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American Express Membership Rewards: Your Guide to Earning and Redeeming Points for Max Value

American Express Membership Rewards: Your Guide to Earning and Redeeming Points for Max Value

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. Citi is an advertising partner.

American Express Membership Rewards is a credit card rewards program that allows you to earn valuable points on every dollar you spend. Membership Rewards is one of the best card rewards programs because the Amex points it earns are so versatile. You can redeem points for travel, gift cards, statement credits and more, but points are most valuable when transferred to Amex travel partners.

A great way to earn Membership Rewards points is through credit card spending, so signing up for an Amex card with a high welcome offer and a great earning rate on everyday purchases will help you to maximize your rewards.

To squeeze plenty of value out of your Amex points, you'll want to redeem them through the American Express Travel portal (for flights, hotels, rental cars or cruises) or transfer them to some of Amex's airline and hotel partners. With these perks, the program is ideal for frequent travelers.

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Is American Express Membership Rewards worth it?

The American Express Membership Rewards program is one of the most lucrative rewards programs in the game — if you prefer travel rewards. If you're unsure, read up on the difference between cash back, miles and points to decide which type of rewards program is best for you. However, if you've got the travel bug, Amex's long list of transfer partners makes these points particularly valuable, and the wide variety of excellent Membership Rewards-earning cards helps make it easy to accumulate points.

Pros and cons of American Express Membership Rewards

The American Express Membership Rewards program is a traveler favorite, and for good reason. But for all its strengths, the program is not without its weaknesses, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons.

  • Flexible points that can be redeemed through the Amex Travel portal for flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises.
  • Transferable points that can be converted to rewards with over a dozen popular airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • Points are easy to earn with a long list of cards that earn Membership Rewards points and offer generous welcome offers.
  • Nontravel redemptions offer a low value, so this program isn't a good choice if you want to redeem for statement credits, gift cards or shopping.
  • No points bonus when you redeem through the Amex Travel portal, so you'll always get 1 cent per point regardless of which card you hold. In contrast, Chase Ultimate Rewards® offers 1.25 to 1.5 cents per point as a bonus on travel portal redemptions for certain cards.

How much are American Express points worth?

American Express reward points are worth anywhere from 0.5 cents to 2.2 cents each, depending on how you redeem them.

Shopping through the Amex Membership Rewards portal and statement credits generally offer the lowest value redemptions, while transferring points to the right travel partner tends to yield the highest value.

Keep in mind that the value of points transferred to travel partners varies depending on the partner and the reward you choose, so it's important to plan out your travel and calculate the redemption value before transferring points to a travel partner. If you prefer an easy redemption method that still offers decent value, using your Amex points to buy flights, hotel rooms, rental cars and cruises through the Membership Rewards portal is a happy medium.

Amex points value

Redemption options
Value
Transfer strategically to the right travel partner2.2 cents
Get a flight, hotel, car rental, vacation package or cruise through the Membership Rewards portal0.75 - 1 cent
Use Amex points on Amazon.com0.7 - 1 cent
Redeem points for gift cards0.5 - 1.1 cents
Redeem points for statement credits0.6 cents
Buy merchandise with points0.5 cents
Donate points to charity0.7 cents

How to earn Membership Rewards points

There are many ways to earn American Express Membership Rewards points so that you can stockpile points for your next vacation. Luckily, they're not hard to accumulate, especially if you use multiple earning strategies.

American Express reward cards

American Express business cards

There are several different American Express cards that earn Membership Rewards points, ranging from basic everyday cards with no annual fees to premium travel cards with premium annual fees to match. If you're looking for a business card, you'll find three options that earn American Express Membership Rewards points.

Card
Welcome offer
Earning rate
Annual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card<sup>®</sup> from American Express
Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and 5X Membership Rewards® points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. Terms apply.$695
American Express® Gold Card
American Express<sup>®</sup> Gold Card
60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), and 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. Terms apply.$250
American Express® Green Card
American Express® Green Card
45,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.Earn 3X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery. Additionally, earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours.$150
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
Earn 15,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $2,000 in purchases in your first 6 months of account opening.3x points at US supermarkets; 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases$95
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases in your first 6 months2x points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), and 1x points on other purchases$0

American Express reward cards

There are several different American Express cards that earn Membership Rewards points, ranging from basic everyday cards with no annual fees to premium travel cards with premium annual fees to match. If you're looking for a business card, you'll find three options that earn American Express Membership Rewards points.

Card
Welcome offer
Earning rate
Annual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card<sup>®</sup> from American Express
Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and 5X Membership Rewards® points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. Terms apply.$695
American Express® Gold Card
American Express<sup>®</sup> Gold Card
60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), and 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. Terms apply.$250
American Express® Green Card
American Express® Green Card
45,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.Earn 3X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery. Additionally, earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours.$150
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
Earn 15,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $2,000 in purchases in your first 6 months of account opening.3x points at US supermarkets; 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases$95
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases in your first 6 months2x points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), and 1x points on other purchases$0

American Express business cards

Card
Welcome offer
Earning rate
Annual fee
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
The Business Platinum Card<sup>®</sup> from American Express
Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com. Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's an extra half point per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more.$695
American Express® Business Gold Card
American Express<sup>®</sup> Business Gold Card
Earn 70,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.*Get 4X Membership Rewards® points on the 2 select categories where your business spent the most each month*$295
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
The Blue Business<sup>®</sup> Plus Credit Card from American Express
Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners. 2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter.No annual fee

These cards come with large welcome offers that can help you earn a lot of Membership Rewards points fast, as long as you're able to meet the minimum spending requirement. You'll also want to pay attention to the earning rate, though — when a card's bonus categories align with your spending habits, you're able to continue collecting points for years to come.

In addition to the welcome offers and earning rates listed, each card comes with its own list of extra benefits and perks, such as statement credits and complimentary airport lounge access, that can help you recoup the annual fee.

Amex credit card strategy

Combining multiple American Express cards can be a smart way to earn points even faster, as long as your earnings are enough to outweigh the annual fees. It’s possible to qualify for the welcome offer on more than one American Express card. For example, you could open both The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card, earn both welcome offers and rotate the two cards to get bonus points on multiple spending categories.

However, you should understand Amex application rules before applying for multiple cards to make sure you'll qualify. An important rule to note is that you can only have four American Express consumer cards at a time.

Savvy traveler tip: The American Express "once-in-a-lifetime" rule means each cardholder may receive only one welcome offer per card type during their life. So if you've had a certain Amex card before, you may not be eligible for the welcome offer. Amex now offers an eligibility tool that pops up after you apply for a card and before credit is pulled.

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American Express regularly runs targeted welcome offers that are more generous than its standard welcome offers. For example, both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express sometimes make targeted welcome offers of up to 100,000 points if you meet the minimum spending requirement.

Sometimes these offers are publicly available for a limited time, and sometimes you have to receive the offer in order to qualify. The main ways to get a targeted offer are through the U.S. mail, through an email or by going to AmericanExpress.com to see if the targeted offer appears for you.

If you have an American Express card, you might be able to earn bonus points for referring a friend who’s approved for the same card. Make sure they apply for the card using your referral link, which you can get at the Amex Refer a Friend page.

Amex Offers gives you the chance to earn bonus points on spending with certain retailers. Simply log in to your American Express account, scroll down to "Amex Offers & Benefits" and add any relevant offers to your card.

Rakuten is a shopping portal that allows you to earn cash back, but you can also link your Membership Rewards account and have rewards converted to Membership Rewards points. You'll get 1 Membership Rewards point for every 1% back you earn, and you'll still earn points through your card, making this a great way to "double dip" with your regular shopping.

How to use American Express points

You can redeem your Membership Rewards points for everything from travel to statement credits and even charitable donations, but each option yields a different value. The best ways to use American Express Membership Rewards points will get you at least 1 cent per point. Here are all the ways you can use your Amex points.

Amex Travel lets you redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, rental cars or cruises. You search the portal the same way you'd search other travel aggregators like Expedia and Kayak, and the offerings are similar. This is the easiest way to redeem Amex points, and it offers decent — though not the highest — value. You'll also get the flexibility of not being limited to one airline or hotel chain.

The value you get from these redemptions varies — some hotels net just 0.75 cents per point, while some flights can get 1 cent per point or more — but typically these hover around 1 cent per point. Flights tend to offer more value than other travel options.

americanexpress
americanexpress.com

Below you'll find a list of all of Amex's transfer partners and the transfer rate for each one. Pay attention to how long it takes to transfer American Express points to your partner of choice, and make sure you have a trip in mind before making the transfer, as it can't be reversed.

Transfer partner
Airline alliance
Value of transfer into partner loyalty program
Aer LingusNone1,000 MR points = 1,000 Avios
AeroMexicoSkyTeam1,000 MR points = 1,600 Aeroplan Points
Air CanadaStar Alliance1,000 MR points = 1,000 Aeroplan Points
Air France/KLMSkyTeam1,000 MR points = 1,000 Flying Blue Miles
All Nippon Airways (ANA)Star Alliance1,000 MR points = 1,000 ANA Mileage Club Miles
Asia Milesoneworld1,000 MR points = 1,000 Asia Miles
AviancaStar Alliance1,000 MR points = 1,000 LifeMiles
British Airwaysoneworld1,000 MR points = 1,000 Avios
Delta Air LinesSkyTeam1,000 MR points = 1,000 SkyMiles
EmiratesNone1,000 MR points = 1,000 Skywards Miles
EtihadNone1,000 MR points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles
Hawaiian AirlinesNone1,000 MR points = 1,000 HawaiianMiles®
Show All Rows

Upgrade with points

Depending on which airline partner you choose to transfer your points to, you may also have the opportunity for an upgrade using your Membership Rewards points.

To see if you're eligible to upgrade with points, follow these steps:

  1. Go to your reservation details to see if you're eligible for an upgrade. If you're eligible, you can elect to use points to make an offer for an upgrade.
  2. Your upgrade offer will either get accepted or denied by the airline within around five days of your flight, and American Express will keep you in the loop with those details via email.
  3. If your upgrade offer is accepted, be sure to get a copy of your updated flight itinerary before departure.

Once your upgrade offer is accepted, the dollar amount for the upgrade will initially be charged to your Amex account. Then, the corresponding points will be removed from your Membership Rewards account and the dollar amount will be credited back to your American Express card account.

You can use your points to pay when you shop with a long list of popular online retailers. This is an easy and versatile way to use your points, but unfortunately, it has a low redemption value. You'll get 0.5 cents per point using this method.

The Amex rewards program is very versatile, but that doesn't mean all of the options for using your Amex points are good ones. In fact, many won’t get you anywhere near the maximum value for your points. Amex has a points value calculator, so you can see the dollar value of your points used in different ways.

You can use points to buy gift cards with dozens of major retailers, restaurants, technology companies and more. Starbucks, Nordstrom, Uber, Walmart and Best Buy are all on the list, as are American Express gift cards, which function similarly to cash. You could get 0.5 to 1.1 cents per point from this redemption option depending on the retailer. Typically, this isn't the best use of your Membership Rewards points.

If your card bill is larger than you'd prefer, you can redeem your points for statement credits, essentially erasing any eligible purchases. This option is super handy, but you'll only get 0.6 cents per point, so this is also one of the lowest value redemptions.

You can use your points to donate to over 1.5 million charities with JustGiving. You'll likely get no more than 0.7 cents per point from this redemption option, but it's available if you can't redeem your points for travel.

How to sign up for American Express Membership Rewards

To enroll in the Amex Membership Rewards program, you’ll need to have an eligible American Express card. Once you've received your card, you'll go to the American Express site to log in to your account or to enroll in the program by entering your new card information. If you've just received your card and are a first-time cardholder, you'll need to click below the login to "Create a new online account." If you already have an account, you can log in and link any new eligible cards.

Making sure that all eligible cards are linked to your account will help you maximize your Amex points earnings. If you have an eligible corporate card issued in your name, you can link that to your account as well, though you may have to pay a fee to do so.

How to book a flight with Amex points

Using Amex points for flights is easy, and you can redeem them through a partner airline or through Amex directly.

Booking a flight with an Amex travel partner

The most valuable way to use Amex points for flights is to transfer your points to an Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner. By going this route, as we mentioned, you can get the maximum value for your Amex points. Once you've transferred your points into the partner program, you will then follow that partner's procedure for booking a flight with points. This procedure differs by partner, so it's smart to familiarize yourself with each program you plan to use regularly.

Booking flights through Amex Travel

You also have the option to redeem Amex points for travel through the American Express Travel portal. Here you can book a flight, hotel, car rental, cruise or package. You'll get less value per Amex point, but you may find the procedure more straightforward.

To use your points this way, log in to your American Express Travel account and select the item you want to buy. Then proceed to checkout and select "Use all or some Membership Rewards points," choose the amount you would like to use and select "Apply." At the time of purchase, the full amount will be charged to your Amex card, but it will be credited back to your account within 48 hours.

Savvy traveler tip: Make sure you're 100% certain about your redemption plans before you transfer your Membership Rewards points to a travel partner. Once transferred, you can't move the points back to your Amex account.

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How does Membership Rewards compare to Chase Ultimate Rewards®?

When comparing Amex Membership Rewards against other comparable credit card rewards programs, you'll likely want to see how Membership Rewards stacks up against Chase Ultimate Rewards®. While the two programs are very similar, they do have different transfer partners, redemption options and point valuations. Before committing to either flexible rewards program, you'll want to consider which transfer partners and redemption options you think you'll use the most to see which program will be most beneficial for your needs.

Frequently asked questions

How do American Express points work?

You earn American Express Membership Rewards points through your card spending, and they can be redeemed for a variety of options, including travel, statement credits, gift cards and shopping. American Express points can also be transferred to numerous airline and hotel partners, which is considered to be the best way to use Amex points.

Do American Express Membership Rewards points expire?

American Express Membership Rewards points do not expire as long as you have a Membership Rewards-earning card account that is open and in good standing. If you want to close your card, you'll need to spend your points first, or they'll be forfeited. You can also consider downgrading to or opening a low- or no-annual-fee Membership Rewards-earning card to maintain your points.

What can you use American Express Membership Rewards points for?

American Express Membership Rewards points can be used for travel booked through the Amex Travel portal, transferred to any of Amex's airline and hotel partners or redeemed for gift cards, statement credits, online shopping and charity donations.

Which American Express cards are eligible for Membership Rewards?

For personal cards, The Platinum Card® from American Express, the American Express® Gold Card, the American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express and the The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express are all eligible for Membership Rewards. For business cards, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, the American Express® Business Gold Card and The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express are eligible for Membership Rewards.

Can you transfer Membership Rewards points to someone else?

No, you cannot transfer Membership Rewards points to someone else.

When do Amex points post?

After completing eligible purchases, your rewards points will initially appear as Amex points "pending." Because these points are in pending status, they are not technically posted. So, when do Amex points post? Within 24 to 72 hours after you pay the minimum amount due on your statement.

For rates and fees of American Express® Gold Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

The information related to American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, Blue from American Express®, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Business Gold Card and The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).