Maybe you're looking to spend a stash ofs you've been hoarding and you don't know where to start. Maybe you're desperately trying to escape the country and visit a tropical paradise and you want to start earning Membership Rewards to help you with your journey abroad. Either way, we've got you covered.
Membership Rewards is the flexible rewards system that is integrated in with the flagship American Express cards. It can be compared to the similar point structures offered by Citi with their ThankYou points or Chase's Ultimate Rewards. All of these programs allow you to earn points for every purchase made using your qualifying card and then those points can be used in a very flexible manner. You can redeem the points for things like gift cards, statement credits, merchandise, or transfer the points to eligible transfer partners.
What Can Membership Rewards be Used For?
- Pay with points at checkout at eligible partners
- Purchase gift cards. Pro-tip: AmEx will run "sales" occasionally so you can get a $500 gift card for 40,000 points, making your redemption value 1.25 cents per point.
- Book travel online using AmExTravel
- Cover your card charges with a statement credit
- Transfer to eligible transfer partners
The flexibility to transfer to partners is really what sets these reward systems apart from a standard cash back card. Earning cash back is great, but it can also be limiting. For example, the Blue Cash Everyday card earns 3% cash back on your first $6,000 in spend at U.S. supermarkets every year. That's $180 in cash back. That is an easy number to understand. However, if you shift that same spend to the AmEx Everyday card, you'll earn 2 points per dollar on U.S. supermarket spend on the first $6,000 you spend. What are 2 points worth though? If you're able to use them for travel, we value points at about 1.75 cents each, so you come out slightly ahead at 3.5% in value (2 points x 1.75 cents). As an added bonus, if you use your AmEx Everday card 20x in a month, you'll get a 20% bonus on points earned that billing cycle. That means you could be getting 3.85% in value on those supermarket purchases (2.2 x 1.75 cents).
Where Can Membership Rewards be Transferred?
- Starwood Hotels (Marriott, Sheraton, Westin)
- Choice Privilege Hotels (Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Econolodge)
- British Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Jet Blue
- Iberia Airlines (Airline of Spain)
- Ethiad Airways
- Emirates Air
- Virgin Atlantic
- Singapore Airlines
- Aeroplan (Air Canada)
- Aero Mexico
- ANA (Japan)
- And more....
The value you get per point will depend on what partner you transfer to. Our strategy is always to look on the transfer partners site for reward availability. For example, if we want to fly from Miami to Madrid, Iberia has direct flights in January that cost $1,153 or 42,500 points + 211 in taxes and fees. That gives our points a 2.2 cents per point value. This will fluctuate pretty drastically depending on your travel plans. Cash back cards provide stability, while these flexible point systems have the opportunity to provide more value if you look for it. Transfers generally happen within 24-48 hours, but may take up-to a week.
So, how do you earn Membership Rewards? You can find our list of favorite AmEx cards here, but here's a list specific to Membership Rewards. AmEx is looking for applicants with good-excellent credit, which typically means you'll want to have at least a 680 credit score before you apply.
1)- With an annual fee of $95, you'll earn 3 points at U.S. supermarkets (on your first 6,000 in purchases), 2x at U.S. gas stations, and 1 point on everything else. If you swipe your card 30x in a billing cycle, you'll get a 50% bonus on points earned each month.
2) AmEx Everday - The no annual fee version of the AmEx Everyday Preferred. This one will allow you to get your toes wet without much risk. You'll earn 3 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on your first 6,000 in purchases), and 1 point on everything else. If you swipe your card 20x a month, you'll earn a 20% point bonus for that month.
3) AmEx Platinum card - This is a charge card rather than a credit card, meaning you should plan on paying off your balance in full each month. With a hefty $550 annual fee, this card is for the credit elites. You'll earn 5x points on qualifying airfare and hotels booked directly with AmEx Travel. 1 point per dollar on everything else. The card does offer some interesting benefits to help justify that meaty annual fee though. You'll also recieve a $200 airline incidental fee credit annually to use on your travels, as well as up-to $200 worth of Uber credits. The card also comes with Centurion lounge and Delta lounge access, a great benefit for the frequent traveler.
4) For Business owners, take a look at the Blue Business Plus. This card will net you 2 points per dollar on your first 50k in annual purchases. 1 point per dollar thereafter. With no annual fee, this card has one of the best Membership Rewards earning rates.