American Express Membership Rewards Program: Your Complete Guide

A woman waits for a flight she booked with her Amex Membership Rewards points.
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Yiu Yu Hoi / Getty Images

Credit card holders with select American Express credit cards can earn points in the Membership Rewards program. As a member, you’ll get a long list of redemption options, but values are mostly low if you redeem directly with Amex. That said, leveraging transfer partners can help you maximize value.

What Is the American Express Membership Rewards Program?

American Express Membership Rewards is the card issuer’s flagship rewards program. It offers flexible rewards points that you can use for a variety of different redemptions. You’ll automatically join when you open a card that’s part of the program.

Credit Cards That Offer Amex Membership Rewards

Pros
  • Flexible redemption options

  • Numerous transfer partners

  • Some cards offer valuable travel and dining benefits

Cons
  • Values are low for many redemption options

  • Maximizing point value requires some legwork

  • Some cards charge steep annual fees

How to Earn Membership Rewards

The Amex Membership Rewards program provides multiple ways to accumulate rewards through welcome bonuses and spending.

1. Earn a New-Cardholder Bonus

With the exception of the Blue from American Express and Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express, each credit card in the Membership Rewards program comes with a welcome offer. Values of these offers can range depending on the card and whether there’s a limited-time promotional offer that exceeds the base offer. 

In general, though, you’ll need to spend a certain amount within a predetermined period to qualify for the one-time bonus. Once you meet the spending requirement, you’ll receive your points within eight to 12 weeks.  

For example, the American Express Gold Card offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on the card in the first six months after opening your account.

Amex welcome offers can be an excellent way to earn rewards fast, especially if you want to transfer your points to one of the bank’s airline or hotel partners. 

Amex generally has a lifetime limit of only one welcome offer per card. So if you’ve had a card before—or its predecessor, as some cards get revamped with new names—you may not qualify for the welcome offer.

2. Use American Express Cards for Groceries, Dining, and Travel

Each card within the Membership Rewards program comes with its own flavor of rewards-earning possibilities based on your spending. That being said, many of the cards offer bonus rewards on everyday spending categories like travel, groceries, and restaurants.

Also, consider each card’s annual fee, as that cost can offset the value you’re getting from a card’s rewards and other perks.

Credit Card Annual Fee Rewards Earning Rate
Blue from American Express $0 1 point per dollar on all purchases
Amex EveryDay Credit Card $0 2 points per dollar on up to $6,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases; earn 20% more points when you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period
Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card $95 3 points per dollar on up to $6,000 spent annually  at U.S. supermarkets, 2 points per dollar at U.S. gas stations, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases; earn 50% more points when you make 30 or more purchases in a billing period
American Express Green Card $150 3 points per dollar on restaurants, transit, and travel, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
American Express Gold Card $250 4 points per dollar at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and on up to $25,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets, 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, and 1 point per dollar on everything else
Platinum Card from American Express $550 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel and hotels prepaid through Amex Travel, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express $0 2 points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent each year, then 1 point per dollar after that
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express $0 the first year, then $95 2 points per dollar on eligible purchases made with Amex Travel and 1 point per dollar on everything else
American Express Business Gold Card $295 4 points per dollar on up to $150,000 spent annually in two of six categories where your business spends the most in a billing cycle, plus 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Business Platinum Card from American Express $595 5 points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, 1.5 points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

3. Shop Through Amex Offers

Through Amex Offers you can earn statement credits or additional rewards on purchases made with select merchants. You can access your offers through your account and choose which ones to add to your card. 

One example we found is the chance to earn 5 additional points per dollar spent at Olive Garden restaurants, up to 5,000 points in total. Keep in mind that these offers expire, so you’ll want to make sure you take advantage of them before they’re gone.   

4. Refer Friends and Family Members

Cardholders can share a referral link with family members and friends who can use it to apply for any American Express personal or business credit card. If they get approved, you’ll receive bonus points based on the card you have. In some cases, the person you refer may earn bonus rewards, too. 

In one example we found, Blue Business Plus cardholders could earn 15,000 points for each approved referral, up to 55,000 points per year. If the person who used your referral link got the Blue Business Plus, they could earn 10,000 points when they spend $3,000 in the first three months, a nice perk considering the card doesn’t normally offer sign-up bonuses.

Do Amex Membership Rewards Points Expire? 

There’s no expiration date on your points. However, if you miss a payment on your account, you may lose all the points you earned during that statement period. You can get those points back if you get current on your account and pay a $35 fee for each billing period affected.

What Are Amex Membership Rewards Points Worth?

How much your points are worth varies depending on how you use your rewards. In general, though, Membership Rewards points are worth 1.14 cents apiece on average, according to The Balance’s research. Here’s how each redemption option breaks down:

  • Transfer points to travel partners: An average of 2.19 cents per point with airline partners and 1.11 cents per point with hotel partners.
  • American Express Travel: 1 cent per point on flights, including upgrades, and 0.7 cent per point on all other travel redemptions.
  • Gift cards: Between 0.5 cent and 1 cent per point, depending on the merchant.
  • Pay with points at multiple retailers: Between 0.5 cent and 1 cent per point when you use your points to shop at 15 different retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Grubhub, NYC Taxi, Rite Aid, and Ticketmaster.
  • Statement credits: 0.6 cent per point.
  • Merchandise: 0.5 cent per point when you shop in Amex’s catalog.

How to Use Amex Membership Rewards Points

The best way to use your Membership Rewards points is to transfer them to an Amex travel partner. From there, you can determine the value of your points by dividing the value of the flight or hotel stay by the number of points or miles required to book.

Transfer Points to Travel Partners

The Balance values Membership Rewards points at 2.19 cents apiece, on average, when you transfer them to an airline partner and 1.11 cents each for transfers to hotel partners. 

You can submit your transfer request through your online account as long as you have an account with the transfer partner before you make your request. The ratio is 1:1 for most partners but can vary.

Travel Partner Transfer Ratio
Aer Lingus AerClub 1,000 points to 1,000 Avios
Aeromexico Club Premier 1,000 points to 1,600 points
Air Canada Aeroplan 1,000 points to 1,000 points
Flying Blue (Air France and KLM) 1,000 points to 1,000 miles
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1,000 points to 1,000 miles
ANA Mileage Club 1,000 points to 1,000 miles
Asia Miles 1,000 points to 1,000 miles
Avianca LifeMiles 1,000 points to 1,000 LifeMiles
British Airways Executive Club 1,000 points to 1,000 Avios
Delta SkyMiles 1,000 points to 1,000 miles
Emirates Skywards 1,000 points to 1,000 miles
Etihad Guest 1,000 points to 1,000 miles
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles 1,000 points to 1,000 miles
Iberia Plus 1,000 points to 1,000 Avios
JetBlue TrueBlue 250 points to 200 points
Qantas Frequent Flyer 500 points to 500 points
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 1,000 points to 1,000 miles
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1,000 points to 1,000 points
Choice Privileges Rewards 1,000 points to 1,000 points
Hilton Honors 1,000 points to 2,000 points
Marriott Bonvoy  1,000 points to 1,000 points

Transfers to Aeroplan and Delta SkyMiles are instant, but you may need to wait up to five days for transfers to other programs. The program terms don’t list a maximum number of points you can transfer, but you can’t reverse a points transfer once it’s been completed.

Amex charges an “excise tax offset fee” when you transfer your points to a U.S.-based airline partner. The fee is .06 cent per point, so redeeming 10,000 points would cost $6. You can pay for that fee with your card or with points at a rate of .5 cent per point (a $6 fee requires 1,200 points). 

Book Travel Through American Express

You can use your points to book flights, flight upgrades, prepaid hotels, prepaid rental cars, cruises, and vacation packages through American Express Travel. You can also use your points to pay when you book hotels and flights through Expedia.com. 

The Balance values travel redemptions for flights at 1 cent per point and hotels at 0.7 cent per point. We recommend using your points for flights, as they offer the minimum value you should get out of travel redemptions. If you don’t have enough points to cover the full cost of your reservation, you can pay the remaining balance with your card.

One of the benefits of this option is that you don’t have to worry about blackout dates or award restrictions, which can occur with airline and hotel rewards programs. You can go through this entire process using your online account, too.

If you cancel a trip booked with points through American Express Travel, Amex will return the points to your account in the form of a statement credit.

Redeem for a Statement Credit

You can use your points to cover charges you’ve already made with your card at a rate of 0.6 cent per point. Review eligible charges on your current online statement, redeem, and you’ll get a statement credit within 48 hours. There is a 1,000-point minimum on these redemptions. 

Other Ways to Use Membership Rewards Points

There are a few other ways you can use your American Express Membership Rewards points, but we don’t recommend them unless you can get 1 cent per point in value:

  • Redeem points for gift cards at a rate of 0.5 cent to 1 cent per point, depending on the merchant.
  • Shop with points at online retailers and services including Amazon, Best Buy, Boxed, Dell.com, Grubhub, JustGiving, and Walmart (redemption values range from 0.5 cent to 1 cent per point).
  • Shop for merchandise in Amex’s catalog at a rate of 0.5 cent per point.

Key Takeaways

American Express Membership Rewards points are best suited for frequent travelers who have the time and savvy to maximize their rewards through high-value point transfers. While you can get up to 1 cent per point in value when you redeem with Amex, options for that redemption valuation are limited.

The best way to earn Membership Rewards points is to pick one or more credit cards based on your spending habits. The more focused you can be with earning bonus rewards, the easier it will be to earn rewards fast.