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American Express Rewards guide: How to earn and use Membership Rewards points

Find out more about the rewards program for frequent travelers who love lounge access and other luxury travel perks


Our American Express Membership Rewards guide gives you the full rundown on earning and redeeming points and helps you select the best card.

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If you love luxury travel perks, or if you love collecting large intro offers to finance your travels around the world, then you should consider applying for an American Express Membership Rewards card or two.

What is American Express Membership Rewards?

The American Express Membership Rewards loyalty program is the rewards program of choice for frequent travelers who love lounge access and other luxury travel perks.

It has its quirks, but thanks to its prodigious array of cards with generous welcome offers and a large list of travel partners that you can transfer points to (mostly at a 1:1 rate), the Membership Rewards program should definitely be a point on your journey toward traveling the world on rewards points.

American Express Membership Rewards program overview

Type of currencyFlexible points
Average point value2 cents
Credit cardsAmex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express*,American Express® Green Card*,American Express® Gold Card,The Platinum Card® from American Express,The Blue Business Plus® Credit Card from American Express,Business Green Rewards Card from American Express*,American Express® Business Gold Card,The Business  Platinum Card® from American Express,Blue from American Express card*, Amex EveryDay Preferred card*
Redemption optionsAirfare, hotels, vacations, car rentals, cruises, merchandise, gift cards, NYC taxi, Amazon purchases, Grubhub delivery, event tickets, donations, statement credits, transfer to a travel partner
Minimum required to redeem
  • 5,000 points for American Express Travel
  • 1,000 points for statement credits and transfers
Do rewards expire?No
Blackout dates/travel restrictionsNone, pending availability
Point transfer options
  • 20 airline and hotel partners
  • Membership Rewards pool into a common account, so no transferring from card to card
  • 0.06 cents per point for transfers to U.S.-based airlines; no fee to transfer to non-U. S. airlines or hotels
  • $6.99 per domestic plane ticket or vacation package through Amex Travel, waived if you have the Platinum card
  • $10.99 per international plane ticket or vacation package through Amex Travel, waived if you have the Platinum card
  • $39 per airfare or vacation package if you book over the phone instead of online
  • No fee for hotel or cruise bookings
Best for
  • Frequent travelers
  • Heavy spenders
  • Business travelers
  • Luxury travelers
  • Delta flyers

How to earn American Express Membership Rewards points

Membership Rewards are the signature rewards points offered by American Express. You’ll earn these points by using premium Amex cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card. The full suite of Membership Rewards-earning cards includes personal, small business and corporate cards.

You can earn American Express points in many ways, the easiest of which is making purchases on your Amex card. Most rewards cards offer at least 1 point per dollar spent, so as long as you’re using the card, you’re earning Membership Rewards points.

What points can you earn with co-branded Amex cards?

American Express also has a number of co-branded cards with its travel partners. Co-branded Amex cards do not earn Membership Rewards points; instead, they earn the loyalty program points of Amex partners instead. Here are a few examples of co-branded Amex cards and the points you’ll earn by using them:

However, points you earn by using a co-branded card will be less flexible than Membership Rewards points because they are tied to a specific airline or hotel. Nevertheless, if you’re a loyal Delta passenger or Hilton guest, having one of these cards in your wallet will serve you well.

Do Membership Rewards points expire?

Membership Rewards points do not expire, but American Express stipulates that they may be forfeited in certain instances, such as if you return an item you had paid for with your Amex card. If your card is active and your account is in good standing, you’ll be able to collect as many Membership Rewards as you want without worrying about an expiration date.

Welcome offers and referral bonuses are other major point-earners, as are Amex Offers, which are special offers that feature limited-time point bonuses at select retailers. Unlocking bonus value will take some strategy, but even with low effort, a rewards card should save you money annually.

One point is better than none, but to maximize the rewards you get for spending, you’ll need to use several cards that complement each other with bonus rewards rates in different categories. Even better, if you have multiple American Express credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points, your points will automatically be combined into a single Rewards account.

For example, you can use the Platinum Card to earn 5X points on flights booked directly with the airline or flights or prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). The Gold Card is another one with a great category bonus — 4X points spent at restaurants or at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases each year, then 1X).

Not every purchase you make will earn multiple Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, but by using more than one American Express rewards cards, you can match most major expenses with maximized rewards. For diehard Amex fans who are also business owners, you can even try for the Amex trifecta.

What are Membership Rewards points worth?

The value of American Express points varies based on what you use them for and how you redeem them. Consider the following scenario:

You have been approved for the American Express Green Card. After spending $2,000 in the first three months, you are awarded an introductory bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points. If you spent $1,000 on dining, transit and eligible travel worldwide (which earn 3X points) you’d have 33,000 points at a bare minimum. With 33,000 points in hand, some of your redemption options include:

  • Booking airfare through American Express Travel (redeeming for airfare makes each point worth 1 cent, except if using the Blue from American Express card) — total value of points: $330
  • Transferring points to Delta Air Lines and converting to SkyMiles (points transfer at a 1:1 ratio with Delta SkyMiles worth 1.41 cents per mile) — total value of points: $465.30
  • Redeeming points as a statement credit (in which case, points are worth 0.6 cents apiece) — total value of points: $198

As you can see, the value fluctuates greatly across redemption options. How exactly those values are determined is a fluid formula, partly established by American Express, its travel partners and a number of other outside influences.

CreditCards.com has available a comprehensive guide to Membership Rewards point value, which includes the many redemption options American Express provides. Because these numbers can change, be sure to check often for updates.

Membership Rewards vs. Amex co-branded card points

Point values fluctuate, welcome offers come and go and partner relationships change. Finding the card that’s right for you is as much a game of staying in the know as it is of managing your expenses. Fortunately for American Express cardholders, several travel partners have become almost synonymous with Amex points-earning.

Putting a true value on those points can be tricky, however. Personal hotel preferences, flight destinations and other factors can add intangible value to points earned on Amex cards. From strictly a dollar-value perspective, points you can earn on American Express cards are roughly the following values:

Point values can shift often, and resources like The Points Guy report point values monthly, which provides good insight on one of the first factors to consider when applying for a new American Express card. The key takeaway here is that Membership Rewards have a fluid value — 2 cents per point is an average of the value you can expect when redeeming them, according to our own valuations.

Membership Rewards are much more flexible than any partner points program, but if you are loyal to a particular brand you may find more value in the co-branded card.

So which points are better? The answer is subjective. It depends on your spending habits, travel preferences and location. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Are you loyal to one airline or hotel brand?
  • How many times in a year do you fly or stay in a hotel?
  • Does an Amex partner airline have a hub in your city?
  • Does loyalty program status matter to you?
  • What are your rewards program goals?

Answering these questions will help you prioritize the benefits you want, need and will use the most. As a rule of thumb, if you’re just starting out in the rewards points game, opting for the most flexible points program is probably the best route.

With cards like the Amex EveryDay Credit Card, you can test the waters and “underutilize” Membership Rewards without having to pay an annual fee. Once you’re more comfortable with American Express’ rewards program, you can apply for a premium card with a higher point-earning potential and use your rewards with confidence.

Membership Rewards vs. other issuer rewards programs

Credit card users have a bevy of rewards program options, starting with some of the biggest issuers in the world, but also including nearly every bank and credit union that offers cards.

American Express has a well-tread rewards program history for good reason, as its extensive list of partnerships and points flexibility is on par with today’s best (although Chase Ultimate Rewards slightly edges it out on points value, as noted below).

If you’re considering a new rewards credit card, it’s a good idea to take a look at the leading programs and see how they stack up against one another before applying for any of them. From a pure cent-per-point perspective, the following are the estimated point values for major rewards programs:

The factors that lead to these monetary valuations include the number of partner airlines, transfer ratios, redemption options and more. Another point to consider when talking about value is the rewards rate offered by issuers on their respective premium cards. If you’re planning on booking a flight, take note of the following rewards rates:

American Express Platinum Card: 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)

From just looking at cent-per-point value and rewards rates, the argument can be made that American Express Membership Rewards holds some of the highest value among major rewards programs. There are certainly other rewards cards in each issuer’s suite, and the debate over whose cards are best gets sticky when you also consider annual fees, category spending and credit limits.

It’s safe to say, though, that no matter what card you choose, as long as you’re earning back more than what you pay in annual fees, you’re winning as a rewards card user.

How to redeem Membership Rewards

You have a number of options when redeeming your American Express Membership Rewards, but if you’re looking for the absolute highest value, stick to airfare.

Transferring to a partnering airline generally garners the best cent-per-point ratio but booking through American Express Travel is also a good option. This is especially true if you have the Business Platinum Card, since booking airfare with this card on your selected airline offers a 35 percent points rebate (on up to 500,000 points per calendar year when booked through amextravel.com).

Some other popular redemption options include:

  • Gift cards — up to 1 cent per point (except when purchasing an Amex gift card, where points are valued at 0.5 cents per point)
  • Shopping with points (Amazon, Best Buy and more) — 0.7 cents per point
  • Purchasing event tickets — 0.5 cents per point for event tickets at Ticketmaster
  • Charitable donations — 0.7 cents per point

For a complete list of redemption options and the value of points in their respective categories, visit our Membership Rewards redemption guide.

Membership Rewards transfer partners

With 20 travel partners, American Express offers plenty of options if you’re looking to transfer your Membership Rewards. Additionally, the partner points you can earn using a co-branded Amex card are valuable in their own right, especially if you are already loyal to that particular brand.

When it comes to transferring points, airfare is generally your best bet for getting more than 1 cent per point of value. Some of American Express’ best airline partners for transferring points are:

  • Delta SkyMiles: — Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, worth 1.41 cents per point
  • Singapore KrisFlyer: — Points transfer at 1:1 ratio, worth 1.3 cents per point

The loyalty points programs of Amex’s hotel partners are not as generous when it comes to value. Transferring points to Choice Privileges and Marriott Bonvoy (a 1:1 ratio) will yield less than 1 cent per point for your Membership Rewards. The transfer ratio to Hilton Honors is 1:2, with points worth 0.6 cents.

For that reason, if you frequent these hotels and you want to boost your rewards, you’re better off with an American Express co-branded card. Consider the following top options:

Transferring Membership Rewards to one of Amex’s travel partners does require a little bit of research. Although transfer values are usually higher for airlines, costs fluctuate regularly, so you may not necessarily get the exact value you were hoping for. These are the key points to keep in mind when making a partner transfer.

It’s also important to remember that once you’ve transferred your Membership Rewards to a partner loyalty program, airline or hotel, you cannot convert them back into Membership Rewards points. It’s not a two-way street.

Check out our guide on Amex transfer partners for tips on getting the most bang for your points.

American Express perks and benefits

American Express Membership Rewards are valuable, but what makes Amex stand out is its customer service, perks package and special benefits you won’t find anywhere else. If you’re relatively new to Amex rewards, one of the most valuable tidbits you can learn: Never shop online without first checking Amex Offers.

Amex Offers are special deals from American Express’ network of retail partners, which includes Shiseido, Google Photos, Wine Insiders, Ray-Ban and more.

You can access Amex Offers through your online account or the Amex app, where you’ll find big discounts or limited-time points offers on purchases. Simply activate the offer, complete the purchase and enjoy more points than you normally would.

Beyond helping you save at the point-of-purchase, American Express rewards cards offer great value in the form of perks:

Benefit / cardAmerican Express Green Card
($150 annual fee)
American Express Gold Card
($250 annual fee)
The Platinum Card from American Express
($695 annual fee)
Extended warranty
Purchase protection
Return protection
Baggage insurance plan
Car rental loss & damage insurance
Global assist hotline
Trip cancellation insurance
Trip delay insurance

American Express also offers a variety of car rental benefits that are worth checking out if you’re in the market for renting a car.

Bottom line

Maximizing the value of your American Express Membership Rewards is equal parts spending and strategizing — spending in the categories that yield the most rewards and strategizing your redemptions to glean the most value from them. The choice is yours, and as long as you’re achieving your goal, whether that be a “free” vacation or regularly upgraded hotel stays, it’s hard to complain. To sum it up:

  • Carry cards that complement each other’s spending categories. Use different cards to earn more than 1 point per dollar on as many purchases as possible.
  • Pay off your balances. Carrying a balance and paying interest on rewards cards will quickly negate the benefits you may earn.
  • Sign up for loyalty programs. Sign up for a loyalty program (it’s free anyway) you think you would like to transfer your Amex points to.
  • Transfer your points when possible. Magnify the worth of your intro offer and transfer those points to a travel partner.

You’ll experience a certain amount of trial-and-error when it comes to maximizing the rewards you earn on your credit cards. If you’re putting in your research and spending wisely, you’ll quickly realize how beneficial frequent use of an American Express card can be.

*Information about the American Express Green Card, Amex EveryDay Credit Card, Amex EveryDay Preferred card, Business Green Rewards Card from American Express, Blue from American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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