Amex Membership Rewards vs Ultimate Rewards [2021]

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Amex Membership Rewards vs Ultimate Rewards — which program is better and offers more value?

This is a very difficult question to answer because there are so many variables that go into the answer and many of them depend on your personal preferences.

Below, I will break down the different areas of comparison and highlight the differences between these two programs.

Eligibility concerns

One of the biggest concerns you should be thinking about is the eligibility strategy to earn lots of Amex Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards.

All Chase cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule which generally means you should prioritize getting approved for Chase cards first. So most people should seek to earn lots of Ultimate Rewards first.

Failing to do this could result in you being unable to earn Ultimate Rewards for quite a while.

Chase also limits you to one Sapphire bonus per 48 month period. (Getting a Sapphire card is the primary way to earn lots of Ultimate Rewards with personal credit cards.)

This usually means you want to go after the Sapphire card with the higher bonus first and then look into potential upgrade/downgrade possibilities.

The big eligibility concern with American Express is the “once per lifetime rule” which states that you can only earn a welcome bonus once per lifetime.

In reality, people are able to earn a bonus a second time after waiting several years (~5 years) after closing a card but that is not always guaranteed.

This means that you want to focus on earning the best welcome bonuses for American Express cards. Basically, you just don’t want to settle for mediocre bonuses because you may not have a second shot at it.

Tip: You can use the mobile app WalletFlo to automate the calculations for all of your credit card eligibility questions.

Earning options

The earning options can be divided up into earning points via: 1) welcome bonuses, 2) bonus spend categories, 3) shopping portals/offers, and 4) referral offers.

When it comes to welcome bonuses I give the edge to American Express but when it comes to earning points with your spend I give the edge to Chase.

I’ll explain why below.

Welcome bonuses

One major advantage that American Express has over Chase is that they offer more opportunities to earn points (in this case Amex Membership Rewards).

Membership Rewards earning cards that stand out include the:

American Express also has a stout lineup of business cards which include the Business Platinum Card and Business Gold Card.

By pursuing a few of these cards you could easily earn 300,000 to 400,000 Membership Rewards pretty quickly.

With Chase, it is a little harder harder to accumulate points (Ultimate Rewards) via bonuses because there are only a couple of personal cards to choose from.

Typically, you will have to choose between the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred and you are forced to wait 48 months between getting a bonus for those cards.

You could add on a Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Freedom Unlimited but the bonuses are often relatively low for those cards.

The good news is that Chase has a solid lineup of small business credit cards.

If you can get on board with cards like the Chase Ink Business Preferred, Chase Ink Unlimited, and Chase Ink Business Cash, you can still come away with tons of Ultimate Rewards.

With Chase, it would be much harder to get to around 300,000+ points on average which is one disadvantage compared to American Express.

Bonus spend categories

You can earn a lot of points with your bonus spend with both American Express and Chase cards.

I would probably give the edge to Chase here because of the potential to earn points with no annual fee cards.

If you were to get the “Chase Trifecta” your earnings could look like this:

  • Sapphire Preferred: 2X on dining and travel
  • Freedom Unlimited: 1.5 X on all purchases + 3X on dining, drug stores, and 5X on Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal
  • Freedom Flex: 5X on rotating categories + 3X on dining, drug stores, and 5X on Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal

Considering that you can earn those bonus categories while only paying one ($95) annual fee, that is pretty strong.

But you could even sweeten up the deal by getting a business card like the Chase Ink Business Cash which earns 5X at office supply stores, cable, Internet, and phone bills in addition to 2X on dining and gas (spending caps apply of $25,000).

Once again, the Chase Ink Business Cash has no annual fee so the earning-to-fee ratio with Chase is extremely hard to beat.

American Express also offers some fantastic earning opportunities. In fact, they offer some of the highest rates for key categories.

I am a huge fan of earning points with the Amex Gold Card which earns 4X on dining and US supermarkets (up to $25K/year) as well as 3X on airfare.

The Green Card is also a pretty great earner with 3X on dining and travel, similar to the Sapphire Reserve (but with a much lower annual fee).

And finally, the Platinum Card comes in strong on airfare by earning a whopping 5X (it also earns 5X on pre-paid hotels booked through Amex Travel).

Across the board these are very high bonus earning rates that are some of the best you will find out of any credit cards.

The drawback with American Express is that if you start stacking bonus earning opportunities with their best cards you will start racking up big annual fee costs.

For example, the three cards above would cost you over $900 in annual fees!

Most of these annual fees can be offset by utilizing the perks that come with the cards but that is not the case for everybody. So for that reason I think Chase is the winner here — it’s just easier to get more bang for your buck.

Shopping portals

Chase has one advantage over American Express with its shopping portal which allows you to earn additional Ultimate Rewards when you make purchases online.

American Express lacks a shopping portal but they do have Amex Offers. These offers will often save you money but they also can sometimes help you earn additional Membership Rewards. (Chase has a similar offers program but it’s not as developed.)

Referral offers

Both of these programs will allow you to earn points by referring your family and friends to your cards. But American Express has a more robust referral system.

For one, some major cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve have not seen referrals for a while. Second, the referral amounts that you can earn by referring your friends may be much higher with American Express.

Recently, American Express allowed card members of the Platinum and Gold Cards to earn 30,000 points per referral which is pretty insane.

If you think that you will have people who will gladly use your links to apply for cards then you might want to consider American Express which will likely be more rewarding in that regard.

Related: Amex Refer A Friend: How to Get Links (Offers, Bonuses) 

Redemption options

I’ll talk about transfer partner possibilities below but first I will hit on the different types of redemption possibilities.

Cash back

You can always redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards for at least one cent per point which allows all of the Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards to become cashback cards (if desired).

For people who don’t travel a lot or have unpredictable travel plans, this cashback option is a huge advantage for Chase.

Chase also has a major leg up because of the Chase Travel Portal. In the Chase Travel Portal, you can redeem your points for increased bonus rates if you have a premium card like the Sapphire Preferred or the Sapphire Reserve.

The Sapphire Preferred can redeem points towards travel at a rate of 1.25 cents per point while the Sapphire Reserve can redeem points toward travel at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.

Being able to redeem your points for 1.5 cents per point is a huge advantage because it allows you to get respectable value for your points for various travel expenses including flights, hotels, etc.

In a number of cases that will offer you better value than transferring your points.

Meanwhile, American Express does not have great all-around redemption possibilities.

If you were to redeem your points for a statement credit you would only get .6 cents per point which is just not great at all.

Note that there have been targeted offers allowing customers to redeem at higher rates. Also, if you have the Platinum Card Schwab version you can cash out your points at 1.25 cents per point.

If you were to utilize your points for hotel stays, rental cars, or cruises via Amex Travel the redemption rate is also pretty abysmal — only .7 cents per point.

The only somewhat decent redemption rate through Amex Travel is for flights which go for one cent per point for standard Amex cards which still is not exceptional.

The exception is if you have a Business Gold Card or a Business Platinum Card and you can take advantage of the airline bonus.

The Business Gold Card will give you a 25% bonus while the Business Platinum Card will give you a 35% bonus which comes out to 1.54 cents per point.

That is a really solid rate for flights but you are limited to select airlines for economy flights (you can get a bonus on any airline for premium cabins).

So overall I would definitely give the nod to Chase when it comes to better options for redeeming points outside of travel partners. American Express still has some great opportunities but they are a bit limited depending on the type of cards you have.

Transfer partners

When it comes to determining the better or more valuable transfer partners this really comes down to personal preference and or geographic location for a lot of people.

Personal preference will affect things like your preference for certain types of airlines, patience for dealing with booking procedures, etc.

Some people don’t mind missing out on super lucrative sweet spots because they find the booking process too time-consuming or difficult.

Geographic location often means considering your nearby airline hubs or proximity to desired destinations (e.g., East Coast to Europe, West Coast to Hawaii, etc.).

For example, if you live in Houston, Chase offers one to one transfer opportunities to both United and Southwest — two airlines that have a huge presence in Houston.

That makes is really convenient to use your points and for that reason, it makes a lot of sense to accumulate Ultimate Rewards for your travels.

Before jumping into who has the stronger partners it’s worth pointing out that both of these programs have a number of overlapping partners.

Not only that but these partners can be phenomenal travel partners with great premium products and experiences.

Here are the transfer partners that belong to both American Express and Chase:

Note: All Chase partners transfer at a 1:1 ratio but that is not the case with Amex.

  • Air Canada Aeroplan (coming to Chase late 2021)
  • Air France/KLM flying blue
  • Emirates
  • JetBlue (Amex ratio 2.5:2)
  • British Airways
  • Aer Lingus
  • Iberia
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Marriott Bonvoy

That is a lot of overlap and so it is pretty easy to build a large balance with these programs since you can optimize earnings across multiple cards with both both American Express and Chase.

Citibank and Capital One also partner with some of these as well.

Now let’s look at the unique travel partners of Chase:

  • Southwest
  • United Airlines
  • Hyatt
  • IHG

Being able to transfer to Southwest and United Airlines is definitely a major advantage for Chase especially if you live near airports that service those airlines heavily.

One area where Chase definitely shines with transfer partners is when it comes to hotel stays.

It’s extremely hard to beat the value that Hyatt offers when compared to other hotel transfer partners like IHG, Hilton, and Marriott.

So if you like to cover your hotel stays with points and still get great value, Ultimate Rewards is going to be a better option for you.

But now let’s take a look to see what unique transfer partners American Express has:

(All ratios are one to one unless indicated otherwise.)

  • Aeromexico (1:1.6)
  • Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Avianca
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Delta
  • El Al (50:1)
  • Etihad
  • Hawaiian
  • Qantas
  • Hilton (1:2)
  • Choice Privileges (1:1)

American Express obviously has a much longer list of travel partners. But it is not just about the quantity — it’s more about quality.

I think American Express has an advantage with the following partners: ANA, Avianca, Etihad, and Cathay Pacific.

So if you are someone really interested in transferring out your points to partners American Express likely offers more opportunities but once again it all comes down to your preference and geography.

Some people might find these exclusive Amex travel partners more difficult to optimize which may turn them away from Amex.

One final advantage with transferring your points that American Express offers is that you can keep the ability to transfer your points to travel partners if you hold the Amex EveryDay Card.

This is significant because this is a no annual fee credit card which means that you don’t have to pay any fees to keep your points and transfer potential alive.

Meanwhile, with Chase you will have to pay an annual fee of at least $95 in order to keep the ability to transfer your points to travel partners.

Related: Amex Membership Rewards Expiration Policy Guide

Transferring options

A lot of times you may need to transfer your points to somebody else in order to make your travel booking. So knowing how that transfer process works is vital for optimizing your rewards.

Chase allows you to combine points with other members of your household.

So for example I can transfer my Ultimate Rewards to my husband because we live in the same household and then he can transfer them to his frequent flyer or hotel accounts

This is a great benefit if one of your household members has a premium card that allows for higher redemptions in the Chase Travel Portal.

American Express does not allow you to combine Membership Rewards between multiple people. Instead, they only allow you to transfer your points to the loyalty programs for authorized users of your cards.

So Chase offers better flexibility when it comes to combining your points.

If you share the same household with someone you don’t have to bother with adding them as an authorized user in order to get points to their account and/or loyalty programs.

Therefore Chase gets a nice bump here.

Final word

Overall, both of these programs have their advantages and disadvantages.

Chase allows you to have better overall redemption possibilities (cash back, travel portal), better earning potential (with lower fees), and they allow you to transfer points efficiently between members.

American Express has better opportunities to earn points with welcome bonuses and they also have a better list of travel partners especially if you are geared more towards airline redemptions.

How Much Are 50,000 Amex Points Worth?

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So you’re thinking about picking up an American Express card with a 50,000 point bonus or maybe you already earned a good 50,000 points from a card like the Gold Card.

Either way, you likely are wondering how much 50,000 Amex points are worth. In this article, I will break down how much you can expect to receive in value from 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards and give you some real world examples of redemptions.

How much are 50,000 Amex points worth?

50,000 Amex points may be worth anywhere from $300 to over $7,000 depending on the type of redemption you pursue. I’ll give you some examples of the different ways to redeem your points and the different valuations that will go along with those redemptions.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!


Let’s say that you wanted to redeem your points for cashback.

When you redeem Membership Rewards for cashback, your redemption rate is only .6 cents per point. This means that 50,000 points would equal $300 in cashback.

Ask anybody who knows anything about points and you will quickly find out that this is one of the worst ways to redeem American Express points so I would not recommend you go this route.

Many other bank programs allow you to redeem points at a rate of one cent per point for cashback. For example, you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards at one cent per point for a statement credit.

So not only is redeeming your points for cashback not a good option compared to other ways to use your Amex points, but it’s also not competitive with other transferable points programs.

cashback is not the optimal redemption route with American Express points.

Gift cards

Gift cards will present a much better value proposition than redeeming for cashback. But the amount of value that you get for your gift card redemption will not always be the same. 

For example, some gift cards will allow you to redeem at a rate of one cent per point. So 50,000 points would get you $500 worth of gift cards. In my opinion, I would try to stick to getting at least one cent per point with gift cards so that you don’t sacrifice too much value.

But let’s say you wanted to redeem your points for a gift card from Apple for the App Store and iTunes. In that case, you would only get .85 cents per point for your redemption. 50,000 points at a valuation of point $.85 per point would come out to $425. Not the worst value but you can definitely do better. So when shopping for gift cards with American Express, always be aware that the value may not be the same for different cards. 


Amazon is a very tempting redemption option for American Express points.

Simply by linking your Membership Rewards earning card to your Amazon account, you can use your points to check out in a super convenient fashion. But the redemption rate is not that great.

If you go this route, you’ll be redeeming points at a rate of  0.7 cents per point. That would provide you with $350 worth of value for 50,000 points. So it’s not as bad as the cashback route but not as good as many gift cards.

So if you’re thinking about going this route take a look at the stores and products you’re thinking about purchasing from because if you can redeem gift cards for those stores then you can get much more value from your points.

Amex Travel

If you choose to use your points through the Amex Travel Portal, you’ll be redeeming them at a rate of one cent per point for airfare. This isn’t the worst type of redemption but again it is quite limited at only one cent per point.

It also is far below what you can get with other competitor programs. For example, if you had the Chase Sapphire Reserve and redeemed your Ultimate Rewards through the Chase Travel Portal your redemption rate would be 1.5 cents per point which is much, much better.

It is worth mentioning that if you hold certain Amex business cards, you can get a rebate when you use Pay with Points for certain eligible flights:

The eligible business cards and rebates are the following:

  • Amex Business Centurion Card: 50% rebate
  • The Business Platinum Card: 35% rebate (up to 500,000 points per calendar year)
  • American Express Business Gold Card: 25% rebate (up to 250,000 points per calendar year)

If you have the Business Platinum card, that 35% rebate amounts to a valuation of 1.54 cents per point. That means that your 50,000 points would be worth $770. 

If you’re redeeming your points for hotels then your evaluation will likely be about .7 cents per point, which comes out to $350 for 50,000 points. I would generally advise against using your points for hotels because it is not great value and you also could miss out on elite status perks.

American Express airline partners

If you choose to transfer your points out to some of the travel partners, you will be able to capture significant additional value.

I’ll talk about some specific redemption examples below, but you can check out the full chart of airline partners to get a sense of your options.

Airline ProgramRatio (MR to airline)Transfer wait time
Aer Lingus1:1Instant
AeroMexico1:1.6 24 Hours
Air Canada1:1Instant
ANA1:148 Hours
British Airways1:1Instant
Cathay Pacific1:148 Hours
El Al1000:20 Instant
Flying Blue1:1Instant
Hawaiian Airlines1:1Instant
Iberia1:124 to 72 hours
Singapore Airlines1:124 to 72 hours
Virgin Atlantic1:1Instant

Air Canada on EVA business class

I booked EVA business class with Air Canada Aeroplan miles that I transferred from my American Express Memberships Rewards account.

From IAH to TPE, the booking required 75,000 miles, and I only paid $7.50 CAD or about $5.60 in fees. I found this flight for $3,292 in cash, so that’s about 4.4 cents per point for my Membership Rewards. So going with a 4.4 cent valuation, 50,000 points would be worth $2,200.

That’s obviously a huge disparity with the cashback value. But the value can get even sweeter.

Virgin Atlantic upper class

I once used 85,000 Delta SkyMiles to book a one-way Virgin Atlantic Upper Class ticket and paid only $5.60 in fees. This was close to an $8,000 flight so we received close to 10 cents per point. That would put the value of 50,000 points close to $5,000!

SAS business class

On another occasion I used 110,000 Aeroplan miles to fly to Scandinavia to check out the northern lights. The total fees for this trip came out to $24, so only $12 per person and according to Google Flights, that would have been a $15,210 flight for two people. So we got 14 cents per point in value!

With this valuation, 50,000 Membership Rewards would have been worth $7,000!

Keep in mind that sometimes you can find a special promotional bonus when you transfer your points. In the past, there were targeted bonus of 10 to 20% when transferring to Aeroplan. So it’s very possible to get even more value than what is listed here if you catch the right promotion.

WalletFlo valuation

Using a WalletFlo valuation of 1.75 cents per point, 50,000 points will come out to $875. WalletFlo valuations are based on published averages from other leading blogs and the valuation accounts for the premium of having a flexible currency as well as the redemption potential for premium cabins.  

Final word

As you can see, the value of 50,000 Amex points can range from $300 to $7,000. It all depends on how you utilize your points and whether or not you choose to use your points on travel. In the end, don’t get too hung up on the valuations since it is far more important that you use points in the way you desire to do so.

3 Ways to Get the Amex Platinum 100K Offer (CardMatch Link) [2020]

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AMEX Membership Rewards Can Now Be Used on Expedia

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American Express and Expedia have linked up offering Expedia users a new way to use their Membership Rewards. You can link now an eligible Membership Rewards earning American Express card to your Expedia account and use your Membership Rewards at check out. While it’s great to see Amex expanding its partnerships, this is not a terrific redemption and you should probably not ever do this.

Why using Amex Membership Rewards on Expedia is not worth it

When you use your Amex Membership Rewards to book travel on Expedia, you’ll only be able to redeem them at a rate of .7 cent per point. Compare that to cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve that allow you to cover airline and hotel expenses at a rate of 1.5 cents per point or even the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card which allow you to redeem points for airline and hotels at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. Heck, you can even redeem American Express Membership Rewards for flights at 1 cent per point and hotels at .75 cent per point.

So this redemption rate for Expedia is not very good at all. In fact, you could probably redeem Membership Rewards for hotel gift cards at a higher rate than that and then just use the gift card for your booking so you’ll still earn hotel points and receive elite status benefits.

How does it work?

The way the system will work is that you’ll first have to link your eligible American Express card to your Expedia account. Million Mile Secrets has a good walk-through of how to link your card. Once you check out using points, your eligible American Express Card will be charged for the entire booking and a statement credit for the Membership Rewards points you used at checkout will appear on your Eligible Card account in 2–4 business days.

Expedia allows you to use partial payment with points so you don’t have to use points to cover the entire cost. However, these bookings must be made on pre-paid rates and cannot be used on flight+hotel packages and other expenses like rental cars, cruises, etc.

Final word

There’s nothing good about the redemption rate of this new opportunity for Expedia bookings. Assuming you’re not transferring your Membership Rewards to travel partners (which is where most of the value lies), you’re better off booking your flights and hotels through the Amex Travel Portal or redeeming gift cards for the hotel you want to stay at.

In limited cases, it could make sense to use some points to cover an Expedia purchase if you just really  didn’t want to use cash but I wouldn’t make it a habit. And while Expedia can be useful, if you’re wanting to utilize an OTA and want to get massive returns, check out which blows away other OTAs with its high cash back rate.

Maximizing Membership Rewards for Business Class: Flying Blue [Part 4]

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This is the fourth installment for Maximizing Membership Rewards for Business Class. These articles will show you some great ways to utilize your American Express points for business class. You can read other installments to this series here:

For part three, I’m going to be focusing on SkyTeam partner: Flying Blue (Air France and KLM)

Flying Blue has a number of great sweet spots in economy class but unfortunately isn’t the most lucrative reward program for business class flights because many of these flights are on the higher side of redemptions and many redemptions also come with high fees. However, there is some value to be had in this program, you’ve just got to know where to look.

Flying Blue 

A major draw to Flying Blue is that it’s a transfer partner of all four of the major rewards programs:

  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards (new)
  • Starwood Preferred Guests
  • Citi Thankyou Points

In my opinion, this somewhat makes up for the higher redemption rates since it’s so easy to accumulate points for the program.


Flying Blue does not release a full reward chart. Because of that, I ultimately suggest just playing around with the Flying Blue mileage calculator to figure out mile requirements. However, if you want to get a general idea on the different zones, see below:

  • Middle East, Central Asia, Central Russia
  • North America, Netherlands Antilles, Mexico
  • Central America, Caribbean, Hawaii, Bermuda
  • Africa 1 (Central, East & West Africa)
  • Africa 2 (South Africa, Indian Ocean)
  • Indian subcontinent
  • Latin America 1 (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela)
  • Latin America 2 (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay)
  • Asia 1 (China, South Korea, Japan, East Russia, Mongolia)
  • Asia 2 (Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwain, Thailand)
  • Pacific 1 (New Caledonia, French Polynesia)
  • Pacific 2 (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Guam)

Europe is a bit confusing. It is apparently divided into three zones and one zone includes countries from Africa and even one from the Middle East:

Europe 1

  • Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg

Europe 2

  • Austria, Denmark, Spain, Balearic Islands, Finland, Italy, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Sweden

Europe 3 (+North Africa & Israel)

  • Albania, Algeria, Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Canary Islands, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, IsraelLibya, Lithuania, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Morocco, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, West Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine.

Different types of awards

There are three different rates that Flying Blue charges for their award tickets

  • Flex – These offer you the most flexibility, hence their name. You can change them without cost and they often have more availability. The issue is that they usually cost two to three times more than Classic awards to redeem.
  • Classic – These are the standard award fares and while fairly consistent, they can vary depending on certain factors.
  • Promo rates – These are offered temporarily and can reduce the redemption rates from 25 to 50%. Some of them can be absolute steals if the timing is right for you.

Routing rules

Flying Blue offers the following routing options:

  • Allowed an open jaw on your destination so long as you remain in the destination zone
  • Allowed one stopover (you must book over the phone)
    • Stopover must be different from country of departure
    • Maximum of three segments allowed to get to destination

An advantage that Flying Blue has over many of the other “cheaper” programs like ANA and Korean Air is that it allows for one-way bookings on partner awards.

In addition, Flying Blue has some interesting zones that are different from a lot of other programs and often offer some great redemption rates. I highly suggest you read my article covering the Flying Blue program to learn more about other important features of the program.

Always check for better options 

Most of the Flying Blue redemptions below are easily beat out by other Membership Rewards partners, such as ANA, Aeroplan, and Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific. Heck, even British Airways or Iberia Avios often has Flying Blue outmatched. So keep in mind when looking at these rates that there are probably better deals you can utilize with your Membership Rewards.

Note about Korean Air/Chase Ultimate Rewards

While this series is about maximizing business class awards with Membership Rewards, it’s logical that many might be tempted to transfer other points like Chase Ultimate Rewards to Flying Blue since they are also partners.

But it’s important to note that if you were thinking about transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Flying Blue, chances are you could save many miles by transferring them to Korean Air and booking SkyTeam partners like Delta with Korean miles. So just keep that in mind….

North America to Europe

  •  Business Class: 125,000 roundtrip

125,000 for a roundtrip business class ticket isn’t horrible, although it’s slightly higher than many other programs. The biggest limitation to this redemption is that you can face some serious fees.

Take a look at this sample booking from New York to Paris (JFK -> CDG) with Air France.

This business class route with Air France requires $575 in total fees!

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 9.39.33 AM
Air France charges $575 in total fees

But take a look at the same route but flying Delta instead… only $164 in total fees.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 9.42.51 AM
Delta charges $164 in total fees

That’s a $411 difference and so it really helps to utilize SkyTeam partner Delta to mitigate fees as much as possible.

I’d say that this redemption with Delta and the redemptions with Delta to Hawaii (discussed below) are some of the best value you can get from Flying Blue in business class.

North America to Israel and North Africa

  • Business Class: 125,000 miles roundtrip

Israel and North Africa are lumped in with Europe for Flying Blue so you get the same redemption rate with these locations, too. 125,000 roundtrip to Israel is a steal and only a few other programs like JAL, ANA, Singapore, Korean, and Cathay Pacific compete with this rate. The $135 in total fees is a great grab, too.  

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.48.41 AM
Business class via Alitalia and Delta.

Remember, other African countries fall into the same Europe category, so tickets from North America to Algeria, Libya, Morroco, and Tunisia, should all also fall into the same redemption rate. For example, New York to Casablanca, Morocco, would also go for 125,000 miles, too.

Mainland to Hawaii 

  •  Business Class: 60,000 roundtrip

Flying Blue offers one of the best ways to get to Hawaii in both economy and business class. You can book your flight on Delta and pay minimal fees. The biggest limitation with this redemption is the availability. As opposed to economy where you might find 6 award seats on a single flight, there’s a dearth of availability on Delta in business class. I searched long and hard for award seats on Delta and had no luck but this could also just be a matter of bad timing.

North America to “Australia” 

  •  Business Class: 150,000 roundtrip/ 75,000 one way

This is a true “travel hack” that’s available with Flying Blue. The normal rate for a business class flight to Australia from North America is an exorbitant 250,000 miles, which is one of the most expensive business class redemptions to Australia.

However, the redemption rate to “Pacific 1” (French Polynesia) is only 150,000 miles roundtrip and the only route to Noumea (the capital city of the French special collectivity of New Caledonia) routes through Sydney. So, if you just so happen to miss your flight onward to New Caledonia, you’d have a redemption award to Sydney for only 75,000 one way.

That’s not a bad redemption rate and is cheaper than most airlines like American, Delta, Aeroplan, etc. However, fees can set you back a few hundred bucks so you have to take that into consideration.

Intra-continental flights around Asia 

If you’re trying to get around Asia, especially if you’re only looking to book one way shots, Flying Blue can be a great option.

For example, the route from Hong Kong to Bangkok is often considered flying into two separate zones but Flying Blue lumps them together so a one way business class redemption is only 25,000 miles, which is highly competitive.

And you can get away with some very low fees, like the below flight on Kenya Airways (a straight shot) for only $43 in total fees. 

Or take this example from Dehli to Tokyo for only 50,000 miles. That rate is also pretty competitive and beats out Singapore Airlines and United. Furthermore, you can get away with low fees like the Air France flight below that routes through Paris for only $108 in fees.

North America to South America 

You can find some decent redemption rates to South America but best of all you can minimize the fees by flying on SkyTeam partners, such as Delta or AeroMexico. The flight below shows a 62,500 miles redemption to Santiago, Chile from New York for 62,500 miles and only $24 in fees. 62,500 miles is fairly competitive and not a horrible option to go for on a one way flight to South America.

Flying Blue Promo Awards 

These are special promotions offered on specific routes at the beginning of each month and can reduce the redemption rates from 25% to 50%. Unfortunately, it’s less common for business class fares to be found in these promotions these days but they sometimes do appear.

For example right now in March 2017, there’s a promo on business class fares from Chicago to Europe.

The problem with these is that you still have to pay Air France/Flying Blue fees, which really cuts into the savings. For example, even a one way award would have $325 in fees!

For that reason, I don’t get too excited about these fares sometimes.

But check out that rate for a one way business class ticket from AMS to XMN (Xiamen, China). It’s only 50,000 miles (50% off) and comes with more manageable fees at $183 for a one way business class ticket. This would make it the cheapest redemption out of any airline (25,000 miles cheaper than United or American) for business class on this route. (Fees are about $20 cheaper flying from XMN to AMS.)

Final word

Unfortunately, Flying Blue doesn’t have a tremendous amount of deals to offer in business class. There are so many other options that are cheaper with both miles and fees, that it’s often hard to justify using Flying Blue for long-haul business class fights. Still, if you’re looking to book one-way business class awards to various places around the globe or can catch award seats at the right time, Flying Blue can actually offer some very competitive redemptions.

Maximizing Membership Rewards for Business Class: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles [Part 3]

Offers contained within this article maybe expired.

This is the third installment for Maximizing Membership Rewards for Business Class. These articles will show you some great ways to utilize your American Express points for business class. You can read other installments to this series here:

For part three, I’m going to be focusing on OneWorld partner: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 

I’d love to just jump right into the sweet spots but Asia Miles is a unique distance-based program that has several “fun” features you need to be aware of. I’ll try not to get too deep into the weeds here and just focus on some of the major aspects of the program.

Cathay Pacific award charts

The Cathay Pacific Asia Miles award program has two charts which they confusingly describe. Luckily, Point me to the Plane has a superb breakdown of Asia Miles in which they describe the charts more clearly.

Asia Miles Award Chart

One chart called the “Asia Miles Award Chart” is for:

  • Cathay Pacific/Dragon flights
  • Flights including one OneWorld partner
  • Flights including one OneWorld partner and a Cathay Pacific/Dragon flight

For this chart, you calculate your mileage requirement by finding the distance one way and then finding the corresponding zone. (If connecting sectors are involved, the sector distances should be added together to determine the total one-way distance and the applicable award zone.) In that zone column, you will see totals for both one way and round trip.

Note: The roundtrip distances offer better deals.

  • S7 Airlines does not participate in the “Asia Miles Award Chart”

The following airlines can only be booked using the Asia Miles Award Chart:

  • Royal Brunei Airlines
  • Gulf Air
  • Bangkok Airways
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Air New Zealand
  • Aer Lingus
  • Award zone “S” is not applicable to one-way tickets on Aer Lingus. Award zones “S” and “A” are not applicable for Alaska Airlines flights to or from Mexico with sector distances of less than 1,200 miles.

You are allowed one stopover en route a one-way ticket but for round-trip redemptions, you get two stopovers, two open-jaws, or two transfers.

OneWorld Multi-Carrier Awards Chart

Then there’s another award chart called the “OneWorld Multi-Carrier Awards Chart” for:

  • Flights involving two OneWorld partners
  • Flights involving Cathay Pacific/Dragon flights and two or more OneWorld partners

You calculate the mileage requirement of this chart by calculating the total distance of your trip (add together all segments) and then see what award zone the distance falls into.

  • It’s a little unclear if you get 5 stopovers or 4 stopovers + your destination, but either way that’s a lot. Plus you can get two transfers and two open-jaws at either origin, en-route, or turnaround point.

You can keep going back and forth between both charts or you can use a program like AwardHacker and it will tell you the rates based on the chart used. I’d probably double check the results with the chart if you’re seriously considering booking but it’s a nice and easy way to effeciently check the prices to see which is the better route to go.

Only roundtrips 

You can only book roundtrip awards for the following airlines:

  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines

Remember, even though you can book one way awards on many different airlines you always want to consider booking roundtrips because you will often save a lot of miles.


Per Travel is Free, the following airlines do not incur surcharges or at least incur minimal surcharges:

  • LAN
  • TAM
  • AA (varies based on route)
  • Qantas
  • Cathay
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Japan Airlines
  • S7
  • Air Berlin
  • Aer Lingus

Booking online

  • You can redeem flight awards for Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia Airlines, Qantas Airways and Qatar Airways directly at Asia Miles Travel Services Limited online booking website or fill in the Airline Award Request form for travel on other carriers.

For other awards you’ll have to call in or submit a request form. I’ve heard their call center is not the best, so be prepared for long wait times and representatives who struggle with complex bookings.

Cathay Pacific sweet spots in business class 

So finally, let’s get to the sweet spots for flying in business class. 

North America to Europe 

  • Flights up to 5,000 miles oneway only require 80,000 miles roundtrip on the Asia Miles Award Chart

This is one of the lowest business class redemption rates you’ll ever find and it’s especially attractive because you can fit one way flights up to 5,000 miles into it, which covers a lot of ground between the US and Europe.

The only problem is that fees can be a bit of an issue. But Remember Air Berlin and Aer Lingus don’t incur fuel surcharges, so consider those options. 

I called in to check on the fees for a Aer Lingus roundtrip business class booking from JFK to DUB (since you can’t see it online) and they told me the total fees would only be $75! That’s about as good of a redemption as you could ask for.

Here are how the fees stack up on other partners.

British Airways

I first was curious to see how booking British Airways flights through Asia Miles would compare to booking them through the British Airways website. The results were interesting.

Here’s a flight from ORD to MAD via LHR, a route known for high surcharges for BA. The route with Asia Miles would require 80,000 miles but $695 in total fees.

However, if you booked this flight with British Airways you’d be paying 125,500 Avios and $1,102 in fees! So the fees are still high with Asia Miles but they are nearly $400 cheaper than what British Airways would charge.


The fees to Europe get a lot more reasonable with other airlines, however. This booking from JFK to HEL roundtrip on Finnair only charges $308 in total fees, which is pretty reasonable considering how cheap the mileage requirement is. You’d still have around 900 miles to play around with to keep this itinerary under 5,000 miles so you could still connect to places like Berlin and only spend 80,000 miles.


Sometimes Asia miles is worse off than booking with other programs and here’s an example. Through Asia Miles, the flight from Madrid to Chicago on Iberia will require 80,000 miles but $590 in fees.

However, if you booked a flight from Chicago to Madrid roundtrip on Iberia using Iberia Avios you’d only have to use 68,000 Avios and pay $220 in total fees, so it’s all around cheaper. This proves that some times you’d be better off utilizing Iberia Avios for business class to Europe than Asia Miles.

Membership Rewards transfer to Iberia at a 10:8 transfer ratio, however, so that’s something to think about.

Fights between regions and under 2,500 miles one way

You can find some decent intra-continental redemptions like Tokyo to Shanghai for 40,000 miles round trip but for the most part Cathay Pacific Asia miles aren’t the best for intra-continental flights like some other programs, such as British Airways Avios or Singapore KrisFlyer.

However, both distance-based charts can be utilized for exceptional redemption rates between regions for flights under 2,500 one way.

For example, take a look at these flights utilizing Qatar from the Middle East.

  • DOH – MLE (2,055 miles) 

If you’re flying from the Middle East to the Maldives you can get a roundtrip in business class for only 50,000 miles or 30,000 miles one way. Both rates are pretty exceptional but the 50,000 miles roundtrip is possibly the best rate for that route and great value.

  • DOH-ATH (1,840 miles) 

You can also make your way to Europe from the Middle East for 50,000 round trip, which isn’t bad either.

When the flights go over 5,000 miles roundtrip the sweet spots begin to fade away a bit until you get to longer flights that are over 4,000 miles one way. For example take a look at the following long flights also from the Middle East based on the Asia Miles chart.

  • DOH-CPT (Cape Town, South Africa)  (4,615 miles) 

One way is 45,000 and round trip is 80,000. Both rates are pretty competitive.

  • DOH – SAO (São Paulo, Brazil) (7,379) 

One way is 70,000 and round trip is 120,000. Again, both rates are extremely competitive for this absurdly long flight from the Middle East to South America.

You can experiment around with these distances between regions and you’ll likely discover that Cathay Pacific often offers extremely competitive rates when it comes to inter-regional flights between these distances.

North America to Caribbean

When it comes to getting to the Caribbean, Asia Miles will offer you some of the best redemption rates for business class. Obviously some of these flights are ridiculously short (like Miami to the Bahamas), so business class won’t be needed for many people. However, many of these rates are among the best even for longer flights like JFK to AUA.

Here are some rates:

  • JFK TO AUA: 50,000 roundtrip
  • JFK to STT: 50,000 roundtrip
  • DFW to CUN: 40,000 roundtrip
  • ORD to NAS: 50,000 roundtrip
  • MIA to NAS: 30,000 roundtrip

North America to South America 

The beauty of flying business class with Asia Miles to South America is that you don’t have to worry about the high surcharges. And on top of that, the distance-based rewards are fantastic from places in the southern half of the country.

You’ve just got to pay attention to the routes to make sure that you’re getting a good bargain, as some routes such as those over 10,000 miles roundtrip or 5,000 miles one way do not offer the greatest deals compared to other programs.

Take a look at these routes from DFW.

  • DFW to BOG: 50,000 miles roundtrip (under 2,500 miles one way)
  • DFW to SCL: 80,000 miles roundtrip  (under 5,000 miles one way)

Both rates are outstanding compared to other programs. 

North America to Australia

Australia is definitely one of the most difficult places to get on miles and points but that’s partly because people try to book that route as a nonstop and forget that there are plenty of options to get there via Asia.

It’s only 120,00 miles for a roundtrip in business class to Australia with Cathay Pacific. For Oceania standards, availability was great when I searched 8 to 12 months out. The total fees are at $334 for a flight on CX, so you’re still going to have to shell out some cash but at least it’s not asinine, especially considering that you’d probably have to pay out 40,000 more miles to book with airlines like American, Aeroplan, etc.

This same route could be booked with Alaska for the same rate at 120,000 miles but you’d likely get away with less in fees. When I did a dummy booking with their call center, I got quoted at $227 total fees (including partner booking charge). So if you have the Alaska miles, you can save over $100.

Round the world itineraries

Where Asia Miles really can offer over the top value is when booking round the world or near round the world itineraries with business class.

Utilizing the stopovers on the OneWorld chart, you could fly:

  • up to 25,000 miles for 160,000 miles 
  • up to 35,000 miles for 190,000 miles
  • over 35,000 miles for 220,000 miles

If you utilized the OneWorld partners that don’t pass on surcharges, your out of pocket could be minimal. My recommendation would be to put together a bunch of one way segments on OneWorld partners that come just short of 25,000 miles or 35,000 for maximum value.

Final word 

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is an outstanding program for business class. It’s got a number of sweet spots for business class redemptions and although it’s a little tricky due to its different award charts, exceptions, and lack of online booking, there’s some great value to be had with the program.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve vs The American Express Platinum Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the newest benefits card to hit the market and consumers are going crazy over this card (and rightfully so). It’s a bit of a super-card, offering an outstanding sign-up bonus, some of the best benefits out of any card, and great bonus category earning rates. But how does is stack up to the tried-and-true Platinum Card from American Express? Here’s a comparison between the two cards with a final winner decided at the end.

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!

January 2020 update: The Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum annual fees are both now $550. 

Charge card vs Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a credit card while the American Express Platinum is a “charge card.” A charge card must be paid off in full each month or else you face a hefty monthly fee. The benefit to a charge card like the Platinum is that you’re not restricted to a strict credit limit and so you have a little more spending flexibility (although credit limits with the Reserve tend to start quite high so it’s not a huge advantage here). 

Note: Over time, you can often effectively turn your charge card into a credit card with Amex with the “Pay Over Time” feature. 

Transfer Partners

Membership Rewards

The Platinum will earn you Membership Rewards that can be transferred to a variety of travel partners listed below: 


Membership Rewards Airline Partners
Membership Rewards Airline Partners

Membership Rewards Airline Partners
Membership Rewards Airline Partners

These partners do not have all have the same transfer ratios as you can see below:

  • Delta Skymiles
  • Club Premier AeroMexico
  • Aeroplan Air Canada
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • MilleMigilia Club Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • Avios British Airways (250 points = 200 Avios)
  • Emirates Skyrewards
  • Hawaiin Airlines
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue
  • KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America (200 points = 100 Elevate points)
  • Virgin Atlantic


Membership Rewards Hotels

  • Best Western Rewards
  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton HHonors (1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points)
  • SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) (1,000 points = 333 Starpoints)

There are a few things to keep in mind about Membership Rewards:

  • Bonus transfers are occasionally offered allowing you to transfer your points to partners for higher ratios. Check this thread for a history of these transfer bonuses.
  • Your Membership Rewards cannot be freely transferred between you and any friend or family members but you can transfer them to authorizes users’ rewards accounts. 
  • They don’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Sapphire Reserve earns “Ultimate Rewards” that can all be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to a variety of travel partners listed below.


  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club


  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards

Which reward program is better? 

Both programs have their strengths and weaknesses and lots could be written in a comparison between the two but here’s a brief look at some of the key highlights of the travel partners.

Membership Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards

Two partners overlap each program:

And as far as hotel partners go, I’d roll with Ultimate Reward partners Hyatt, Marriott, and IHG over the transfer ratios for SPG and Hilton. 

As you can see both programs have many options for booking great redemptions to just about anywhere you want to go in the world. In the end, unless you have a very clear plan as to what loyalty program you’ll be utilizing, it’s hard to go wrong with either program. Once you learn the system for redeeming miles with alliance partners, you’ll see that both of these reward programs have tons to offer depending on your personal goals for your travel. For that reason, I’m declaring it mostly a draw with a slight edge to Ultimate Rewards for its better transfer ratios and hotel partners.

Redeeming Points

In addition to transferring points to travel partners you can always redeem your points in different ways, such as for cash back, gift cards, or to book travel.

Membership Rewards 

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.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal

Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed in the following ways:

  • 1.0 cent per point for cash back into your Chase checking or savings account.
  • 1.0 cent per point for gift cards
  • As a Chase Sapphire Reserve card holder,  if you book travel through the Ultimate Rewards Portal you can redeem points as 1.5 cents per point.

The Reserve easily beats the Platinum with these redemption options. Although I always transfer my points out to travel programs, 1.5 cents per point redemption on any travel is solid and very tempting, especially when compared to what you’re given with the Platinum. And while I definitely would never redeem Ultimate Rewards for a statement credit, the points to redeem at one cent per point almost double the rate of Membership Rewards. Thus, the Sapphire Reserve is the clear winner here.

Sign-up Bonus

Platinum Card 

New bonus of 60K is out — will update article soon. 

  • 40K to 100K (currently 40K) when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

The 40K offer is the standard offer available to the public, and the 100K offer comes around in three forms but there’s no guarantee that you will ever get it. The three forms it comes in are:

  • 1) Targeted mailings (if you’re already an Amex cardholder your chances of getting this offer in the mail are slim to none).
  • 2) Pre-approval links: Some sites (including the Amex site) that allow you to view your pre-approved credit card offers will show this offer.
  •  3) Incognito/Private browser windows sometimes show this offer (rare)

Tip: When applying for bonuses with Amex cards always remember that bonuses for personal cards are only given once a lifetime.

Sapphire Reserve

  • 50K when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months

The drawback to the Reserve is that it’s subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, meaning that if you’ve opened up 5 or more accounts in the past 24 months, you won’t be approved subject to certain limited exceptions.

Bonus Categories

Platinum Card

October 7, 2016 update:

  • 5X on purchases of airfare made directly with airlines
  • 1X on all other purchases

Sapphire Reserve

  • 3X on travel
  • 3X on dining
  • 1X on all other purchases 

This is another lopsided comparison in favor of the Sapphire Reserve. 3X on travel and dining is extremely competitive even among non-benefit based cards, so the Reserve definitely stands out in this regard. 


The real reason you apply for and keep a credit card with an annual over $400 is for the benefits that the card offers.

Platinum Card 

Priority Pass

Here’s a breakdown of my favorite benefits of the Platinum, but in a nutshell this card confers a host of benefits to you making it worth it including:

  • Priority Pass airport lounge access (worth $400 per year)
  • Centurion Lounge Access/Delta Lounge Access (when you fly with them)
  • $200 annual airline credit (essentially reducing the annual fee to $250)
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check 
  • Add up to 3 authorized users for only $175 per year (for all 3)
  • Gold status with Hilton and Starwood
  • Free Boingo Wifi subscription (worth $120 per year)
  • Rental car benefits with National Car Rental, Avis, and Hertz
  • Concierge service

Also, while not exclusive to the Platinum, Amex Offers (which are special discounts and rebates given to Amex cardholders) can add up quickly if used efficiently and can certainly act as a considerable benefit to having the Platinum.

Sapphire Reserve

  • Priority Pass airport lounge access (worth $400 per year)
  • $300 annual travel credit (essentially reducing the annual fee to $150)
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check 
  • Add authorized users for $75 per person
  • Rental car benefits with National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar
  • Visa Infinite concierge service
  • Elite Hotel Benefits at Relais & Châteaux

Primary rental car insurance 

Platinum Card 

  • Excess rental car insurance (may cover what your insurance company doesn’t cover), subject to exceptions such as no coverage for exotic cars and cars with retail value over $75,000. 

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • The Sapphire Reserve offers primary rental car insurance covering up to $75,000. This benefit comes with fewer restrictions than the Sapphire Preferred had.  

Primary rental car coverage is a huge benefit offered by the Sapphire Reserve because it can save you from having to file a claim with your insurance company and keep your premiums down.

Travel protections

Lost or damaged Luggage

Platinum Card 

  • Will pay a benefit for the Replacement Cost, up to $3,000, for each Covered Person on a Covered Trip for Loss of carry-on Baggage.
  • Will pay a benefit for the Replacement Cost, up to $2,000, for each Covered Person on a Covered Trip for Loss of checked Baggage

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • For checked or carry-on bags are damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000.00 for each Insured Person for each Common Carrier Covered Trip and up to $500.00 for each Insured Person for each Common Carrier Covered Trip for jewelry, watches, cameras, video recorders, and other electronic equipment.

Additional Benefits

The Sapphire Reserve has many other travel benefits, too. These include:

  • Trip Interruption: If your trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, 
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement: If delayed more than 6 hours you are covered for expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket. (upgrade from the Sapphire Preferred which required 12 hours). 
  • Baggage Delay Reimbursement: If delayed more than 6 hours, you are covered for essential expenses, such as toiletries and clothes for up to one hundred ($100.00) dollars per day for a maximum of five (5) days.

For the Platinum, you’d have to purchase travel insurance before your trip to get these benefits. Thus, the Sapphire Reserve is a far superior travel credit card in this regard.

Purchase protections

A) Purchase protections

Platinum Card 

  • Covers your new purchases for 90 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per Card Member account per calendar year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  •  Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account. (This is a significant upgrade from the previous $500 limit of the Sapphire Preferred.)

B) Extended Warranty Protection

Platinum Card 

  • Provides one additional year if the original manufacturer’s warranty is between one year and five years limited up to a maximum of USD $10,000 per occurrence

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Extends the time period of the original manufacturer’s written U.S. repair warranty by one (1) additional year on eligible warranties of three (3) years or less, up to a maximum of ten thousand ($10,000.00) dollars per claim

C) Price Protection

Platinum Card 

  • No price protection offered

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.

D) Return Protection

Platinum Card 

  • You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $300 per item, $1,000 per year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year.

Travel accident insurance

Platinum Card 

  • Up to $500,000 for loss of life

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Up to $1,000,000 for loss of life

Roadside assistance 

Platinum Card 

  • Free for up to 4 times per year for the following services: towing up to 10 miles, winching, jump starts, flat tire change when Card Member has a workable spare, lockout service when key is in vehicle and delivery of up to 2 gallons of fuel.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Free for up to $50 and up to 4 times per year

Foreign Transaction Fees

  • Both cards have no foreign transaction fees.

Annual Fee

Platinum Card

  • $450, not waived (more like $250/year with airline credit)

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • $450, not waived (more like $150/year with airline credit)

While the annual fees are the same one aspect where the Reserve comes out on top is that you should be able to downgrade it to a no annual fee card like a Freedom or regular Sapphire. With the Platinum, the best you can do aside from canceling it is to downgrade it to a Green Card with a $95 fee.

Highlighting the Differences 

Lounge Access and hotel status

The Platinum card has a leg up on the Reserve when it comes to lounge access and hotel perks. The access to Centurion lounges (and free entry for up to two guests or immediate family members) and Delta SkyClub lounges (when you fly with them) can be huge for those who frequent them. In addition, having complimentary gold hotel status with Hilton and SPG (and now Marriott) is a nice perk that’s afforded me several upgrades. Thus, if you’re concerned primarily about lounge access and will actually frequent Centurion and Delta lounges, the Platinum card might be better suited for you to hold on to in the long-term. 

I’m still awaiting confirmation of the guest policy of the Priority Pass with the Reserve. Early indications are that guests will be allowed subject to the discretion of the lounge. (I will update when facts emerge.) 

Update: It’s now confirmed that the Sapphire Reserve Priority Pass access allows complimentary access to you and the guests in your “travel party.” Which means all the guests accompanying you can enter subject to availability and the rules of the lounge (some lounges restrict guest access to always try to check ahead of time). 

Travel credit

The Sapphire Reserve stands out for its $300 travel credit. This travel credit can be applied to anything that falls under the travel category. This is extremely broad and makes it ridiculously easy to take advantage of the travel credit.

The Platinum, on the other hand, limits this travel credit to incidentals for one single domestic airline. While there are easy ways to get around this with gift cards or through the MPX app, for many people it still doesn’t compare to the ease and breadth of the Sapphire Reserve travel credit (not to mention it’s $100 more).

The travel credit on expensive credit cards like these is important because it allows you to offset the annual fee making what you effectively pay for the card much more reasonable. In this case, you’re essentially paying $150 for the Sapphire Reserve and $250 for the Platinum, making the Reserve a better card to hold onto it the long term for people primarily concerned with paying the lowest annual fee possible. 

Bonus categories

The Platinum earns 5X on purchases made directly with an airline and 1.5X on purchases of $5,000 or more, but the Sapphire Reserve earns 3X on dining and travel. The 1.5X on huge purchases probably doesn’t mean much to most consumers and you can always pair the Reserve with the (no annual fee) Freedom Unlimited and earn 1.5X on all purchases, so it’s not a huge win for the Platinum there. 

The 5X on airfare can be nice but it still won’t be worth it to ditch the Reserve’s 3X on travel for a lot of people (see my article here on keeping both the Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum). 

Overall, the Reserve’s 3X on dining and travel huge for people like myself who spend well over $3,000 each year in dining and travel. That’s because it only takes about that amount of spending to make it worth keeping the Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred. Furthermore, these bonus earnings just bring even more value to the Reserve that the Platinum card simply can’t compete with. Thus, based on your spending habits, the bonus categories alone can make the Reserve the more economical option over the Platinum in the long-run.  

Authorized users

The Platinum card requires you to pay a flat fee of $175 to add an authorized user but allows up to three to be added for that price, while the Reserve requires you to pay $75 for each authorized user. The authorized users receive the key benefits like lounge access, status, etc. This means that if you just want to add one authorized user the Reserve will save you $100 but if you’re going to add 3, you’ll be paying more out of pocket with the Reserve ($225) than you would with the Platinum ($175).


Both cards offer great protections for purchases but the Reserve definitely trumps the Platinum overall. First, the primary rental car coverage is a huge point in favor of the Reserve. Second, the Platinum doesn’t even offer complimentary travel/baggage delay protection. Also, when you run down the list of other travel/purchase protections the Reserve wins in just about everything except for extended warranty coverage.

Final Word 

The Reserve outshines the Platinum Card in almost every category. I really think that that only reason to hold onto the Platinum over the Reserve is if you’re going to get your money’s worth out of frequent visits to Centurion lounges or Delta lounges. Otherwise, the Sapphire Reserve is the better option almost all the way across the board. With that said, if you can swing a 100K bonus for both of these cards, I think it’s worth to get them both but maybe only hold on to the Reserve for the long-term. 


Guide to American Express Membership Rewards

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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:


Membership Rewards Airline Partners
Membership Rewards Airline Partners

Membership Rewards Airline Partners
Membership Rewards Airline Partners

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
  • ANA
  • 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


Membership Rewards Hotels

  • 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. 

Bonus transfers

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.

Simple-earning system

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
  • Alitalia
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • EL AL
  • Emirates
  • Flying Blue (AF/KL)
  • Frontier
  • Hawaiian
  • JetBlue
  • Virgin America
  • Choice
  • Hilton
  • Starwood

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)

Information taken from Flyertalk

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. 

How I (Might Have) Got Amex to Unfreeze My Membership Rewards

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Right now many Amex customers still have their Membership Rewards frozen after taking advantage of the recent 100K Platinum Card offer that leaked last May. Since that time, Amex reps have told customers a plethora of conflicting reports about what will ultimately happen to their points. I just had my points unfrozen and thought that I would share my experience with how I think I got them to undo the freeze. 

Conflicting info from Amex reps 

Like many others, Amex reps gave me tons of conflicting information. 

I was told all of the following: 

  • My points would be available 92 days (yes, “92”) after I opened the card
  • My points would be available 6 to 8 weeks after I hit the minimum spend on my card
  • My points would be available 6 to 8 weeks after the closing date of the statement in which I hit the minimum spend on my card
  • My points would be available 6 to 8 weeks after I made the final payment on my minimum spend

And those are just the explanations I can remember. All of these alleged deadlines came out to different dates and it was incredibly frustrating to hear something new and conflicting each time I called. I was hoping to book a trip to Norway via Aeroplan for Christmas so each week that went by with my points in limbo made me believe that trip was becoming less and less of a reality. 

What I did 

After hearing so many conflicting accounts, I decided to file a dispute with the Membership Rewards team.

As an attorney, I thought about sending in a demand letter, but I really preferred to resolve this without getting “legal” with Amex since I do value my relationship with them very much.

The dispute I had filed was on the basis that I had been told that the issue would be resolved 6 to 8 weeks after I hit the minimum spend and that it had now been 9 weeks without a resolution. It took a couple of calls to get this dispute initiated, as the first rep I spoke with insisted that there was nothing she could do except wait for the investigation on my points to be concluded. 

Finally, a rep told me that he agreed the issue should have been resolved by the 8 week period and that he would be opening up a dispute. He specifically stated that he was referring the case to their “partner/liaison.” I’m still not exactly sure who these people are (what department they are in) but he told me that I would be hearing back within 2 to 3 business days. 

After 3 days, I got a call from Amex regarding the dispute. To my surprise, they informed me that the proper deadline would be 6 to 8 weeks from the time that I paid off the statement that I hit the minimum spend in. That meant that I had at least another month to wait before I could expect to be able to transfer my points…. 

This made me highly upset and so I decided to vent a little. I respectfully and civilly expressed to the agent that I understood that it was probably not her call to unfreeze my points but that I was highly dissatisfied with the customer service on this issue and that it really had me considering walking away from Amex after everything gets resolved. I expressed that this was a big trip that I was looking forward to and that it was inexcusable that I never received any kind of notice or communication regarding the freeze over the past couple of months.

She heard me out and apologized for everything but after a few minutes our conversation ended with nothing else being said or done. 

The freeze is over

After that conversation, I prepared myself to give up on the Christmas booking. With such limited availability already for my desired routes, I figured that another month’s time of waiting would make the booking pretty much impossible. 

A couple of hours after my phone call with Amex, I got a little bit curious and decided to just try the transfer one last time. The rep had told me that attempting the transfers would slow down the process each time I tried but I really didn’t believe that (and didn’t really care at this point, either).

So I logged in and input a request to transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards to Aeroplan and to my amazement, it went through! I couldn’t believe it! Within 15 minutes, I had all the points needed transferred to Aeroplan and officially had my Christmas trip booked for 2016!

What all does it mean?

I think it’s really hard to draw conclusions from my experience because there have been so many different accounts from other people. It could just be a mere coincidence that a couple of hours after my phone call about my dispute, my points were free. But they also could’ve unfroze my points as a direct result of my dispute. It’s hard to tell but with some recent data points popping up with other getting unfroze, maybe it was just a coincidence? 

So if your points are still froze, my advice to you is to try to get the issue referred to the “partner/liaison.” It should be easy to do if you already have a sound basis for the dispute (e.g., they told you 6 to 8 weeks and it’s been 9 weeks). There may be other ways to get a dispute filed with them with some creative thinking. If you can’t do that, I still feel like the majority of people will have their points unfrozen soon based on the recent data points, so you may only have to wait a bit longer. 


Should You Apply for the Mercedes-Benz Platinum Card® from American Express?

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Right now, American Express is offering a fantastic sign-up bonus of 75,000 Membership Rewards when you spend $3,000 within the first three months of opening up the Mercedes-Benz Platinum Card® from American Express. This is a great bonus but many might wonder if they should jump on it. Here are some things to consider before applying for the card. 

You don’t have to own or lease a Mercedes-Benz

In order to be eligible to apply for the card, you don’t have to own or be leasing a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. The card specifically states that the card is “designed exclusively for Mercedes-Benz drivers and enthusiasts.” So become enthused and you’re ready to apply. 

The sign-up bonus is one of the best

When it comes to earning Membership Rewards, the Platinum Cards from American Express and the Premier Rewards Gold Card (in addition to their business card counterparts) are the best ways to earn these points. 

American Express has a ton of different offers that come around. Some are public while many others are mostly targeted offers received vial mail, magazine subscriptions, etc. The offers have many different minimum spend requirements and bonuses, so it’d be very difficult to map all of them out. But just to give you an idea on what kind of offers can be available, here’s a breakdown of both publicly available offers and some of the targeted offers I’ve come across.

The bolded offers are the standard public offers.

Platinum Card® from American Express

  • 40,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $3,000
  • 75,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $5,000 to $7,000
  • 100,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $3,000 to $10,000

American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card

  • 25,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $3,000
  • 50,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $1,000 to $3,000 (targeted but easy to obtain) 
  • 75,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $3,000 (extremely targeted and rare offer)

The Business Gold Rewards Card

  • 25,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $5,000
  • 75,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $5,000 to $10,000

The Business Platinum Card®

  • 40,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $5,000
  • Up to 150,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $5,000 to $10,000

As you can see, the 75,000 sign-up bonus for $3,000 is one of the better offers that you can get from American Express. So from a comparative standpoint, it definitely makes sense to consider applying for this offer.

The benefits are the same

You get the same benefits from the Mercedes-Benz Platinum Card® from American Express as you do from the original Platinum Card® from American Express. However, you even get offered additional benefits on this card including:

  • A $1,000 certificate to apply towards the purchase price or lease downpayment of a new Mercedes-Benz
  • A $100 certificate to be used towards the purchase of Genuine Mercedes-Benz Accessories.
  • 5X on Mercedes-Benz purchases

The fact that the key benefits are the same means that if you don’t already have a Platinum Card, it’s definitely a great time to jump aboard the Platinum card train to take advantage of great benefits like Priority Pass, TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry, $200 airline credit, etc. Read more about the benefits for the Platinum Card® from American Express here

Although there is a 100,000 Membership Reward offer for the Platinum Card® from American Express, this offer is hard to obtain and there is no guarantee if and when it will become available for you. If you’re already an American Express cardholder your odds of getting a targeted offer for the Platinum Card® from American Express are very slim, so jumping on the 75,000 Membership Rewards offer would make even more sense. 

What if I already have a Platinum Card?


Things get a little complicated if you already have another Platinum card from American Express.

Is it worth paying the annual fee for two cards?

For one, you may wonder if it worth it with the $475 annual fee (which is not waived the first year). From a strictly value standpoint, I would gladly pay $475 for 75,000 Membership Rewards. I could easily get over $1,500 worth of value on those points on travel expenses that I ordinarily incur, so the “return on investment” works out for me… basically $1,000 worth of free travel gained on the bonus alone.

You can’t forget about the $200 airline credit, either. You’ll get that awarded as soon as you receive your card and then again after the new year. Therefore, before your annual fee is due for the second year, you could have essentially reduced your first year annual fee down to $75 (if you properly utilized your credits).

Will I be eligible for the bonus?

The second major issue about getting this card is that there is a chance that American Express will not honor the sign-up bonus! This is just a chance you’ll have to take if you want the bonus and already have a Platinum Card from American Express.

The terms simply state:

Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.

There are data points of some people being awarded multiple bonuses from the four different American Express Platinum Cards and then there are reports of others not being awarded a bonus for more than one Platinum Card. It’s hard to tell what the outcome will be and like I said, in the end, you may just have to take a chance if you really want this bonus.

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