as a statement credit total value of points: $198
As you can see, the value fluctuates greatly across redemption options. How exactly those values are determined is a fluid formula, partly established by American Express, its travel partners and a number of other outside influences.
CreditCards.com has established a comprehensive guide to Membership Rewards point value, which includes the many redemption options American Express provides. As these numbers can change, be sure to check often for updates.
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Do Membership Rewards Points Expire
Membership Rewards points do not expire, but American Express stipulates that they may be forfeited in certain instances, like if you return an item you had paid for with your Amex card. If your card is active and your account is in good standing, youll be able to collect as many Membership Rewards as you want without worrying about an expiration date.
Welcome offers and referral bonuses are other major point-earners, as are Amex Offers, which are special offers that feature limited-time point bonuses at select retailers. Unlocking bonus value will take some strategy, but even with low effort, a rewards card should save you money annually.
One point is better than nothing, but to maximize the rewards you get for spending, youll need to use several cards that complement each other with bonus rewards rates in certain categories. If you have multiple American Express credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points, your points will automatically be combined into a single Rewards account.
As one example, you can use the Platinum card to earn 5X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with the airline or flights or prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel . The Gold Card is another one with a great category bonus 4X points spent at restaurants or at U.S. supermarkets .
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Online Shopping With Amex Points
When you use Amex points for online shopping, you get 0.5 cent per point. For instance, if you have 10,000 points, you can make a purchase of $50 or get the same amount off a larger purchase.
Keep in mind that balance transfers and person-to-person payments are not eligible purchases for American Express Membership Rewards.
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Redeem Amex Points For Gift Cards
American Express offers the ability to redeem your Amex points gift cards in five categories: air and lodging, car and rail, dining, experience and retail. The points value will depend on which gift card you choose, as low as 0.5 cents per point. Out of these options, most dining and retail gift cards will yield the highest value at 1 cent per point.