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

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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.

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.

What is American Express Membership Rewards?

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

However, one of the best ways to use American Express reward points is redeeming them through the American Express travel portal for flights, hotels, rental cars or cruises. You can also transfer points to Amex's long list of airline and hotel partners, making this program ideal for travelers.

How much are American Express points worth?

American Express reward points are worth anywhere from 0.5 cents to 2 cents each, depending on how you redeem them. When it comes to determining the Amex Membership Rewards value, shopping through the Amex Membership Rewards portal and statement credits generally offer the lowest value redemptions, while transferring them 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.

Here is a list of some point value options from highest earning to lowest earning:

Amex points value

Redemption options
Value

Transfer strategically to the right travel partner

2 cents
Get a flight, hotel, car rental, vacation package or cruise through the Membership Rewards portal0.75 cents-1 cent
Use Amex points on Amazon.com0.7 cents
Redeem points for gift cards0.6 cents-1 cent
Redeem points for statement credit0.6 cents
Buy merchandise with points0.5 cents

Pros and cons of American Express Membership Rewards

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

Benefits

  • 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 bonuses.

Drawbacks

  • Non-travel 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 bonus on redemptions through the Amex travel portal, so you'll always get 1 cent per points regardless of which card you hold — Chase Ultimate Rewards offers 1.25 to 1.5 cents per point on travel portal redemptions for certain cards.

How to earn Membership Rewards points

Now it’s time to learn how to earn American Express Membership Rewards points, so you can start stockpiling rewards for your next vacation. Luckily, they're not hard to accumulate, especially if you use multiple earning strategies.

American Express reward cards

There are six 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 also find three options that earn American Express Membership Rewards points.

Card

Welcome bonus
Earning rate
Annual fee

The Platinum Card® from American Express

75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 6 months.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.$550 See rates and fees
American Express® Gold Card60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery, 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 See rates and fees
American Express® Green Card30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 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 ExpressEarn 15,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening3x points at US supermarkets; 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases$95
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months2x points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), and 1x points on other purchases$0
Blue from American Express®N/AEarn 1 Membership Rewards® point for every eligible dollar you spend.$0

American Express business cards

Card
Welcome bonus
Earning rate
Annual fee

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum 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.$595
American Express® Business Gold CardEarn 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* on the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these categories each year$295
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American ExpressN/AEarn 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 big welcome bonuses that can help you earn a lot of Membership Rewards points fast, as long as you're able to meet the minimum spend 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 bonuses 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.

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 bonus on more than one American Express card. For example, you could open both The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card, earn both welcome bonuses 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.

Tip: The American Express "once-in-a-lifetime" rule means each cardholder may receive only one welcome 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.

Targeted offers

American Express regularly runs targeted welcome offers that are more generous than their standard welcome bonuses. For example, both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express sometimes have run targeted offers in the past that up the welcome bonus to 100,000 points if you meet the minimum spend 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 U.S. mail, through an email or by going to americanexpress.com to see if the targeted offer appears for you. Open those mailers and emails from American Express! You can also try logging onto your American Express account and selecting "Check for Pre-Qualified Credit Card Offers."

americanexpress
americanexpress.com

Amex referral bonuses

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

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

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.

Member Opinions

If you have some spare time to do online surveys, you'll get 550 for the first survey you complete with third-party site Member Opinions. After that, you'll earn 150 points per survey.

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.

AmericanExpress.com travel

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 0.7 cents per point while some flights can get as much as 1.15 cents per point or more — but typically hovers around 1 cent per point. Flights tend to offer more value than other travel options.

Amex transfer partners

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 Lingus

None1,000 MR points = 1,000 Avios
AeroMexicoSkyTeam1,000 MR points = 1,600 Club Premiere Points
Air CanadaStar Alliance1,000 MR points = 1,000 Aeroplan Miles
Air France/KLMSkyTeam1,000 MR points = 1,000 Flying Blue Miles
AlitaliaSkyTeam1,000 MR points = 1,000 Alitalia Miles
All Nippon Airways (ANA)Star Alliance1,000 MR points = 1,000 ANA Mileage Club Miles
AviancaStar Alliance1,000 MR points = 1,000 LifeMiles
British Airwaysoneworld1,000 MR points = 1,000 Avios in the British Airways Executive Club
Cathay Pacificoneworld1,000 MR points = 1,000 Asia Miles
Delta Air LinesSkyTeam1,000 MR points = 1,000 SkyMiles
El AlNone1,000 MR points = 20 El Al Matmid Points
EmiratesNone1,000 MR points = 1,000 Skywards Miles

Pay with points

You can pay with your points when you shop with a long list of popular online retailers, including PayPal, Amazon, Walmart and more. This is an easy and versatile way to use your points, but unfortunately, it's also a low-value redemption. You'll get 0.7 cents per point using this method.

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 won’t get you anywhere near 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.

Gift cards

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'll only get 0.5 to 0.7 cents per point from this redemption option, though, so it's best to go with a higher value redemption whenever possible.

Statement credit

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.

Charity

Through the Pay with Points option, you can use your points to donate to over 1.5 million charities with JustGiving. Again, you'll only get 0.7 cents per point from this redemption option, but it's there 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 also 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 go through a partner airline or through Amex.

Booking a flight with an Amex travel partner

The most valuable 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 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 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 card but will be credited back to your account within 48 hours.

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.

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 long list of excellent Membership Rewards-earning cards helps make it easy to accumulate points.

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 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, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express and the Blue 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?

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.

Elizabeth Aldrich is a personal finance writer specializing in credit cards, student loans, financial planning, and small business. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, and Bankrate. She’s an avid credit card points collector and ex-business traveler who now enjoys frequent trips abroad for leisure.

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).