American Express Membership Rewards Explained

Pam

 

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

 

American Express Platinum Card

Even with its high annual fee, this is Pam’s favorite credit card!

Annual Fee: $695

Sign Up Bonus:

Earn 100,000 American Express Membership Reward Points after spending $5000 in 6 months with the American Express Platinum Credit Card. This offer changes often so it may be different when you view it.

Benefits:

  • $200 annual travel incidentals credit – Select one qualifying airline (mine is currently United) and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees, such as checked bags, in-flight refreshments, and change fees are charged by the airline. I usually use this to buy (4) $50 TravelBank purchases which are essentially credits used towards United tickets.
  • Earn 5X American Express Membership Reward points when you use the card to pay for certain travel expenses such as flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. Earn 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
  • Uber rides – $15 credit per month on rides paid with Platinum card, $35 in December. This can also be used on Uber Eats which is what I use them for.
  • Statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck – worth $100 and $85 respectively.
  • $179 Clear credit annually – this gets me through the airport much quicker
  • $240 Streaming credit for Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and the New York Times
  • $300 Equinox credit
  • Cell Phone Protection -You can be reimbursed for your costs to repair or replace your damaged or stolen cell phone up to $800, subject to a $50 deductible, for 2 approved claims per 12-month period when your prior month’s wireless bill was paid utilizing an Eligible Card Account.
  • Global Lounge Collection – Access to some of the best airport lounges every time you fly. Enjoy a free meal or snack, a quick shower, and respite from the general airport noise. This includes the Centurion Lounge, Delta Sky Club when flying Delta, and Priority Pass Select lounges. Honestly, this is one of my favorite perks. I love hanging out in a nice airport lounge when I travel. I have taken showers after a long flight that has completely revitalized my travel and eaten snacks or a meal that has saved me a lot of money. The American Express Centurion Lounges are some of my very favorites!! When I go to a Centurion Lounge or Priority Pass lounge, I can bring someone in for free. I’ve impressed many a relative or friend with this sweet perk! (The ability to bring a friend into the Centurion Lounge ends February 2023, sadly).
  • Shop Saks – $50 every 6 months credit at Saks 5th Avenue. I buy my expensive face creams here for free!

The American Express Platinum Card is one of my favorite cards and it will always be in my wallet. I really think the benefits outweigh the annual fee. If the cost of the card is $695 and I take off the $200 airline credit, $100 Shop Saks credit, the $179 Clear credit, and the $275 credit for Uber, I end up paying nothing for this card even before I take advantage of the streaming credits.

 

American Express Gold Card

 

American Express Gold Card

Annual Fee: $250

Sign Up Bonus:

60,000 Membership Reward Points after spending $4000 in six months on the American Express Gold Card. This offer changes often so it may be different when you view it.

Benefits:

  • $120 in dining credits yearly – Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and participating Shake Shack locations. It has been reported that if you just go into one of these places and buy a $10 gift card to use later, it works. It also works at boxed.com and I usually go that route. I’m going to buy staples for myself anyway, I might as well have them delivered and save $10/month.
  • $10/month Uber Eats credit. When I add $120 credit annually for this, the $120 dining credits, and the $100 travel credit, this card is basically free!
  • Earn 4x Membership Reward points when paying at restaurants and supermarkets (up to $25,000/yr) and 3x Membership Reward points for travel expenses – Flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. Earn 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
  • No foreign transaction fees

 

American Express EveryDay Preferred

 

American Express EveryDay Preferred Credit Card

Annual Fee: $95

Sign up Bonus:

15,000 points after meeting $1000 spend in 3 months currently

Benefits:

  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year); 2 points per dollar spent at US gas stations, and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. If you make 30 or more purchases in a billing period, you’ll earn 50% more points on those purchases. This makes this a good everyday card if you are after Membership Rewards.

 

American Express EveryDay Card

 

Annual Fee: $0

Sign up Bonus:

10,000 Membership Rewards after spending $1000 in 3 months.

Benefits:

Earn 2 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year); then 1 point dollar after that and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. This is a great card to downgrade to after you get your rewards from a higher annual fee card because it has no annual fee. Be sure and get both calendar years of benefits for the card you are downgrading from, for example, the Gold Card, before you go to this card.

 

American Express Green Card

 

American Express Green Card

Annual Fee: $150

50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $2000 in 6 months. This can change periodically.

Benefits:

Earn 3 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets, dining, and transit spending.  $100 annual credit for Clear membership and $100 credit for LoungeBuddy passes.

Here is a link to the American Express Green Credit Card.

 

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 a lot of 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 no annual fee cards like the American Express EveryDay Credit 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 Alex and I both 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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