Loyalty programs can be complex, making it difficult to uncover the best ways to maximize your rewards. For example, American Express Membership Rewards offers numerous redemption options through the program’s transfer partners. However, figuring out the most valuable ways to utilize these points can be challenging.
Today, we’ll explore the strategies you should consider to make the most of your hard-earned American Express Membership Rewards points.
How to earn American Express Membership Rewards points
Accumulating a substantial amount of Membership Rewards points is quite straightforward, thanks to the wide range of Amex cards available. With various cards offering bonus categories that earn the most points and significant additional perks, let’s explore five popular options that stand out from the rest.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Current bonus: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.
- 5 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines or Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar)
- 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel
- 1 point per dollar on other purchases
Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees)
Official application link: Amex Platinum
American Express® Gold Card
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 card membership. However, you may be targeted for a 75,000-point bonus through the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time).
Rewarding reading in less than 5 minutes
Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts
- 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide
- 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar)
- 3 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines or via Amex Travel
- 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases
Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)
Official application link: Amex Gold
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Current bonus: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first three months of card membership
- 5 points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel
- 1.5 points per dollar in select business categories and eligible purchases of $5,000 or more on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
- 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases
Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees)
Official application link: Amex Business Platinum
American Express® Business Gold Card
Current bonus: Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership.
- 4 points per dollar in the two categories you spend most on each month. The options include airfare purchased directly from airlines; U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV, radio); U.S. purchases made directly from select technology providers of computer hardware, software and cloud solutions; U.S. purchases at gas stations; U.S. purchases at restaurants, including takeout and delivery; and U.S. purchases for shipping. You’ll earn 4 points per dollar on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each calendar year (then 1 point per dollar).
- 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases
Annual fee: $295 (see rates and fees)
Official application link: Amex Business Gold
American Express® Green Card
Current bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Plus, 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases in the first six months, up to $200 back as a statement credit.
- 3 points per dollar on dining at restaurants worldwide and takeout and delivery in the U.S.
- 3 points per dollar on travel and transit
- 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases
Annual fee: $150 (see rates and fees)
Official application link: Amex Green Card
Other options for earning Amex points
With a Membership Rewards-earning card, you can maximize your points through Rakuten, a favorite TPG online shopping portal. You’ll earn bonus Amex points for each dollar spent by clicking through Rakuten to participating merchant websites.
Another way to earn extra Membership Rewards points is through targeted offers. Amex frequently allows cardholders to earn bonus points by adding authorized users and meeting specific spending requirements. Referring a friend or small business to apply for an Amex card can also earn you a bonus once they’re approved. Lastly, retention calls can be a good way to add points to your balance.
Redeeming Membership Rewards: High-value options
If you want solid value from your American Express Membership Rewards points, transferring them to partner hotel or airline loyalty programs is often your best bet.
When you convert points into a hotel or airline currency, you can redeem them for free hotel nights and award flights that might otherwise be quite costly. Moreover, you might stretch the value of your points even further by taking advantage of periodic transfer bonuses to specific partners.
Here are some of the best programs to transfer your points to and some sample redemptions.
Book Delta flights to Europe (with no fuel surcharges) and ANA first class through Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club gutted its Delta award chart, leaving one sweet spot behind: business-class flights to Europe (excluding the U.K.).
You can book one-way Delta flights from the U.S. to Europe for just 50,000 points in Delta One business class. This is an excellent deal, especially since you don’t have to pay fuel surcharges — though be aware that Virgin Atlantic does pass on Delta’s Europe origination surcharge for itineraries that begin on the continent.
If you can, book flights equipped with Delta One Suites for the best experience.
Unfortunately, the rest of Virgin Atlantic’s Delta award chart is distance-based and not particularly useful. Booking short-haul Delta domestic tickets with the program can sometimes make sense if cash fares are expensive. You can book flights 500 miles or shorter for just 7,500 points in economy class. Just check Delta SkyMiles (another Amex transfer partner) first to see if it has a better price.
Another time you might transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is to book ANA business and first-class tickets. Even with its March devaluation, you can book a one-way flight to Japan from the U.S. West Coast for 45,000 and 72,500 points in business and first class, respectively.
Book Oneworld economy flights using British Airways Avios
You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to British Airways at a 1:1 transfer ratio. The program regularly offers transfer bonuses that allow you to further maximize its distance-based award chart. However, even without a bonus, there’s still a lot of value to be found in the program.
For instance, many routes from the East Coast of the U.S. to Dublin on Aer Lingus fall under 4,000 miles in length. You can book these flights in economy class for just 26,000 Avios round trip on off-peak dates. You can also fly short-haul outside of North America for as few as 5,000 Avios.
Domestic U.S. flights less than 600 miles cost 7,500 Avios in economy class and flights between 601 and 1,151 miles cost 9,000 Avios. This can be a good deal on last-minute fares on business-heavy routes, like New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).
Fly round-trip to Madrid on Iberia
One of the best ways to redeem Amex points is by booking Iberia business class on off-peak dates. This can be a terrific use of your points, especially when considering the low points price and minimal fuel surcharges.
Iberia flights from the U.S. to Barcelona and Madrid start at just 17,000 Avios one-way in economy and 34,000 in business class. You’ll find the cheapest flights from cities on the East Coast, but other cities have attractive pricing too. Here’s a look at Iberia’s award chart:
|Destination to/from Madrid||Blue class/economy||Premium economy||Business|
|New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)||17,000/22,000||20,000/28,000||25,500||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD)||21,250/27,750||25,000/35,000||31,750||43,750||42,500||62,500|
|Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)||21,250/27,750||25,000/35,000||31,750||43,750||42,500||62,500|
|Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)||17,000/22,000||20,000/28,000||25,500||35,000||34,000||50,000|
|Miami International Airport (MIA)||21,250/27,750||25,000/35,000||31,750||43,750||42,500||62,500|
|Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)||25,550/33,250||30,000/42,000||38,250||52,500||51,000||75,000|
|San Francisco International Airport (SFO)||25,550/33,250||30,000/42,000||38,250||52,500||51,000||75,000|
Snagging a round-trip economy award flight to Europe for just 34,000 miles (or business class for 68,000 miles) can be fantastic. Plus, availability isn’t too difficult to find when traveling on off-peak dates.
Fly Singapore Airlines premium classes
Even after multiple devaluations, using your miles for any Singapore Airlines-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 newer first-class suites on the A380 for 155,000 Membership Rewards if you book a one-way flight between Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) and Sydney Airport (SYD). While Singapore no longer flies the A380 to the U.S., you can still book first class on the carrier’s 777-300ER from New York to Frankfurt, Germany for 97,000 miles — but you have to find saver availability, which can be challenging. Advantage award space is more plentiful but will cost 143,500 miles one-way.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles are among the easiest currencies to earn. The program is a 1:1 transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, but you can also top up your account using Capital One miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Citi ThankYou Rewards points.
Transfer to Flying Blue for flights to Europe and North Africa
Flying Blue is Air France and KLM’s joint loyalty program. The program prices award tickets dynamically and often has good deals on flights from North America to Europe and North Africa. You’ll sometimes find these flights as low as 12,750 miles one-way in economy and 55,000 miles in business class.
For example, here’s a flight from New York-JFK to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Air France business class for 55,000 miles and $208.10 in taxes and fees.
Or, you can book Chicago-O’Hare to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) in economy class with KLM for 12,750 miles and $65.10 in taxes and fees.
Bear in mind that fuel surcharges on these awards can be a little hard to handle — close to $400 per person if you book round-trip business-class flights. However, under 30,000 miles for round-trip economy flights and about $120 in cash can still be a great deal. There are also occasional bonuses for transferring points from American Express to Flying Blue, so pricing on some routes becomes even more attractive. Don’t count on Flying Blue to always provide the best value; it has the potential under the right circumstances.
Transfer to ANA for cheap Star Alliance business-class flights
Due to lenient routing rules and a great award chart, you can piece together incredible award ticket itineraries using ANA’s Mileage Club.
The first way to maximize this transfer partner is by flying to Japan on off-peak dates. You can score round-trip tickets from the U.S. for just 40,000 miles in economy on ANA metal and 75,000 miles round-trip in business. That’s a great price, even considering fuel surcharges; 109,980 yen is roughly $750. Plus, you can add a free stopover if your itinerary isn’t wholly within Japan.
You can also score an excellent deal on Star Alliance business-class flights from the U.S. to Europe — which includes Turkish Airlines’ hub at Istanbul Airport (IST). These flights cost just 88,000 miles round-trip, but you’ll pay high fuel surcharges when flying with carriers that levy them. Thankfully, you can avoid these by booking flights on SAS, LOT Polish Airlines, United and others that do not add fuel surcharges to their Europe tickets. This is one of the best deals for booking tickets to Europe in business class.
There are other gems to investigate, too, including reasonably priced around-the-world tickets that allow eight stopovers.
However, be sure to confirm availability before you transfer points. And note that Amex transfers to ANA typically take up to 48 hours to arrive, so there is a risk that availability could disappear.
Other high-value transfer partners
Depending on what specific routes you are trying to book, other Amex transfer partners like Air Canada Aeroplan, Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles and Avianca LifeMiles could make sense if you know the sweet spots in those programs. Research these programs and see if you can leverage them for a future trip.
35% Pay with Points rebate for Business Platinum cardholders
The Amex Business Platinum Card has another benefit if you use points to pay for economy airfare (on the carrier you choose for your up-to-$200 airline fee statement credit) or any business- or first-class airfare booked on Amex Travel on any airline. In that case, you’ll receive back 35% of those points (up to a million bonus points per calendar year). That means a $1,000 ticket costs 65,000 points, giving you a redemption value of 1.54 cents per point. Enrollment is required for select benefits.
However, it’s important to note that you must have enough points in your account to cover the full cost of the redemption — 100,000 points for the $1,000 ticket in the above example. Then, you’ll receive the 35% points rebate back in your Membership Rewards account within one to two billing cycles.
This may not be the absolute best value for your points, but remember that tickets booked through Amex Travel are treated as revenue fares by the airlines. This means you generally will earn redeemable and elite-qualifying miles on these tickets. If you want to skip the hassle of looking for award space and redeem points to book inexpensive fares, the Business Platinum Card can be a valuable addition to your wallet.
Redeem Membership Rewards: Poor-value options
There are many ways to redeem your Membership Rewards online. Most of these options represent a poor value and should generally be avoided. They include the following:
Using points for statement credits
This is like a cash-back option for covering eligible charges on your billing statement. However, you’ll only receive 0.6 cents per point with this option, so it’s not a good return. If you want points to cover your everyday purchases, consider opening a cash-back credit card instead. One of the best cash-back credit cards is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. Check out our full review for more information.
Shopping on 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. You should deactivate this option to prevent accidental and unauthorized use of your points. The one exception is when Amazon sends out targeted offers for discounts that apply using Membership Rewards at checkout. You’ll only need to redeem 1 point to trigger the discount. Redeeming a single point to get up to 50% in Amazon discounts is worth it.
Shopping with Membership Rewards
You can find almost 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 0.5 cents each when redeemed this way.
Redeeming for gift cards
You may redeem your points for gift cards to shops, rental car agencies, restaurants and even Airbnb. Most of the time, you redeem points for a flat value of 1 cent each, but some instances yield slightly better or slightly worse values. If you want to maximize your Membership Rewards points, steer clear of these redemptions.
Redeeming 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. If you’re short on cash but sitting on a ton of Amex points, booking flights this way could be a decent option — especially if you’re trying to close the gap to qualifying for elite status.
Again, one exception to this rule is using The Amex Business Platinum to cover paid flights with a 35% rebate, which can represent a solid redemption.
Using low-value transfer partners
Except for some obscure or rare situation, you probably won’t want to transfer Membership Rewards to programs like HawaiianMiles, Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy (unless there’s a substantial transfer bonus). These programs generally lack the sweet spots the other currencies offer. It’s too easy to earn Hilton points with cobranded cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or through paid stays. The same applies to Marriott Bonvoy cards.
The moral of the story: Don’t waste Membership Rewards by transferring them to partners where you can easily rack up points in other ways. The exception is if you need just a few more points to make a high-value redemption.
The information for the Hilton Aspire 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.
There are many ways to earn Amex Membership Rewards points, such as with the Amex Gold 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 into consideration and be sure to choose the best American Express card for you. Then, be sure to explore these options to use your points wisely for your next getaway.
Additional reporting by Ryan Smith, Stella Shon, Joseph Hostetler, Victoria Walker, Andrew Kunesh and Kyle Olsen.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Gold, click here.