everything quec.li

The Ultimate Guide to Amex Membership Rewards

[The Points Guy] The Ultimate Guide to Amex Membership Rewards: American Express issues 32 different credit cards, including co-branded hotel and airline cards as well as two editions (personal and business) of the invite-only Centurion card. That?s a dizzying array to choose from, but only 10 publicly available Amex cards ? six personal and four business ? grant full access to the company?s Membership Rewards program. (While the Amex Green, Business Green, and Blue from American Express are MR-earning cards, none offer substantial welcome bonuses or a compelling assortment of perks, so we’ll be passing over those.)
In the points and miles world, Membership Rewards points have a reputation for being difficult to acquire because of a lack of credit card bonus categories and a once-in-a-lifetime welcome bonus policy. They are, however, valued at a respectable 1.9 cents apiece per TPG?s most recent valuations, and can be used to facilitate adventures across myriad partners. The program partners with 17 different airlines (including Aeromexico, British Airways, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and Singapore), as well as three hotel chains (Hilton, Choice and Starwood ? soon to be Marriott).
Whether you?re looking to dive into the Membership Rewards program for the first time, or you?re looking to expand your portfolio, select a card for a family member, or pair an existing personal card with a business card, you?ve come to the right place. Let?s take a deep look at this program, with an analysis of each of the MR-earning cards, what they offer, how to redeem the points and how to maximize benefits.

Earning With Credit Cards
First, here’s a quick glance at the welcome bonus, bonus category structure, annual fee and benefits for each of the 10 Membership Rewards credit cards:

That’s a lot of information, so let’s take a deeper dive into each card and what each one offers.
The Platinum Card from American Express
For a long time, the Amex Platinum was the premium travel rewards card, though this segment is now quite competitive. Nevertheless, the card does offer a very solid value proposition that even a semi-frequent traveler should appreciate. Read the full review.
Welcome Bonus
Earn 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of opening your account. However, be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you?ve been targeted for a higher bonus of up to 100,000 Membership Rewards points. Per TPG’s latest valuations, this welcome bonus is worth a whopping $1,140.
You’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent for flights and hotels booked through Amex Travel as well as for flights booked directly through the airline, while you’ll earn 1 point per dollar everywhere else. This makes the Amex Platinum particularly useful for airline bookings, but less so for other spend categories.
Amex Platinum benefits could be worth hundreds of dollars annually. The primary benefits include:

Access to over 1,000 airline lounges through Priority Pass along with Delta Sky Clubs (when you’re flying Delta) and American Express Centurion Lounges.
$200 airline fee credit annually to cover incidentals like checked bag fees, change fees and in-flight purchases.

$200 in Uber credits each year, given at $15 per month with a bonus $20 in December.
The card also waives foreign transaction fees and comes with complimentary SPG Gold status (soon to be Gold status in the combined Marriott/SPG program) and complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status.
Complimentary access to unlimited Wi-Fi at more than a million hotspots worldwide. Connect up to four devices with the Boingo American Express Preferred Plan.
You?ll get Avis PreferredHertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status. You?ll need to enroll for these benefits, and you can do so on the Amex website.
Access to the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which bestows benefits at a selection of top international hotels and other participating properties. Benefits include noon check-in (when available), room upgrade (when available), daily breakfast for two people, complimentary Wi-Fi, guaranteed 4pm late checkout and, at select properties, a third or fourth night for free. You can search for FHR properties on the Amex website.
Access to a special phone service that can assist you in booking high-demand restaurants and events, as well as finding a perfect dinner spot or even delivering items on demand. You?ll need to call to use this benefit, and make sure you sign up for texting when you do so to make things more convenient.
You can add up to three authorized users to your account for a total of $175 per year, and that can really help you maximize the value you?re already getting from being a cardholder. Authorized users can get lounge access, the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit, SPG and Hilton Gold status, Boingo Wi-Fi access, Amex FHR benefits and more.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

If the Amex Platinum?s annual fee is too rich for your blood, the Premier Rewards Gold card could be a terrific consolation prize. The 3x bonus on airfare purchases represents a solid 5.7% return on your spending, while earning double points on gas, dining and groceries in the US makes it a fantastic card for those merchants as well. Another compelling aspect of this card is the waived annual fee in year one, allowing you to ?test the waters? of the Membership Rewards program before committing to paying an annual fee. Read the full review.
Welcome Bonus
You’ll earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $2,000 in purchases in your first three months. Of note, this card has also appeared in the CardMatch tool with targeted 50,000-point bonuses, so be sure to check there as well. Per TPG’s latest valuations, the 25,000-point welcome bonus is worth $475.
The lower annual fee this card carries means it also offers slightly less value when it comes to rewards. You’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent for flights booked directly with an airline; 2 points per dollar spent at US gas stations, US restaurants and US supermarkets; and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
The card updated its benefits back in 2015 to remove foreign transaction fees and also added a new $100 airline fee credit to cover incidentals. You can also get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges when you use your card to book a stay of two nights or longer through The Hotel Collection.
The Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express

If you?re looking for a card without an annual fee that still allows you to participate in the Membership Rewards program, this flavor of Amex EveryDay is a terrific option. It still gives you a category bonus at supermarkets, which is notable since many fee-free cards offer a flat earning rate across all merchants. It may take a while to get to a valuable redemption like Lufthansa first class, but it?s a good way to start!
Welcome Bonus
You’ll earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months, though you could be targeted for an elevated 15,000-point offer through CardMatch. Per TPG’s latest valuations, this welcome bonus is worth $190.
You’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year); then 1 point dollar after that and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
Given the fee-free nature of the card, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Amex EveryDay Credit Card has minimal perks. We’ll point out a few below, most of which are considered table stakes for a points-earning card.

You’ll earn 2x Membership Rewards points points on every dollar of eligible travel purchases ? such as prepaid hotel stays, vacation packages and cruises ? when you use your card to book your trip through AmexTravel.com.
Travel accident insurance
Amex Extended Warranty: the length of your warranty can be matched for up to 1 additional year when you use your card for eligible purchases that come with an original US manufacturer’s warranty of 5 years or less.

The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express

This is another card that gets you into the Membership Rewards program without breaking the bank with a high annual fee. It?s also great if you don?t travel that frequently, as you don?t get the significant perks of the Amex Platinum or Premier Rewards Gold but still have some solid category bonuses for everyday spending. If you do use it as your primary card, you should definitely make a point of hitting 30 transactions a month to earn the 50% bonus, though be sure you know the timeline for how American Express awards these points.
Welcome Bonus
You’ll earn 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months. Per TPG’s latest valuations, this welcome bonus is worth $285.
You’ll collect 3 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year); 2 points per dollar spent at US gas stations; and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. If you make 30 or more purchases in a billing period, you?ll earn 50% more points on those purchases.
You’ll receive some fairly standard rewards card benefits perks, which we’ve highlighted below.

You’ll earn 2x Membership Rewards points points on every dollar of eligible travel purchases ? such as prepaid hotel stays, vacation packages and cruises ? when you use your card to book your trip through AmexTravel.com.
Travel accident insurance
Amex Extended Warranty: the length of your warranty can be matched for up to 1 additional year when you use your card for eligible purchases that come with an original US manufacturer’s warranty of 5 years or less.

Amex Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express

The card is a great option for those who value flexibility in both earning and redeeming points. It?s rare for a travel rewards credit card to allow any leeway for cardholders to choose how they are being rewarded. However, the Business Gold Rewards Card does just that by letting you select which category will earn you triple points. Couple that with the flexibility of the Membership Rewards program and you have a potent combination. Read the full review.
Welcome Bonus
The Business Gold Rewards Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on the card within your first three months of membership. Per TPG’s latest valuations, this welcome bonus is worth a tidy sum: $950.
The card offers bonus points on five different categories of purchases: airfare, advertising, gas status, shipping and computing (the latter four only apply to US purchases). You get to select one category to earn 3x points; then you?ll automatically earn 2x points on the remaining four categories. For all five, you?re limited to earning bonuses on the first $100,000 of purchases in a calendar year. Once you?ve passed that amount in one or more of the categories, your earning rate will drop down to that of all other purchases: 1x points.
You?ll need to select your 3x bonus category within the first two months of approval, though if you don?t make a choice initially you?ll earn 3x points on airfare. You can then change this (if desired) once per year during the annual selection period, which runs from December 1 through January 31. If you don?t elect to change it, your prior selection will carry over.
These bonus categories can be quite lucrative. TPG pegs Membership Rewards points at 1.9 cents apiece, which means you get a 5.7% return on your chosen 3x category and a 3.8% return on the other four. If you?re able to max out all five of them by spending $100,000 in each, you?d take home an incredible 1.1 million points, worth a whopping $20,900. This doesn?t include any other points you?d earn on everyday purchases, which still give you a respectable 1.9% return.
While the Business Gold Rewards Card may come with terrific earning ability through the five bonus categories as well as valuable flexibility in redeeming your points, the added collection of perks on the card is a bit lackluster. Here?s a quick overview:

Amex Offers: You?ll also be eligible for Amex Offers if you open the Business Gold Rewards Card, giving you a series of targeted discounts and/or boosted earning rates across select merchants. I check the list of available offers on all three of my current Amex accounts on a weekly basis, and I?ve saved hundreds of dollars and earned tens of thousands of extra Membership Rewards points adding these offers to my card.

Baggage Insurance: If your luggage is lost, damaged or stolen and you?re a Business Gold Rewards cardholder, you?re eligible for coverage of up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and $500 for checked bags.

Premium Roadside Assistance: You?re covered for emergency roadside assistance if your car is suddenly inoperable. American Express actually covers these services up to four times per year (after which you?re on your own). If you aren?t already a AAA member or if you don?t have another way to access support when your car breaks down, carrying this card can be worth its weight in gold.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express
There?s one very good reason why The Business Platinum® Card from American Express stands out as a best-in-class pick among the top business cards: It offers unparalleled travel rewards and perks. From airport lounge access to huge points earnings on airfare and hotel spending, this is a card the frequent business traveler really could use to his or her benefit. Read the full review.
Welcome Bonus
You?ll earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 in the first three months and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 also within the first three months from account opening. If you can meet this hefty $25,000 spend requirement, you?ll earn points worth more than three times the card?s annual fee. Just note that this offer is ending very soon, on August 8, 2018. Per TPG’s latest valuations, this welcome bonus could net you $1,900 in value if you hit all of the spending requirements.
You?ll earn 5x points when you purchase airfare and prepaid hotel rooms from Amex Travel. That?s the same return as you?ll see on the personal Platinum card, though with the personal Amex Platinum you also get 5x points on airfare booked directly with airlines.
For businesses that have significant expenses, Amex will add a slight incentive to coax you to use its card: All purchases of $5,000 or more earn 1.5 points per dollar, up to 1 million extra points per year.
Rewards and redemption limitations aside, the Amex Business Platinum really shines when it comes to travel perks.

You?ll have wider access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes more than 1,000 Priority Pass lounges worldwide, as well as Delta Sky Club lounges, which you can access when you?re flying Delta.
Any premium travel rewards card worth its fee also offers reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. The Amex Business Platinum is no exception, giving you a reimbursement for your application fee once every 4 years.
You’ll receive 10 free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes per calendar year in addition to free Boingo WiFi access inside airports and at locations throughout the country.)
The card also waives foreign transaction fees and comes with complimentary SPG Gold status and complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status.
Business Platinum cardholders receive Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Emerald Club Executive rental car privileges, all of which require enrollment from the benefits tab of your online account.
For hotel status, beyond the included SPG and Hilton Gold, you can book hotels through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program. In addition to the great added benefits you?ll get during hotel stays, like free nights at select properties and complimentary breakfast, you?ll earn redeemable hotel points and elite nights toward status

The Blue Business? Plus Credit Card from American Express

According to Amex, the Blue Business Plus was created specifically for smaller small businesses ? think sole proprietorships, or young companies with limited revenue that could benefit most from a no-interest intro offer. And, with an all-encompassing 2x bonus, business owners can spend more time focused on growing their companies and less time worrying about which card will earn them the greatest return.
Welcome Bonus
Amex just launched a limited-time offer of 10,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the card within your first 3 months. The offer is slated to expire on September 26, 2018, but if you get in ahead of that, the welcome bonus will net you $190 in value per TPG’s latest valuations.
This is a no annual fee card that earns 2x points on everything (yes, everything!) up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1x beyond that. Those 2x points equal 3.8 cents per dollar, or around 4% back on whatever your business needs. If you?re planning to spend beyond $50k annually, we?d recommend shifting to a category-specific card to maximize earnings.
As you’d expect from a fee-free card, the perks are fairly minimal. Below, we’ve highlighted a few of the noteworthy additions.

You can add employees for $0 a piece, and all of their spending will boost your earning. (We can’t swear that they’ll appreciate not being able to earn their own points, though.)
Amex Extended Warranty: the length of your warranty can be matched for up to 1 additional year when you use your card for eligible purchases that come with an original US manufacturer’s warranty of 5 years or less.
Amex Purchase Protection: Eligible items purchased on the card will be protected from accidental damage or theft for up to 90 days from the moment you buy them.

You?ll also be eligible for Amex Offers, giving you a series of targeted discounts and/or boosted earning rates across select merchants.

Redeeming Membership Rewards: Poor-Value Options
Unfortunately, several of the options for redeeming your points represent less than stellar value and should typically be avoided. These include:
Use Points for Charges ? This is like a cash-back option for covering eligible charges on your billing statement. What are eligible charges? I?ve yet to find a solid definition, and American Express can change whatever charges it deems eligible at any time without prior notification. You?ll only receive 0.6 cents per point with this option, so it?s not a very good return.
Shop Amazon ? After linking your Amazon and Membership Rewards accounts, you can use points to pay for your purchases at a slightly better (but still poor) value of 0.7 cents per point. As TPG Editor-at-Large Nick Ewen notes, you should make sure this option is turned off to prevent accidental and unauthorized use of your points.
Free Uber Rides ? You can redeem points for Uber rides at a value of 1 cent apiece. Add an eligible Membership Rewards American Express card as your payment method, and the Uber app will present you with a ?Use Points? option to pay for the ride. The ability to earn 2x points on Uber rides ended on February 1, 2018. In the end, using your points for free rides yields little comparable value.
Transferring to Partners
This is where the magic really unfolds. By transferring Membership Rewards points to 17 airline and 3 hotel transfer partners, you’re able to search for award travel across the globe, covering just about every major route and city on airlines you may never otherwise have the chance to try.

Below, we’ve listed out all of those partners, along with transfer ratios and the transfer times discovered in our testing.
Instant transfers are obviously always preferred, and Amex does a good job of making that happen compared with some of the transferable points competition like Starwood and Citi ThankYou points. If you haven?t done so already, link all your different transfer partner accounts to your Membership Rewards account. This prevents delays in the future when you may need to make a quick transfer.

Note that this table doesn’t reflect the fact that Aer Lingus was added as a transfer partner ? as of publish time, transfers were not yet live. Also, Starwood Preferred Guest is technically no longer a transfer partner; after the combined program with Marriott goes live on August 18, 2018, the new Marriott program will be an Amex transfer partner, and we’ll retest the time it takes to move points over.
There are endless ways to utilize these transfer partners to get maximum value for your Membership Rewards points. Here’s just a sampling:

Transfer your points to Etihad to redeem on its partners, such as 50,000 miles for a business-class trip between the continental US and South America Zone 2 on American Airlines, 44,000 miles for a business-class seat on Royal Air Maroc between New York (JFK) and Casablanca, or any of American’s A321T business transcon flights for 25,000 miles one-way.
Transfer your points to your Singapore KrisFlyer account to fly the new first class on the A380 for 80,000 Membership Rewards if you book Singapore to Sydney or vice versa.
Singapore KrisFlyer also now allows Star Alliance partner awards to be booked online, making it easier to take advantage of sweet spots like the continental US to Hawaii round-trip on United for 35,000 miles in economy or 60,000 in business.
The Choice Privileges program used by Choice Hotels is a 1:1 Membership Rewards transfer partner, and it boasts several properties across typically expensive European cities. For award nights, these hotels range from 8,000-25,000 points.
Transfer your points to British Airlines Avios to open up a host of options, such as flying from Boston to Ireland on Aer Lingus for just 26,000 Avios round-trip. Plus, you can still fly short-haul within other countries like Japan for 4,500 Avios each way with no fuel surcharges.
If you’re looking to book on Delta, including its Delta One Suites, transfer points to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club. For instance, you can grab a Delta One Suite ticket on Delta’s new Airbus A350 or reconfigured Boeing 777 for 60,000 miles (and no fuel surcharges!).
Transfer to Choice Privileges for aspirational award stays in Europe

With so many options, you’ll want to review some of our favorite tips and tricks on redeeming Membership Rewards points. We’ve listed a number of the very best ones in the section below.
Further Reading
Now that you’ve learned the basics of Amex Membership Rewards, you’ll find more advanced information in our multitude of guides on the subject. Here are some of our favorites:

How Do I Maximize Amex Membership Rewards Points?
How Long Do American Express Membership Rewards Take to Transfer?
Choosing the Best American Express Card for You
Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for Maximum Value
The Best Ways to Use 100,000 Membership Rewards Points
TPG Readers on the Best Ways to Redeem Membership Rewards Points
5 Best Ways to Use 60,000 Membership Rewards Points
Battle of the Premium Travel Rewards Cards: Which Is the Best?
The Best Cards for Earning the Most Membership Rewards Points

Bottom Line
The American Express lineup of Membership Rewards cards offers something for everyone ? from heavy travelers, to budding small business owners, to those looking to dip their toes in without shouldering a large annual fee. To make the most of the lineup, you’ll want to take a hard look at what you spend money on. The goal is to optimize your array of Amex cards (up to five) so that you have a card for every major category that matters to you, along with a card for “everyday spending” that doesn’t neatly fit into a bonus category.
Currently, most Amex card bonuses include language that a person is only eligible for a bonus ?once in a lifetime,” which could impact which cards you should add going forward. While one card may be suitable from a usage standpoint, you may want to ogle a card with a welcome bonus that you can actually cash in on ? and that means applying for a card that you’ve never held before. If you’re unsure if you’re eligible for a certain welcome bonus, be sure to check first using Amex’s qualification tool.

    Return home.