Amex Membership Rewards Points Complete Guide

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In my opinion, transferable points programs, are the most valuable points to accumulate.  These points can often be used at better than 1 cent per point value to book travel.  Even better, points can be strategically transferred to airline and hotel programs when valuable awards are available.  If you’re at all interested in free travel or luxury travel with points & miles, then you need to understand the basics of each of these programs, including Amex Membership Rewards.

This post rounds out our guides to the top transferable points programs: Amex Membership Rewards (this post), Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Capital One “Miles”.

Amex Membership Rewards points can be earned via credit card spend, new account bonuses, credit card referrals, and more. Those points can then be transferred to airline or hotel partners, or used to pay for travel or merchandise. In one specific case, points can be converted to cash back.

Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about Membership Rewards.

Earn Amex Membership Rewards Points

Credit Card Welcome Bonuses

The easiest and quickest way to earn Membership Rewards points is through Amex credit card welcome bonuses.

Most Amex welcome offers stipulate that you can’t get the bonus if you’ve ever had that card before. That said, it doesn’t preclude you getting a bonus for a similarly named card.  For example, there quite a few versions of the high end Platinum card, and it’s possible to get the welcome bonus with each and every one.  Additionally, targeted offers sometimes do not have that once per lifetime language.  In those cases, you can get the bonus even if you’ve had the card before. See: 8 ways to get the best targeted Amex welcome bonus offers.

Below are the Amex cards with the best current and public Membership Rewards welcome offers.

The Platinum Card® from American Express
75K points + up to $300 in statement credits + 10x US Gas Stations and US Supermarkets
75K after $5K spend in first 6 months plus 20% back as a statement credit for restaurant purchases worldwide for the first 12 months up to $300 back plus 10x on eligible purchases at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15K in purchases in the first 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

$550 Annual Fee

American Express® Gold Card
60K Points + up to $250 in statement credits
60K after $4K spend in first 6 months plus 20% back as a statement credit on restaurant purchases worldwide for the first 12 months up to $250 back. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

$250 Annual Fee

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
10K points
10K after $1K spend in 3 months. Terms apply.

No Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Alternate offer: Some find they are targeted for an offer of 20K after $2K spend in the first 3 months.

Credit Card Upgrade Bonuses

Amex frequently offers bonus points for upgrading from one card to another.  For example, we’ve seen 50,000 point offers for upgrading from the Business Gold Rewards card to the Business Platinum card.  Even better, these upgrade offers often do not have the once per lifetime language.  That is, if you are targeted for an upgrade offer, you may be able to earn the bonus points even if you’ve had the card before.  It is best to accept these offers only after you have earned a signup bonus for the higher end card.

Amex Business Platinum 50K Upgrade Offer

Shopping Portal Rewards

Earn American Express Membership Rewards Points

It is possible to earn Amex Membership Rewards points by starting your shopping with the Rakuten (formerly Ebates) Shopping Portal.  An option within the portal lets you choose whether you want to be paid in cash back or Membership Rewards points.

In addition to earning points by clicking through to stores from the portal, you can also register your credit cards with the portal to earn additional points at select stores and restaurants.

Click here for more details about this portal and why the Membership Rewards option is so exciting.

Credit Card Category Bonuses

The next best way to earn Membership Rewards points is by using the best card for each category of spend.  If you spend a lot personally or through your business on any of the below categories, you can do very well.  Particularly noteworthy is the no-annual-fee Blue Business Plus Credit Card which offers 2 points per dollar for all spend, up to $50K spend per calendar year (then 1X thereafter).  That’s fantastic.

Another standout is the Rakuten Visa card when tied to a Rakuten account that earns Membership Rewards points.  With this Visa card, you’ll earn 3X Membership Rewards in addition to portal rewards anytime you shop through the Rakuten portal and pay with your Rakuten Visa card.  Complete details can be found here: Rakuten Visa with Membership Rewards. Everything you need to know.

Spend Category Best Options
US Supermarkets
American Express Gold 4X (up to $25K per year, then 1X)
EveryDay Preferred Up to 4.5X* (max $6K per year)
US Gas Stations
Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
EveryDay Preferred Up to 3X*
Restaurants American Express Gold 4X
American Express Green 3X
Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**, US only
Travel (Broadly Defined)
American Express Green 3X
Flights
Platinum consumer cards 5X
Business Platinum (via Amex Travel) 5X
Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
American Express Gold  3X
American Express Green 3X
Prepaid Hotels
Platinum cards (via Amex Travel) 5X
American Express Green 3X
Select Car Rental Companies American Express Green 3X
Morgan Stanley Credit Card 2X
Select US Department Stores Morgan Stanley Credit Card 2X
US Shipping Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
US Advertising in select media Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
US Computer related purchases
Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
Rakuten portal shopping
Rakuten Visa 3X + portal rewards
Everywhere else Blue Business Plus 2X
EveryDay Preferred 1.5X*

* The Amex EveryDay Preferred card earns a 50% bonus every billing period in which the card was used for 30 or more transactions.  Before the 50% bonus, the card has the following bonus categories: 3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases.  After the 50% bonus, it offers: 4.5x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1.5x); 3x points at US gas stations; 1.5x points on other purchases.

** The Business Gold Card offers 4X on the two categories where your business spends the most each billing cycle from the following categories: ⚬ US purchases at restaurants ⚬ Airfare purchased directly from airlines ⚬ U.S. purchases for advertising in select media ⚬ U.S. purchases at gas stations ⚬ U.S. purchases for shipping ⚬ U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. 4X applies to first $150,000 in combined purchases in your two categories each calendar year, 1X point per dollar thereafter and on other purchases. Terms apply.

Credit Card Referrals

Another great way to earn Membership Rewards points is by referring friends and relatives.  In some cases referral bonuses are really big.  For example, in the past Amex has offered as much as 25,000 points as a referral bonus for the Business Platinum card.  However, if you want to keep your friends, then make sure that the offer they get is as good as the best available public offer (compare to our Best Offers page).

American Express Business Platinum Card

Log into your account to check for any special referral offers.

Note that this option is especially powerful since you can now refer friends to other cards — even to cards you do not have.  See this post for full details: Maximizing value from Amex multi-referrals.

Amex Offers

Amex Offers are usually best for saving cash.  But, sometimes Amex Offers provide terrific opportunities for point earning instead.  One (now expired) example was an offer for Reebok: Spend $75 or more, Get 1,500 Membership Rewards points. And one for Hugo Boss: Spend $250 or more, Get 5,000 points.

Amex Offer Reebok Boss

Sometimes Amex Offers are longer term and act more like a new category bonus.  For example, there were a large number of offers in which you can get an extra Membership Rewards point per dollar spent at selected merchants throughout 2017.  See: 2x Membership Rewards (2.5x with Everyday Preferred) at many online merchants.

Log into your account and check the section titled “Amex Offers and Benefits” to look for offers like these.

Miscellaneous Other Options for Earning Amex Membership Rewards Points

Extended Payment Option

Amex charge cards often offer an easy way to earn additional Membership Rewards points.  Once you sign up for a charge card, you will start getting emails and letters inviting you to sign up for the Extended Payment Option.  This option essentially turns your charge card into a credit card.  Don’t do it.  That is, don’t sign up until the offer includes a bonus of 5,000 to 10,000 Membership Rewards points.  In my experience, these bonus offers usually appear towards the end of your first year of card membership (as long as you haven’t enrolled already).

Amex Extended Payment Option 10K Bonus

Once you get an offer like the one shown above, go ahead and sign up.  As long as you keep paying your card’s complete balance each month, there is no downside to enabling this feature.

FX International Payments

FX International Payments

Amex offers businesses the ability to earn 1 Membership Rewards point per $30 of foreign wire payments (max 4,000 points per transaction).  Even better, you may receive a welcome bonus offer like the one shown above (keep an eye out for this in your mailbox or email!).

Redeem Points

In general, Membership Rewards points are worth up to 1 cent each. Fortunately, there are three ways in which it is possible to get more value: redeem points for flights, transfer points to hotel or airline partners, or invest rewards. More on each below…

Travel

Those with American Express Platinum cards automatically get 1 cent per point value when redeeming points for travel.  That’s not particularly good, but it’s much better than the value that people get without a Platinum card.  Currently, the only way to get better than 1 cent per point value when redeeming points for travel is with the Business Platinum Card.

The Business Platinum Card offers a 35% Airline Bonus: Get 35% of your points back when you redeem points through Amex Travel for either a First or Business class flight on any airline, or for any flights with your selected airline.

After you receive the 35% rebate, the value works out to 1.54 cents per point.  That’s very good, but it does require owning this ultra-premium card.

Transfer points

The best use of Membership Rewards points, in my opinion, is to transfer points to airline and hotel partners in order to book high value awards. Your best bet is usually to wait until you find a great flight or night award before transferring points. One exception: Amex often offers 30% or higher transfer bonuses to certain programs (Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are two recent examples).  If you’re confident that you’ll use the points for good value, it may make sense to transfer points when those bonuses are in effect.

For specific examples of great ways to use points transferred to airline miles, please see: Amex Membership Rewards sweet spots.

Current Transfer Bonuses

Here are the currently available transfer bonuses from Amex Membership Rewards (this table will update automatically when new offers are found):

Transfer Bonus DetailsEnd Date Sortable
Qantas Transfer Bonus: Get Up To 25% Bonus Points & Earn Status Credits (Targeted?)2020/11/30
15% Bonus: Bank Points to Singapore KrisFlyer2020/12/27

Points can be transferred to the loyalty accounts of the primary cardholder or any authorized user or employee on the account.

Transfer Partners

It is free to transfer Membership Rewards points to foreign airlines. For transfers to US airlines, however, Amex charges an “excise tax offset fee” of $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99). Airlines subject to this fee are noted below.

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer RatioBest Uses
AeroMexico ClubPremier1 to 1.6AeroMexico is a SkyTeam partner. Club Premier points can be used to book flights on AeroMexico, SkyTeam alliance members (such as Delta or Korean Air), or on select partner airlines. Unfortunately many have reported that awards are extremely difficult to book through AeroMexico so we do not recommend transferring points to this program. If you want to fly AeroMexico, look to transfer points to another SkyTeam partner (such as Air France) and then book AeroMexico with that program.
Air Canada Aeroplan1 to 1Redeem for Star Alliance flights and/or flights with Air Canada partners (such as Etihad). As of 11/8/20: No fuel surcharges; $39 CAD award booking fee; 5,000 points to add stopover on one-way award. See: Air Canada Aeroplan: Everything you need to know.
Air France KLM Flying Blue1 to 1Monthly Air France Promo Awards often represent very good value. Air France miles can be used to book Sky Team awards, including Delta awards.
Alitalia MilleMiglia1 to 1Alitalia is a member of the SkyTeam alliance. Unfortunately, fuel surcharges can be quite high, and partner awards cannot be booked online. Worse, after numerous devaluations, few sweetspots exist in this program.
ANA Mileage Club1 to 1Redeem for Star Alliance flights. Multiple stopovers allowed. Very good award prices for round-the-world travel. See also: How To Find Business Class Awards To Europe For 88,000 Miles Or Points.
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 1Avianca LifeMiles can be great for Star Alliance awards. They offer reasonable award prices and no fuel surcharges on awards. They also offer shorthaul awards within the US (for flying United, for example) for as few as 7,500 miles one-way. Best of all, their mixed-cabin pricing can lead to fantastic first-class award prices. See this post for details.
Avios1 to 1While flights on British Airways itself often incur outrageously high fuel surcharges, many BA partners charge low or no fuel surcharges. Great value can be had in redeeming BA points for short distance flights. Iberia offers very low award prices on their own flights. Round trip partner awards can offer good value under some circumstances as well. Fuel surcharges are often lower than when booking through British Airways. Aer Lingus shares the "Avios" currency with British Airways and Iberia. In most cases it is best to move points to one of those programs in order to book awards for less.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1 to 1Cathay Pacific has a decent distance based award chart, but as of April 2020 they no longer allow stopovers longer than 24 hours. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles can be a good option for booking American Airlines flights with a distance based award chart, especially if other OneWorld Alliance miles aren't available.
Choice1 to 1Choice Privileges points seem to be randomly quite valuable within the US, but dependably valuable internationally in expensive locations such as Scandinavia and Japan
Delta SkyMiles1 to 1 plus excise taxAward flights to Canada are often a great deal. Partner awards often have terrific availability, but you may pay more miles than with other programs.
Emirates Skywards1 to 1Emirates has different award charts for each airline partner. Sometimes they allow one-way awards, sometimes they do not. In general, award prices are fairly high, but there are a few sweet spots such as New York to Milan for 90K round trip in business class.
Etihad Guest1 to 1Etihad has a very competitive award chart for American Airlines flights, among others.  For example, they charge only 50,000 miles one-way for business class flights from North America to Europe. Partner awards must be booked over the phone.
Hawaiian Miles1 to 1 plus excise taxHawaiian Airlines’ award prices tend to be quite high, but there are some not-terrible uses: fly to neighboring islands for 7.5K miles, fly first class round-trip from Hawaii to South Pacific islands for as few as 95K miles, fly first class round-trip from Hawaii to Australia for as few as 130K miles.
Hilton1 to 25th Night Free awards
JetBlue250 to 200 plus excise taxJetBlue points offer the most value when cheap ticket prices are available and when award taxes are high relative to the overall cost of the ticket (more details can be found here). The JetBlue Plus Card and the JetBlue Business Card offer a 10% rebate on awards, so you can get more value by holding one of these cards.
Marriott Bonvoy1 to 15th Night Free awards
Qantas Frequent Flyer1 to 1Best use is probably for flights on El Al with no fuel surcharges. Also useful for short AA flights. Qantas offers distance based award charts similar to Cathay Pacific. Both are OneWorld Alliance members. I recommend comparing award prices across both programs before transferring to either. Qantas offers round the world business class awards for only 280,000 points (but with many restrictions)
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1 to 1Use to book Singapore Airlines First Class awards (generally reserved for their own members) or for Star Alliance awards. Low change fees and no close-in booking fees make this a very good program for booking United Airlines flights.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1 to 1Virgin Atlantic miles can be usefully thought of as a way to get a discount off Virgin Atlantic flights (high fuel surcharges make the flights far from free), but there are some better uses. Use miles to upgrade paid flights or to fly partner airlines. A fantastic use is to fly ANA in business or first class thanks to Virgin’s generous ANA partner award chart. Or, if you can find saver level Delta awards for nonstop international travel, you can often book through Virgin Atlantic far cheaper than with Delta directly. Virgin Atlantic also offers great award prices for Air France premium economy awards.

Cash back (invest with rewards)

The only good way to get cash back is to add the American Express Platinum Card for Schwab to your portfolio.  This card offers its “Invest with Rewards” benefit.  With this benefit you can deposit Membership Rewards points into a Schwab account at a value of 1.25 cents per point.  For example, 60,000 points becomes $750.

Considering the fact that there are so many ways to earn lots of Membership Rewards points, the ability to cash out at 1.25 cents per point is excellent.

Other ways to redeem points

You can also redeem points for gift cards or merchandise. At most, with this approach you’ll get 1 cent per point value, but usually you’ll get quite a bit less.

You can also use points to pay some merchants directly (Amazon.com, for example). Don’t do this. These options offer very poor value. Further, they may compromise the security of your account (i.e. if someone hacks into your Amazon account, they might spend your Membership Rewards points – causing you a headache in getting your points reinstated).

Sweet spot awards

Our post, Amex Membership Rewards sweet spots, details the best value uses of Amex Membership Rewards. Either click here or click below to jump to a section of the post:

Manage Points

Combine Points Across Cards

Amex automatically pools all of your points together.  When you earn points with different cards, the point total shown when viewing either card is the total across cards.

Share Points Across Cardholders

Unlike Chase and Citibank, Amex doesn’t allow members to move points from one person’s account to another.  That said, it is possible to transfer one person’s points to another person’s loyalty program account.  The key is that the person who receives the points must be an authorized user or employee on the other person’s account.  For example, my wife can transfer Membership Rewards points to my Virgin Atlantic account as long as I’m an authorized user (or employee) on any of her Membership Rewards cards.

As of September 1, 2019, the authorized user card must be active for 90 days before it will unlock the ability to transfer your points to the authorized user’s loyalty program account.

How to Keep Points Alive

Thankfully, it is very easy to keep Amex Membership Rewards points alive.  Simply keep any Membership Rewards card open.  For example, if you are about to close your one and only Membership Rewards card, then open another Membership Rewards card account first in order to preserve your points.  Amex offers some no-fee Membership Rewards cards, such as the Blue Business Plus and the Amex Everyday, so this shouldn’t be much of a burden.

More information

Amex’s official Membership Rewards page can be found here.

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