American Express Membership Rewards has always been one of the best credit card rewards programs. It offers lots of ways to redeem your points, including a huge roster of airline and hotel partners, which is a real highlight. You can also choose from several great American Express cards with which to earn Membership Rewards points.
Those points can be very valuable, but that depends in large part on how you redeem them. In this guide, you'll learn all about American Express Membership Rewards points, including what they're worth, how to earn them, and what the best redemption options are.
American Express Membership Rewards points are worth between $0.01 and over $0.03 per point when used correctly. The value depends both on the card you have and how you choose to redeem your points.
Most American Express Membership Rewards cards let you transfer points to travel partners. It partners with over 20 different airlines and hotels, and you can make award bookings through their loyalty programs. Transfers offer the most value for your points because you can get $0.03 per point or more with the right award booking.
American Express also offers several fixed-rate redemptions, including:
These types of redemptions will give you anywhere from $0.005 to $0.01 per point.
To earn American Express Membership Rewards points, you need to open a credit card in the rewards program. Here are the Membership Rewards consumer credit and charge cards you can apply for:
There's also Blue from American Express®, which has lower credit score requirements than most other American Express cards. Although it does earn Membership Rewards points, it doesn't let you transfer points to travel partners and it offers less value when booking or upgrading flights through American Express Travel. Blue from American Express® gives you $0.005 per point on airfare bookings or upgrades, whereas the other cards above offer $0.01 per point.
If you have at least a good credit score, then you should stick to one of the five cards listed. They earn more points and give you better redemption options.
You can buy American Express Membership Rewards points for $0.025 per point, but only during the redemption process. There's a minimum purchase of 1,000 points for $25, and purchases must be made in increments of 1,000 points.
Considering the price, it's not usually worth the money to buy points. You're better off finding ways to maximize the points you earn. The only exception is if you want to make a travel redemption right away and you don't quite have enough points for it.
American Express Membership Rewards points never expire as long as you have an active credit card in that rewards program. If you're planning to cancel your American Express card, make sure you use your points first.
You can lose your points if you violate the card's terms and conditions or try to game the system to earn more points. For example, American Express has been known to cancel card accounts and take back points of consumers who downgrade their cards within 12 months of opening them.
You can redeem American Express Membership Rewards points in the Rewards section of your online account. Alternatively, you can call American Express to redeem your points by phone.
Here's a list of all American Express transfer partners. As you'll see, it's extensive, which is a strong suit of these travel cards. Transfer ratios are even (you get 1,000 points in the loyalty program for every 1,000 Membership Rewards points you transfer) except where otherwise noted.
Most transfers process instantly, but it can take longer. You'll also need to link your loyalty program account before you can make a transfer, which can take a couple of days. You can learn how in the section below.
The other redemption options are:
Although there are quite a few redemptions in the list above, they don't offer much value. The only one worth considering is to book or upgrade a flight through American Express Travel. You can get $0.01 per point that way with all American Express travel cards except Blue from American Express®. It's not great, but it's acceptable if you can't transfer points for the airfare you want.
To redeem American Express Membership Rewards points online:
After you pick how you want to use your rewards, the remainder of the process will depend on the redemption you chose. Each type of redemption is fairly simple to complete.
Note that if you want to transfer points, you'll need to link to your airline or hotel's loyalty program account.
To link a loyalty program account, log in to your American Express account and click on the "Rewards" tab, just like in the steps above.
Click on "Transfer Points." You'll see the featured loyalty programs, and you can click "View All" to see the rest. Click on the airline or hotel. American Express will then ask you to provide the following information:
After you've entered that, click "Link Account" and you're done. American Express and the loyalty program may need a couple of days to verify your account.
It's a good idea to link all your loyalty program accounts as soon as you can. The first time that I transferred Membership Rewards points, I almost missed out on the award airfare I wanted because I didn't realize I'd need to wait for my account to be verified.
Whenever possible, look for opportunities to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to the program's partners. Award travel bookings offer the most value, particularly award tickets booked through airline loyalty programs.
That's the best way to get the most value from your American Express Membership Rewards. But here are some other important pointers:
Many of the best travel rewards cards let you transfer your points, but American Express goes above and beyond with all its travel partners. Whether you're traveling domestically or internationally, you can likely use American Express Membership Rewards points to cover the cost.
We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team. The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.
The Ascent is a Motley Fool service that rates and reviews essential products for your everyday money matters.
Copyright © 2018 - 2021 The Ascent. All rights reserved.