The ultimate guide to Amex Membership Rewards
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information. This post makes reference to a number of flights that are not currently operating due to the coronavirus. Find ongoing COVID-19 updates on TPG’s coronavirus hub page
American Express issues several dozen different credit cards, including cobranded 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 there are only a handful of publicly available Amex cards — including both personal and business cards and credit and charge cards — that grant full access to the company’s Membership Rewards program.
In the points and miles world, Membership Rewards points have long had a reputation for being difficult to acquire because of a (previous) lack of credit card bonus categories and a once-in-a-lifetime welcome bonus policy. They are, however, valued at a respectable 2 cents apiece per TPG’s most recent valuations, and can be used to facilitate adventures across myriad partners. The program partners with 18 different airlines (including Aeromexico, British Airways, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and Singapore), as well as three hotel chains (Hilton, Choice and 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 some of the top 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 seven most valuable Membership Rewards credit cards.
|Card||Welcome Offer||Bonus Categories||Annual Fee||Perks|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months||5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. Terms apply.||$550 (see rates & fees)||Up to $200 annual airline fee credit; up to $200 total in annual Uber credits; a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; Global Lounge Collection|
|American Express® Gold Card||35,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months||4x points on worldwide dining; 4x at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, (then 1x thereafter); 3x on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. Terms apply.||$250 (see rates & fees)||Up to $100 airline fee credit; $120 total in annual dining credit at participating partners; no foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees)|
|The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express||10,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months||2x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1% thereafter). Terms apply.||$0||Make 20 or more purchases with your card in a billing period and earn 20% extra points on those purchases less returns and credits|
|Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express||15,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months||3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1% thereafter); 2x at US gas stations. Terms apply.||$95||Make 30 or more purchases with your card in a billing period and earn 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits|
|The American Express® Business Gold Card||Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on eligible purchases with the card within the first 3 months of card membership||4x points on two select categories where you spend the most each month, up to $150,000 in combined purchases from these two categories each calendar year (then 1% thereafter). Terms apply.||$295 (see rates & fees)||25% points back after you book a flight using Pay With Points|
|The Business Platinum Card® from American Express||Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of Card Membership. Terms apply.||5x points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com; 1.5x on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to one million additional points per year). Terms apply.||$595 (see rates & fees)||Up to $200 annual airline fee credit; a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; Global Lounge Collection; complimentary Hilton Honors Gold and new Marriott Gold Elite status|
|The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express||Limited time offer: Earn up to $300 in statement credits when you make eligible purchases with Dell Technologies, DocuSign and FedEx within the first three months of Card Membership (up to $100 in statement credits per merchant). This offer will run through November 4, 2020.||2x points on everyday business purchases up to $50,000 each year with no category restrictions (1x thereafter). Terms apply.||$0 (see rates & fees)||$0 annual fee for adding employees (see rates & fees)|
The information for The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express and The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
That’s a lot of information, so let’s take a deeper dive into each card and what each one offers.
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.
Earn 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of opening your account. Per TPG’s latest valuations, this welcome bonus is worth a whopping $1,200. But an even larger bonus may be available, so check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’ve been targeted for a higher bonus of up to 100,000 Membership Rewards points (offer subject to change at anytime).
You’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent for prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com (including prepaid Fine Hotels and Resorts booked online) and flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. 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 more than 1,200 airline lounges across 130 countries through Priority Pass, Delta Sky Clubs (when you’re flying Delta), American Express Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges.
- A $200 airline fee credit annually to cover incidentals like checked bag fees, change fees and inflight purchases on one selected qualifying airline.
- $200 in Uber credits each year, given at $15 per month with a bonus $20 in December.
- The card also waives foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees) and comes with complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite and Hilton Honors Gold status.
- You’ll get Avis Preferred, Hertz 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 4:00 p.m. late checkout and, at select properties, a third or fourth night for free and on-property credits for perks such as dining or spa treatments. Plus, you’ll earn 5x points on stays booked online through FHR and you’ll even get elite benefits and hotel loyalty points during your stay.
- 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, (see rates and fees) and that can really help you maximize the value you’re already getting from being a card holder. Authorized users can get lounge access, the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit, Marriott and Hilton Gold Elite status, Amex FHR benefits and more.
The Gold Card is the perfect card for foodies, since it offers generous bonus earning on dining and U.S. supermarkets. In particular, you can earn 4x Membership Rewards points on dining worldwide, which represents a solid 8% return on your dining spending. Plus, you’ll get 4x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases (then 1x thereafter). With a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) and many benefits, this card is a solid in-between card that falls between the premium card category and the entry-level tier. Read the full review.
You’ll earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $4,000 in purchases in your first three months. Per TPG’s latest valuations, the 35,000-point welcome bonus is worth $700.
You’ll earn 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at on dining worldwide; 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases (then 1x); 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with an airline or on amextravel.com; and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
The card’s $120 annual dining credit provides up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at participating dining partners like Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations. The card also includes a $100 airline fee credit for one selected qualifying airline and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). You can also get up to a $100 hotel credit on qualifying charges when you use your card to book a stay of two nights or longer through The Hotel Collection.
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
If you’re looking for a no-annual-fee credit card 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 U.S. supermarkets, which is notable since many no-fee 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!
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 the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at anytime). Per TPG’s latest valuations, this welcome bonus is worth $200.
You’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year); then 1 point dollar after that and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. If you make 20 or more purchases with your card in a billing period, you’ll earn 20% extra points on those purchases less returns and credits.
Given the no-fee 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 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.
- Access to Amex Offers
- Travel accident insurance
- Amex Extended Warranty: the length of your warranty can be extended for up to two additional years when you use your card for eligible purchases that come with an original US manufacturer’s warranty of five years or less.
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
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, but still receive 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.
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 $300.
You’ll collect 3 points per dollar spent at U.S. 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 all purchases.
You’ll receive some fairly standard rewards card benefits perks, which we’ve highlighted below.
- You’ll earn 2x Membership Rewards 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.
- Access to Amex Offers
- Travel accident insurance
- Amex Extended Warranty: the length of your warranty can be extended for up to two additional years when you use your card for eligible purchases that come with an original U.S. manufacturer’s warranty of five years or less.
The American Express® Business Gold Card
The card is a great option for those who value flexibility in both earning and redeeming points. With the Business Gold Card, you’ll always earn 4x in the two spending categories where you spent the most that month. So, you don’t have to worry about selecting the best two categories. Couple that with the flexibility of the Membership Rewards program and you have a potent combination. Read the full review.
Earn 35,000 points after spending $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. You might also be able to snag a 50,000 point welcome bonus if you’re referred by a friend (subject to change at anytime). Per TPG’s latest valuations, the 50,000 point welcome bonus would be worth $1,000.
The card offers bonus points on six different categories of purchases: airfare, advertising, technology, gas, restaurants and shipping (the latter five only apply to U.S. purchases). You’ll only earn 4x points on two categories, but the two categories with highest spend will be automatically chosen each month as your 4x categories. You’ll only earn 4x on the first $150,000 of 4x bonus category spend each calendar year though. Once you’ve passed that amount, your earning rate will drop down to that of all other purchases: 1x points.
These bonus categories can be quite lucrative. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, which means you get a 8% return on the two categories where you spend the most each month. If you’re able to max out your bonus category spend by spending $150,000 in bonus categories each year, you’ll take home 600,000 points annually which are worth $12,000. This doesn’t include any other points you’d earn on everyday purchases, which still give you a respectable 2% return.
While the Business Gold Card may come with terrific earning ability and valuable flexibility in redeeming your points, the added collection of perks on the card is a bit lackluster. Here’s a quick overview:
- Get 4x Membership Rewards® points on the 2 select categories where your business spent the most each month
- 25% points back after you book a flight using Pay with Points
- Access to Amex Offers
- Premium Roadside Assistance: You’re covered for emergency roadside assistance if your car is suddenly inoperable up to four times per year. If you call American Express, they will arrange assistance and pay for eligible third-party charges related to towing less than 10 miles, winching, jump starts, flat tire change when you have a workable spare, lockout service or delivery of up to two gallons of fuel. If towing exceeds 10 miles, you’ll be charged $3 per mile.
There’s one very good reason why The Business Platinum Card 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.
Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of card membership. If you can meet this hefty $15,000 spend requirement, you’ll earn points worth more than the card’s annual fee. Per TPG’s latest valuations, this welcome bonus could net you $1,500 in value if you hit all of the spending requirements.
You’ll earn 5x points when you purchase airfare and prepaid hotel rooms from amextravel.com. That’s the same return as you’ll see on the personal Platinum Card, though with the personal Platinum Card 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 get access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes more than 1,200 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.
- The card also waives foreign transaction fees (See Rates & Fees) and comes with Gold Elite status in the new Marriott program and complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status.
- You’ll get Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status. You’ll need to enroll for these benefits from the benefits tab of your online account.
- 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 4 pm late checkout and, at select properties, a third or fourth night for free and on-property credits for things like dining or spa treatments. Plus, you’ll earn 5x points on stays booked online through FHR and you’ll even get elite benefits and hotel loyalty points during your stay.
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 up to $50,000 each year, business owners can spend more time focused on growing their companies and less time worrying about which card will earn them the greatest return.
Limited time offer: Earn up to $300 when you make eligible purchases with Dell Technologies, DocuSign and FedEx within the first three months of Card Membership (up to $100 per merchant). This offer will run through November 4, 2020.
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 4 cents per dollar, or around 4% back on whatever your business needs. If you’re planning to spend beyond $50,000 annually, we’d recommend shifting to a category-specific card to maximize earnings.
As you’d expect from a no-annual-fee 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 two additional years when you use your card for eligible purchases that come with an original US manufacturer’s warranty of five years or less.
- Amex Purchase Protection: Eligible items purchased on the card will be protected from accidental damage or theft for up to 120 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. Although this option can be useful for promotions, you may want to turn this option 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.
Transferring to Partners
This is where the magic really unfolds. By transferring Membership Rewards points to 19 airline and three 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 other transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points 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.
|Aer Lingus AerClub||1:1||Instant|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||1:1.6||24 Hours|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1:1||Instant|
|Air France-KLM Flying Blue||1:1||Instant|
|All Nippon Airways Mileage Club||1:1||48 Hours|
|British Airways Executive Club||1:1||Instant|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1:1||48 Hours|
|El Al Matmid||50:1||Instant|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||1:1||Instant|
|Iberia Plus||1:1||48 Hours|
|Singapore KrisFlyer||1:1||Less than 24 Hours|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1:1||Instant|
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 flight between the U.S. to Japan on American Airlines or 44,000 miles for a business-class seat on Royal Air Maroc between the U.S. and Casablanca (CMN).
- Transfer your points to your Singapore KrisFlyer account to fly first class on the A380 for 52,000 Membership Rewards points each way between Singapore (SIN) and Sydney (SYD).
- You can also redeem Singapore KrisFlyer to book Star Alliance partner awards, including sweet spots like the continental U.S. to Hawaii round-trip on United for 35,000 miles in economy or 69,000 miles 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 6,000 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).
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.
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 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
- 5 Best Ways to Use 60,000 Membership Rewards Points
- Best Ways to Redeem Amex Points on SkyTeam Airlines
- Best Ways to Redeem Amex Points on Star Alliance Airlines
- Best Ways to Redeem Amex Points on Oneworld Airlines
- Can You Transfer Amex Membership Rewards Points Between Family Members?
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 (historically 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.
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 Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Card, please click here.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- 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