American Express Membership Rewards Explained



Once you are over the 5/24 Chase rule with their cards, it is time to head off into the world of American Express Membership Rewards. I recently transferred American Express points to British Airways to travel to London. It was easy to transfer my points and then book a ticket.

American Express offers several credit cards that earn Membership Reward points when you use them for purchases. American Membership Rewards are similar to Chase Ultimate Rewards. Here are some things you need to know about American Express Membership Reward credit cards.

  • One of the most important things to remember about American Express Membership Reward cards is you can usually only get each card once. (Occasionally an offer will be presented without the once-in-a-lifetime rule but that is rare). It is also relatively easy to be approved for these cards. Because of the once-in-a-lifetime rule, make sure you sign up when the offer is high.
  • Although many of the cards have an annual fee, these are offset by some pretty amazing rewards and incredible signup bonuses. Most rewards are offered per calendar year so if you do sign up, you can get them twice by paying one annual fee and then cancel or downgrade the card to a lower or no annual fee card. I think this makes them completely worthwhile. I like the Platinum Card so much, it will always be in my wallet. More on that later.


Transfer Partners

Here are the transfer partners you can use with your American Express Membership Rewards:

  • Aer Lingus Air Club
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France KLM
  • ANA
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • Hawaiian
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Quantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Choice Hotels
  • Hilton Hotels
  • Marriott Hotels


American Express Platinum Card

This is my personal favorite American Express Card. Yes, it has a high annual fee of $695, but it also has some really great benefits that make up for that high fee. You can read my review of this card here. It lists all the great benefits too. I actually think this is a card I will always have in my wallet.



American Express Gold Card

Another popular American Express Card, this one has an annual fee of $250 but comes with $120 in dining credits yearly and also $120 in Uber or Uber Eats credits yearly which basically make the annual fee $10.  It earns 4x Membership Reward points when paying at restaurants and supermarkets (up to $25,000/yr), so readers can make a lot of American Express Membership Rewards on these purchases.



American Express Green Card

I would only get this card if I really wanted some more American Express Membership Rewards as the welcome offer is not justified by the $150 annual fee. It does come with a $100 credit for a Clear membership and a $100 credit for LoungeBuddy passes.



American Express Business Platinum Card

This business credit card has an annual fee of $695, but it comes with a $400 ($200 twice a year) credit from Dell and a $200 airline incidental credit. I use mine with United Airlines to purchase TravelBank certificates. These cards are often offered without the lifetime rule policy. I have gotten more than one of these cards because of this.



American Express Business Gold Card

This is another good card to get for AMEX Membership Rewards, and the annual fee is $295. I have also received another offer for this card again. It doesn’t have any real benefits that come with the card, so I would only get it if you find a welcome offer of about 90K.


American Express Business Green Rewards Card

This card is only worthwhile getting if you just need a few extra Membership Rewards. The annual fee is waived the first year.



American Express Blue Business Plus Card

This card occasionally has a higher offer of 50K Membership Rewards. I applied for it once at this offer but I wouldn’t otherwise apply for it unless I really, really needed a few points.


Cancelling Early (after receiving the bonus)

Warning: Be sure and let the annual fee post before you cancel any of these cards after your first year! You have a 30-day grace period to cancel. There have been reports of American Express clawing back (taking away) any points you haven’t used if you cancel the card before this. Also, if you want to cancel a card, be sure and downgrade to a no-fee card like the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Spend card so you don’t lose your Membership Reward points.


Referral Bonuses

A great way to earn more Membership Rewards is to refer others, including spouses, to your card. This is how to do that. Once you sign in, you will see a screen that looks like this:


Screen shot of American Express home page

Click on the blue button that says “refer now”. You will get the following screen:


AMEX referral page

You can refer someone by email or send them a personalized link. You can even put that link on Facebook to entice all your friends to signup and get more referral points.


Using Membership Rewards

Here are all the ways you can use your Membership Rewards. You can see that you can use your membership rewards in many ways. You get the most value when you use them for travel. Don’t fall for the ease of covering your card charges or paying with points at checkout or for gift cards.

Going through the AMEX portal by picking “book or upgrade travel” is easy. Sometimes you can find great value, especially for relatively cheap tickets. Other times it makes more sense and you will get more value by transferring your points to a partner. In this case, you would pick the “transfer points” tab. Comparing the two is always advisable if you want to get the best value for your points.


Amex redemption choices


Sharing Points

Chase and Citibank let you share points with another account holder. Unfortunately, AMEX does not unless they are an authorized user on one of your accounts. Because I am an authorized user on my husband’s American Express Gold Card, he can share or transfer his Membership Rewards to me. Usually, we do not suggest being an authorized user on a spouse’s card. I had canceled my card previously and wanted to use his card for the 4x on groceries and so I became an authorized user. It now works to my benefit for this usage.

Expiration Dates

You don’t have to worry about this if you have at least one card that earns Membership Rewards open. I have no plans to close my Gold and Platinum cards, so this is a non-issue for me. If you were to close your card that earns Membership Rewards, be sure and downgrade to one of the lower annual fee cards like the American Express Green Card.

American Express Offers

American Express Offers are offers that are particular to a certain AMEX credit card. It may be something like ” save $40 on a $200 Marriott stay”  or something similar. You have to add these to your card and then use that card for your purchase. They will then credit you that amount. I have saved a lot of money with these offers, and they are worth checking out. Here’s some of what is currently offered on my Platinum card.


screenshot AMEX offers


Bottom Line

Once you are over 5/24, I would definitely consider getting Membership Rewards. I think we all agree that Ultimate Rewards are the easiest rewards to use, but Membership Rewards are a close second! If you like to travel on the partner airlines listed, like Delta, these cards are definitely for you! These cards are transferable points cards and can be used with so many transfer partners.

Let us know if you have more questions about Membership Rewards or how to use them. We are always happy to help you through the travel hacking process!

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