American Express Membership Rewards have long been one of the most valuable transferable points currencies. There are tons of ways to earn Membership Rewards points through your credit card purchases.
Thanks to 19 airline and 3 hotel transfer partners, you’ll also have plenty of ways to redeem Membership Rewards for some amazing flights that can take you just about anywhere you want to go.
What Is American Express Membership Rewards?
Amex Membership Rewards is a credit card rewards program that lets cardholders earn points on almost all purchases.
To earn Membership Rewards, you must hold one of the many affiliated American Express cards. By holding one of these cards, you are automatically enrolled in the program.
The number of points you will earn per dollar depends on which card you use and the category of your purchases as some are included in bonus categories. Bonus categories can help you earn between 2X and 5X points per dollar on some purchases.
There are many ways to redeem Membership Rewards points, but transferring your points to airline partners to book award flights is how you will get the most value out of your points.
Amex Membership Rewards Cards
Earning rewards points can be done in a variety of ways. However, to begin earning points at all, you will need to have at least one American Express Rewards credit card.
The Amex Platinum is the classic Amex rewards card. It comes with a variety of benefits including Priority Pass lounge access, Delta Sky Club (when flying Delta), Hilton and Marriott Gold status, and more.
Additionally, this card earns 5X points per dollar on flights purchased directly with airlines. Flight and eligible hotels purchased through AmexTravel also earn 5X points per dollar. It earns 1X points per dollar on all other purchases.
You’ll also receive an annual airline fee credit of $200 and a monthly $15 ($35 in December) Uber credits.
Hot Tip: You can only earn a welcome bonus once in a lifetime on each American Express card, so it’s best to wait until you can find a great offer before you apply. While it’s not common, it’s still possible to find a 100,000 point bonus on the Platinum Card®.
The Amex Gold Card has been given a major upgrade for travelers and foodies.
It earns 4x points per dollar at restaurants and 4x points per dollar at up to $25,000 per calendar spend at U.S. supermarkets (1x after $25,000).
Plus, you will receive up to $10 per calendar month credit for dining out or participating restaurants and ordering from participating takeout services.
This card earns 2X points per dollar at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases each year.
Every month in which you make 20 purchases with this card, you will receive a 20% bonus on the Membership Rewards points you earn.
This is a very good card for those who aren’t necessarily interested in a premium-level card — check out these Amex EveryDay Credit Card benefits.
Very similar to The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, this card earns 3X points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year. It also earns 2X points per dollar at US gas stations.
Additionally, when you make 30 purchases in a month, you will receive a 50% bonus on the points you earned that month.
This business card has very similar benefits to the personal version of the card. The lounge access and hotel status bumps are the same.
It only earns 5x points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotel purchases made through AmexTravel.
However, it does earn 1.5x for eligible purchases on your Card made at U.S. construction material and hardware suppliers, at U.S. electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and at U.S. shipping providers as well as on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more everywhere else (up to $2 million in purchases per calendar year).
It also comes with a $200 airline fee credit each year.
Probably the best non-premium business card, this card earns 2x points on everyday business purchases, up to $50,000 in spending each calendar year. After that, earn 1 point per dollar.
[Discontinued] OPEN Savings
The OPEN Savings program permanently ended May 31, 2018. Any charges from June 1, 2018 will not earn OPEN Savings. Check Amex Offers for potential savings at former participating merchants.
Earn Points and Save with Amex Offers
When you log into your account home page, you can scroll to the bottom of the page to find a section titled “Amex Offers & Benefits.”
Now, you can add offers from select merchants, and when you make purchases with that merchant you will earn whatever award is offered. These offers can be additional rewards points, cash-back, or a cash discount.
There are often some great offers that include earning 2X points per dollar at Amazon, discounts on your cell phone or cable bills, and so forth. Amex also advertises their services in this area, and you can find referral links here.
Note that to take advantage of the offer, you must use the specific card to which the offer is attached. You must add the Amex Offer to your card before making the purchase.
Earn Points by Booking Travel Through Amex Travel
All American Express Membership Rewards cards will earn 2X points per dollar when booking through the Amex Travel portal.
Unfortunately, even if you are using a card that earns 3X points for flights, you will still only earn 2X points in the portal. That’s because Amex requires you to purchase travel directly through the airline in order to get the higher bonus.
However, The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express will earn 5X points per dollar when booking flights and select hotels through AmexTravel, including prepaid Fine Hotels and Resorts booked online.
In their portal, you will find deals exclusively for Amex cardholders that are only available online. Additionally, you can still earn frequent flyer miles when booking through the portal, which is a bonus.
You’ll only earn hotel points if you book through the Fine Hotels and Resorts program. (You may not earn hotel points with online prepaid bookings.)
Not everything in the portal will be eligible for 2X points per dollar: exceptions include car rentals, non-prepaid hotels, and non-prepaid Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings or those made over the phone.
However, the 2X points per dollar may be a better value than your hotel points, and you may get a cheaper room.
If you find a better deal somewhere else for the same room and dates, the portal offers a low price guarantee for its prepaid hotel rooms so you can get a refund for the difference.
One last thing to note is that booking through the rewards portal will cost you a service fee. Depending on the deal and how you value your points, this may not be worth it for you.
You’ll pay $6.99 for a domestic plane ticket and $10.99 for an international one, but hotel bookings are free. Remember also that folks who have The Platinum Card® from American Express get these service fees waived.
One cool thing about the travel portal is that it will show you what benefits you have when you log in, including waived fees and which lounges you have access to with your cards.
Bottom Line: The travel portal is a good way to earn extra Membership Rewards points. However, make sure you are getting the best deal for you and note any restrictions.
Earn Points with Rocketmiles
American Express and Rocketmiles have kicked off their partnership where you can earn 500-10,000 Membership Rewards points per hotel stay.
Shop around to compare the Rocketmiles rate with other rates available.
Note that stays booked with RocketMiles typically do not earn hotel program points and you may not be eligible for hotel program benefits such as room upgrades. Some hotels honor status benefits even when they do not need to.
Earn Points by Referring a Friend
The American Express “refer a friend” links can be found at the bottom of each of your account summary screens in the “Amex Offers & Benefits” section.
Click on the “Refer Now” button, and you’ll be taken to another screen where you can enter multiple emails and choose which card you want to refer.
That screen will tell you what your current referral offer is (often 5,000-10,000 points, or $50-$100 for cash-back cards). It will also tell you the offer your friend can get, so they can compare that to any offers they already have.
Note that American Express seems to have some trouble with these referral links, and they may not always work once the person receives the email.
Take Advantage of Other American Express Benefits
Many cards have specific benefits, such as travel credits, Boingo Wi-Fi, and complimentary elite status. Your American Express account makes it easy to review and activate these benefits right from your account summary screen.
Go to the menu bar and click “Membership” and select “Benefits” from the drop-down menu to see a benefits summary screen. From this screen, you can review everything your card offers and find links to sign up for all applicable benefits.
Alternatively, you can get to these benefits screens via the “Amex Offers & Benefits” list at the bottom of each cards account page.
How to Redeem Membership Rewards Points
Membership Rewards can be redeemed a number of ways but travel is where you’ll get the most value for your hard-earned points. Specifically, transferring to airline partners is your best option.
Redeem Membership Rewards for Travel
This is almost always the highest-value option, as you can typically multiply the value of your points many times over using transfer partners. Most Membership Rewards cards that you can get will allow you to transfer points to travel partners.
These cards also happen to be some of the most lucrative cards you can get. However, there are some cards that do not allow transfers. Amex isn’t accepting applications for many of these cards, so you shouldn’t worry about it too much.
Amex Cards That Don’t Allow Transfers to Partners
Unfortunately, not all Membership Rewards cards are eligible to transfer to Amex travel partners. According to Amex’s Terms, you cannot transfer points to travel partners with the following cards:
- The Gold Card from American Express
- Some Business Green Cards
- Blue for Business® Credit Card – only some are automatically enrolled
- Some Blue from American Express® cards (likely determined at the time of application)
The “Some” means that it depends on each individual account; some might have it and some might not. This will be determined by the benefits listed on your application.
Amex Transfer Partners – Airlines and Hotels
As we’ve already mentioned, transferring to airline partners is the best way to use your Membership Rewards points. To transfer Membership Rewards points, you’ll only need to follow a few simple steps.
Select “Transfer Points” on the Membership Rewards page and you’ll be taken to a page with all of your transfer options.
Select your desired transfer partner and you will be taken to a page where you can choose how many points to transfer. Most transfer options require you to transfer blocks of 1,000 points. Many of these transfers take place almost instantly, but others can take several days.
If it is your first time transferring to a partner, you will be required to link your airline or hotel loyalty program accounts prior to the transfer. To do this, you will need the appropriate loyalty program membership number.
Once a transfer has been completed, it cannot be undone.
Another thing to note on transferring points: for every point you transfer to a domestic carrier, you will pay a $0.0006 fee, up to a maximum fee of $99 (equal to 165,000 points). Unfortunately, this is a slight hit to the value of the points.
American Express allows you to offset the fee with points, but this is a terrible value at only $0.005 per point.
Below is the full list of Membership Rewards airline transfer partners:
|Amex Airline Transfer Partner||Min Transfer||Transfer Ratio|
(Amex > Partner)
|Air Canada||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Aer Lingus||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Avianca LifeMiles||1,000||1:1||Almost instant|
|British Airways||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Cathay Pacific||1,000||1:1||Up to 1 Week|
|Delta Air Lines||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Etihad Airways||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Flying Blue Air France/KLM||1,000||1:1||Almost Instant|
|Singapore Airlines||1,000||1:1||1-2 days|
|Virgin Atlantic||1,000||1:1||1-2 days|
Thanks to the three major airline alliances (Oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance), your Membership Rewards can get you just about anywhere you want to go.
Membership Rewards can also be transferred to hotel partners, though this should only be done if absolutely necessary as they are more valuable when transferred to airlines.
Etihad is not a member of any of the three major alliances but it has built a large network of partners which means you have a lot of interesting ways to redeem Etihad Guest miles.
Finally, you can transfer your points to three hotel partners but you’d get more value sticking to airline partners.
Book Travel with Membership Rewards Points
All Membership Rewards cards are allowed to book Amex rewards travel using points. When booking with points, you’ll get $0.01 per point for flights, and $0.007 for everything else.
Note that booking rewards travel with points will still incur the service fee if you don’t have The Platinum Card® from American Express, which allows these fees to be waived.
Hot Tip: If you hold the Amex Business Platinum card, you’re eligible for a 35% rebate when you use Membership Rewards points to book select flights through Amex Travel.
Other Redemption Options
There are a number of other ways to redeem Membership Rewards points but all of them are subpar.
Use Pay With Points for Statement Credit
You can use your points to pay off statement balances directly. Unlike most other points programs, however, points are not worth $0.01. Instead, using this feature only provides a value of $0.006 per point.
Gift Cards and Other Vouchers
If you’re going to use points for gift cards, the value of your points will be between $0.005 and $0.01 per point, depending on the gift card you choose.
There are a lot of different categories of cards, and you can choose the type you’re looking for on the American Express gift card portal:
There are also vouchers available for other businesses, but these values change depending on the choice of the partner. For instance, you could buy a one-day ski pass at Vail for 15,900 points, which isn’t that great of a value.
Shop on Amazon and Other Partners
These options are found in the Membership Rewards portal when you click the “More Ways to Use Points” button at the top.
Amazon is a big partner of Amex right now, and you can pay for purchases directly with Amex Membership Rewards points. However, the points will only be worth $0.007 each.
Similarly, you can use your points at Best Buy right now to receive the same value.
Another service is American Express tickets. Partners include Ticketmaster, Telecharge.com, and AXS (another ticket purchasing portal). All these options are worth $0.005 per point.
Shop with Membership Rewards Points
You can also use Shop with Membership Rewards Points (the American Express shopping mall, similar to the Chase Shopping Mall) to redeem your points. Points in this mall are only worth $0.005, although you can mix and match paying with points and cash.
Donate to Charity
This is a great option for those with some extra points. You can donate to many different charities at a value of $0.01 per point for the first 500,000 points in a year. The minimum donation is 1,000 points.
Pay for Point of Sale Partners
You can utilize any points you can’t use elsewhere on a number of shopping networks. This includes using Pay with Points (merchants such as Amazon and Ticketmaster) and the Membership Rewards Shop.
There are many more options, but we won’t cover them all here. In general, your reward points will be worth $0.01 or less utilizing these methods of redemption.
[Expired] Transfer Your Points to Plenti
The Plenti program ended on July 10, 2018.
What Are Membership Rewards Points Worth?
American Express gives you many different options to use your points, so it can be confusing as to what the points are really worth.
There are always options for redeeming at the standard value of $0.01 per point. These include booking flights, and gift cards. Other redemption options, however, come in at a much lower value.
If you take advantage of the points transfer to Amex travel partners, you can increase the value of your points to $0.02 or more (this depends on how you redeem them through the airlines or hotels).
Membership Rewards Points Expiration
As long as you have at least one active Amex Rewards card open, your points don’t expire.
Since Membership Rewards points pool into a common account instead of on individual cards, you won’t lose any points on a certain card if you don’t transfer them (like you would with Chase Ultimate Rewards).
If you decide to close your accounts, make sure to transfer your points to an Amex travel partner first. You may have a 30-day grace period once you close your accounts, but you will require at least one other open Amex card.
There is the possibility that you can reinstate your points if you lose them, and you could work with American Express customer service to determine whether this is possible.
The Membership Rewards Site
Now that we’ve discussed how to earn and redeem Membership Rewards points, let’s make sure you know how to navigate the American Express website.
How to Sign Into Your Account
To manage our account, simply sign in with your Amex login info.
From there, you can select the Explore Rewards link to take you to the Membership Rewards page. This page will show you how many points you have in your account and you can select how you would like to use them.
From here, you can select “Transfer Points” to be taken to your airline partner options.
In addition, the way this system is setup, you won’t have to worry about switching between cards to take advantage of benefits that you get from one versus another.
For instance, having The Amex Platinum allows you to waive Amex Travel booking fees, and that will automatically be detected in your account.
To change between cards on the Amex account home screen, you can click in the upper right-hand corner or in the menu at the top left.
The last thing to note is that if you are viewing a card that only earns cash-back, the screen will look a bit different, and you’ll have to navigate to Membership Rewards via the menu.
If you click “Track Reward Dollars” on the reward summary box, you will instead be taken to the cash back summary for that card:
Comparing Membership Rewards to Other Transferable Points
You can bet some amazing value out of Membership Rewards points, but how do they stack up compared to other transferable points programs?
Membership Rewards vs. Ultimate Rewards
Both programs feature lucrative credit card options. There are more Amex card options (12+) that can help you earn Membership Rewards while Chase only provides 6 cards that earn Ultimate Rewards.
Membership Rewards also has more transfer partners with 21 while Ultimate Rewards has 11. However, Chase’s transfer partner World of Hyatt is by far the best hotel partner between the two programs.
In the end, starting with Ultimate Rewards is the way to go because of the 5/24 rule. However, Membership Rewards should be a big part of your points-earning strategy going forward.
Membership Rewards vs Marriott Bonvoy
The big advantages to Membership Rewards are that there are plenty of credit card options and the cards offered have some great bonus categories.
The advantages to earning Marriott Bonvoy points are the 40+ airline transfer partners and that transfers of 60,000-points blocks earn you a bonus 5,000 miles. However, transferring Marriott Bonvoy points can take longer and there are only 2 cards that can help you earn them.
Marriott points can also be used for hotel stays at Marriott properties.
Each program provides some great award travel opportunities and can both be very useful in your earning strategy.
Membership Rewards vs. ThankYou Points
The Citi ThankYou Points program isn’t as well-known as the others, but you can redeem ThankYou Points for some great award flights.
There are 15 airline transfer partners and no hotel.
It can definitely be a useful program down the road, but Membership Rewards are a higher priority.
As you can see, the Amex Membership Rewards program is fairly extensive, with lots of cards and many options for earning points.
Your card options include some that are good for both business and personal use. There are plenty of redemption of options, although only transferring to airline partners really provides good value.
Note that American Express has a restriction that only allows you to earn one welcome bonus per card per lifetime, so make sure you apply when a card has a higher bonus.
Overall, you should use American Express Membership Rewards if you are planning to transfer points to travel partners, and redeem them at a value above $0.02 per point.
Otherwise, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Marriott may be an easier and more valuable choice.
The information regarding the Amex Everyday® Credit Card from American Express and Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Card® from American Express , click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express , click here.