How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

May 15, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the most current cards and information. 

While your points and miles have all the potential to take you to most destinations in the world, loyalty programs don’t exactly make it easy for you to discover all the best options. Without prerequisite knowledge, it’s tough to find the strategies for redeeming your rewards at maximum value.

American Express offers some of the best travel credit cards on the market. Today I’ll go over the strategies you should consider when it comes to putting your hard-earned American Express Membership Rewards points to use.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

In This Post

How to earn American Express Membership Rewards points

Membership Rewards are incredibly easy to acquire, thanks to card options like the American Express® Green Card and American Express® Gold Card. Even with a once-in-a-lifetime welcome bonus policy lingering in the background, the numerous cards that earn Membership Rewards mean racking up a large balance isn’t a difficult task.

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

The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred and 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.

Let’s narrow the field and look at four popular cards with bonus  categories that earn the most Membership Rewards and have substantial ancillary benefits:

American Express® Business Gold Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Current bonus: Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Earn points: 4x points on the two categories you spend most on each month. The choices include airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. advertising purchases in select media (online, T.V., radio), U.S. purchases made with select technology providers of computer hardware, software and cloud solutions, U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants and U.S. shipping purchases. The 4x bonus applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases each calendar year (then 1x) and 1x on all other spending.

Annual fee: $295 (see rates and fees). Terms apply.

Related: Our full review of the Amex Business Gold Card

American Express® Green Card

American Express Green_2019
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Current bonus: 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Earn points: 3x points on dining, 3x points on travel, 3x points on transit, 1x points on all other purchases. Terms apply

Other Benefits: Up to $100 annual CLEAR credit and up to $100 annual credit towards LoungeBuddy.

Annual fee: $150 (see rates and fees).

Related: Our full review of the Amex Green Card

American Express® Gold Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael)
The Amex Gold card is great for turning your dining expenses into travel rewards. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Current bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. However, you may qualify for a targeted for either a 75,000-point bonus through the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at any time).

Earn points: 4x points at restaurants ; 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (capped at $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points); 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines; 1x points on all other purchases Terms apply.

Other benefits: Up to $120 dining statement credit per calendar year (enrollment required)

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees).

Related: Our full review of the Amex Gold Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Current bonus: 75,000 points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first six months of account opening. You may be eligible for a targeted Amex Platinum 100k points bonus offer through the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at any time).

Earn points: Earn 10x points on combined eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (up to $15,000 in combined spend) within your first six months of account opening; 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or American Express Travel (earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). Plus, earn 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; 1x on all other purchases.

Other benefits: Airport club access including Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta) and Priority Pass Select; no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees); up to $200 annual airline statement credit; statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (up to $100); up to $200 in annual (U.S.) Uber credits; Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits; automatic Marriott Gold and Hilton Gold status. Terms apply. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees).

Related: Our full review of the Amex Platinum Card

The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Current bonus: 15,000 points after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first three months

Earn points: 3x at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 of purchases annually (then 1x); 2x at U.S. gas stations; 1x on all other purchases. Terms apply.

Other bonuses: Use the card to make 30 or more purchases in a billing period and earn 50% extra points on all those purchases (fewer returns and credits).

Other benefits: 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 months, then a variable APR of 12.99% to 22.99% applies.

Annual fee: $95.

Related: Our full review of the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card

With card options covered, let’s look at the different ways you can redeem Membership Rewards. We’ll start with the highest-value options and then move to low-value options, which should be avoided.

Redeem Membership Rewards: High-value options

If you’re looking to receive solid value from your American Express Membership Rewards points, transferring them to partner hotel and airline loyalty programs is your best bet. When you transfer points into a hotel or airline currency, you can redeem them for free hotel nights and award flights regardless of their current selling prices. Here are some of the best programs to transfer your points and some sample redemptions:

Utilize Etihad Guest partner award bookings

Etihad was added as a transfer partner in 2016. While using miles for flights on Etihad’s own metal rarely results in good value for your Membership Rewards points, the Etihad Guest program does have various partner awards you can book. The uniqueness of the individual partner award charts opens up some high-value trips you can book for comparatively few miles.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.)

One great example involves American Airlines, which can result in some substantial savings. A one-way first-class flight from the U.S. to Europe, for example, would only set you back 62,500 Etihad Guest miles compared to  85,000-175,000 AAdvantage miles. Since you can’t transfer your Membership Rewards points to American, this is a great option to snag AAdvantage award flights with your Amex points.

Here’s a sample of other current Etihad partner awards you can book (all are priced based on a one-way ticket unless otherwise noted):

  • Prague (PRG) – Seoul (ICN) in Czech Airlines business class: 25,610 miles
  • New York-JFK – Casablanca (CMN) in Royal Air Maroc business class: 44,000 miles
  • New York-JFK – Brussels (BRU) on Brussels Airlines: 44,000 miles (business) or 27,000 miles (economy)
  • American Airlines A321T business class transcontinental flight: 25,000 miles

You’ll notice that you can book some of these routes by merely earning the welcome bonus on the Amex Green Card. Make sure to look at the ANA, Air Seychelles and Asiana partner charts for using Etihad miles, each with their own sweet spots.

Related: Etihad Guest miles continue to fly under the radar

Fly Singapore Airlines premium classes

Even after Singapore KrisFlyer’s 2019 devaluation, using your miles for any Singapore-operated flight can be a great deal. With the carrier’s renowned Suites class, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more luxurious seat in the sky. You can fly the new first class on the A380 for 85,000 Membership Rewards if you book Singapore (SIN) to Sydney (SYD) or vice versa. You can fly in a suite on the JFK-FRA route for 86,000 points — but you have to find saver availability, which can be challenging.

Remember that KrisFlyer miles are among the easiest currencies to earn. The program is a 1:1 transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards and a 2:1 transfer partner of Capital One miles.

You can redeem your Membership Rewards for amazing award flights through transfer partners — including premium class suites on Singapore Airlines.
You can redeem your Membership Rewards for amazing first-class “seats” on Singapore Airlines by utilizing transfer partners. (Photo by The Points Guy.)

KrisFlyer also now allows Star Alliance partner awards to be booked online, making it easier to take advantage of sweet spots like the continental U.S. to Hawaii round-trip on United for 35,000 miles in economy or 60,000 in business.

Related: How to maximize Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer partner awards

Choice Hotels for international stays and luxury properties

The Choice Privileges program is a 1:1 Membership Rewards transfer partner, which boasts several properties across typically expensive European cities. For award nights, these hotels usually range from 8,000 to 35,000 points. I’ve found this program particularly useful when visiting Ireland, a country with few chain hotels.

You can also use Choice points to book Preferred Hotel properties, a group of independent luxury hotels. This won’t always provide fantastic value, but it can when revenue rates are high. For example, the Royal Lancaster London regularly has rates over $640 during the summer. You can book those standard rooms for just 35,000 Choice Privileges points per night. There’s even an online search calendar to quickly check availability (which is generally wide open), though you have to call to book Preferred Hotel properties.

Related: Bookings now open for new luxury all-inclusive Choice Hotels, starting at 25k points per night

Flying Blue

The joint loyalty program of Air France and KLM offers the occasional deal on award tickets. I would focus my attention on Flying Blue Promo Rewards. Recent examples of deals include flights from Washington (IAD) to Paris for 20,625 miles one-way in economy and Seattle (SEA) to Paris is 43,125 miles for one-way Premium Economy. We currently value Flying Blue miles at 1.2 cents each, meaning you could spend just $234 worth of miles for a one-way economy flight from Washington to Tel Aviv.

Bear in mind that fuel surcharges on these awards can be a little hard to handle at about $300 per person, but paying less than 40,000 miles for round-trip flights can still be a great deal. There are also occasional transfer bonuses from American Express to Flying Blue, making pricing on some routes even more attractive. Don’t count on Flying Blue to always provide the best value, but it certainly has the potential under the right circumstances.

British Airways Avios

You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to British Airways at a ratio of 1:1. Also, the program regularly offers transfer bonuses that allow you to maximize its distance-based award chart further. However, even without a bonus, there’s still a lot of value to be had. For instance, many routes from the U.S. to Dublin on Aer Lingus fall under 4,000 miles in distance. You can book these routes in economy for just 26,000 Avios round-trip on off-peak dates. Plus, you can still fly short-haul within international countries (like Japan) for 6,000 Avios each way with no fuel surcharges.

Perhaps the best use of Avios is flying from the West Coast to Hawaii on American or Alaska Airlines for 13,000 Avios each way. Note that Alaska Airlines flights are not bookable on the British Airways website. You’ll have to call the service center once you find a saver-level award inventory. Make sure you read our full guide on how to maximize the British Airways award chart.

Related: How to book award flights with British Airways Avios

Fly round-trip to Madrid on Iberia

Transferring your Membership Rewards to Spanish partner airline Iberia can be another terrific use of Membership Rewards points, especially when booking Iberia-operated flights. Even though you can book these itineraries with British Airways Avios, booking with Iberia Avios will result in lower fuel surcharges. Here are some of the terrific award rates you can get on these flights (all prices are one-way):

Destination Blue class / economy Premium economy Business
Off-peak Peak Off-peak Peak Off-peak Peak
New York-JFK 17,000 / 22,000 20,000 / 28,000 25,000 35,000 34,000 50,000
Chicago – O’Hare (ORD) 17,000 / 22,000 20,000 / 28,000 25,000 35,000 34,000 50,000
Boston (BOS) 17,000 / 22,000 20,000 / 28,000 25,000 35,000 34,000 50,000
Miami (MIA) 21,250 / 27,750 25,000 / 35,000 31,750 43,750 42,000 62,500
Los Angeles (LAX) 21,250 / 27,750 25,000 / 35,000 31,750 43,750 42,000 62,500
San Francisco (SFO) 21,250 / 27,750 25,000 / 35,000 31,750 43,750 42,000 62,500

Snagging a round-trip economy award flight to Europe for just 34,000 miles (or business class for 68,000 miles) can be a fantastic deal. And availability isn’t super difficult to find.

Related: All Avios aren’t created equal: Using Iberia instead of British Airways to cut taxes and fees

Transfer to ANA

Due to loose routing rules and a great award chart, you can put together incredible award ticket itineraries using ANA’s Mileage Club. Flying during off-peak dates yields very attractive pricing like 40,000 miles round-trip from North America to Japan in economy on ANA metal and 75,000 miles round-trip in business. That’s really cheap, even with continually varying fuel surcharges.

There are quite a few gems to investigate with the program, including reasonably-priced around-the-world tickets that allow eight stopovers for as little as 100,000 miles in business class, but be sure to confirm availability before you transfer points.

Book Delta flights (with no fuel surcharges) through Virgin Atlantic

I ignored Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program for far too long, mainly because I thought every award ticket involved fuel surcharges and nothing could be done online. However, lately Virgin Atlantic is my first stop when I’m looking to book nonstop, domestic Delta itineraries. These tickets always come in at 12,500 miles, even when Delta isn’t showing low-level availability.

You can also book transpacific and transatlantic Delta One flights on Virgin Atlantic’s website with no fuel surcharges (and often at substantial savings compared to transferring your points to Delta SkyMiles).

Related: How to book cheap Delta awards with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

There are other fantastic uses of Virgin Atlantic miles to book partner awards like ANA premium class, South African Airways from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Africa, Air New Zealand business class and Virgin Australia intra-Asia/Pacific flights.

Other high-value transfer partners

Depending on what specific routes you are trying to fly, other Amex transfer partners like the new Aeroplan, Asia Miles, LifeMiles and even a transfer to Qantas could make sense if you know the sweet spots in those programs.

35% Pay With Points rebate for Business Platinum cardholders

If you have a Business Platinum Card and use points to pay for economy airfare (with a selected qualifying airline) or any business/first-class airfare booked on, you’ll receive 35% of those points back up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year. That means a $1,000 ticket will cost 65,000 points, giving you a redemption value of 1.54 cents each.

While this may not be the absolute best value for your points, remember that these tickets are almost always treated as revenue fares by the airlines, meaning you’ll earn redeemable and elite-qualifying miles. If you want to skip the hassle of looking for award space and simply redeem points to book inexpensive fares, the Business Platinum card tool is valuable.

Related: Amex Travel guide: Everything you need to know

Redeem Membership Rewards: Poor-value options

Making a reservation in advance online may also require a credit card number, depending on your party size. (Photo by filadendron / Getty Images)
Don’t use your Amex points when shopping online at Amazon. (Photo by philodendron/Getty Images.)

There are many ways to redeem your Membership Rewards online, and unfortunately, several of these options represent a less-than-stellar value and should generally 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 good return.

Related: The best grocery credit cards for 2020

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 Nick Ewen notes, you should make sure this option is turned off to prevent accidental and unauthorized use of your points. The one exception would be would Amazon sends out targeted offers for discounts when using Membership Rewards at checkout. You only need to redeem one point to trigger the discount.

Just giving

American Express has partnered with a third-party website named Just Giving, which allows you to donate to a vast array of causes, charities and individuals. You can search all charities eligible to receive donations through the Just Giving website. You have to create an account and enter your Amex Membership Rewards earning card to find the number of points corresponding to the dollar amount. The platform adds a 5% charge to any donation. The website was hard to use, clunky and finding charities to donate to was difficult.

Related: Best cash-back credit cards of 2020

Shop with Membership Rewards

You can find pretty much anything under the sun via the Membership Rewards online shopping mall. The only thing you won’t find is value, as your points are worth a standard 0.5 cents each when redeemed this way.

Gift cards

You may redeem your points for gift cards to shops, rental car agencies, restaurants, American Express Gift cards and even Airbnb. Most of the time, you redeem points for a flat value of 1 cent each, but some instances yield slightly better and slightly worse values. Four AMC movie tickets will cost you 6,063 points, with each ticket valued at $12.

Occasionally you’ll find specials that offer better than one cent per point, but not significantly higher value. Plus, gift cards from high-end brands like Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental yield redemption values of less than 1 cent per point. Redeeming for Delta gift cards delivers a measly 0.7 cents/point:


Related: The complete guide to American Express Membership Rewards partners

Redeem for paid travel (with one exception)

There are a few options in this category with significantly different values. We’ve written about how you can pay for travel with points through Membership Rewards. This option gives you a value of 1 cent per point toward airfare and 0.7 cents per point for cars, hotels, vacations or cruises.

The one exception to redeeming points direct for paid travel is if you have The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. This card allows you to redeem points to cover an economy revenue ticket on a select airline (it must be the same one you choose for the annual up to $200 airline fee credit) or any business or first-class ticket and receive 35% of your redeemed points back. Points become worth 1.54 cents each towards the cost of airfare using this method. You will earn redeemable and elite qualifying miles for flights covered with Membership Rewards in this way, further increasing the value. Enrollment required for select benefits

Related: Our full review of the Amex Business Platinum Card

Low-value transfer partners

Except for some obscure or rare situation, I cannot think of why I would ever transfer my Membership Rewards to AeroMexico, MilleMiglia, El Al, Hawaiian or Hilton (except if there’s a transfer bonus). These programs either lack sweet spots or other currencies are easier to book the flights with. It’s too easy to earn Hilton points either with co-branded cards like The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or through paid stays. So I would never waste Membership Rewards by transferring them to Hilton Honors.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.

For example, the Amex Green Card’s 30,000-point bonus is enough for a round-trip flight from the West Coast to Hawaii using British Airways Avios. But if I transfer them to Hilton, I’ll receive 60,000 Hilton points and likely only save a couple of hundred dollars on a mid-tier award night. With a transfer bonus, the math becomes more favorable.

Related: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you

Bottom line

My mindset for using Membership Rewards is fairly simple: As a Business Platinum cardholder, if I find a good Delta economy fare (my chosen airline for Amex benefits), I’ll use my 35% points rebate to cover the ticket cost. Otherwise, I try to transfer points to airline partners to book a premium-class ticket I could never afford out of pocket. We’ve had plenty of readers maximize Membership Rewards to get to places like Japan or to save miles when booking domestic flights.

There are tons of ways to earn Amex Membership Rewards points, like the revamped Amex Green Card and Amex Business Gold Card. Like the other transferable points programs, American Express Membership Rewards offers great sweet spots to those who do their homework on the various transfer partners and potential redemptions. Take the above examples to heart, and make sure you choose the best American Express credit card for you and use your points wisely.

Check out our beginner’s guide if you’re new to points and miles.

Additional reporting by Joseph Hostetler and Victoria Walker.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Gold, click here.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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.