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AMEX Membership Rewards cheat sheet – How to earn and use your points like a pro

by on Thu November 17, 2016 • 8 Comments
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If you want to get the most out of Amex Membership Rewards points, this guide will show you how to use them, the best values, how to manage your account, and how to earn even more points to get your next reward faster.

How to use Amex points

Membership Rewards points are all about variety, with dozens of ways to use your points for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more. But they’re not all a great deal, and we’ll walk you through all the ways to use your points, and show which will stretch them the furthest.

Amex point transfer partners 

The greatest part of Membership Rewards is the ability to transfer your points into real miles with over 15 partner airline mile programs. That unlocks the ability to take advantage of reward flights for dream trips at prices you didn’t think were possible if you’re creative, flexible, and willing to learn a little bit about the partner programs.

PartnerAmex points= Partner pointsEstimated transfer time
Aeromexico10001600Up to 14 days
Aeroplan (Air Canada)10001000Instant
Air France Flying Blue10001000Instant
Alitalia MilleMiglia10001000Instant
ANA Mileage Club100010002 - 4 days
Asia Miles (Cathay)100010003 - 7 days
British Airways Executive Club1000800Instant
Choice Privileges10001000Instant
Delta Skymiles10001000Instant
El Al Matmid100020Instant
Emirates Skywards10001000Instant
Etihad Guest10001000Within 5 days
Hawaiian Miles10001000Instant
Hilton Hhonors10001500Instant
Iberia Plus10008004 - 7 days
jetBlue True Blue1000800Instant
Plenti10001500Instant
Singapore KrisFlyer1000800Within 1 day
Starwood Preferred Guest1000333Instant
Virgin America Elevate1000500Instant
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club10001000Instant

While Amex isn’t a partner with all airlines, the partners it has relationships with can get you an award flight on most major airlines worldwide. For example, Amex isn’t a partner with United, but you can book United flights with Amex points via Air Canada Aeroplan or Singapore KrisFlyer, which are both Amex point transfer partners.

There are some catches to be aware of before you do a point transfer…

  • Once you transfer points to a partner airline program, you can’t transfer those points back to your Amex account. It’s a one way street so make sure you want to use that partner before you make the transfer.
  • There’s a small fee for every transfer you make. It works out to 6 hundredths of a penny, so every 10,000 points you transfer will cost you around $6.
  • Not all transfers are instant, so the award space on a flight you’re looking at might not be available by the time the points post to your airline account. We’ve listed typical transfer times in the chart above so you can plan accordingly.
  • You can only transfer to partner mile accounts in your name, or in the name of an authorized user of your Amex account.

Why is point transfer special?

Point transfer is something you should pay attention to because it lets you take advantage of award prices that are often much less than what you’d pay if you just used your points to buy travel on the Amex website.

Here an example.

Let’s say you want to get to Paris in the summer.

You could buy a ticket in cash for over $1,700 or use over 170,000 Amex points to pay for it on the Amex travel website.

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Or, you could transfer your points to Delta SkyMiles where the very same flights are available for just 60,000 miles.

Since Delta SkyMiles is a transfer partner with Amex you can lock in this price, saving you almost $1,700 and over 100,000 points.

jfkcdgdelta

That’s the magic of point transfer.

It’s a little more work since you need to check prices both on the Amex site and on the sites of some transfer partners, but it can get you trips you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. You’ll find the best deals are on long international flights that tend to cost over $1,000.

Tip: When you’re searching for options keep these traps in mind that can water down a deal…

Fuel surcharges to Europe. Most of the frequent flyer programs of non-U.S. airlines levy these charges on top of the miles you use for a ‘free’ award ticket. They can be $500 or more for a roundtrip to Europe, where they’re most heavily applied. Trips that don’t go through Europe tend to be a lot more reasonable.

Slow transfer times. Not all of the Amex transfer partners handle transfers instantly. You can see typical transfer times in the chart above, but you can lose the space you were hoping to snag in the time it takes for a transfer to complete. And you can’t move your points back to Amex, so keep that in mind before you do a transfer.

Inconsistent award space. Not everything you see online will be bookable with miles. If the frequent flyer program’s own website won’t book the ticket, make sure you call the partner program first and verify they can book it at the price you want before doing a transfer.

 

What airline partners to use for the best deal

So you’re convinced using transfer partners is a good thing, but where do you start searching? It can be daunting since there are so many options with Membership Rewards.

Here are some good places to start that will get you a decent deal based on where you want to travel. Clicking on the name of a transfer partner will take you to an in-depth guide that walks you through how to use it.

Economy Class

United States: Delta SkyMiles is a good place to start checking prices. If you want to fly United, you can try a transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer – domestic flights are 25,000 miles roundtrip or 12,500 miles one way. If you want to fly American, try a transfer to Etihad Guest where you can get American flights for 25,000 miles roundtrip or 12,500 miles one way.

If your destination is less than 1,200 miles or so away you might save points using Asia Miles or British Airways Executive Club. They charge based on the distance of your flight.

Hawaii: You can fly to Hawaii for 30,000 miles roundtrip (15,000 miles each way) when you transfer to Air France Flying Blue, which lets you fly Delta or Alaska Airlines to Hawaii. Or fly for 35,000 miles roundtrip (17,500 miles each way) on United Airlines when you transfer points to Singapore KrisFlyer.

choicecaribbean

Caribbean / Mexico: If you live in a city with a lot of nonstop American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights, check award prices on the British Airways website. They charge based on how far you fly, and it’s often cheaper to book American flights via British Airways points. Just be aware that transferring points to British Airways isn’t an even exchange. You’ll get 800 British Airways points for every 1,000 Amex points. Otherwise Air France Flying Blue lets you fly Delta for 15,000 miles one way / 30,000 miles roundtrip.

Europe: Fly on American Airlines between October 15 and May 15 for 40,000 Etihad Guest miles roundtrip (20,000 one way). During the summer months, try Air France Flying Blue at 50,000 miles roundtrip for Delta flights with no fuel surcharges.

India / Middle East: ANA Mileage Club lets you get there for 70,000 miles roundtrip and you can fly United, Air India, or even Etihad Airways with no fuel surcharges.  Or you can grab ANA’s own flights on its ‘off peak’ dates and get the trip for just 55,000 miles. The downside is transfers to ANA miles can take a few days. If you want instant point transfer, Delta SkyMiles can sometimes get you there for 80,000 miles roundtrip on Delta, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, and KLM flights.

Africa: ANA Mileage Club gets you to deep Africa for 65,000 miles roundtrip, and you can fly Etihad Airways with no fuel surcharges. Or consider Turkish Airlines or Egyptair for other low surcharge options. Otherwise Delta SkyMiles can get you there for as few as 80,000 miles on Delta, Air France, and other SkyTeam airlines.

South America: ANA Mileage Club has a 50,000 mile roundtrip price that lets you fly United, Air Canada, Avianca, or Copa down to deep South America. Air France Flying Blue also has the same price, and lets you fly Delta or Aerolineas Argentinas.

North Asia: ANA Mileage Club will get you there for 60,000 miles roundtrip with any Star Alliance airline, including United, Asiana, EVA Airways, Air China, and more. If you want instant point transfer, Delta SkyMiles can get you there for as few as 70,000 miles roundtrip on Delta, China Eastern, Korean, and more SkyTeam airlines.

Japan: You can fly for 40,000 miles roundtrip with ANA Mileage Club on its off peak dates using ANA’s own flights, or 55,000 miles any time of the year using any ANA partners including United.

Southeast Asia: 70,000 miles roundtrip via ANA Mileage Club with the option to fly Thai, Singapore, United, Air China, and more Star Alliance airlines is a decent bet, and you can fly for as few as 55,000 miles if you stick to ANA’s own flights. Delta SkyMiles can also get you there for as few as 80,000 miles.

Australia / New ZealandANA Mileage Club’s roundtrip award of 75,000 miles from North America to the region is a good bargain, and you can fly any Star Alliance partners including United, Air New Zealand, Asiana, and more. ANA lets you fly via Asia, which can open up a lot of possibilities.

If you want to stick to ANA’s own flights via Japan you can get the award for as few as 60,000 miles.

Business / First Class

The luxury of Business or First Class is the ultimate prize with your Amex points, and it’s the most lucrative way to use your points. Here are some of the best deals with Amex transfer partners for wherever you’re headed.

United States: 40,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles will get you a roundtrip in First Class on United flights, or 20,000 for a one-way. If you want to fly Delta, Alitalia MilleMiglia will get you in First Class for the same 40,000 mile price, provided there’s award space, and you’re willing to deal with Alitalia’s phone center.

HawaiiSingapore KrisFlyer and Air France Flying Blue’s 60,000 roundtrip redemption to Hawaii is a steal, especially if you’re on the East Coast and staring down almost 12 hours of flying. Singapore KrisFlyer lets you book United award flights, while Air France lets you book Delta and Alaska Airlines award flights to Hawaii. With peak season prices in excess of $2,600, you can get a value of over 4 cents per point.

Caribbean / Mexico: There aren’t a lot of great deals here in First Class. Delta SkyMiles can get you down there for 60,000 miles roundtrip, or 30,000 miles one way.

Europe: This is probably the most sought after award with Amex points. In the easy to use category, Delta SkyMiles offers awards from 70k each way in Business Class to Europe. Based on a $3,500 roundtrip between Los Angeles and Paris, you are looking at a redemption worth 2.5 cents per mile/MR point.

If you just want to pay the fewest points possible you can book via ANA Mileage Club for 88,000 miles roundtrip and fly United, Air Canada, Swiss, Lufthansa, or other Star Alliance partners. You’ll avoid fuel surcharges if you pick United flights. But transfers to ANA miles take a few days, so the award seat you’re looking for could disappear by the time your transfer is finished.

If you live on the East Coast, a transfer to Asia Miles can get you many places in Europe for 80,000 miles roundtrip on American, Iberia, Air Berlin, and British Airways flights, but you’ll pay big surcharges on British Airways flights. For full on First Class luxury, consider Air Canada Aeroplan for Lufthansa flights at 70,000 miles one way.

unitedpolaris

India / Middle East: ANA Mileage Club’s 115,000 mile award to India is a great deal, and you can choose Star Alliance airlines like Air India and Turkish, or do your trip entirely on Etihad Airways. It’s only 104,000 miles roundtrip to the Middle East.

Krisflyer offers the option to book a First Class Star Alliance partner award from North America to the Middle East for 150,000 miles roundtrip (75,000 miles one way), letting you try out Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal and getting full First Class service both from the U.S. to Europe and from Europe to big Middle East cities like Dubai. But you need to be flexible. Lufthansa generally only releases award seats for partner booking in First class two weeks prior to departure, and Swiss almost never does so.

lufthansafirstclass

Africa: ANA Mileage Club for 104,000 miles roundtrip is a steal that lets you fly Etihad Airways with no fuel surcharges, or you can go with Star Alliance airlines like United, Turkish, Lufthansa, and more. Another good deal is Alitalia’s 120,000 mile award that lets you fly SkyTeam airlines like Air France, but beware of fuel surcharges. Delta SkyMiles will charge at least 190,000 miles roundtrip.

South America:  ANA Mileage Club for 80,000 miles on United, Air Canada, Avianca, or Copa is a good deal, and there are no fuel surcharges to deal with on any airline to South America. Delta SkyMiles will charge at least 150,000 miles roundtrip.

North Asia: ANA Mileage Club is a good deal at 95,000 miles on Star Alliance airlines like Asiana, Air China, United, and more. Delta SkyMiles will charge at least 160,000 miles roundtrip.

Japan: Stick to ANA’s own flights and ANA Mileage Club can get you there in Business Class for 75,000 miles roundtrip. Or use partners for 90,000 miles roundtrip. And the luxury of First Class is a great deal at 150,000 – 165,000 miles roundtrip. Delta SkyMiles will charge at least 160,000 miles roundtrip.

If you want First Class on Singapore Airlines consider KrisFlyer miles for just under 75,000 miles one way.

Image courtesy of Singapore Airlines

Southeast Asia: ANA Mileage Club is a good deal at 100,000 miles on Star Alliance airlines like Asiana, Air China, United, and more. If you want an easy U.S. program, Delta SkyMiles will charge at least 160,000 miles roundtrip.

Australia: ANA Mileage Club’s 120,000 mile roundtrip award on any Star Alliance partner is hard to beat, letting you take advantage of ANA, Asiana, Singapore, United, Air New Zealand, and more.

How to transfer points to airline partners

You can read a full illustrated guide on how to transfer points, but the short version is to follow these steps.

Go to MembershipRewards.com, log in, and click the “Travel” tab.

Amex MR transfer 1

Immediately under “How to Use Points,” click “Transfer Points.”

Amex MR transfer 2

Select from the list of partners, click on your choice, and enter the amount of Amex Membership Rewards points to redeem or the number of desired partner points/miles.

amexaeroplan

You’ll be asked to link your account if you haven’t already, and then confirm the transfer. Your points will show up in the transfer partner account according to the schedule above and you’re good to go, ready to book your dream trip.

How to link transfer partners

Before you can transfer points to an airline or hotel partner, you need to link your Membership Rewards account with your partner program account. There’s an illustrated rundown to linking transfer partners here.

What are excise taxes and how much are they?

Excise taxes function as a fee on points transfers to U.S. airline programs like Delta SkyMiles and JetBlue True Blue. When you transfer points to a U.S. frequent flyer program, AmEx charges a fee of $0.0006 (6 hundredths of one penny) per point up to a maximum of $99 to offset U.S. taxes that they pay for the transfer.  If you were to transfer 100,000 points to a frequent flyer program, you’d pay Amex excise taxes of $60.

Amex gives you the option to pay for these taxes with points when you initiate a point transfer, but that’s not a good deal. You get just one half a cent per point in value when you use the points for the excise taxes.

Transfers to non-U.S. programs like Air Canada Aeroplan and ANA Mileage Club don’t have excise taxes.

How to use the Amex website to book flights with points

You can use your points to book travel on the American Express website without having to deal with point transfers or award ticket rules.

Your points work like cash to pay for some or all of a ticket on the site and 10,000 points gets you $100 in airfare, so you’re getting a basic one cent per point in value.

But if you have a Business Platinum Card you get 50% of your points back when you book First or Business class tickets on all airlines and Economy Class tickets on a single airline of your choice each year. So in that case your points are worth 1.5 cents each.

Using your points for cruises or hotels isn’t as good a deal, and you only get about 0.75 – 0.85 cents per point in value this way.

Searching for flights on the Amex site is easy, it’s just like shopping at any travel site like Expedia, and you can even sort the results by the price in Membership Rewards points.

amextravelsite

Tip: When you use the Amex site to pay for travel with points keep in mind:

  • There’s no guarantee the Amex site is showing the lowest price
  • Hotel bookings won’t earn points in most loyalty programs, and your elite benefits aren’t guaranteed
  • Flight bookings generally *will* earn you miles in your frequent flyer program, even when you pay for them with points on the Amex site
  • Some low cost carriers aren’t bookable via Amex Travel at all. These include Southwest, Volaris, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Wow Air, and Easyjet.

Using the Amex site won’t always get you the cheapest points price for a flight – transferring to airline mile partners is often a better deal – but it’s a lot easier than dealing with airline miles and you can pick any flight you want, not just those with special award seats.

Statement credit

If all you want is cold hard cash, a straightforward option is to redeem points directly for a statement credit, effectively erasing charges from your bill. Unfortunately this isn’t a great deal and each point is worth about 0.6 cents when you redeem this way, so 10,000 points redeemed gets you $60 in statement credit.

You can check the value the points from your card gets for statement credit by navigate to the bottom of the www.membershiprewards.com page. Click on “See the value you can get from Membership Rewards points” and if you are not logged in, you will immediately have the option to do so.  Your redemption options will then be displayed.

mr statement credit 1

 

If you decide you want to redeem your points as statement credit for your charges, just go to this page and login to your account. You’ll see charges that are eligible to be erased with your points.

amexstatementcredit

Tip: There are some catches though…

  • You need enough points to cover all of the charge you’re erasing. So for example, a $60 charge on your account will need 10,000 points to get credit. You can’t use 5,000 points to erase $30 of the $60 charge.
  • It will take up to 48 hours for the request for credit to be reflected on your account
  • You need to use at least 1,000 points at a time

Overall, statement credit is just not a great value for your Amex points, but if you’ve given up on the idea of using them for travel it’s one way to get something out of them.

Gift cards 

Gift cards are available with a variety of different retailers and service providers via the Membership Rewards gift card hub. On the gift card page, you’ll be show the featured cards, as well as links to “all gift cards,” “electronic gift cards,” and gift cards by categories.

The most useful gift cards are AmEx gift cards you can use for purchases anywhere AmEx is accepted, but they offer a poor value for your points. At 20,000 points for a $100 gift card you get just a half a cent a point in value. Other gift cards offer better value, like Neiman Marcus, Barnes and Noble, and others which get you $100 in gift card value for 10,000 points, or one cent per point in value. Most are somewhere in between, and you’re usually better off using your points to book travel.

barnesnoblegiftcard

Shopping & Merchandise

American Express partners with a number of retailers to offer their online inventory for points redemption via the Shop with Points program.

Options include Apple, Saks Fifth Avenue, Home Depot, and more.

The deals aren’t great, as you’ll usually get a half a cent per point in value when you use points this way.  For example, a Macbook Pro valued at $1,300 will cost 259,800 MR points.  Likewise, a pair of $140 Rayban sunglasses from the Saks store will cost 28,000 MR points. And these are based on full retail prices, rather than the discounted price you might see elsewhere.

Shipping isn’t always free, and if your state requires you to pay taxes on online orders, you’ll pay the taxes based on the full retail price, using either cash or points to cover them.

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Tip: Sometimes Amex runs special promotions, and if you catch one of those you might be able to get merchandise for closer to one cent per point in value, which isn’t as bad. But we cringe at the thought of using points for merchandise instead of travel.

Amazon purchases

Amex also let you use Membership Rewards points to pay for Amazon purchases.

To do it, you’ll need to link your Amazon.com account here, then when you checkout on Amazon.com you’ll see the option to pay with points. Redemptions work at a rate of 0.7 cents per Membership Rewards point so 10,000 Membership Rewards points are worth $70 shopping on Amazon.com. Not the greatest deal, but it’s there to tempt you.

To use the feature, click the ‘Change’ button when you get the payment page to select your Membership Rewards card.

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Then, you’ll be able to select how many points you want to use to pay for the order. You can use as few as 2 points at a time.

amazonamexpaypointsfinalpage

Uber rides

If you have the Uber app installed on your phone and an enrolled card entered into the app, you have the option to pay for Uber rides with points or earn 2x points on every dollar you spend with Uber.

To enroll, add your Membership Rewards Amex to your payment profile in the Uber app.

The app will recognize it as an eligible card and give you the option to enroll by clicking the ‘Learn More’ link next to ‘Get 2x points.’

uberamexenroll

Then you can confirm you want to enable the Membership Rewards / Uber link.

amexenableuber

Once you do that, you’ll be given the option to pay with points after every ride you try to pay for with this card.

Each dollar spent on a trip will cost 100 points, so each point has a value of one cent.  Amounts in between whole dollars will be prorated, so for example an $11.37 ride will cost 1,137 points and if you don’t have enough points to cover the cost of the trip, the card will be charged for the balance.

Concert and Theatre Tickets

You also have the option to redeem Amex points for entertainment tickets via Ticketmaster and Telecharge.  With Ticketmaster and Telecharge, the option to pay via Membership Rewards points is available at the end of online checkout.  Simply fill out your card details and your card will be charged in full for the purchase, while a statement credit from the points will be applied within 48 hours.

Redemptions are at a rate of 0.5 cents for each point, so a $100 ticket would cost 20,000 Membership Rewards points.

ticketmasteramex

BestBuy.com purchases  

You can also use your Membership Rewards points to pay for purchases on BestBuy.com.

Enter your AmEx card details at checkout, and the checkout system will load the options to use your available points.  Membership Rewards points are worth 0.7 cents per point on BestBuy.com, so every 10,000 points will net $70 at BestBuy.

Newegg.com purchases

Like BestBuy, Newegg will load your Membership Rewards point balance when you use an eligible American Express card when checking out.  Membership Rewards points can be redeemed at a rate of 0.7 cents per point, so 10,000 points would get you $70.

Airbnb

You can use your Amex points directly on the Airbnb site to pay for lodging.  Much like Bestbuy, Amazon, or Ticketmaster, the option to pay with Membership Rewards points is offered at checkout.

Just enter your Amex card as the method of payment when you make a booking (there’s no advance registration or linking required) and you’ll see a box at the bottom with the option to check your points balance.

airbnbamexpoints

Membership Rewards points have a value of 0.7 cents on the Airbnb site, so 10,000 points will get you $70 off of your Airbnb booking, and you can use as few as 143 points at a time. Just select the dollar amount you want to apply toward the booking, and it will tell you how many points you’ll be using. You can pay for the rest of the purchase with your Amex card.

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What are Amex points worth?

As you will see, that depends. We value them at about 2 cents each, but you can see values as poor as 0.5 cents each, and up to 10 cents or more for exotic international first class flights. Using your points directly with Amex (statement credits, shopping, Amex Travel booking) is generally worth 0.5 up to 1 cent per point.

Transferring points to a frequent flyer program can unlock the most value, and you can often see value of 1.5 – 3 cents per point compared to what you’d pay in cash for a ticket. You’ll be considerably ahead of the game by getting 2 cents or more per point out of the Membership Rewards program.

What are the worst ways to redeem Membership Rewards points?

The absolute lowest value ways to redeem Amex points include buying merchandise on the Amex shopping site as well as event ticket purchases via Ticketmaster/Telecharge, where your points will only have a value of around 0.5 cents per point. Cash back via statement credit is also a pretty bad deal, at around 0.6 cents per point, so 10,000 points gets you only $60 in statement credit value.

If you save the points for buying a flight or hotel on the Amex website, you can get $100 in value out of 10,000 points, and if you’re smart about using airline transfer partners you can get $200 or more in value out of 10,000 points.

How to earn Amex points

Amex credit card category bonuses

Amex has several cards that let you rack up Membership Rewards points from all of your spending.

You’ll earn at least 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar you spend, but you can earn a lot more than that thanks to special category bonuses on some cards. Take a look at them, and pick the card that will give you the biggest boost for the categories you use most, or use our calculator to show you which cards will earn you the most based on your spending habits.

Base spending

While most Membership Rewards cards earn a basic 1 point per dollar on most spending, there are a couple that let you earn more than that.

  • Amex Everyday – Get a 20% bonus on all the points you earn each billing period you use your card 20 or more times. So you can earn at least 1.2x points on all your spending.
  • Amex Everyday Preferred – Get a 50% bonus on all the points you earn each billing period you use your card 30 or more times. So you can earn at least 1.5x points on all your spending.

Business spending

  • Business Gold Rewards – Choose 3x points in one of 5 categories – airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. advertising in select media, U.S. gas purchases, U.S. shipping, U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. You also get 2x points in the 4 remaining categories.

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Gas

  • Amex Everyday Preferred – Earns 2x points at U.S. gas stations. Make 30 or more purchases in any category with your card in a billing period and earn 50% extra points on those purchases, so you can earn 3x points at gas stations. $95 annual fee.
  • Amex Premier Rewards Gold – Earns 2x points at U.S. gas stations. $195 annual fee.
  • Mercedes Benz Credit Card – Earns 3x points per dollar at U.S. gas stations. $95 annual fee.

Groceries

  • Amex Everyday – Earns 2x points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets up $6,000 per year. You also get a 20% bonus each billing period you use the card 20 times or more in any category, so you can earn 2.4x points per dollar at supermarkets.
  • Amex Everyday Preferred – Earns 3x points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year. You also get a 50% bonus each billing period you use the card for 30 or more purchases in any category, so you can earn 4.5x points per dollar at supermarkets. $95 annual fee.

restaurant

Restaurants

Amex cards just aren’t as generous as other company’s cards when it comes to earning points for dining, but there are a few that earn double points when you dine out in the U.S.

Travel

All Amex Membership Rewards cards earn 2x on bookings made via AmexTravel.com, where you can book flights, hotels, car rentals, and cruises from most of the major travel companies.

Charge cards (Personal Gold, Platinum, and Centurion; Business Gold, Gold Rewards, Platinum, and Centurion) also earn 2x points and extra benefits with “The Hotel Collection.”

  • The Platinum Card – 5x points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from the airline.
  • Amex Premier Rewards Gold – 3x per dollar on airfare purchased directly from the airline.
  • Business Gold Rewards 3x points in your choice of one of five categories, and airfare is one of the choices, or earn 2x if you choose a different category for the 3x points. There’s a limit of $100,000 in purchases per category that earn 2x or 3x.

The Business Platinum Card also gives you 50% of your points back when you use them to book first or business class tickets on any airline with the Amex Travel website, or when you book economy class tickets on one airline of your choice each year.

Tip: You can also earn 2x Membership Rewards points for all Uber rides when you add and enroll a Membership Rewards card in the Uber app.

uberphoto

American Express rewards credit card offers

The fastest way to rack up Membership Rewards points is to take advantage of big introductory bonus offers for opening a new Amex Membership Rewards card account.

Amex lets you earn one bonus per card in your lifetime, so try to open cards when the offers are big.

You can get a fresh bonus for every different type of Amex card you open, so you could for example earn separate bonuses from the Amex Everyday, Amex Premier Rewards Gold, and Amex Business Gold Rewards cards.  That’s a great way to rack up hundreds of thousands of Membership Rewards points.

Amex Everyday – 10,000 points  

Earn 10,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening. No annual fee. We’ve seen targeted deals as high as 20,000 points for this card.

Amex Everyday Preferred – 15,000 points  

Earn 15,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening. We’ve seen targeted deals as high as 30,000 points for this card.

Mercedes Benz Credit Card – 10,000 points

Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you charge $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of Card Membership.

Amex Premier Rewards Gold – 25,000 points  

Receive 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.

The Platinum Card – 40,000 points  

Get 40,000 points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. We’ve seen targeted deals for this card as high as 100,000 points.

The Business Platinum Card – 100,000 points

Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® points. Offer expires January 25, 2017. Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms & Restrictions Apply. We’ve seen targeted deals as high as 150,000 points for this card.

The Business Gold Rewards Card – 50,000 points

Special Offer: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms & Restrictions apply.

Targeted Amex credit card offers

Amex often makes better offers than those available to the general public available via targeting, and it’s a good idea to see what bonus you might be targeted for before applying. You could find you’re offered tens of thousands more points by taking advantage of a special targeted deal.

There are a few good places to check.

One is CardMatch from CreditCards.com. When you enter some basic personal information, you’ll be shown offers from several credit card companies, including American Express. Some of these offers might be specially targeted to you, and might be higher than typical public offers.

Another is the American Express pre-qualification tool, which lets you see cards that Amex is targeting based on your credit profile and customer history.

amexprequalscreen

Finally, an option that requires no login is to go to AmericanExpress.com using a fresh browser window. You might find deals specially targeted to you.

Checking all three takes just a few minutes, and is well worth it to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Refer a friend bonuses

You can earn tens of thousands of points by telling friends about your Amex Membership Rewards card via the refer a friend program. When they apply for and activate a card, you’ll get your own Membership Rewards bonus.

To see what bonuses are available visit this page and login, then click on the arrow to cycle through your cards and offers.

To refer a friend, just provide the name and email address of the friend you’re referring, and Amex will email the offer on your behalf, with either a standard message, or one you customize. You won’t see whether your friends were approved or rejected and will only know if they went all the way through with the offer when you receive a bonus post to your account.

referafriend

The number of points you earn varies for each card and offer, and there’s a limit to the number of points you can earn from each card referral program.

Tip: 55,000 points maximum seems to be a common limit for Amex’s refer a friend deals, though sometimes the maximum can be lower than that, so check the terms carefully. You can send referral offers to as many friends as you’d like, and even if you reach the limit of points you can earn from a card’s referrals, your friends can still earn their own bonuses.

Do Amex points expire?

Membership Rewards points don’t expire as long as you keep at least one Membership Rewards earning credit or charge card account open in your name.

What happens to Amex points if you cancel a card?

Be careful when you cancel a card, as it’s easy to lose your points.

If you keep another Membership Rewards earning card, nothing will happen and your points are safe.

If you don’t have another Membership Rewards earning card, but have another Amex card like the Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex, then you have 30 days to spend your remaining Membership Rewards points before they are forfeited.

You could for example transfer your points to Air France and keep them there, since they’re out of Amex’s reach at that point.

If you do not have any other American Express card open after you cancel, then your Membership Rewards points are immediately forfeited and lost, so make sure you use or transfer them before you cancel.

What happens when you forfeit Amex points?

It’s possible to forfeit points you earned even if you don’t decide to close your account. The most common ways are:

  • Making late payments. If you don’t pay the amount due by the closing date of your next billing period you’ll forfeit all the points you earned during the statement period. Anything you earned before that is still safe, but the points you earned during the statement month won’t be added to your account. You can get your points back for a $35 fee (on top of your late fee) as long as you do it within 12 months of losing the points.
  • Account inactivity. If Amex cancels your card account due to inactivity, you have 90 days to use your points before they are forfeited. You can’t get them back once the 90 days has passed.
  • Bankruptcy. If you declare bankruptcy, Amex will close your accounts, and forfeit your points. If your account is reinstated within a year you’ll get the points back at no charge.

Can you borrow Amex points?

For those with a long memory, the Amex Points Advance program ended in 2013, so it’s no longer possible to borrow points.

 

 

 

 

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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8 thoughts on AMEX Membership Rewards cheat sheet – How to earn and use your points like a pro

  1. Jan W

    Great review! I’ve recently gotten the Bus Plat. On my initial conversation with a CSR, she mentioned there was also one annual companion pass that could be coupled with the 50% MR rebate for a flight on your selected airline, but I’ve not seen that anywhere else. Anyone have info on that?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Jan – If you book a flight with a Companion Pass booking the primary flight via Amex, then adding the companion afterward via Southwest should work.

      Reply
  2. Larry

    I just got the Amex Business Platinum card with a targeted $10000 min spend. I have Southwest companion pass so I would like to select Southwest for my $200 annual airline fee statement credit. I have read that buying $50 or $100 Southwest gift card on Southwest.com has been working to get the airline fee statement credit. Do you know if that is true? Also the Amex rep said and I have read that you can select Southwest and buy coach tickets with points thru Amex Business Travel Center and get 50% of the points back. But you have to call the center and cannot do it online. Do you know if this is true? I need to select my airline and get my $200 airline fee credit for 2016.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Larry – Yes you need to select Southwest as your airline choice at americanexpress.com/airlinechoice – then when you want to book the flights the terms say:

      “If you select Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, or AirTran Airways, to receive your 50% Airline Bonus you must call Business Platinum Travel Service at 1-800-553-9497. “

      Reply

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