American Express Membership Rewards points are one of the most valuable point currencies out there. Along with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points, they offer an incredible degree of flexibility. You can redeem them for a host of things and can use them at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Expedia or even in a NYC Taxi. However, some of the best value you can get from your points is when transferring them over to airlines or hotels.
Cards That Earn Membership Rewards Points
In total there are 9 American Express cards that earn Membership Rewards points. Five are personal consumer cards, while 4 are business cards. The consumer cards earn Membership Rewards points.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- American Express® Gold Card
- The American Express® Green Card
- The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
On the business card side of things you can earn points from the following cards:
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
- The American Express® Business Gold Card
- The Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
- The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express
Unlike Chase, American Express does not allow the option of converting cashback earned from some of its cards to membership rewards points. With American Express you can either earn points or cash back.
Most Amex cards earn a minimum of 1 point per dollar, although the rates across different categories vary greatly. These bonus categories are generally affiliated to more premium cards, with the Platinum card earning 5X per dollar on airfare (spent directly with the airline), while the Gold card earns 4X points per dollar on dining. Lower end cards will tend to earn a flat 1 point per dollar on all spending.
Airline Transfer Partners
Of all the flexible credit card point currencies Membership Rewards has the largest and most extensive network of airline partners. You can transfer US Membership Rewards to 17 Airline Frequent Flyer programs. Although the ratio and the minimum number of points needed vary between airlines, the majority transfer at a ratio of 1:1, with a minimum transfer of 1,000 points.
|Airline||Ratio||Minimum Transfer||Transfer Time|
|Aeromexico||1:1.6||1,000||Between 24 & 48 hours|
|Alitalia||1:1||1,000||Between 24 & 48 hours|
|ANA- All Nippon Airways||1:1||1,000||Between 24 & 48 hours|
|Cathay Pacific||1:1||1,000||Between 24 & 48 hours|
|Singapore Airways||1:1||1,000||Up to 24 hours|
|Virgin Atlantic||1:1||1,000||Up to 24 hours|
The time it takes a transfer to take place varies by airline. However, typically points will transfer to most carriers instantaneously, although in practice you need to allow one or two days for the transfer to be completed. Some airlines like Aeromexico can take up to 14 days.
Hotel Transfer Partners
American Express has 3 hotel transfer partners. You can transfer Membership Rewards to Choice Hotels, Hilton Honors, and SPG/Marriott/Ritz Carlton. Typically transfers happen almost instantaneously, although some delay is not uncommon.
|Hotel||Transfer Ratio||Minimum Transfer||Transfer Time|
|Marriott Bonvoy||1:1||1,000||Nearly Instantaneous|
|Choice Privileges||1:1||1,000||Nearly Instantaneous|
|Hilton Honors||1:2||1,000||Nearly Instantaneous|
One thing to keep in mind is that even though you can transfer your points to Hotels, it does not necessarily mean it is a good idea. When you consider the transfer ratio and the other options you have for using your points, it becomes evident that transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to hotels is poor value. If you need a few thousand points to hit an aspirational redemption, then a transfer can make sense, if you are looking to transfer a substantial number of points, you will get much better value from Airline partners.
Membership Rewards is known for running promotions giving you a bonus when you transfer points to airline and hotel programs. The bonus levels vary but are typically between 25% and 50%. While it may seem tempting to take advantage of the bonus, there is no point if you do not have an immediate use for your points. There are two main reasons why it does not make sense to transfer points speculatively even with a bonus.
- You lose the flexibility of your points, you can not transfer your points back, so you will only be able to redeem them with the program you transferred them to. If another opportunity arises after the transfer, you will find yourself in a bind.
- Leaving points in an airline or hotel program is a bad idea. Programs are notorious for unannounced devaluation, so you may find the value of your points take a sudden big hit. You are better off leaving your points with Amex.
The best strategy is to maintain the flexibility of your points and keep them up to a time when you have a specific redemption in mind before initiating a transfer. Your priority should almost always be holding cash, then flexible points, then program specific points
Transferring Membership Rewards Points
The process of transferring your points is relatively easy. First, you will be asked to link your airline or hotel accounts to American Express. Once you have done that transfers are simple.
To initiate a transfer head over to the Membership Rewards travel partner page. And click on the program you want to transfer points to. You will then be prompted to enter either the number of Amex points you want to transfer or the number of miles/points you would like to receive in your loyalty account.
The ability to enter the number of miles you would like to receive is handy when you want just enough points for a specific redemption, and the transfer ratio is different than a simple 1:1
At this point, you will be asked to enter your login credentials, and then complete your transfer if you have not logged in already.
Without a shadow of a doubt Membership Rewards points are some of the most valuable on the market. However, this does not mean you have to collect them exclusively. Ask any miles and points aficionado what their strategy is, and they will tell it is about maximizing their points earning from every dollar spent and maximizing the redemption value of every point. To that end, they will collect a variety of different points and have different cards. They will have no loyalty to one program but instead will use the best card with the highest yield to make every individual purchase. So while Membership Rewards points are great, they should be part of your overall travel rewards strategy based on your own travel goals and needs.
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