You may have heard about the bank with the famous, shiny metal cards… It’s true. They are shiny, metal, and thicc.
Almost nothing feels better than slapping down one of those big boys to make a purchase in front of your friends.
“They” might always say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, perhaps because they’re sparkly and worth a lot… but I’ll tell you right now that I’d take a shiny American Express® card over a pair of earrings any day.
And that’s because the portfolio of Amex cards that earn you American Express Membership Rewards® Points is incredibly valuable in the travel realm.
Let’s deep dive into one of the world’s best credit card reward programs, shall we?
What are American Express Membership Rewards®?
Amex Membership Rewards is the loyalty program offered by American Express to its cardholders. It allows Amex cardholders to earn points on their purchases and redeem them for a variety of… (you guessed it) rewards.
Amex’s program is considered one of the most valuable in the travel world for its flexibility, high number of transfer partners (17 airlines and 3 hotel partners!), and solid point valuation.
What are Amex Rewards Points Worth?
First off, obsessing over a point’s value shouldn’t be your only focus. Trust me, you want to find great deals to get high redemption values, but they’re your points. You can spend ‘em however you want.
And if it saves you from having to pay full cash price on a flight, hotel, or other travel experience, then consider that a win!
However, we want to make those points stretch as far as possible so we can get the most out of them. Other travel nerds have come up with a system to determine each program’s point value, and Amex points sit at a solid and admirable two cents per point.
This valuation can be a guiding factor when you want to determine if you should book travel with points or pay cash. Here’s how you figure that out:
(cash price) - (taxes and fees) / (points cost) = value per points
This calculation holds up across all programs and all points, not just Amex, so keep that in mind.
So, if you were looking to transfer Amex points (more on that later) to KLM/AirFrance’s program FlyingBlue, you might see bookings similar to this 👇
Miles vs. cash price on identical flights
To determine if this is a deal worth using your miles and points for, simply plug the numbers into the equation.
($1,017) - ($86.50) / 12,750) = .073
That means you’re getting around 7.3 cents per point on this redemption, which is excellent. Book this flight. Right now.
But if you’re wondering, “Okay, how do I even get 12,750 Amex points in the first place?” Stay tuned…
How to Earn American Express Membership Rewards
An abundance of Amex points are the things that travel-obsessive people like me dream of.
But for real, one of the foundational practices is earning miles and points to be redeemed for free(ish) travel.
Here are some examples of our favorite ways to earn American Express Membership Rewards 👇
1. Sign up for credit cards
If you feel you can be responsible with managing a credit card (or several), then getting an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards will be one of the easiest ways to accelerate your point-earning potential. This is mainly because of the sign-up bonuses that are offered in the form of thousands of points.
You could find welcome offers with 60K, 80K, or even 120K points at times. (These values often change, so it’s important to look at current offers at the time that you decide to apply for a card.)
The Platinum is your luxury travel card that comes with luxury perks at a luxury price. You can read all about why you should go for this card here.
The Gold is the next tier down, but still offers exciting perks and benefits, especially if paired with the Platinum.
If you’re looking for an Amex card with a lower annual fee, we also like the American Express® Green Card for its decent perks and earning potential.
There are also a few business cards worth mentioning, namely the Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), the American Express® Business Gold Card (Rates & Fees), and the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees).
2. Use online shopping portals
Amex doesn’t have its own shopping portal, but one of our all-around favorites is Rakuten. Rakuten is home to thousands of different merchants that allow you to buy everyday items with the bonus of earning cash-back or Membership Rewards points for each purchase 🎉
You can learn more about Rakuten and sign-up for a free account with this link to start earning additional rewards.
3. Refer, refer, refer
You can also earn a chunk of Amex points by referring others to get their very own card using your unique referral link. Better yet, it doesn’t cost you a dime.
If you have a card that earns Amex Membership Rewards, you can refer someone else to sign up for any Amex card that they want (co-branded or not), and if they are approved, you both win.
You will get whatever current referral bonus is being offered (maybe 15K or 20K points, for example), and your friend will also be rewarded with the lump sum of Amex points once they reach the spending requirement on their new card.
4. Allocate your purchases to the right card
If you only have one card, then this doesn’t really apply to you. In order to earn as many miles and points as you can, simply put all purchases on your one card when able. Simple as that.
However, if you have multiple cards, you may find that one card earns 5x points on certain travel categories, but only 2x points on gas and groceries. If you have a second card that earns 3x or even 4x on gas and groceries, you will want to charge those specific purchases to that second card.
Why only get 2x points for grocery purchases when you could get 4x, right? You will see your points more easily multiply if you strategize what you spend on certain cards.
This concept is called utilizing a credit card trifecta or duo, and it’s something that all experienced miles and points enthusiasts take advantage of.
5. Add an authorized user
Maybe that friend isn’t ready for their own card, or maybe you have a teenager that you want to help build some credit. Adding an authorized user to your card and account could be the solution.
There’s a level of trust here, so ensure that person will be responsible with their spending and prompt with paying their (your!) credit card bill.
Sometimes, there are point bonuses for adding an authorized user, but not always.
Either way, by adding someone else to your account, you will reap the benefits of earning more points from their spending in addition to yours. But again, make sure they are responsible for it, because in the end, it’s your name on the line.
How to Redeem American Express Membership Rewards
Whoo! We finally made it to the part where we can start talking more about TRAVELING.
But before we can travel, we must redeem our Amex points—the golden travel currency in this scenario. Your two main options include booking travel through the Amex travel portal or transferring your points to Amex’s transfer partners (e.g. airlines and hotels).
As I mentioned earlier, your points are there to get you free or significantly discounted travel. It is your choice how you want to use your points, but some redemptions will be better than others.
Let’s take a closer look.
1. Book Through the Amex Travel Booking Platform
There are pros and cons to this. The most obvious pro is that it’s the easiest and most stress-free way to redeem your points.
I often preferred to do this when I was just starting out in the miles and points game, but I find myself doing this less and less now that I’m years into it.
In most cases, you’ll get a value for your points at around one cent each by using them this way; however, they can be worth quite a bit more in other redemption scenarios.
Is it the worst redemption in the world? No. But is it the best? No…
Here’s an example for you. If I wanted to book a flight from Seattle to Tokyo within Amex’s booking system, you can see I would get roughly around one cent per point this way, based on the cash price versus the number of points required.
This isn’t a good redemption… I personally wouldn’t book this flight.
If you want the convenience of not having to move your points around, and you’re more concerned about just getting yourself a free flight… you have this option.
However, if I took some of my Amex points and transferred them to my Air Canada Aeroplan account, for example, you can see I would only need around 50K points (with a layover).
That’s less than half the points needed!
Speaking of transferring points…
2. Transfer Your Points to Amex’s Travel Partners
I’d say 95% of the time, this is my go-to method. Plus, you will be happy to know that Amex has the largest list of transfer partners in the game.
When you are searching for an award flight on an airline, do your research. Conduct multiple searches, routes, dates, etc. until you find an award see you would like to book.
Then, and only then, should you transfer your points over, because once they leave your Amex account, they cannot go back. Transferring is a one-way street.
Once you’re ready to transfer your points, here’s how to do it:
STEP 1: Log in to your Amex account. From the top navigation bar, select Earn and Redeem, then Transfer Points.
STEP 2: You’ll see a list of Amex’s transfer partners. Scroll down the page until you find the airline you want to transfer to.
STEP 3: If you’re transferring for the first time, you will need to link your Amex account with the airline you would like to transfer your points to. I’ll go ahead and link my British Airways account with my Amex account.
It may ask you some additional questions and you input any necessary info, but once your two accounts are linked, you’re ready to transfer!
STEP 4: Transfer your points! If instead I want to snag an award seat on Emirates, I simply select Emirates from the list of transfer partners and choose how many points I want to transfer. Select Review Transfer at the bottom, then Okay.
Just keep an eye out for when those points actually hit your airline account before you book!
Other Reward Programs to Consider
Capital One Miles
Citi ThankYou® Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
American Express Membership Rewards are some of the most valuable in the travel world. Amex has the largest list of transfer partners which means maximal flexibility for you as the traveler!
You have access to dozens of airlines across all alliances which makes jet-setting around the world pretty darn accessible. Plus, if you want to expedite your point-earning potential, you can rest assured that Amex’s cards are some of the best to help you do that.