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American Express Membership Rewards are extremely valuable and are probably my favorite rewards program for a number of reasons. The Membership Rewards program has great transfer partners, tons of cards to choose from, amazing sign-up bonuses, and cards with good bonus-earning potential. Here’s a guide to American Express Membership Rewards and some insight into the program.
Transfer partners of Membership Rewards
Membership Rewards that can be transferred to a variety of travel partners and they are listed below:
These partners do not have all have the same transfer ratios as you can see below:
- Delta Skymiles
- Club Premier AeroMexico (1,000 = 1,600 premier points)
- Aeroplan Air Canada
- Flying Blue Air France/KLM
- MilleMigilia Club Alitalia
- Asia Miles
- Avios British Airways
- El Al (1,000 = 20 Matmid points)
- Emirates Skyrewards
- Etihad Guest
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue (250 points = 200 TrueBlue points)
- KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines
- Virgin America (200 points = 100 Elevate points)
- Virgin Atlantic
- Choice Privileges
- Hilton HHonors (1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points)
- SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) (1,000 points = 333 Starpoints)
Personally, I get substantial value out of Membership Rewards with Star Alliance partners: Aeroplan (Air Canada), ANA, and Singapore Airlines. All three of these Star Alliance partners have excellent redemption rates that I can use with airlines like United and other partners.
For those looking to fly SkyTeam partners like Delta, Flying Blue, AeroMexico, and MilleMigilia, Membership Rewards can be very useful as well.
Unfortunately, after the recent devaluation of the transfer rate to British Airways/Iberia, I no longer rely on Membership Rewards for British Airways transfers (I go through Chase Ultimate Rewards for that). However, you still have Asia Miles for a OneWorld partner.
One thing I really love about American Express is its bonus transfer specials.
On occasion, Amex will allow you to transfer Membership Rewards to other partners with bonus transfer rates that increase the transfer rate up to 50%. Amex doesn’t offer bonus rates for all of their partners and some bonuses are much rarer than others, so you may not know when the next bonus is coming. However, you can view the breakdown of these bonus offers over the past few years on this thread on Flytertalk, where you’ll be able to pick up on some patterns and trends with the bonuses.
Different ways to redeem points
Membership Rewards can be redeemed in the following ways:
- Between .5 and 1.0 cent per point for gift cards
- 0.6 cent per point for a statement credit/charge.
- 1.0 cent per point on air fare
- 0.7 cent per point on hotels, cruises, and vacation packages.
Personally, I don’t ever redeem my Membership Rewards for any of these. That’s for a couple of reasons. Number one, I usually use Membership Rewards to book business or first class seats and those redemptions give me far more value than these options (more on that below). Second, I try to keep my redemptions for Membership Rewards at at least 2 cents per point, which is about how much most value them at.
That’s not to say that it’s a terrible deal redeeming at 1 cent per point for gift cards or even air fare, but for me personally, it’s just a bit too low. I also think the only instances where I’d use Membership Rewards for hotel stays at .7 cent per point would be a situation where I just really did not want to spend any cash whatsoever and/or where there’s limited availability.
Thus, unless I’m just trying to dump left-over points, I’m transferring them to a travel partner.
Membership Rewards cannot be freely transferred
This is one of the bummers about Membership Rewards — you can’t transfer your points between partners whenever you wish. Other programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi Thankyou Points allow you to pool points, although they do implement some restrictions.
There is a way around this apparent limitation, however. You can make someone an authorized user on a Membership Rewards earning card and then transfer your points to their frequent flyer account, which effectively works like pooling would. A card like the Amex EveryDay is a perfect card to use for this task since it comes with no annual fee!
When do Membership Rewards expire?
Membership Rewards don’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder.
If you cancel your Membership Rewards earning card you’ll lose your points instantly. The only exception is if you have another Amex card that doesn’t earn Membership Rewards, in which case you’ll get 30 days to get rid of your points. Again because the Amex EveryDay is a no annual fee credit card, it’s perfect for storing your points if you need to cancel other cards.
Ways to earn Membership Rewards
It’s true that in the vast majority of cases, you’re only given one bonus per lifetime for a card and that would appear to be severely limiting. However, one thing that sets Membership Rewards apart from other programs is the buffet of options that Amex gives you for earning Membership Rewards.
Compared to Chase or Citi, American Express blows them out of the water in terms of quantity offered.
Here is a list of American Express cards that can earn you Membership Rewards and some of the best offers that have been offered with the cards recently.
- EveryDay Card (25K)
- EveryDay Preferred Card (30K)
- Green Card (25K)
- Gold Card (25K)
- Different versions of this card available
- Premier Rewards Gold Card (50K)
- Platinum Card from American Express (100K)
- There are about 6 versions of this card, although not all offer such great sign-up bonuses
- Business Platinum Card from American Express (100K)
- Business Rewards Gold Card (75K)
That’s over eight different ways to earn Membership Rewards. The number of options along with the large sign-up bonuses make it extremely easy to rack up up Membership Rewards, especially over the long-term if you properly pace yourself.
The earning system for American Express is much simpler than that for Chase and is pretty much the polar opposite of the confusing
mess system that Citi uses.
For Membership Rewards, your cumulative earnings from all of your cards are deposited into the same Membership Rewards account. That means there’s no need to transfer points earned from individual cards into other accounts or keep up with points that might expire. This makes keeping up with your Membership Rewards extremely simple and straightforward.
How long do Membership Rewards take to post?
After you hit your minimum spend, your points may appear in your Membership Rewards account in a matter of days, though sometimes it might take longer. The main exception is for first-time cardholders. If you’re hitting the bonus on your first American Express card, then expect to wait up to an additional billing cycle for your points to hit.
Tip: You can always request for your points to be expedited but YMMV on how fast they process your request.
How long do Membership Rewards points take to transfer?
The answer to this question depends on which partners you’re transferring to. The great thing is that many of the partners have an instant transfer time. Although the website states to allow 48 hours, in my experience the transfer time is more or less instant for these partners.
Here are the instant transfer partners:
- Air Canada
- British Airways
- EL AL
- Flying Blue (AF/KL)
- Virgin America
Non-instant transfer times:
- Virgin Atlantic (1 to 2 days)
- All Nippon (2 to 4 business days)
- Singapore (3 business days)
- Asia Miles (3 to 7 days, but allow up to 90 days)
- Iberia (4 to 7 days)
- AeroMexico (14 business days)
Great bonus category cards
Not only are Membership Rewards easy to get with sign-up bonuses, but there are a few options that are exceptional point earners with bonus category spend.
The EveryDay Preferred Card is one of the best bonus category earning cards (if not the best) out of all the rewards credit cards with its potential 50% bonus on earnings at the end of each month. If you don’t want to go for it because of the annual fee then you can always consider its little bother, the EveryDay card. The EveryDay card still earns decent bonus earnings and is the only no annual fee card that allows you to transfer points to travel partners (out of Amex, Chase, and Citi).
Finally, for serious travelers the Premier Rewards Gold Card is a solid choice. In addition to its great sign-up bonus, it offers 3X on airfare and 2X on dining, gas, and supermarkets. It also comes with a $100 statement credit and great purchase protections.
As already stated, I like to get at least 2 cents per point from my use of Membership Rewards. And honestly, I really like to get much more value.
As an example, I recently booked a fare for me and Brad to Norway. I transferred 110,000 Membership Rewards to Aeroplan to make this booking with Star Alliance partners United and Scandinavian Airlines (“SAS”). These two tickets would have cost me: $15,068. I paid $23.97 in fees in total fees. That means that my points were redeemed for about 13.6 cents per point, which is very good. Remember by booking travel with your points you’re only redeeming at 1 cent per point.
There are plenty of other ways to great value like this but I just like to point out awesome redemptions like that so people really get to see how much value you can get by transferring points.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.