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Guide to American Express® Membership Rewards®

Last Updated, November 7, 2019

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In the 1970s American Express had a famous tagline in its commercials declaring that customers should never leave home without their American Express traveler’s checks. Though the ad campaign may be long gone today and people may not use traveler’s checks the way they once did, the message is still the same: Don't leave home without your American Express credit card. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.

One of the ways that American Express encourages this is by attaching many of their credit cards to the American Express Membership Rewards® program.

But the question is, does the Membership Rewards® program really make certain American Express credit cards "must-have" cards? Before we get into all of the program details, let’s break down some of the pros and cons first:

Here are some reasons to love the American Express® Membership Rewards® program:

  • Many American Express cards with Membership Rewards® offer generous welcome bonuses, as well as great ongoing rewards.
  • Most Membership Rewards® cards have strong rewards on dining out and travel purchases, two of the most popular credit card spending categories.
  • These cards usually come with a lot of nice perks, such as, in some cases, an airline fee credit to cover baggage fees or other fees.
  • There are more than a thousand ways to redeem points that you earn. From a movie with friends to a vacation in the Bahamas, points can be redeemed to cover almost any of your purchases.

And now for one big downfall:

  • Annual fees. If your card has one, it's never pleasant to pay, and American Express cards sometimes come with hefty ones. The The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, for example, has a $595 annual fee (see rates and fees), but you should only apply for a credit card with an annual fee if you believe that you'll spend enough and collect enough perks and discounts to pay for that annual fee. This card gets users five points on flights booked directly with airlines and prepaid hotels booked via amextravel.com; 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more (that means 1.5 points per $1 up to 1 million points extra a year); 35% of points back when using points to book flights (up to an annual limit); an annual credit of up to $200 to pay for baggage fees and more with a pre-selected airline; airport lounge access; a statement credit every four years to cover your Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓® ($85) application fee; and more. Plus, there are no interest charges associated with this card (it's a charge card, so you're expected to pay off your balance each month but there is a Pay Over Time feature for certain purchases). When you look at things that way, suddenly the hefty annual fee might not seem so bad. In other words, depending upon your spending habits and travel profile, the American Express Membership Rewards® program may be well worth the participating cards' annual fees.

WHICH CREDIT CARDS EARN AMERICAN EXPRESS MEMBERSHIP REWARDS®?

There are a plethora of American Express credit cards that earn Membership Rewards®. Some of our top picks include:

American Express® Gold Card

  • Enjoy 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card in the first three months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide, as well as at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Receive up to a total of $10 in statement credits each month when you use your card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and/or participating Shake Shack locations. This could add up to an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $250 annual fee
  • Terms apply.

American Express® Business Gold Card

  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of opening an account.
  • Get 4X Membership Rewards® on the two select categories where your business spends the most each month (applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these two categories each calendar year).
  • Get 25% of your points back when you use your points for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel (amextravel.com), up to 250,000 points back per calendar year. 
  • $295 annual fee
  • Terms apply.

 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Receive 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three 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.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express travel and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels and Resorts; an annual $200 airline fee credit with a pre-selected airline; and up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue (enrollment required); and more.
  • Enjoy complimentary airport lounge access through the Global Lounge Collection.
  • $550 annual fee
  • Terms apply.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and another 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of card membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels booked via amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points – that's 1.5 points per $1 – on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year this way.
  • Use Membership Rewards® points for all or part of a coach/economy flight with your pre-selected qualifying airline and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year. Receive 35% of your points back when you use points for a business or first class flight with any airline.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell.
  • $595 annual fee
  • Terms apply.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners (2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases each year; earn 1X point per dollar thereafter).
  • Enjoy the flexibility to put more purchases on the card and earn rewards when you buy above your credit limit. (The amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to American Express, and other factors.)
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then 14.74% - 20.74% Variable.
  • No annual fee
  • Terms apply.

American Express® Green Card

  • Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend at least $2,000 in the first three months of opening an account.
  • Receive up to $100 in statement credits towards any eligible purchase made directly with Away, a travel products company, in your first three months. Offer ends 1/15/2020.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on travel and transit and on restaurant purchases worldwide, and 1X Membership Rewards® point on all other purchases.
  • Enjoy an annual $100 CLEAR®, an expedited airport security program, credit.
  • Enjoy an annual $100 LoungeBuddy, an airport lounge access program, credit.
  • $150 annual fee
  • Terms apply.

HOW MUCH ARE AMERICAN EXPRESS MEMBERSHIP REWARDS® POINTS WORTH?

Most cards earn members at least one point for every $1 spent, and then sometimes bonus points in certain spending categories. You can redeem points for cash, gift cards, travel, or "pay with points" online purchases. With that said you should always check the fine print first since American Express has many cards, and they aren't all the same.

Point values vary depending on what you're redeeming them for, but values often sit around one cent. If you're redeeming points for travel, usually one point equals one mile. For example, when booking a flight through American Express travel, 50,000 points can be worth as much as $500. Redeeming points for travel – especially for airline tickets versus hotels or an Uber ride – is typically where you'll get your best bang for the buck, but you could get even better value when transferring them to an American Express loyalty partner. More on this below.

We should also note that points or credits are usually counted in 1,000-point increments, so you can't start redeeming your points towards travel until you hit 1,000 of them.

ARE AMERICAN EXPRESS MEMBERSHIP REWARDS® POINTS TRANSFERABLE TO OTHER LOYALTY PROGRAMS?

Usually, though not always. For instance, Blue from American Express®, which could be described as a rewards card without a lot of bells and whistles, won't allow you to transfer points to American Express® travel partners; however, if your card is eligible, you can transfer your points to select airline and hotel partners. Simply visit the American Express Membership Rewards® portal and make the transfer there.

As of this writing, American Express has 19 airline and three hotel loyalty partners. Travel program partners determine how many points, miles or other units are required to get rewards in their frequent traveler programs. The American Express loyalty partners and the point values with each partner are:

AMERICAN EXPRESS MEMBERSHIP REWARDS® AIRLINE LOYALTY PARTNERS

  • AERCLUB (loyalty program of AER LINGUS): 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Avois
  • AEROMEXICO CLUB PREMIER: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,600 Premier Points
  • AEROPLAN (AIR CANADA): 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Aeroplan® Miles
  • AIR FRANCE KLM: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Flying Blue® Award Miles
  • MILLEMIGLIA (ALITALIA): 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Alitalia Miles
  • ANA Inspiration of JAPAN A STAR ALLIANCE MEMBER (ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS): 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 ANA Mileage Club Miles
  • ASIA MILES: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Asia MilesTM
  • Avianca LifeMiles: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 LifeMiles
  • BRITISH AIRWAYS EXECUTIVE CLUB: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Avois
  • DELTA SKYMILES: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 miles
  • EL AL ISRAEL AIRLINES: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 20 Matmid points
  • Emirates Skywards: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Skywards Miles
  • ETIHAD AIRWAYS: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles
  • HAWAIIAN AIRLINES: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 HawaiianMiles®
  • IBERIA PLUS: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Avois
  • TRUE BLUE jetBlue (JETBLUE AIRWAYS®): 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 200 TrueBlue points
  • FREQUENT FLYER (QANTAS LOYALTY): 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 500 Qantas Points
  • SINGAPORE AIRLINES KRISFLYER: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 KrisFlyer® Miles
  • virgin atlantic flyingclub: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Flying Club miles

AMERICAN EXPRESS MEMBERSHIP REWARDS® HOTEL LOYALTY PARTNERS

  • CHOICE privileges REWARDS: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Choice Privileges®
  • HILTON HONORS: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 2,000 Hilton Honors points
  • MARRIOTT BONVOY: 1,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points = 1,000 Marriott Bonvoy points

If you travel a lot and have an affinity for a specific airline such as Delta or hotel such as Hilton Hotels & Resorts, you may want to consider getting one of American Express' co-branded cards that they offer with their travel partners. You won't be earning American Express® Membership Rewards® points though – you'd instead benefit from the partner's loyalty program. Some of our top picks for these co-branded cards include:

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first three months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within the same time frame. 
  • Earn two miles for every $1 spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn one mile for every eligible $1 you spend on all other purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that's a savings of up to $240.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms apply

 


Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

  • Receive 125,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year.
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 of eligible purchases charged on your card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio; 6X points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; 3X points for all other eligible purchases on your card.
  • $95 annual fee
  • Terms apply.

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

  • Receive 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.
  • Earn 6X points at participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels; 4X points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping; and 2X points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive one Free Night Award every year after your card account anniversary. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • $125 annual fee
  • Terms apply.

DO AMERICAN EXPRESS MEMBERSHIP REWARDS® POINTS EXPIRE?

Is there a way that points can be taken from you? What happens to them if you close the card account?

Your points don't expire – generally.

There are three instances through which you could lose your points:
  1. You close the credit card account with points still left in it.
  2. You return items that you've bought with your card. For example: You bought something with your American Express card, earned 50 points, and then returned that item. Goodbye, 50 points.
  3. You've been making late payments. If you've been collecting points for months or years, don't worry – they aren't all gone. But if you make a late payment, you'll lose the points that you collected during the month that payment was due.

Generally though, if you earn Membership Rewards®, you’ll keep them.

To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: American Express® Gold Card: See Rates and Fees; American Express® Business Gold Card: See Rates and Fees; The Platinum Card® from American Express: See Rates and Fees; The Business Platinum® Card from American Express: See Rates and Fees; The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express: See Rates and Fees; Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express: See Rates and Fees; Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: See Rates and Fees; Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: See Rates and Fees American Express® Green Card: See Rates and Fees

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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