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Out of the four most popular transferable currencies in the points and miles industry, Membership Rewards might just be the most powerful. Membership Rewards are the loyalty program of American Express. They’re responsible for some of the most impressive redemptions out there.

Whether you possess a stack of Membership Rewards in your points and miles arsenal or want to start one, let’s explore all you can do with the mighty Membership Reward.

Membership Rewards Overview

Each bank has its own loyalty points. Membership Rewards are points earned through many of the credit cards offered by American Express. Membership Rewards can be used to purchase travel through amextravel.com, transferred to one of 21 transfer partners or used to offset charges on your American Express card through a statement credit.

American Express cards are known for carrying higher annual fees than their competitors. However, they often offer more earning potential and benefits. Be sure to account for the extra benefits when deciding whether a credit card is too rich for your blood. While American Express cards are often the most expensive, Membership Rewards are often the most valuable when used correctly. 

Let’s look at how to build a stockpile of Membership Rewards. Then we’ll explore how to spend them.   

How to Earn Membership Rewards

Women using her credit card for online shopping

You can earn Membership Rewards by making purchases with one of eight credit cards offered by American Express. 

Here are the personal cards that earn Membership Rewards:

  • American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees)
  • American Express® Green Card
  • Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
  • The Amex EveryDay® Card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)

Here are the business cards that earn Membership Rewards: 

  • American Express® Business Gold Card (Rates & Fees)
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)
  • The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees)

Let’s explore two of the highest-earning members of the American Express family in more detail. 

American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card is one of the highest-earning Membership Rewards cards out there. Don’t let the $250 annual fee (see Rates & Fees) scare you. Along with high Membership Rewards earning potential, you’ll also receive a $10 monthly Uber credits given as Uber Cash and a $10 monthly dining credit for select restaurants. In addition, using the card for travel purchases will cover you with travel protections such as collision damage waiver for rental cars and lost baggage insurance. 

Where the American Express Gold Card shines is its generous 4X points at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1x). It also earns 3X points on flights booked with airlines or on amextravel.com. All other purchases earn 1X Membership Rewards points. 

For many families, grocery bills are some of their top expenses. Your Membership Rewards stockpile will grow quickly while earning 4X points whether you’re eating out or in.

American Express® Gold Card

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

LEARN MORE

Bonus Categories

  • 4X at restaurants worldwide
  • 4X at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1x)
  • 3X on airline flights booked directly through the airline or at amextravel.com
  • 1X on everything else

The American Express® Green Card

The American Express® Green Card is one of the most cost-effective ways to earn Membership Rewards. With an annual fee of $150, it’s one of the lower-cost American Express cards. Plus, it includes card benefits such as statement credits for LoungeBuddy ($100) and Clear ($189). 

You’ll earn 3X points on some of the larger expenses in many travelers’ budgets including travel purchases, transit and restaurants. You’ll earn an unlimited 1X points on all other purchases. 

Bonus Categories

  • 3X on travel (including American Express Travel)
  • 3X at restaurants (including delivery services, takeout and dining out)
  • 3X on transit
  • 1X on everything else

How to Redeem Membership Rewards

Once you’ve built a stockpile of Membership Rewards, you’ll need to decide where to go. With 21 transfer partners, the ability to book even more hotels and airlines through amextravel.com and the ability to use your points for statement credits you won’t have a problem spending them.

Let’s explore the best ways to use your Membership Rewards.

Using American Express® Travel

The easiest way to use your Membership Rewards points, but not necessarily the most lucrative, is to redeem your points through amextravel.com. Membership Rewards points have a value of 1 cent each when booking airfare and Fine Hotels & Resorts through the portal. Values drop down to 0.7 cents per point when you book prepaid hotels, cruises, rental cars or vacation packages.

While American Express Travel allows you to book flights on virtually any airline, you’ll often get better value by transferring your Membership Rewards to a travel partner. Consider this flight on Qatar Airlines offered through American. You could book this trip with 92,180 Membership Rewards on amextravel.com or transfer 56,000 points to Iberia Plus and only pay taxes and surcharges. 

JFK to HKT American airlines at $921
New York to Phuket flight charges

To benefit from your American Express card’s travel benefits, like trip delay and baggage insurance plan, you must book the trip through the portal or pay the full cost with your American Express card.

Transferring Membership Rewards

Often the most efficient way to use Membership Rewards is to transfer them to one of American Express’s 21 transfer partners. Whether you are booking a hotel or planning a flight, American Express offers three hotel brands and 18 airlines to choose from.

Most transfers occur at a 1:1 ratio except if noted below.

  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Aeroméxico Club Premier (1:1.6) 
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Choice Privileges
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  • Hilton Honors (1:2) 
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (1:0.8)
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Transferring Membership Rewards to a partner program is easy. 

  • Log in to your American Express account. 
  • Click Explore Rewards.
  • Select Transfer Points.
  • Choose your program.
  • Decide how many points you’d like to transfer.

For instance, utilizing the 1:1.6 transfer ratio with Aeromexico Premier you can book an around-the-world ticket, which allows you to visit up to 17 cities by transferring 140,000 Membership Rewards. Something you’d never be able to do by booking individual tickets on amextravel.com

Not quite as impressive but still a valuable redemption, you can transfer 43,500 Membership Rewards (at a rate of 1:2) to Hilton and pay for one night at the Westin in Paris.

Points needed to stay in a room

If you want to get even more value out of your Membership Rewards, watch out for transfer bonus opportunities. These are periodic increases in the transfer ratio of your Membership Rewards to specific programs. We don’t recommend transferring points speculatively, but if you’re in the planning stages of a trip, check for Membership Rewards transfer bonuses to see if there’s a new best way to travel.

Statement Credit

The least ideal way to use your Membership Rewards is to offset credit card purchases with a statement credit. When redeeming points for a statement credit, each point is worth 0.6 cents. 

While we don’t recommend it, this option provides a way to turn your points into cash if you don’t need to use them for travel or find yourself in a cash crunch.

Pay with Points

Like with a statement credit, select retailers allow you to pay for purchases with Membership Reward points upon checkout. Each Membership Reward point is worth 0.5 cents. Because American Express allows you to redeem rewards for a statement credit valued at 0.6 cents each, there’s no reason to do this. 

Avoid this redemption option. Simply pay with your card and redeem Membership Rewards for a statement credit if you’d like to pay for a purchase with Membership Rewards.

Final Thoughts

Membership Rewards might be the most powerful rewards in the points and miles space. Many of its transfer partners can be used for the most brag-worthy redemptions out there. While you’ll pay a bit more to carry an American Express card, you can often recoup the cost of the card in other values like statement credits or travel benefits. 

While collecting Membership Rewards, be aware of the limits on earning potential for each card (for instance, the $25,000 limit for 4X points at U.S. supermarkets for the American Express® Gold Card). If necessary, spread your spending around multiple cards to maximize your earnings. 

While there’s much competition in the transferable points space, Membership Rewards have become a crucial part of any points and miles strategy.