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American Express Membership Rewards: Everything You Need to Know

5 min read
By Susan Shain Mar 31, 2020 | Updated Oct 12, 2020

So you’re dreaming of an exotic beach vacation? Or a stay at a plush Parisian hotel?

One way to get there for (basically) free is earning American Express Membership Rewards with your Amex card.

Here’s everything you need to know about this extraordinarily valuable rewards program.

Which Credit Cards Earn American Express Membership Rewards?

A whole slew of credit cards — 10 at our last count! — earn Amex Membership Rewards points. Rather than list the gamut here, here are our favorite cards for each type of user.

Best For Card Bonus Categories Annual Fee
Newbies Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
  • 2X at U.S. supermarkets (on first $6,000/year)
$0
Foodies American Express® Gold Card
  • 4X at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X)
  • 4X at restaurants
  • 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
$250 (Rates & Fees)
Globetrotters The Platinum Card® from American Express Starting 1/1/21, on up to $500,000 spent per calendar year:

  • 5X on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 5X on flights or prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
$550 (Rates & Fees)
Business Owners The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
  • 2X on first $50,000 of purchases annually
No annual fee (Rates & Fees)

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR12.99%–23.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases, then a variable rate, currently 12.99%–23.99% Variable.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases.
  • Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

The information related to Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

We love the Amex Everyday for points noobs. It earns 2X points/dollar on the first $6,000 of annual purchases at U.S. supermarkets — not bad for a card with a $0 annual fee. And, as an added perk, you’ll get a 20% point bonus when you make at least 20 purchases on the card within a single billing period.

American Express® Gold Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$250
Regular APRSee Pay Over Time APR
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn 60,000 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 on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Dining Credit: 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.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

Though this card’s annual fee may be intimidating at first, it’s tempered by the fact you’ll get up to $10 in monthly statement credits ($120 annually) when you use your card at Grubhub, Seamless, and several restaurant chains. You’ll also get a $100 annual credit to cover airline fees. If you’re able to max out both of those benefits, your effective annual fee will only be $30 — well worth the 4X points you’ll get at U.S supermarkets and restaurants!

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$550
Regular APRSee Pay Over Time APR
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 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.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more when you select one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

This credit card offers serious perks for serious travelers: up to $200 in Uber credits per year, up to $100 to cover airline fees, a Global Entry application fee credit, and the best airport lounge access of any card around. When combined with its hefty introductory bonus, solid earning in travel categories, and renowned concierge service, you can see why this card has so many fans.

Be aware that you can only earn an Amex card’s welcome bonus once in a lifetime. So it can be wise to wait for a serious promotion; the introductory bonus for The Platinum Card® from American Express, for instance, has occasionally gone as high as 100,000 points!

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual FeeNo annual fee
Regular APR13.24% - 19.24% Variable

The information related to The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

When you own a business, you’ve got enough things to worry about. That’s why we love the straightforward rewards structure of this card: 2X points on the first $50,000 worth of purchases each year — no matter their category. Even better, it’s got no annual fee!

Here are the three other personal cards that earn Membership Rewards points:

And the three other business cards that do, as well:

How the American Express Membership Rewards Program Works

If you’re familiar with other credit card loyalty programs, Amex Membership Rewards works very similarly.

To collect points, you’ll need to get approved for one of the American Express credit cards above. Each one earns at least one Membership Reward point for every dollar you spend, and many come with generous signup bonuses, too. (You’ll generally need good credit to qualify; if you’re not sure whether that’s you, here’s how to check your scores.)

There’s no limit to the number of Membership Rewards points you can earn, and, as long as you keep your American Express card active, they don’t expire. However, you can’t share points with another credit card holder, unless he or she has been an authorized user on your account for at least 90 days.

Quick Guide

The Basics of Earning Membership Rewards Points

To earn a bundle of points, look for a card with a generous introductory bonus, which you'll get for spending a certain amount on the card after you open it (say, 50,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first three months).

From there on out, you'll earn points on your everyday spending: at least 1X point/dollar, and more in your card's bonus categories.

The Amex Gold Card, for example, earns 4X points/dollar at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 4X at restaurants, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel, and 1X on everything else. So, if you spend $500 at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants each month, you'll earn 2,000 points per month and 24,000 per year.

You can further amplify your earning by signing up for “Amex Offers” within your online account — and then shopping at the affiliated stores using your card. Here’s a recent sampling of the retailers at which you’d earn bonus MR points.

Earning Membership Rewards with Amex Offers

How to earn Membership Rewards with Amex Offers. Image credit: American Express

Though using credit cards is the easiest way to rack up Membership Rewards, you can earn points in a few other ways, too:

Insider tip

With all American Express personal cards and most business cards, failing to make your minimum payment means you “may forfeit all the points that you earned during the billing period covered by that statement.” Not only is that a bummer, but it could damage your credit and put you on the hook for fees and interest. We’d strongly advise you to only apply for a rewards card if you can pay off the balance in full each statement period.

How to Redeem American Express Membership Rewards

Once you’ve got some points stashed away, it’s time to decide how to cash them in.

You can exchange your points for statement credits, gift cards, travel, and more. Depending on which route you take, your redemption value will range from 0.5 to more than 2 cents per point.

As the Membership Rewards program is geared toward travelers, you’ll usually see the highest redemption values when using your points to book flights or hotels directly with Amex’s travel partners.

Here’s a summary of your options, in increasing order of the approximate redemption value you can expect.

  • Retail purchases at places like Amazon, GrubHub, and RiteAid (look for the Membership Rewards button at checkout) = 0.5–0.7 cents/point
  • Statement credits (so you’ll owe less on your bill) = 0.6 cents/point
  • Gift cards = 0.5–1 cent/point
  • Charitable donations = 0.7–1 cent/point
  • Booking hotels or flights on Amex Travel = 0.7–1 cent/point
  • Uber credits = 1 cent/point
  • Upgrades on seats at more than 20 non-U.S. airlines = 1 cent/point
  • Transferring points directly to 20+ airline and hotels = up to 2 cents/point or more

To begin the redemption process, you’ll need to log in to Membership Rewards. We recommend using its calculator to determine which path is best for you (and always encourage you to seek redemption options that offer a value of at least 1 cent/point).

How to Redeem Amex Membership Rewards for Travel

As noted above, you’ll get the best bang for your buck by transferring your points directly to one of Amex’s 19 airline and three hotel partners — which it says is the most of “any major U.S. credit card rewards program.”

Most of Amex’s partners offer at least a 1:1 transfer ratio, which means that 1,000 Membership Rewards points will convert to 1,000 points in their reward systems. Most transfer partners will complete the transaction instantly, as well.

Transfer Partner Miles/Points Received for 1,000 Membership Rewards Points Transfer Time
Aer Lingus AerClub 1,000 Instant
Aeromexico Club Premier 1,600 Up to four days
Air Canada Aeroplan 1,000 Instant
Air France-KLM Flying Blue 1,000 Instant
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1,000 Instant
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club 1,000 Up to 72 hours
Avianca LifeMiles 1,000 Instant
British Airways Executive Club 1,000 Instant
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 1,000 Instant
Delta SkyMiles 1,000 Instant
El Al Matmid 20 Instant
Emirates Skywards 1,000 Instant
Etihad Guest 1,000 Instant
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles 1,000 Instant
Iberia Plus 1,000 Up to 48 hours
JetBlue TrueBlue 800 Instant
Qantas Frequent Flyer 1,000 Instant
Singapore KrisFlyer 1,000 Up to 48 hours
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1,000 Instant
Choice Privileges 1,000 Instant
Hilton Honors 2,000 Instant
Marriott Bonvoy 1,000 Instant

Here’s an example to illustrate how the transfer process works and why it’s so valuable.

Let’s say you want to fly from Los Angeles to French Polynesia. You find a flight on Air France-KLM that either costs $1,300 or 60,000 miles and $100 in fees. Opting for the latter, you transfer 60,000 Membership Rewards points to Air France-KLM, where they become 60,000 Flying Blue miles, and you book your flight.

Because you’re getting a $1,300 flight for 60,000 MR points, you’re getting roughly 2 cents/point — double the value of the other redemption options.

And the French Polynesia flight is just one example. With more than 20 partners, the sky is literally the limit when it comes to redeeming your Membership Rewards points for killer rewards.

French Polynesia

French Polynesia, anyone? Image credit: Julius Silver from Pexels

The only caveat: When you transfer points to an American airline, Amex charges a fee of $0.0006 cent per point, up to a maximum of $99. So, if you transfer 50,000 points, you’ll pay a $30 fee.

Don’t feel like dealing with point transfers? You can also use MR points to book flights, prepaid hotels, cruises, or vacation packages at amextravel.com. You’ll get a decent value on flights — 1 cent/point — and will pay a non-refundable fee of $6.99 to book domestic tickets and $10.99 to book international ones.

On everything else at Amex Travel, like cruises and hotels, you’ll get an uninspiring 0.7 cents/point — the same value you’ll get at Expedia when using MR points to book prepaid hotels and flights.

At Amex Travel, you’ll also find “Insider Fares” on 40 airlines; on average, Amex says these airfares are 10% cheaper than what’s publicly available.

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

For rates and fees of The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please click here.

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

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

At a glance

If you’re a points junkie, American Express Membership Rewards is one of the most valuable credit cards rewards programs around. It offers an abundance of ways to earn points — with 10 affiliated credit cards — and also has more than 20 travel transfer partners (the most of any program!).

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

The information related to Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, American Express® Green Card, Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, Blue from American Express®, American Express® Business Gold Card, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, and Business Green Rewards Card from American Express have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.

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