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TPG reader Ross sent me an email to ask about redeeming Amex Membership Rewards:

“I read that you value Amex points at about 1.9 cents each, but I can’t seem to get more than 1 cent out of them. What can I do differently?”

Each month I publish my valuations of points and miles from a variety of popular airline, hotel and credit card loyalty programs. I base these numbers on a combination of the value I expect to get out of those rewards, along with what I might be willing to pay for them given the opportunity. For the most part, my valuations represent an average, meaning you can sometimes redeem for more — and you can almost always redeem for much less, though I don’t recommend it!

Amex Membership Rewards are a great example, since the program offers so many different redemption options. You can redeem through the Membership Rewards online shopping mall at a terrible rate of just 0.5 cents per point, or you can redeem via American Express Travel at a better (but still subpar) rate of 1 cent per point. My guess is that Ross has been looking only at these options and not at more lucrative ones.

In general, the best way to use Membership Rewards is to transfer points to airline and hotel partners, and the incredible value you can get out of those awards is why I rate them so highly. This summer I transferred 62,500 points to Aeroplan in order to book a first class flight to Spain on Lufthansa, which would have cost about $12,000 if I paid cash. While you can’t expect to get that much value out of every redemption, it gives you an idea of what’s possible.

Air Canada flies to Australia from Vancouver
You can get great value by transferring Membership Rewards to partner airlines like Air Canada.

One other thing you might notice about the monthly valuations is that transferable points programs (like Amex Membership Rewards) tend to rate higher than most of their individual transfer partners. That’s because the transferability itself has value because it allows you to maximize your points by using them with the best partner for a given redemption. The more options you have, the better, which is why all award travelers should earn transferable points.

In general, I don’t recommend using points for statement credits or gift cards. While some programs offer better than one cent per point for direct travel redemptions, transfers are usually your best bet. Check out these posts for more on how to maximize rewards from the major transferable points programs:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

With some great bonus categories and an annual fee that’s waived for the first year, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card has a lot going for it. If you don’t have PRG, now’s as good a time as any to add it to your wallet, as Amex added some great new benefits several months back.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Receive 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • No matter where you're traveling, when you use your Premier Rewards Gold Card there are no foreign transaction fees from American Express.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline.
  • Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc. Terms apply.
  • There is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195.
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.