How to Maximize Your American Express Membership Rewards Points
This card is no longer available
The American Express Membership Rewards program is one of the best known, and most valuable loyalty programs, available. You can make your spending and loyalty rewards even more valuable by learning some tips on how to maximize the value of your Membership Rewards points.
Getting Started with Membership Rewards Points
There are several ways to redeem your Membership Rewards (or "MR") points from American Express. These include transferring them to hotel and airline loyalty programs.
Of course, some redemption options are better than others.
In fact, if you plan out your redemptions with some thought, it's possible to get a redemption value of almost 8 cents per point.
And the point of this article is to provide toy with the tips and knowledge to achieve those types of results with your Membership Rewards points. So read on to find out how to get the the maximum value for your MR points.
American Express Cards in the Membership Rewards Program
Let's begin with a quick look at the credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points. Here are some of the most popular options:
Amex EveryDay. 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 during the first 3 months. No annual fee.
Amex EveryDay Preferred. 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 during the first 3 months. $95 annual fee.
Mercedes-Benz Credit Card. 10,000 bonus MR points after spending $1,000 during the first 3 months. $95 annual fee.
Premier Rewards Gold Card. Up to 65,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 during the first 3 months then another $2,000 during the second year. $0 intro annual fee; $195 afterward.
Business Gold Rewards. 25,000 bonus MR points after spending $5,000 during the first 3 months. $0 intro annual fee; $175 afterward.
Platinum Card. 40,000 bonus MR points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. $450 annual fee.
There are, of course, several other Amex cards that participate in the Membership Rewards loyalty program. These include the classic green card. So if there is a card you are interested in, but did not see, do not worry. It probably participates in the MR program.
Ways to Redeem Your Membership Rewards Points
The sheer number of ways to use your Membership Rewards points can seem overwhelming at first.
Before we get into which options have the best and worst redemption value, we are going to provide a quick list of your available options. This will provide a manageable way to help get you familiar with your choices.
Points for Charges
This option works like cash back to cover eligible expenses on your statement.
Shop with Amazon
You can link your MR and Amazon accounts to use points directly on Amazon. Other rewards programs now offer this benefit.
Redeem MR points for Uber rides by adding your Amex card as your Uber payment method. The Uber app will give you the option to use points to pay.
One of the newest ways to use your MR points is booking stays through Airbnb, a website that connects travelers with people who offer accommodations around the world.
You can donate MR points to charity with a minimum donation of 1,000 points ($10).
You can use points directly for merchandise through the Membership Rewards online mall.
Points can also be redeemed for gift cards to retailers and for American Express gift cards.
Redeeming your points for travel has the potential to give you the best redemption value. There are several ways to use your points to travel. You can book airfare, hotel stays, cruises, car rentals, and vacations through Membership Rewards or transfer your points to more than one dozen hotel and airline partners.
The Best Ways to Use Your MR Points
Transferring your points to loyalty programs is the best way to maximize the value of your MR points. American Express has several airline and hotel partners and the transfer ratio is usually 1:1, but sometimes there are transfer bonuses to watch for.
Here are the current Amex partners and the standard transfer ratio.
Delta Skymiles - 1:1
British Airways - 1:1
Emirates Skywards - 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines - 1:1
Frontier Airlines - 1:1
Iberia - 1:1
JetBlue - 2.5:2
Etihad Airways - 1:1
Virgin America Elevate - 2:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club - 1:1
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer - 1:1
Air France - 1:1
AeroMexico - 1:1
Aeroplan - 1:1
MilleMiglia Club - 1:1
ANA - 1:1
Asia Miles - 1:1 (Asia Miles includes 20 airline programs like Air New Zealand and Air China)
Hilton HHonors - 1:1.5
Starwood Preferred Guest - 3:1
Choice Privileges Rewards Program - 1:1
It is worth taking a deeper look at a couple of these partner relationships, and the benefits you get from the Amex loyalty program. In fact, these are the options where you may well be able to maximize the value of your Membership Rewards points.
You will almost always get the best value by transferring your points to British Airways.
British Airways points can be used on any flights and the program is distance-based. A one-way flight under 650 miles will cost just 4,500 MR points. If the flight is more than 650 but less than 1,152 miles, it will cost 7,500 MR points.
Singapore Airlines is famous for its sought-after first-class flying experience. Each A380 has 12 Suites that are semi-private with closing doors and convertible full-length beds for the best flight of your life.
Krisflyer offers a 15% mileage discount when you book a Singapore award flight, making it easy to transfer your MR points at a 1:1 ratio to maximize your value.
Suite awards cost 110,000 miles one-way, if your flight originates from the Eastern or Central time zone in the United States; othewise, you will need to use 112,500 miles to book a suite to Singapore.
You can also transfer MR points to Singapore Airlines and use your miles on Star Alliance partners to get the best possible redemption value:
Redeem your KrisFlyer miles with a Star Alliance partner for a one-way business class ticket for 20,000 points.
Fly from the continental United States to Hawaii in economy for 17,500 points.
Fly from the United States to Europe on a Star Alliance partner for 22,500 one-way in economy.
You can transfer MR points at a 1:1 ratio to Hawaiian Airlines and book a one-way coach SuperSaver award flight from the continental United States to Hawaii for just 20,000 points. Most Amex signup bonuses will cover this flight and more.
AirFrance FlyingBlue often has promotional awards during the year with 50% off award flights from North America to Europe.
This means that it is possible to fly to Hawaii from the continental United States for 30,000 MR points and $10 in fees roundtrip. With 30,000 points, you could also fly round-trip in economy to the Caribbean or Tahiti.
Standard Ways to Use Membership Rewards Points
Not big on air travel? Then consider some of these options when redeeming your Membership Rewards points. These choices will give you a standard 1 cent per point value. You can definitely do better with MR points, but at least these options won't make your points worth less than other rewards points.
Gift card Redemptions. Most gift card redemptions have a flat 1 cent per point value so 25,000 points are necessary for a $25 gift card. You can sometimes find deals like spending 100,000 points for a $125 gift card.
Uber Rides. You will get a flat 1 cent per point value when paying for Uber rides.
Charitable Donations. 10,000 MR points are equal to a $10 charity of your choice through the Members Give website on the first 500,000 points, then the redemption value gets cut in half.
Redeem for Airfare through Membership Rewards. This option has a value of 1 cent/point on airfare.
Avoid These Options
Sometimes, the best way to best utilize your American Express MR points it avoid those options with the least value. This is because tot every redemption option offered by American Express provides you with real value. In fact, these options should always be avoided (unless program terms change).
At this time, we recommend not redeeming your Amex points for the following:
Shop with Amex. Don't bother redeeming your points for merchandise through the MR shopping mall. Your points will have a standard value of 0.5 cents each. You would be better off at least redeeming for gift cards and using them at the retailers.
Transfer to Hilton. Some point transfers are better deals than others. Transferring your MR points to Hilton will get you around 0.5 value per point thanks to Hilton's recent devaluation. If you want Hilton HHonors points, you're better off using one of the two Amex or two Citi cards that earn Hilton points rather than transferring MR points.
Transfer to Delta. Your MR points will be worth around 0.5 each when you turn them into SkyMiles.
Shop Amazon. You will only get 0.7 cents per point when you shop through Amazon.
Points for Charges. You only get a 0.6 cent per point value when you use MR points to cover charges on your statement.
Airbnb Stays. You need 187 MR points for every $1 toward an Airbnb stay, or a value of 0.7 cents per point. Want to use points at Airbnb? Use them for a gift card instead to at least get the standard 1 cent/point value.
Redeem for Cars, Hotel, Cruises, or Vacation Travel through Membership Rewards. This option, at best, gives you a value of 0.85 cents per point.
Even though our closing portion of the article covered the redemption options that are worth less than 1 cent per point, it may be a good place for beginners to start. For many, getting the most from their American Express points may come from not redeeming them for the least valuable items.
For those who really want to enjoy the biggest benefit from their MR points, we recommend watching out for deals from American Express travel partners. This may require you to hoard points for a while, and maintain some patience and vigilance. But when deals come along - like those we noted with AirFrance and others - you can really get the most bang for your points.
Editor's Note: This content was accurate at the time of publishing, but information may have since changed.
Credit Shout is a community of personal finance experts dedicated to helping you save money and make smart financial decisions. Learn how to master your credit card rewards, improve your credit score and start eliminating your debt.