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Amex Membership Rewards vs Chase Ultimate Rewards: Which is the best?

Jan. 12, 2021
17 min read
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American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are two of the most popular transferable points currencies with travel enthusiasts.

When you have these points in your arsenal, you can redeem them for awesome redemptions in places like the Maldives and family vacations in Bora Bora. But during the pandemic, when many people are staying home, you might be considering taking a weekend trip nearby using points. Both programs offer various travel rewards credit cards and redemption options that include transferring to airline and hotel partners and booking travel directly through the bank's portal.

But not all points are created equal. While TPG valuations peg both Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards as worth 2 cents apiece, the currency that's best for you depends highly on your spending habits and travel goals.

Let's dig in to see how the two stack up against each other.For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Transfer partners

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

American Express Membership Rewards

Amex partners with 18 different airline programs and three hotel chains. Here's the current list of Amex airline partners:

And these are the Amex hotel transfer partners:

You can book flights or hotels directly through Amex Travel, but transferring them to a partner and then redeeming them (more on that a little later) typically results in the best redemption value.

Related: Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

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Chase Ultimate Rewards

(Photo by p cruciatti/Getty Images)

With Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer points to 10 airline programs and three hotel programs:

All transfer ratios are 1:1, and you must transfer in 1,000-point increments.

Chase doesn’t offer transfer bonuses very often. It offered its first transfer bonus to British Airways Avios back in 2019 and again in November, and then a bonus on IHG Rewards Club transfers in August. This differs from Amex, which frequently offers transfer bonuses for Marriott and Aeroplan, among other programs.

To decide which program is better for you, you'll want to consider the transfer partners you'll use most for your travel goals.

Keep in mind that it's possible to use one airline's miles to book award flights on another if they're partners or part of the same alliance. For example, even though United Airlines isn't an Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner, you can book United award flights by transferring Amex points to Aeroplan or Singapore Airlines (as they are Star Alliance partners).

Related: Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value

Earning points

American Express Membership Rewards

Amex points have become a bit easier to acquire with refreshed card options like the American Express® Green Card and American Express® Gold Card, both of which offer sizable welcome offers. Even with a once-in-a-lifetime welcome offer policy lingering in the background, the numerous cards that earn Membership Rewards mean accumulating a large balance isn't a difficult task.

If you consider where you're spending the bulk of your funds, it shouldn't be hard to rack up a ton of points. The Amex Gold card is my day-to-day card, and because it earns 4x points on dining at restaurants and 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (capped at $25,000 per year; then 1x points), I'm able to bring in at least 2,000 points a month on that card alone.

Here are some of the cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards points:

The information for the Amex EveryDay, Amex EveryDay Preferred, Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Some of these cards come with great welcome offers. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express currently offers 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. According to TPG’s monthly valuations, Amex Membership Rewards points are worth 2 cents each, making this 80,000-point bonus worth $1,600. That is more than double the card’s $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Related: How to choose the best Amex card for you

Another way to earn Amex points is through targeted Amex Offers. You'll see all the Amex Offers you have available on a given card if you scroll down on your online account page or by clicking the "Offers" tab on the Amex app.

These offers come from various merchants, including travel providers, restaurants, clothing and jewelry stores and much more. Generally speaking, Amex Offers come in one of three forms:

  • Spend $X, get Y number of bonus points
  • Spend $X, get $Y back
  • Get additional points per dollar spent at select merchants

While some of these offers offer cashback for meeting a specific spending requirement, many offer points. On my own Amex Offers portal, I frequently get offers for points after completing a spending requirement. However, some of these offers don't have a specific spending requirement but cap the number of points you can earn.

If you have multiple Amex cards as I do, make sure to check across all cards to make sure you're getting the best offer. I frequently notice cashback offers on my Amex Platinum or Business Platinum, but points bonuses on my Amex Green. Lastly, make sure to check the terms on each Amex Offer you add to your cards, as some won't count gift cards as eligible purchases.

Even better, Amex Offers are stackable with online shopping portals and bonus categories, so make sure to use a shopping portal aggregator to find out which points and miles portal offers the best return on a certain purchase.

Related: Rakuten (formerly Ebates) adds Amex Membership Rewards earning to all accounts

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase offers three cards that earn transferable Ultimate Rewards points, all of which have substantial welcome bonuses:

There are also four cards offered by Chase that, on their own, don't allow you to transfer points to travel partners. However, if you have one of the cards mentioned above, you can transfer points to that account then move them to airline and hotel partners.

The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Keep in mind that the Chase 5/24 rule may limit your ability to get approved for these cards. If you're new to points and miles, your best bet is to apply for the Chase cards you want first.

Related: Why now may be the best time to get under the Chase 5/24 rule

Bonus points earning opportunities and categories

(Photo by The Points Guy)

American Express Membership Rewards

I mentioned earlier how I maximize everyday spending on several Amex cards by taking advantage of bonus categories. For example, the Amex Green card offers 3x points on dining, travel and transit, and 1x points on all other purchases — which is why it's my go-to for New York subway Metrocard purchases.

The Amex Gold offers 4x points on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1x) with a $250 annual fee; see rates and fees). I typically use this card for takeout (in the U.S.), dining and purchases at the supermarket.

And finally, the Amex Platinum earns 5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline or via Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, starting Jan. 1, 2021) and 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel.

Related: The ultimate guide to the best cards in each bonus category

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase offers several cards where you can earn a ton of points through bonus categories. For instance, you'll earn 5x points on travel when booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3x points dining, 3x on select streaming services, 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target and Walmart), 2x points on all other travel and 1x on everything else with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

With the Ink Business Preferred, there are even more bonus categories. You'll earn 3x on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year (then 1x) and 1x on everything else.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you'll earn 3x points on all travel (excluding the $300 travel credit) and dining purchases worldwide and 1x points on everything else. The bonus categories include ride-sharing services, food delivery and more. And if you're a Lyft rider, Sapphire Reserve cardmembers will now automatically earn 10x total points every time you use your card for a Lyft ride through March 2025.

Remember, you'll want to evaluate your spending habits to decide which program is the best fit for you. Those who spend a lot of general travel might lean more toward the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred. And if you spend a lot on airfare or dining, 5x from a card like the Amex Platinum or 4x on dining at restaurants on the Gold card is hard to beat.

Related: 6 little-known Chase Sapphire Reserve perks

Redemption options

As easy as it is to earn transferable points, you don't want to keep them just sitting in your account — you want to burn them. Just like earning, all redemption options aren't created equal, either.

American Express Membership Rewards

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

With Amex, you have a ton of choices to score your dream redemption. Some of these are more valuable than others.

For instance, you could use Virgin Atlantic's ANA award chart to fly ANA's The Room business class for only 90,000 miles round-trip from the West Coast (or 110,000 from the East Coast). That's a real steal as ANA first-class tickets can often cost $16,000 or more.

You can also use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to fly Hawaiian Airlines between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii. Business-class awards cost 40,000 miles each way between Hawaii and the West Coast or 65,000 miles each way between Hawaii and the East Coast.

You can also use the Amex Travel portal to find a preferred room and then pay with points -- valued at 0.7 cents -- or cash. You can book a wide variety of hotels, including those in Amex's Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Just note that you won't usually earn hotel points or elite credits for third-party bookings.

Related: The best ways to use American Express Membership Rewards points

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Newly remodeled wing of the Hyatt Regency Maui. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

With Chase, you can book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal and redeem points to pay for your plane tickets, hotel stays, rental cars or experiences. If you're a holder of the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Business Preferred, each point is worth 1.25 cents. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece toward redemptions through the portal.

While you can use your Chase points through the Ultimate Rewards portal (and there are some instances where it would make sense), you'll usually get better value by transferring to a travel partner. My favorite way to redeem Chase points is to transfer them to World of Hyatt and redeem them at low-category or high-end properties. Just a few months ago, I redeemed 36,000 points for a three-night stay at the Hyatt Regency Coco Beach in Puerto Rico.

Related: Sapphire Reserve math: When to book travel through Chase and when to transfer points

As with Amex, some transfer partners are more valuable than others. For example, we don't usually recommend transferring Chase points to hotels (except Hyatt), as you'll typically get more value moving your points to airline partners. And you'll usually get more bang for your points when you redeem them for high-value first- and business-class international award flights.

Related: Sweet spots: The best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Bottom line

Deciding between these two programs comes down to your preferences, but there's no reason you can't collect both types of points.

With our valuations for both Chase and Amex points at 2 cents each, you can't go wrong with either transferable currency. Ultimate Rewards are a good option if you're looking to redeem Hyatt points for an incredible redemption in the Maldives or a Star Alliance business-class award ticket to Europe or Asia. And with the Ink Business' 100,000 sign up bonus, it's easy to earn a ton of points in no time.

If you're looking for cheap award redemptions using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, you can't go wrong with Amex Membership Rewards. Virgin Atlantic is a Chase transfer partner, but Amex frequently offers targeted transfer bonuses to get you cheap premium-cabin awards to Japan.

Regardless of which currency is your favorite, keeping your points and miles balances as flexible and diverse as possible will open up the most award options when it comes time to redeem your points.

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

Featured image by (Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and 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 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and 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 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees