Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.
Whether you're pulling out your Amex card to grab groceries, fill up the gas tank or to buy plane tickets to your friend's destination wedding, the American Express Membership Rewards program can turn that spending into valuable points that allow you to fulfill your travel dreams without breaking the bank.
The right Amex card is your ticket into the Amex Membership Rewards program. Because Amex offers more than a dozen cards that earn Membership Rewards points, it's smart to start by applying for an Amex card that best fits your spending and lifestyle. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Already have a card you love that earns Amex reward points? Great! Read on to learn how to maximize your earnings and redemption value. Not sure which Amex card to get? We'll outline the benefits and costs of the top cards that earn Amex rewards points. Most of these cards offer hefty welcome bonuses, so applying for an Amex card is a great way to dive into the program and quickly build up a pile of points.
Overview of American Express Membership Rewards
The American Express Membership Rewards program is one of the top credit card rewards programs available today due to its versatility, large number of transfer partners and Amex points value.
The Amex rewards program has the most transfer partners of any major U.S. credit card rewards program with transferable points. In fact, Amex has 19 airline and three hotel partners, offering ample travel opportunities.
You can transfer Amex rewards points into the loyalty programs of any of these airlines and hotels, giving you access to some of the world's most luxurious first-class flying experiences, all of the major airline alliances and many top hotel brands.
How to join Amex Membership Rewards
To enroll in the Amex Membership Rewards program, you need to have an eligible American Express credit 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 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 do Amex points work?
The way Amex points work is pretty straightforward. You earn Amex points by spending on an eligible Amex card or through other activities, such as booking travel through American Express. Once pending Amex points get posted to your account, you may either transfer them to Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners or spend them in other ways, such as donating them to a charity or shopping with them at Amazon.com. You can redeem Amex points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, merchandise, donations to charity and more.
While Amex gives you a variety of options for using your points, you will nearly always get the best value by transferring your points to the right transfer partner and redeeming for travel. With the right partner, you can fly first class for far less than it would cost you in cash.
How to earn Amex Membership Rewards points
The best way by far to earn Amex rewards points is by opening an eligible Amex card that comes with a big welcome bonus and then spending on that card. Aside from using the right Amex card, other ways to earn Amex reward points include:
- Book through American Express Travel. Buy a vacation package or cruise through the American Express Travel site.
- Refer a friend for a credit card. Use the Amex referral program to earn a bonus for both you and your friend, relative or neighbor.
- Take advantage of Amex special offers. Log in to your account, check for offers and enroll in those that fit your spending habits to earn extra points.
- Book your stay with Rocketmiles. Use your Amex card to book a hotel on Rocketmiles and turbocharge your earnings by 500–10,000 Amex points per night.
- Transfer points from online shopping. Move points earned at Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to your Amex account in increments of 500 or more.
- Enroll in Pay Over Time. Amex is targeting certain rewards members for a special offer of 10,000 Amex rewards points for enrolling in the new Amex program that allows you to pay off a purchase over time for a set fee with no interest.
Which cards earn Amex rewards points?
American Express offers more than a dozen cards that earn Membership Rewards points, which means you can choose the card that's best for you based on the annual fee, perks and rewards structure.
Because most cards offer extra points in certain categories, picking the right card based on how you spend can help you maximize your earnings. There are card options for big families who spend a fortune on groceries, frequent flyers who travel the globe and foodies who love to sample new restaurants.
To help you pick your first Amex card or add a new one to your wallet, here's an overview of some of the top Amex cards that earn Amex reward points:
Top personal cards that earn Amex rewards points
The Platinum Card® from American Express
See Pay Over Time APR
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,000 properties. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
American Express® Gold Card
See Rates & Fees
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms Apply.
Business cards that earn Amex rewards points
American Express® Business Gold Card
14.24% - 22.24% Variable
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.*
- MORE REWARDS: Get 4X Membership Rewards® points on the 2 select categories where your business spent the most each month. 1X is earned for other purchases. **
- **4X points apply to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year.*
- AIRLINE BONUS: Get 25% points back after you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel, up to 250,000 points back per calendar year.*
- PAY OVER TIME OPTION: A flexible payment option with interest to help manage cash flow on purchases of $100 or more.*
- *Terms Apply
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
No annual fee
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
- Earn up to $300 back to boost your business. You can earn up to $100 in the form of statement credits at each of the following merchants: Dell Technologies, DocuSign or FedEx after you make an eligible purchase on your new Card within the 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.
- Enjoy the flexibility to put more purchases on the Card and earn rewards when you buy above your credit limit*.
- You’ve got the power to use your Card beyond its credit limit* with Expanded Buying Power.
- More buying power for your business means more opportunities to earn points. That’s everyday business with the Blue Business Plus Card.
- *The amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to us, and other factors.
- 0.0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.24% - 19.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors at account opening.
- No Annual Fee
- Terms Apply
Savvy traveler tip: The American Express "once-in-a-lifetime" rule means each cardholder may receive only one sign-up bonus per card type during their life. So if you've had a certain Amex card before, you may not be eligible for the welcome bonus. Amex now offers a bonus eligibility tool that pops up after you apply for a card and before credit is pulled.
The best welcome bonuses for Amex cards
One of the quickest ways to rack up Amex rewards points is to open an American Express card that earns Amex rewards points and get a fat welcome bonus. These offers change regularly, but here are some of the best bonuses currently available:
|Card||Welcome bonus||How to get the bonus|
|The Business Platinum® Card from American Express||Up to 75,000 Amex rewards points||Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||60,000 Amex rewards points||Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.|
|American Express® Gold Card||35,000 Amex rewards points||Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.|
|The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express||15,000 Amex rewards points||Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months.|
|The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express||10,000 Amex rewards points||Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months.|
How much are Amex points worth?
The value of Amex rewards points varies widely depending on how you redeem your points. Amex Membership Rewards values can range from just 0.5 cent per point when shopping through the Amex Membership Rewards portal up to 2 cents per point when redeeming for travel through the right travel partner.
The best way to get maximum value is to transfer Amex points into partner loyalty programs to redeem for travel. Keep in mind that the value of points transferred to travel partners varies depending on the partner and the reward you choose. It's important to choose your rewards strategically before you make a transfer to get the best value.
Here is a list of point value options from highest earning to lowest earning:
|Potential value||Redemption option|
|1 Amex reward point = 2 cents||Transfer strategically to the right travel partner|
|1 Amex reward point = 0.75–1 cent||Get a flight, hotel, car rental, vacation package or cruise through the Membership Rewards portal|
|1 Amex reward point = 0.7 cent||Use Amex points on Amazon.com|
|1 Amex reward point = 0.6–1 cent||Redeem points for gift cards|
|1 Amex reward point = 0.6 cent||Redeem points for statement credit|
|1 Amex reward point = 0.5 cent||Buy merchandise with points|
Savvy traveler tip: 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? One full monthly billing cycle after you pay the amount due on your statement.
How to transfer Amex points to airlines and hotels
One of the best features of the Membership Rewards program is that you can transfer Amex points to airlines and hotels. When logged in to your Amex rewards account, simply use the "Transfer my points" button under your chosen airline or hotel. Once you've transferred your points, the value you get from your points now is based on the value of points in that new loyalty program.
With 22 transfer partner choices and countless redemption options within each partner program, this means a savvy traveler can easily strategize to get maximum value out of Amex rewards points. With so many options, it's almost always best to transfer your points to a partner after carefully planning how you'll redeem your rewards.
With such a large number of transfer partners, there may be some brands you're not familiar with. Here is a list of Amex membership rewards transfer partners and point transfer values for each one:
|Description of Amex transfer partner||Value of transfer into partner loyalty program|
|Aer Lingus||National airline of Ireland; flies more than 100 routes in the UK, Europe and North America||1,000 MR points = 1,000 AerClub points|
|AeroMexico||Largest airline in Mexico; serves nearly 50 cities in Mexico as well as North America, South America, Europe and Asia||1,000 MR points = 1,600 Club Premiere Points|
|Air Canada||International airline that flies to more than 50 U.S. cities and has hubs in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Aeroplan Miles|
|Air France/KLM||Based out of Paris and Amsterdam; flies to more than 230 destinations in over 100 countries||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Flying Blue Award Miles|
|Alitalia||Largest airline in Italy; flies to more than 100 destinations||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Alitalia Miles|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA)||Largest airline in Japan; serves more than 100 domestic routes and 85 international routes||1,000 MR points = 1,000 ANA Mileage Club Miles|
|Avianca||Latin American airline serving more than 108 destinations in 26 countries in North America, South America and Europe||1,000 MR points = 1,000 LifeMiles|
|British Airways||Based in London; serves more than 170 destinations in 70 countries||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Avios in the British Airways Executive Club|
|Cathay Pacific||Based in Hong Kong; serves more than 200 destinations in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe and Africa||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Asia Miles|
|Delta Air Lines||Offers service to 300 destinations in more than 50 countries and six continents||1,000 MR points = 1,000 SkyMiles|
|El Al||National airline of Israel; flies to more than 35 destinations||1,000 MR points = 20 El Al Matmid Points|
|Emirates||Maintains a hub in Dubai; flies to more than 150 destinations on six continents||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Skywards Miles|
|Etihad||National airline of the United Arab Emirates; based in Abu Dhabi and flies to almost 100 destinations||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Serves more than 20 domestic and international destinations with nonstop service from North America to Hawaii||1,000 MR points = 1,000 HawaiianMiles|
|Iberia||Largest airline in Spain; operates nearly 600 daily flights from its hub in Madrid and serves more than 100 destinations in 38 countries||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Avios in Iberia Plus|
|JetBlue||New York's hometown airline, which serves more than 100 destinations||1,000 MR points = 800 TrueBlue points|
|Qantas||Australia's largest airline with flights to over 1,200 destinations||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Qantas Points|
|Singapore Airlines||Flies to over 100 destinations in 35 countries along with its subsidiary, SilkAir||1,000 MR points = 1,000 KrisFlyer Miles|
|Virgin Atlantic||With the tagline "world's favorite long haul airline" flies over 6 million passengers yearly||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Flying Club Miles|
|Choice Hotels||A value brand for hotels including Comfort Inn & Suites, Sleep Inn, and Econo Lodge||1,000 MR Points = 1,000 Choice Privileges points|
|Hilton Hotels||Has multiple hotel brands, including Hilton Hotels, Hampton Inn and Waldorf Astoria, with more than 5,000 locations worldwide||1,000 MR points = 1,000 Hilton Honors points (until Aug. 31, 2019, 1,000 MR points = 1,500 Hilton Honors points)|
|Marriott Bonvoy||Offers more than 6,700 hotels with 29 brands in 130 countries||5 MR points = 6 Marriott Bonvoy points (minimum transfer amount is 1,000 points)|
Savvy traveler tip: Join the loyalty programs of Amex partners you may want to use in the future, and link your Amex account to these partner accounts now. That way, if you find a hot travel deal and want to transfer points, your accounts will be set up and ready to go.
How to book a flight with Amex points
Using Amex points for flights is easy, and you can go through a partner airline or through Amex. The best way to use Amex points for flights is to transfer your points into the frequent flyer program of an Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner. By going this route, as we mentioned, you can get max 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.
You also have the option to redeem Amex points for travel through American Express. You can book a flight, hotel, car rental, cruise or package through the American Express Membership Rewards portal. You'll get less value for an 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 travel 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 credit card but will be credited back to your account within 48 hours.
Savvy traveler tip: Make sure you're 100% certain about your Amex rewards points 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.
How not to use Amex rewards points
The Amex rewards program is very versatile, but that doesn't mean all of your options for using your Amex points are good ones. In fact, many will not get you anywhere near max value for your points. Amex has a points value calculator, so you can see the dollar value of your points used in different ways.
That said, here are some low-value ways you can use your Amex points in a pinch:
Pay with points at checkout. Transfer your points to one of several merchant partners and use them at checkout. These partners include big names such as Best Buy, Expedia and Ticketmaster. Wondering how to use Amex points on Amazon.com? Simply go to Pay with Points and click on the Amazon link.
Redeem for gift cards. Use your points to buy gift cards for yourself or your friends at one of the many retail and dining options offered. These card options range from Target to Saks Fifth Avenue plus hundreds more stores and restaurants.
Cover your card charges. Apply your points to eligible charges by selecting them on your recent statement.
Use your points for good. You can donate Membership Rewards points to any of the thousands of nonprofit organizations registered with JustGiving. For every 1,000 points you give, Amex will donate $10 to the charity for up to 500,000 points. After reaching that threshold, every 1,000 points will net a $5 donation.
Dollar value of Amex points
Have you racked up a ton of Amex points and you're wondering how much your haul is worth? When converting Amex points to dollars, remember that Amex points value varies by redemption. But let's look at the max value of about 2 cents per point, assuming you transfer strategically to a travel partner:
- 100,000 Amex points: $2,000
- 75,000 Amex points: $1,500
- 60,000 Amex points: $1,200
- 50,000 Amex points: $1,000
- 25,000 Amex points: $500
- 10,000 Amex points: $200
As you can see, redeeming your Amex points at 2 cents per point will get you a lot more bang for your buck than the lowest redemption of 0.5 cent per point, which would mean you'd get only 25% of these dollar values.
Do Amex points expire?
Have a bunch of Amex points sitting in your account? It's always best to use points sooner rather than later. The good news is that Amex membership points do not expire as long as you keep one linked Amex credit card open and in good standing. That means paying your bill on time every month in order to maintain your point balance. If you're late making a payment, you may lose all points earned during the time frame covered by the statement.
The Amex Membership Rewards has something for everyone, with card options and points redemption choices that work for jet setters, small-business owners, young families and everyone in between. The key to maximizing your earning power is to crunch the numbers to figure out where you spend the most money in your budget and then choose an Amex card that earns extra points in those categories. Combining cards to maximize earnings and stack everyday spending with welcome bonuses can help you rack up points quickly so you can start planning that dream vacation right away.