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American Express Membership Rewards Review

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which SmartAsset.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). SmartAsset.com does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Among the many credit card rewards programs, American Express’ may be one of the most extensive. There are quite a few cards included with Membership Rewards®, including Consumer, OPEN or Corporate cards. So whether you use your credit card for personal, business or corporate reasons, there’s likely a card for you. The same goes for whether you’re a big grocery shopper or a frequent flyer (or both!) American Express Membership Rewards® should have you covered.

American Express Membership Rewards® Overview

There are many American Express Membership Rewards®-eligible credit cards, but not all of them guarantee automatic enrollment. You may want to ask American Express representatives questions about the enrollment process, including whether there’s a fee to enroll. Also pay strict attention to the fine print of your agreements. Some credit cards require full on-time payments or you risk losing all the points of that billing period. American Express may even choose to cancel a card, resulting in the loss of all your points if you’re not paying attention.

Once signed up for American Express Membership Rewards®, you can manage your accounts and points online. If you have multiple cards earning rewards, all the points end up in a common account available for your use. You can easily transfer points or explore your many redemption options online. Plus, with all your rewards in one place, you can more efficiently combine bonus points with your everyday purchases.

After earning points through eligible purchases, Amex provides a number of opportunities to redeem those points. You can use your Amex points to make travel plans, buy select electronics or even get an Uber ride. You can also use your points at checkout with certain partners like Grubhub, Boxed, Staples and Amazon. Your points never expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing.

General Point Value

American Express Membership Rewards Review

At the most basic level, cards under American Express Membership Rewards® earn at least one point per dollar. However, since each credit card focuses on different bonus categories, your earnings will vary depending on the card. Look out for which purchases are eligible and which can earn you extra points to get the most out of your Amex card.

American Express Membership Rewards® points are generally worth 0.5 cents to 1 cent each, depending on how you redeem them. Booking flights, buying gift cards or using Uber gets you a value of 1 cent per point.

Outside of Amex, you have the option of transferring your points to 20 loyalty partner programs. These programs, listed further down, include a number of airlines and hotel chains. These transfers can sometimes provide a 1:1 ratio, or increase your points’ value to 2 cents or more each.

Personal Cards Included in American Express Membership Rewards®

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

To get off on a good start, you can earn 10,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points if you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of opening the card. The card comes with no annual fee and a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After those 15 months, there’s a variable APR of 14.99% – 25.99%.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express earns 2x points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets, until you spend up to $6,000 each year. After that, those purchases earn one point per dollar. All other purchases earn 1x per dollar spent. However, if you make 20 or more purchases on the card in a billing period, you earn 20% more points on those purchases.

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express

You can expect big returns with The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express. If you spend $1,000 on the card within the first three months, you earn 15,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points. This card earns you three points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets, again with a limit of $6,000 per year before the value decreases to 1x points. Use the card at any U.S. gas station and you earn two points per dollar spent. Any other eligible purchases get you one point per dollar.

Keep in mind that supermarkets do not include wholesale markets like Costco. Depending on where you shop, that may be a drawback for you. But if you make 30 or more purchases in a billing period, you will earn 50% extra points on those purchases.

This card also comes with a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months, after which a 14.99% – 24.99% Variable APR applies. The annual fee for this card is $95.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

If you’re looking to earn points from more than U.S. supermarkets, consider the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. It earns 3x points per dollar on travel booked directly with airlines, 2x points per dollar at U.S. gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants in the U.S. and 1x point per dollar anywhere else.

Don’t forget the sign-up bonus of 25,000 points if you spend $2,000 within the first three months. The annual fee is $195, but comes with an introductory rate of $0 for the first year. Ideal for travelers, the card has no foreign transaction fees. It also comes with a $100 airline fee credit to cover up to $100 a year in baggage fees at one qualifying airline.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Given its name, you know you’ll see big numbers attached to this card. To start off, you pay an annual fee of $550, which is not waived for the first year. But you can kick off your earnings by spending $5,000 within the first three months to earn 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points.

Unlike the previous cards, The Platinum Card® from American Express does not include bonus categories. The card earns 5x points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel. You can also earn 5x Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked at amextravel.com.

This card also comes with some nice benefits like access to Delta SkyClub® and Priority Pass™ lounges, free Boingo WiFi access and a fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck®, making this a great credit card option for a frequent world traveler. Keep in mind that as a charge card, you have to pay your balance in full each month.

Business Cards Included in American Express Membership Rewards®

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN is geared toward business spenders. The card encompasses five different spending categories: flights booked directly with airlines, select U.S. media advertising purchases, purchases at U.S. gas stations, U.S. shipping purposes and various U.S. computer and software purchases made directly from select providers. Cardholders earn 3x points per dollar on up to the first $100,000 spent annually on one of those categories. The other four categories will earn 2x points per dollar, until you spend $100,000. Then you earn 1x point per dollar spent elsewhere.

After approval, you can earn 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards® points if you spend $5,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months. Additionally, Amex offers an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then the $175 annual fee will apply.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

Like the Business Gold Rewards Card, the Business Platinum® Card from American Express is an OPEN card. Right off the bat, you can spend $10,000 within the first three months to earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points. Spending an additional $10,000 within those first three months will get you an extra 25,000 points.

For an annual fee of $450, the card earns five points per dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com. Large business qualifying purchases of $5,000 or more earns 1.5 points per dollar. Any other purchases earn one point per dollar.

Airline and Travel Partners

Regardless of how you earn your points, there are multiple ways to redeem them. In fact, transferring those hard-earned points to a partner loyalty program may get you the most bang for your buck. Your online account contains the tools you need to transfer your points to your loyalty program of choice.

Should you choose to transfer your points, you must use at least 5,000 points. Before you get too excited, know that not all Membership Rewards® cards can transfer points to partners. If you’re itching to take advantage of those partnerships, check if the card that you have or want provides this service.

When transferred, points can often increase in worth, averaging around 1.2 cents per point. But sometimes values can reach up to 2 cents per point. Below are American Express’ partner airlines and hotel chains. While most carry a point transfer ratio of 1:1, those that vary are noted.

  • Delta Airlines
  • Aero Mexico
  • Air Canada
  • Air France/KLM
  • ANA
  • British Airways
  • El Al
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue (5:4 ratio)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Best Western Hotel
  • Choice Privileges Hotel
  • Hilton Honors Hotel (1.5:1 ratio)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Hotel (3:1 ratio)

How to Get the Most Out of Your American Express Membership Rewards®

American Express Membership Rewards Review

Due to the number of American Express Membership Rewards® eligible cards, purchases and redemption options, it seems there’s plenty of rewards for everyone. It can be easy to rack up points and use them any old way, but if you use them strategically, you could earn way more than you originally thought.

If you’re still looking for a card, keep in mind that American Express allows only one sign-up bonus per card per lifetime. So do your research to find the right card for you, instead of trying to hit all the sign-up bonuses. You also have the option of purchasing American Express Membership Rewards® points, which might seem appealing if you’re after big rewards. Unfortunately with this strategy, you end up paying double what you get back in the end.

Generally, you’ll do well to redeem your American Express Membership Rewards® points for at least 1 cent per point. Anything less could be a costly waste. Depending on your card, personal habits and goals, transferring your points to travel partners usually makes the most sense. Ratios are most often in your favor, allowing you to travel and stay in hotels simply through points. Or you could book travel plans through the American Express Membership Rewards® portal, which offers one of the more efficient ways to spend your points. As always, double check for extra fees or restrictions which are always a possibility. Other great deals include purchasing gift cards, donating to charity (tax-deductible, of course) or riding with Uber.

To get the most out of your earned points, avoid using them for merchandise purchases through Amex and Amazon. Points usually have a value of less than 1 cent on those transactions, which may not be worth it. You’ll also find that you can pay for charges on your card for retail, dining and supermarket purchases with your points. While this seems ideal, American Express remains vague about exactly which charges are eligible. Amex can also change the eligible charges at any time without notice. Further, it’s worth keeping in mind that each point is only worth 0.6 cents when redeemed this way.

Bottom Line

The American Express Membership Rewards® program is generous. It includes credit cards for personal and corporate use, allowing a variety of consumers to reap all sorts of Amex rewards. The levels of cards available also makes it possible for consumers to mix and match varying cards to get the most rewards. Before you get cracking at earning and redeeming all those points, don’t forget to ask questions and read the fine print of each card!

Tips for Managing Your Finances

  • Once you’ve started earning thousands of American Express Membership Rewards® points, you’re going to want to use them to get the most bang for your buck. It helps to weigh each option, whether travel plans or gift cards. If you’re struggling to figure out the best ways to use your points and your money, you could get a financial advisor to help you out. To find a financial advisor in your area who can help you maximize your rewards, you can use SmartAdvisor. You’ll answer a short series of questions to help us get to know you, your financial situation and your advisor preferences, and then we’ll pair you with up to three advisors who offer the best fit.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/magnez2, ©iStock.com/South_agency, ©iStock.com/michaelquirk

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which SmartAsset.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). SmartAsset.com does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Lauren Perez, CEPF® Lauren Perez writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset, with a special expertise in savings, banking and credit cards. She is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. Lauren has a degree in English from the University of Rochester where she focused on Language, Media and Communications. She is originally from Los Angeles. While prone to the occasional shopping spree, Lauren has been aware of the importance of money management and savings since she was young. Lauren loves being able to make credit card and retirement account recommendations to friends and family based on the hours of research she completes at SmartAsset.
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