Who Is American Express Membership Rewards Good For?
Like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards is a transfer program. It’s not intrinsically tied to any one hotel or airline, so accruing points with it allows you to redeem for a wide variety of travel options.
Since the program is linked to many popular and valuable American Express cards, this program is great for people who like the power and perks of American Express and want to get into travel rewards.
Points Transfer Partner
Alitalia Aeromexico ANA British Airways Delta El Al Hawaiian Airlines Singapore Airlines Virgin America Virgin Atlantic JetBlue Iberia Air Canada Air France KLM Emirates Cathay Pacific Etihad Airways
It also happens to be the oldest and most established of all of the transfer programs, so it has the widest network of partners, as well as a program honed over years of customer experience.
While this also means that some of the benefits are on the conservative side, such as very static transfer rates, American Express also knows how to keep customers interested, and frequently offers very high value transfer balances.
How Can You Use American Express Membership Rewards?
With American Express Membership Rewards, you have two options for using your points toward travel: you can either transfer American Express Membership Rewards to an airline or hotel, or use them directly with the Amex Pay With Points option.
To pay with points, you simply book your travel through American Express. Then, at checkout, pay at a 100-points-per-$1 rate, rather than using cash. This is a decent value, especially if you need to get a tricky fare that has no award availability. Business Platinum cardholders get a better rate: 1.25 cents per point. But you’ll get the best value for Membership Rewards by transferring your points to airlines of one point per mile.
While some transfer programs offer automatic bonuses when transferring to airlines, Amexs change frequently, but can be very beneficial, offering up to a 67% bonus when transferring points to airline miles.
- Most transfer partners
- Pay with points to get flights on airlines that aren’t transfer partners
- Most transfers take effect instantaneously, but can take up to 48 hours
- Ability to link other individuals’ frequent flyer accounts to your Membership Rewards account for transfers to family and friends
- Free advances up to 15,000 points (60,000 for Platinum card holders) that must be earned back within the next year
- United is no longer a transfer partner, and since it has a bad transfer ratio with Starwood Preferred Guest, Chase is essentially the only good transfer option for United miles now
- Points only transfer at a 1:1 ratio
- Pay with Points option only gives $0.01/point value
- Many of the cards associated with this program are charge cards, which must be paid off in full every month
- When transferring points to a domestic airline, excise fees up to $99 are levied
Best Value Awards:
While American Express Membership Rewards can be a great workhorse award program, getting you wherever you need to go, on whatever airline flies there, they really shine for premium cabins. Because many airlines only release their premium cabin space to members of their own frequent flyer programs, transferring American Express points gets you access you don’t have when you book partner award flights through your usual frequent flyer program.
The best award to snag is Singapore Airlines’ first class suites, regarded as one of the best flight experiences in the world, because of the amenities and the superior service the airline is known for. But first class flights on Cathay Pacific to and from Asia, and Air Berlin and Alitalia to and from Europe, are also great ways to use your points.
Worst Value Awards:
As you may have already noticed above, paying with points will typically get you the lowest value for your points. If you pay with points for hotels, it’s even worse. You need 133 points for each $1 on hotel bookings. You’ll always get a better value transferring your points to a partner than booking directly through the American Express travel website.
Associated Credit Cards
While some American Express credit cards–notably the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express and the four Delta co-branded American Express credit cards–do not participate in the Membership Rewards program, quite a few do so you have a lot of different ways to earn Membership Reward points.
The new Amex EveryDay cards are some of the easiest ways to get Membership Reward points, both in terms of earning and card eligibility. These cards were designed for the “average” person, while many Amex cards are a more premium product. They reward spending on basic, everyday necessities, and are increasingly being called the best cards for earning Membership Rewards.
The Amex EveryDay Preferred offers 15,000 Membership Reward points after a $1,000 spend in three months, and gives you 50 percent extra points on your purchases each month if you use your card 30 times that month. You’ll earn triple points in supermarkets, double points at gas stations and one point per dollar spent everywhere else. The basic EveryDay card comes with a 10,000-point sign-on bonus, 20 percent bonus points after 20 transactions, and only doubles points earned at supermarkets.
American Express Green, Premier Rewards Gold cardand Platinum cards (business or personal) also funnel into the American Express Membership Rewards program and offer a variety of perks, sign-on bonuses and fees to fit most spending needs.
The Green card, the most basic of the bunch, has a $95 fee after the first year, allows you to carry a balance and earns one point per dollar.
The Gold card, American Express flagship reward card, offers double points at gas stations and supermarkets for a $160 annual fee after the first year. Sign-on bonuses vary, but the base is 25,000 points, with an additional 15,000 after spending $30,000 on the card in a year.
The top-tier card is the Platinum card, which frequently comes with a hefty bonus, to the tune of 40,000 or 50,000 points, along with a $200 airline fee credit, free Boingo wireless and lounge access to most lounges, except American Airlines—all of which is balanced by a $450 fee.
All cards include roadside assistance, baggage insurance, travel concierge services, warranty extension, and purchase and return protection.