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Best Ways to Use American Express Membership Rewards Points

Membership Rewards points are as valuable as cash, and we'll show you how to get every penny's worth. In this guide, we highlight the most economical redemption options for your points (hint: redeeming for travel) and explain why some tempting redemption options (like using points to pay for a new iPhone) don't provide the best value.

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.

Getting the highest possible value from your Membership Rewards® points requires a decent amount of effort and time. In the following sections, we'll teach you how to transfer your points to travel partners and book award travel. For people who don't want the headache of digging through award charts and transferring Membership Rewards points, we'll also explore easier but lower-value redemption options like paying with points and using your rewards for gift cards.

Redeem Membership Rewards Points on American Express Travel Portal

Pros

  • It's the simplest way to use Membership Rewards points for travel.
  • You can book and pay for trips directly on the Amex travel portal.
  • Domestic economy flights typically get you 1.15 cents per point.

Cons

  • There's less flexibility than transferring to travel partners.
  • Higher value can be found by booking award travel with transfer partners.
  • Hotel redemptions are usually only 0.7 cents per point.

The easiest and quickest way to redeem your Membership Rewards points for travel is to book a trip on the Amex travel portal and pay for the purchase with points. With this redemption option, you'll get a value of 1 cent per point in most cases. You may be able to get a higher redemption value for your points by selecting one of American Express' Insider Fares.

To book a trip with Membership Rewards points, navigate to AmExTravel.com and log in to your account. Once you're on the homepage, you'll be able to search for flights, hotels, cars, cruises and vacation packages on a travel search form similar to what you'd use on a website like Kayak. You can also view your points balance on the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

You can also access the AmEx travel portal from the homepage of your credit card account. To do so, click the "Rewards" tab on the navigation bar at the top of the page, then scroll down and select "Book or Upgrade Travel." You can search for itineraries directly from the tool in that tab, or you can click "Explore AmEx Travel" to view the full AmEx Travel website.

As shown below, you can filter and sort search results from within the travel portal to find your desired itinerary. On select flight routes, you'll be able to choose from "Insider Fares," which will give you the best value for your points. Note that it's easiest to search for flights on the AmEx portal on your desktop or tablet browser. While it is possible to search for travel on the American Express app, the mobile interface is much clunkier than the desktop version.

Flight options on the AmEx travel portal
Insider Fares are the best choice if you're redeeming points on the AmEx travel portal

Paying for Flights With Membership Rewards

When using Membership Rewards to pay for travel on the AmEx portal, we found that the best value on flight redemption options are domestic economy. Typically, you can find an Insider Fare deal for a domestic economy flight that gets you a value of 1.15 cents per point. Domestic flights in premium cabins and international flights tend to have lower cent-per-point redemption value.

Round-tripClassCash pricePoints priceValue per point (cents)
NYC to MiamiEconomy$26923,3651.15
NYC to MiamiPremium Economy$37637,5281.00
NYC to MiamiFirst$67460,9791.12
LA to HonoluluEconomy$54948,2401.14
LA to HonoluluPremium Economy$1,00593,6671.07
LA to HonoluluFirst$1,248117,5611.06
Boston to LondonEconomy$80475,8321.07
Boston to LondonPremium Economy$1,224118,7621.03
Boston to LondonFirst$7,918791,7721.00

Booking Hotels With Membership Rewards

We recommend you avoid using your Membership Rewards to pay for hotels on the American Express travel portal. For a variety of locations and price ranges that we tested, the redemption value of hotel nights was significantly lower than 1 cent per point. For example, booking the Kimpton property in the screenshot below will net a value of 0.7 cents per point. It's best to redeem rewards for no less than 1 cent per point when possible.

Viewing hotel prices on AmexTravel.com
Hotel redemptions on the AmEx travel portal have poor value.

Transfer Membership Rewards Points to Airline Partners

The best way to use your Membership Rewards is to transfer them to one of the 18 airline partners in the American Express network. You can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio in most cases, which means that 100,000 Membership Rewards equals 100,000 Delta SkyMiles®. However, you'll get more value by exploiting redemption deals offered by an airline.

To transfer your Membership Rewards to one of the travel partners, log in to your account at MembershipRewards.com, scroll down and select the "Transfer Points" tab. Next, select the airline to which you'd like to transfer your points.

Screenshot of select American Express transfer partners
View of the transfer partner portal.

Once you've selected an airline travel partner, you'll need to link your program account to American Express. If you have authorized users on your account, select the cardholder whose account you want to link. Keep in mind that the name of the cardholder must match the name of the airline loyalty program account. After the accounts are linked, you can select the number of Membership Rewards points you want to transfer. The points will transfer instantly for most airlines.

Transferring Membership Rewards points
Be sure to check that you're transferring the desired number of points.

Below, we've highlighted some of the best redemption options available at each of the 18 American Express travel partners.

1. Aer Lingus AerClub

  • Irish airline with solid redemption options between the U.S. and Europe.
  • Avios is the currency of the airline's AerClub loyalty program.
  • You can use Avios to book award flights on British Airways and Iberia.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1.

East Coast Cities to Europe (Economy Off-Peak)

You can book an off-peak award from a city on the East Coast of North America to Dublin for just 13,000 Avios. The airline's definition of off-peak is quite broad, and only the summer and certain dates around the winter holidays don't qualify. As such, the airline's peak schedule is significantly less restrictive than British Airways' schedule. Aer Lingus also has a wide variety of cities that it counts as part of the Northeast, including:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Minneapolis (coming summer 2019)
  • Montreal (coming summer 2019)
  • New York City
  • Philadelphia
  • Toronto
  • Washington, D.C.

You should expect to get a value of at least 2 cents per point when redeeming Avios for award travel on Aer Lingus. When searching for award space and comparing with the cash price, we were even able to find some economy class redemptions with a value of 3 to 4 cents per point. However, you may need to pay extra cash for fees in certain cases, which can reduce the value of a redemption.

America to Ireland (Economy Off-Peak)

You can still fly to Ireland for a relatively low number of Avios if you live south or west of the Northeast cities mentioned above. In the off-peak season, trips from the following cities to Dublin cost 16,250 Avios:

  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Orlando, Florida
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle

Business Class from US to Dublin, Ireland (Off-Peak)

If you're planning a trip to Europe in the off-peak season and you want to fly in luxury, consider transferring your Membership Rewards points to AerClub to book a business class award. From the East Coast cities, this will cost you 50,000 Avios. From anywhere else in the U.S., the cost is 62,500 Avios. A one-way international business class ticket on Aer Lingus can cost upward of $4,000 in cash, so an award price of 50,000 to 62,500 Avios is quite a bargain.

Fly from the US to Other Parts of Europe (Off-Peak)

You can also use AerClub Avios to fly from the United States and Canada to any destination that Aer Lingus services within Europe. Aer Lingus flies to a number of popular cities in the region, such as:

  • London
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Milan
  • Amsterdam
  • Madrid
  • Munich
  • Venice, Italy
  • Naples, Italy

Fly Within Europe

Using Avios to fly from Dublin to other cities in Europe is one of the cheapest redemption options available. For economy class tickets during the off-peak season, awards prices start at 4,000 points. However, flights within Europe are usually inexpensive in cash as well, so be sure you're getting a value above 1.15 cents per point if you choose to go this route.

2. AeroMexico Club Premier

  • The transfer rate is 1 Membership Rewards point for 1.6 Club Premier Km.
  • It's part of the SkyTeam Airline Alliance founded by Delta.
  • The airline offers an around-the-world award ticket with up to 15 stopovers.

SkyTeam Go Round the World Pass

Along with the other SkyTeam airlines, AeroMexico is one the last few carriers that offers an around-the-world award ticket. This award allows you to make a minimum of three and a maximum of 15 stopovers. During your around-the-world trip, you can fly on any one of the following SkyTeam airlines:

  • AeroMexico
  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolíneas Argentinas
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • KLM
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Kenya Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia Airlines
  • Tarom
  • Vietnam Airlines

In economy class, the award costs 224,000 Club Premier Km, which is 140,000 Membership Rewards points at the 1:1.6 transfer ratio. In business class, the award costs 352,000 Km or 220,000 Membership Rewards points. Here are the rules of the award:

  • Travelers must go in the same direction (east or west) for the whole trip.
  • You must start and end in the same country.
  • There are between three and 15 stopovers allowed with a maximum of five per continent.
  • A stopover is any city where you stay for more than 24 hours.
  • The beginning and end city don't count as stopovers.
  • All flights must be booked in the same class.
  • There is no time limit for each stopover.
  • The pass is valid for one year after the ticket issue date.

3. AirCanada Aeroplan®

  • It's a member of the Star Alliance with United Airlines.
  • The best awards are from the U.S. to Europe.
  • Still publishes an award chart.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1.

Fly from the U.S. to Western Europe

By transferring your AmEx points to Aeroplan, you can get a round-trip ticket to Western Europe from the U.S. for just 60,000 Aeroplan miles. The airline also allows you to take up to two stopovers on your trip, meaning you can tack some extra cities onto your vacation. If you want to fly in luxury, this redemption will cost you 110,000 miles in business class or 140,000 miles in first class.

Take a Trip to the Middle East

AirCanada's Aeroplan program also has a good redemption value from the U.S. to the Middle East and North Africa region. From the U.S., you can redeem a round-trip ticket for 80,000 miles in economy class, 165,000 miles in business class and 230,000 miles in first class. The countries that qualify for this redemption option are as follows:

  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Spain's Canary Islands
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Tunisia
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan
  • Yemen

4. Air France/KLM Flying Blue

  • Flying Blue is the joint loyalty program of Air France and KLM.
  • The airlines are part of Delta's SkyTeam alliance.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1.

Book Flying Blue Promo Awards

Flying Blue doesn't publish an award chart, but it offers periodic deals called Promo Rewards that can save you up to 50% of the miles you'd normally spend on a trip. For example, a round trip to Dubai in business class on Air France may cost 82,500 miles during a promotional period rather than 165,000 miles. You can view the current promotions here.

5. Alitalia MilleMiglia

  • This is one of Italy's major airlines.
  • It's a member of the SkyTeam alliance with Delta, Air France and KLM.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1.

Fly from the US to Italy

Alitalia offers relatively inexpensive award tickets to Europe through its MilleMiglia loyalty program. For 60,000 miles, you can take a round trip in economy class from the U.S. to Italy. This same trip is just 80,000 miles for premium economy. Once you're in the region, you can take a one-way trip to North Africa in economy class for just 15,000 miles.

ANA award chart
Alitalia award chart for July 1, 2019, to Jan. 21, 2020

Fly Premium Economy or Business Class to the Maldives

If you want a luxury trip to the Maldives but don't want to blow all your points on a round-trip flight, consider taking a one-way flight on Alitalia. From Italy, a premium economy ticket to the Maldives costs 55,000 miles and a business class tickets costs 100,000 miles. If you don't care about a premium class of service, you can get a one-way award ticket to the Maldives from Italy for just 40,000 miles. Plus, to get to Italy for your departure flight, you can book a round-trip award from the U.S. for 60,000 miles.

6. All Nippon Airways (ANA)

  • The airline offers attractive and ample award flights to Asia.
  • It's a member of the SkyTeam alliance with United Airlines.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1.

Round Trip to Japan

During the off-peak season, you can use your Membership Rewards points to book a round trip between the U.S. and Japan in economy class for 40,000 miles. During the busiest peak season, you can book a round trip in economy class for 55,000 points if you can find the space.

ANA Award Chart
ANA's award chart has plentiful options from Japan. Note: Y = Economy | PY = Premium Economy | C = Business | F = First Class | L, R and H refer to low, regular and high season.

Use Your AmEx Points to Explore Asia

Outside of Japan, ANA serves a variety of destinations throughout Asia, including Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taipei, Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Mumbai, Delhi, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh. From Japan, an economy class off-peak round-trip ticket to one of these destinations will cost from 12,000 to 30,000 points, depending on the region of the city you select (see table above). Visit the award chart on ANA's website for a full breakdown.

  • Zone 1: Japan
  • Zone 2: Seoul
  • Zone 3: Beijing, Dalian, Shenyang, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Chengdu, Wuhan, Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila
  • Zone 4: Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Yangon, Jakarta, Mumbai, Delhi, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh
  • Zone 5: Honolulu
  • Zone 6: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Washington, D.C. (IAD), New York, Chicago (ORD), Houston, Vancouver, Mexico City
  • Zone 7: London, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Brussels, Vienna

7. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

  • There are three levels of awards depending on your needs.
  • The standard awards are cheapest but hardest to book.
  • Choice and tailored awards give you the best chance to book flights during busy seasons.

Economy Flight Under 750 Miles for 7,500 Miles

Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles program uses a distance-based award chart, where award prices are based on the length of a flight. On ultra-short flights, which Asia Miles defines as fewer than 750 miles long, you can get redeem an economy class ticket for just 7,500 miles. This could get you from Beijing to Shanghai. While you should always compare award prices to cash prices, this is a great deal for travelers who make short-haul flights throughout Asia.

Long-Haul Business Class for 65,000 Miles

For long-haul flights between 5,000 and 7,500 miles, business class redemptions in the "standard" award category go for just 65,000 miles. If you can find award space at the standard level, then this is a great deal on longer flights within the Asian and Oceania region. Flight redemptions of the same distance at the choice level, which are more flexible, go for 97,500 miles.

8. Avianca LifeMiles

  • LifeMiles is the loyalty program of Avianca, Colombia's biggest airline.
  • It's part of the Star Alliance.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1.

First Class on Lufthansa Airlines

Avianca LifeMiles can be used to book one of the most sought after awards: the Lufthansa first class product. For just 87,000 miles, you can redeem a flight to Europe from Dallas, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, New York City or San Francisco. If you're flexible about where you travel, consider the New York City to Frankfurt route, as it tends to have the best availability.

Book Awards on Other Star Alliance Airlines

Because Avianca is part of the Star Alliance, you can use LifeMiles to book award flights on partner airlines. Additionally, Avianca will occasionally offer promotional awards where you can get discounted award flights on partner airlines. The list of Avianca's partners in the Star Alliance includes:

  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Avianca Brasil
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss International Air Lines
  • TAP Portugal
  • Thai Airways International
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

9. British Airways Executive Club

  • The airline is part of the oneworld alliance.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1 with Membership Rewards points.
  • Be wary: British Airways may charge high fuel surcharges on award flights.

Short-Haul Flights in North America

For just 7,500 Avios, you can use the British Airways Executive Club program to book a short-haul flight within North America. This redemption applies on flights under 1,150 miles, so you have a variety of routes to choose from, including popular flights like NYC to Chicago, Los Angeles to Vegas and NYC to Toronto. To book, you can search for award space on the British Airways website.

West Coast to Hawaii

Using your Membership Rewards as Avios is one of the best ways to get from the West Coast to Hawaii. If you book a flight on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines through British Airways, you can get a one-way direct flight from the West Coast to Hawaii from 12,500. The average cost of a flight to Hawaii can be hundreds of dollars, so this is a great deal.

10. Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

  • The airline is the founding member of the SkyTeam alliance.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1 with Membership Rewards points.
  • It offers a comprehensive loyalty program with numerous partner airlines.

Fly First Class to Europe

If you're transferring Membership Rewards points to Delta, one of the best uses of your points is a first-class redemption between the U.S. and Europe on Virgin Atlantic. This award will cost you 85,000 SkyMiles. While this isn't cheap, Virgin Atlantic's "upper class" cabin is widely considered one of the best travel experiences in the sky.

Take a One-Way Flight Within the U.S.

On certain domestic routes, you can find redemption offers for as low as 5,000 SkyMiles one way. Because Delta no longer publishes an award chart, you'll have to search for deals. In some cases, you may find that one-way domestic flights are priced at 10,000 SkyMiles apiece, but this is still a decent redemption option.

11. El Al Israel

  • It's not a member of any alliance.
  • It partners only with AeroMexico, Qantas and South African Airways.
  • The transfer ratio is 20:1.

Fly Direct to Israel

Due to the breadth of AmEx's transfer partner program, we'd advise against using your Membership Rewards points for El Al Israel redemptions. The airline offers flights to Israel from New York City, but the transfer ratio and redemption options aren't worth it. We'd recommend using your points on a different redemption, unless you need to fly to Israel and have no other option but to use El Al.

12. Emirates Skywards

  • It partners with airlines like Alaska, JetBlue and Korean.
  • It's not part of one of the three major alliances.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1 with American Express.

Domestic One-Way on JetBlue

Although Emirates is based in the Middle East, you can use the airline to book cheap domestic flights. And because the airline partners with JetBlue, there are some great redemption options for one-way flights within the U.S. For example, you can find one-way awards on nonstop flights for as little 7,500 miles.

Fly Business Class to Italy

For 90,000 miles, you can book a business class flight on Emirates to Milan from New York City. While this isn't the best redemption value possible, Emirates is known to have high-quality premium cabins. If traveling in luxury isn't your thing, consider booking the same route in economy class for just 45,000 miles.

13. Etihad Guest

  • It partners with airlines like American Airlines, ANA and Alitalia.
  • It's not part of one of the three major alliances, but it has 23 partners.
  • You can transfer AmEx points at a 1:1 ratio.

Fly to Europe, Affordably

The Etihad Guest loyalty program has ample travel options due to the airline's wide range of transfer partners. As such, you can find some great award flights to Europe through Brussels Airlines. From New York City, round-trip flights can be found for as low as 54,000 miles, while business class round-trip flights price at 88,000 miles.

Fly in Czech Airlines Business Class

As mentioned above, Etihad has great redemption options on its partner airlines. One of these is the business class redemption from Prague to Seoul on Czech Airlines for about 25,000 miles. This is a highly attractive use of Membership Rewards points if you're interested in experiencing a premium cabin.

14. Hawaiian Airlines

  • It partners with airlines like Japan Airlines, JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic.
  • There are good award options for flights within the Hawaiian islands.
  • You can transfer AmEx points at a 1:1 ratio.

Fly Premium to Hawaii

If you're transferring your points to Hawaiian Airlines, one of our favorite redemption options is to fly from the continental U.S. to Hawaii in first class for just 40,000 miles one way. Plus, round trips can be found for as low as 80,000 miles, with a maximum price of 160,000 miles from the West Coast.

Take Short-Haul Flights Among the Islands

Hawaiian Airlines offers great redemption options to people who want to explore the different Hawaiian islands on vacation. The airline prices short-haul flights at just 7,500 for a one-way ticket, which means you and your significant other could explore the Big Island (Hawaii), Maui, Kauai and Molokai for just 45,000 miles total.

15. Iberia Plus

  • Iberia is Spain's flagship airline.
  • It's a member of the oneworld alliance with American Airlines, British Airways and others.
  • You can transfer AmEx points at a 1:1 ratio.

Explore Spain from Madrid

The Iberia Plus loyalty program frequently offers great award travel deals within Spain. For example, there's currently an offer to fly from Madrid to other cities in Spain like Almeria, Barcelona and Bilbao for 9,000 Avios. The 9,000-Avios deal is also offered to other cities in the region, like Lyon, Marseille, Algiers, Nice and Lisbon.

Short-Haul US Flights

Like many of the international airlines that are transfer partners with American Express, Iberia offers solid redemption deals on short-haul U.S. flights. On flights under 600 miles in distance, you can book an economy class ticket for 11,000 Avios. While this isn't the best domestic economy redemption that you can get with Membership Rewards, it's a solid option for travelers who need to make a quick trip between cities like New York and Boston.

16. JetBlue TrueBlue

  • It's not part of an alliance, but it partners with airlines such as Aer Lingus, Emirates and Hawaiian Airlines.
  • There are fewer redemption options than the big three airlines.
  • The transfer rate is 1:1 with AmEx.

Experience JetBlue Mint Class

For long-haul domestic or Caribbean flights, JetBlue's Mint class is one of the best products available. The premium class features lie-flat seats, artisanal dining from purveyors like Milk Bar and Saxon + Parole, free entertainment and, on some planes, suites. You can fly in Mint class coast-to-coast for as low as 52,000 points or to the Caribbean from the Northeast for as low as 39,400 points.

JetBlue's mint class
Image courtesy of JetBlue

Fly to the Caribbean

JetBlue offers award flights from the U.S. to the Caribbean for as low as 11,000 points during off-peak season and 16,400 points during peak season. The airline flies to a number of great vacation destinations in the region, including, Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Maarten.

17. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

  • It's part of the Star Alliance with United Airlines, ANA, Lufthansa and others.
  • It's known for its premium cabin experience.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1.

Book the Longest Flight in the World With Points

In October 2018, Singapore Airlines relaunched its flight route from Newark to Singapore that now claims the title as the longest in the world. Award tickets start at 140,000 points for premium economy and 184,000 points for business class. The premium economy redemption isn't the greatest value, as cash tickets start at $1,350—meaning you get a value of about 1 cent per mile. Business class redemptions are slightly better, with cash tickets starting as about $5,000 for a potential value of 2.7 cents per mile.

Fly Domestic on United Airlines

You can also use KrisFlyer miles to book a domestic flight on United, one of Singapore's partner airlines. Business class tickets on transcontinental flights start at 23,000 miles, while first class tickets start at 40,000 miles. If you can find award space, this is a better deal than what you'd find booking a premium cabin on a coast-to-coast flight with one of the U.S. airlines.

18. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

  • It's not part of an alliance, but it partners with Delta Air Lines, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Australia and others.
  • Get great deals on flights to Europe.
  • The transfer ratio is 1:1 with Membership Rewards.

Fly in Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class to Europe

As mentioned above, you can use Delta SkyMiles to book Virgin's upper class cabin to Europe. However, you can also book a round-trip award ticket from the U.S. to Europe directly with Virgin Atlantic. Upper-class awards go for as low as 95,000 miles, while economy class tickets can be booked for about 25,000 miles and premium economy tickets for about 40,000 miles. Keep in mind that the price will vary depending on the season and route, plus Virgin adds a fuel surcharge on these transatlantic flights.

Explore the Outback Through Virgin Australia

Economy class round-trip tickets within Australia start at 15,000 Flying Club miles and go up to 40,000 miles, and there are no fuel surcharges. Depending on cash prices and award availability, this is a solid option for exploring Australia at a low cost. Before transferring Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic for this redemption, be sure to compare the cash prices on tickets at other airlines.

Redeem Membership Rewards Points for Hotel Stays

Transferring your Membership Rewards points to a hotel chain is another great use of your points. Most hotel loyalty programs work the same as the airline programs outlined above, and you can transfer them by following a similar process on the MembershipRewards.com travel portal.

1. Choice Privileges®

  • Get a 1:1 transfer ratio with Membership Rewards points.
  • Member brands include Comfort Inn and Suites, Quality Inn, Ascend and Cambria.

The Choice Privileges loyalty program is great for families, as the company has a host of brands that offer suites at an affordable price. Redemption rates range from 6,000 to just 35,000 points per night, plus there are more than 1,000 Choice Hotel properties that cost fewer than 8,000 points per night to book. As such, you can be sure a redemption with Choice Privileges won't break the bank.

2. Hilton Honors

  • Get a 2:1 transfer ratio with Membership Rewards points.
  • Popular Hilton brands include DoubleTree, Hilton Garden Inn and Waldorf Astoria.

The Hilton Honors loyalty program has a wide range of redemption options at various price points. For example, a Hampton Inn in Reynosa, Mexico, can be booked for 5,000 Hilton points per night (10,000 Membership Rewards points), while the Hilton Paris Opera costs upward of 80,000 Hilton points per night (160,000 Membership Rewards points). Visit the Hilton Points Explorer to check availability and find the best value in the program.

3. Marriott Bonvoy™

  • This is the new, unified rewards program of Marriott, Starwood and Ritz Carlton.
  • There are redemption options at a variety of price points.

Use Points to Book Vacation Rental Homes

Marriott announced a new brand in early 2019—Homes & Villas by Marriott International—that positions the hotel chain to compete with Airbnb. Properties in the Homes & Villas brand are now eligible to be booked with rewards points. While this is an unconventional use of your Membership Rewards, you'll be able to find and book unique vacation accommodations that aren't available through other hotel loyalty programs.

List of Marriott hotels
Marriott's portfolio of hotel brands

Stay in Luxury at an SPG or Ritz-Carlton Property

The recent unification of Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards into a single rewards program, Marriott Bonvoy, means that you can now book some of the best hotels in the world with Membership Rewards. The best properties in the Bonvoy program can cost upward of 85,000 points per night, but you can save by booking for off-peak dates. See the table below for the program's full award chart.

Category

Example hotelOff-peakRegularPeak
1Courtyard Chicago5,0007,50010,000
2Aloft Tulsa10,00012,50015,000
3Courtyard Boston/Andover15,00017,50020,000
4Augusta Marriott20,00025,00030,000
5Brussels Marriott Hotel Grand Place30,00035,00040,000
6Kaua'i Marriott Resort40,00050,00060,000
7Barcelona EDITION50,00060,00070,000
8The St. Regis Bali Resort70,00085,000100,000

Pay with Points, Gift Cards and Statement Credits

Redeeming points for airline travel is the best way to get a high value from your rewards. However, there are a few other redemption options for people who don't like traveling or who don't want the headache of transferring points and scrutinizing award charts. If this applies to you, it's possible to use your rewards for simpler redemptions like gift cards or statement credits.

If you choose to go this route, keep in mind that you'll get significantly less value from your points than if you were to redeem them for travel. For gift cards, you'll get between 0.5 and 0.7 cents per point in most cases. Points are worth 0.6 cents each when redeeming for statement credit and 0.7 cents each when used to make purchases directly from retailers like Rite Aid, Seamless and Walmart.

Upgrade with Points

American Express recently announced another redemption option for Membership Rewards points. On certain itineraries, you'll be able to use points to upgrade the class of service on your flight. To do so, you'll need to head to MembershipRewards.com, navigate to the tab that says "Book or Upgrade Travel" and click on the "Explore Upgrades" link at the bottom of the tab. Finally, you can select your airline and enter your itinerary details to see if your flight is eligible.

Screenshot of AmEx website
Steps to upgrading your flight with points.

As of May 2019, the following 18 airlines are participants in the American Express Upgrade with Points program:

  • Aerolíneas Argentinas
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air Mauritius
  • Avianca
  • Caribbean Airlines
  • Ethiopian
  • Etihad
  • Fiji Airways
  • Gulf Air
  • Icelandair
  • Kenya Airways
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Norwegian
  • Qantas Airways
  • SilkAir
  • Singapore Airlines

Cards That Earn Membership Rewards Points

The American Express Membership Rewards program has plentiful redemption options that return high value on your spending rewards. Once you've earned enough points, you can use them to take a first-class flight to nearly anywhere in the world or pay for a last-minute trip back home.

American Express Membership Rewards Consumer Cards

American Express Membership Rewards Business Cards

The information related to The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express and the The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express has been 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.

Best Membership Rewards Cards

If you're interested in joining the Membership Rewards program—or you want to boost your rewards stock by earning a new welcome bonus—consider one of the cards below.

American Express® Gold Card: Earn Points for Spending on Food

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American Express® Gold Card

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Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 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 when you dine at restaurants worldwide. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • 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.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • 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 when you dine at restaurants worldwide. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • 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.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
Annual Fee
$250
Regular APR
See Rates & Fees
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good/Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

Our Thoughts

The American Express® Gold Card is one of our favorite travel rewards cards for its credits and its excellent rewards rate on food purchases. The card earns 4X points at restaurants worldwide, 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, and 1X point on everything else. Plus, you'll get a $100 annual airline fee credit and $10 in monthly food credits that can be used at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations.

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

The Platinum Card® from American Express: 5x Points on Flights, Plus Perks

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

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Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 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. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 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®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 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. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 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®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Annual Fee
$550
Regular APR
N/A
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good/Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

Our Thoughts

The Platinum Card® from American Express is widely heralded as the top luxury travel card with good reason—it comes loaded with perks and earns 5 points per dollar on flights. With The Platinum Card® from American Express, you'll enjoy a $200 airline fee credit, $200 in annual Uber credits, a Global Entry fee credit, Priority Pass, American Express Centurion Lounge access and more. If you're a frequent flyer and want to experience premium travel benefits alongside points-earning potential, then this is the Amex card for you.

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

AmEx Points Value: How Much Are Membership Rewards Points Worth?

On average, Membership Rewards points are worth between 1 and 3 cents each. When paying for flights with points on the American Express website, you can find common redemption options with a value of 1.15 cents per point, so use this as a benchmark for what constitutes a worthwhile redemption. As such, we recommend that you stay away from the other options, listed below.

Redemption optionValue
Airfare on AmEx travel portal1 to 1.15 cents
Amazon0.7 cents
AmEx Express Checkout0.7 cents
Boxed0.7 cents
Cruises on AmEx travel portal0.7 cents
Excise tax offset fee0.5 cents
Expedia0.7 cents
Gift cards0.5 to 1 cent
Hotels on AmEx travel portal0.7 cents
JustGiving0.7 cents
Newegg0.7 cents
NYC Taxi1 cent
Rite Aid0.7 cents
Saks Fifth Avenue0.7
Seamless0.7 cents
Shopping portal0.5 cents
Staples0.7 cents
Statement credit0.6 cents
Ticketmaster0.5 cents
Uber1 cent
Walmart0.7 cents
Yowana Wamala

Yowana is a former product analyst at ValuePenguin, specializing in credit cards, rewards programs and travel. He previously covered mortgages, banking and insurance for the website. Yowana graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science.

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).