If you want to maximize your credit card rewards, I always recommend earning transferable points currencies for your spending whenever possible. In this post I wanted to take a detailed look at how to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points, given how many people earn this currency for their credit card spending.
Amex Membership Rewards points are easy to earn
There are several credit cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards points. American Express has both personal and business cards, letting you maximize your rewards across a wide variety of spending categories.
The following are the best personal cards for earning Amex points:
- The American Express® Gold Card (review)
- The American Express® Green Card (review)
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card (review)
- The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express (review)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (review)
The following business cards earn Amex Membership Rewards points:
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (review)
- The American Express® Business Gold Card (review)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review)
How much Amex Membership Rewards points are worth
Based on my methodology of valuing points currencies, I value Amex Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each. For that matter, that’s how much I value all major transferable points currencies. There’s no science to that, but rather I think it’s a fair but conservative valuation for how much value you could get if you’re maximizing your rewards.
How you can redeem Amex Membership Rewards points
Let’s take a brief look at how you can redeem Amex Membership Rewards points, and then we’ll talk about how you should redeem points to maximize value.
Amex Membership Rewards points can be transferred to airline and hotel partners. The program has the below 20 partners (the most of any transferable points currency), including 17 airlines and three hotel groups, and most transfers are at a 1:1 ratio.
Aer Lingus AerClub
Aeromexico Club Premier
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
ANA Mileage Club
British Airways Executive Club
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
There are plenty of other ways to redeem Amex points as well. Among other things, Amex Membership Rewards points can be redeemed in the following ways:
- Toward cash, in the form of a statement credit
- Toward shopping directly with popular retailers
- Toward gift cards with a variety of retailers
- Toward flight and hotel purchases
The catch is that generally speaking you won’t get more than one cent of value per point with these redemption methods. There is one exception when it comes to paying for flights, which I’ll address below.
The best uses of Amex Membership Rewards points
You’ll get the most value with your Amex Membership Rewards points by transferring them to travel partners. That’s because all other options typically get you at most one cent of value per point, and you can hopefully do better than that. Below I wanted to share what I consider the best uses of American Express Membership Rewards points to be, roughly ranked starting with my favorite.
If transferring to airline partners, it’s important to understand that you’ll generally get the most value redeeming for international flights, especially in business class. Also, if you’re new to redeeming points, check out my top 10 tips for redeeming points, so you can hopefully get the best value.
Transfer to Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada Aeroplan is probably my single favorite frequent flyer program. Not only does Aeroplan have more airline partners than any other airline loyalty program, but you can also add stopovers to awards for 5,000 points one-way.
If you’re looking to redeem on Star Alliance, or a variety of other airline partners (ranging from Air Mauritius to Oman Air), booking through Aeroplan is an excellent option. For my own travels, I redeem more points through Aeroplan than any other frequent flyer program.
Transfer to All Nippon Airways Mileage Club
Amex is the only major points currency to partner with All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club. That’s exciting, because this Star Alliance carrier’s frequent flyer program has some incredible redemption opportunities, like roundtrip business class from the United Sates to Europe for 88,000 miles, or a round the world business class award (with up to 29,000 miles of travel) for 170,000 miles.
While the program potentially offers lots of value, there’s a huge learning curve to understanding this program, so make sure you do your research prior to transferring any points. This includes that there are restrictions on who you can redeem for, there are big carrier imposed surcharges on some partners, and more.
Transfer to Avianca LifeMiles
Amex Membership Rewards has no shortage of Star Alliance partners. If you want a straightforward one-way award on a Star Alliance airline with just one or two segments, Avianca LifeMiles may be your best option. LifeMiles has great redemption rates without fuel surcharges. For example, a transatlantic business class award will generally start at 63,000 miles one-way, while a business class award to Southeast Asia will start at 78,000 miles one-way.
Just be aware that sometimes LifeMiles doesn’t have access to the same award space as other programs, so you’ll want to check that in advance.
Transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer
Singapore Airlines restricts most of its first class and business class award space to members of its own KrisFlyer program. So while the airline is in the Star Alliance, don’t expect to be able to snag Singapore Airlines long haul premium cabin awards through other programs.
Fortunately Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer has fair redemption rates, pretty good award availability in business class, and limited surcharges. This could be useful whether you want to travel on the world’s longest flight from New York to Singapore, or want to take one of Singapore Airlines’ fifth freedom flights, like New York to Frankfurt.
Transfer to Emirates Skywards
Emirates Skywards is the best way to book most Emirates tickets with miles. This could be useful whether you want to take one of Emirates’ fifth freedom flights (from Newark to Athens or New York to Milan), or whether you’re looking to fly with the airline to Dubai and beyond.
It’s even possible to redeem miles for Emirates first class, though it could take some work. A shower in the sky is a worthwhile reward, though! A first class award between the United States and Europe costs 85,000 Skywards miles one-way, if you can find award availability.
Transfer to Air France-KLM Flying Blue
If you want to fly across the Atlantic in business class, it’s tough to beat Flying Blue, as this is the key to unlocking Air France business class and KLM business class awards. Not only is this great if you’re looking to travel to Amsterdam and Paris, but the two airlines have extensive route networks throughout Europe and beyond.
You can generally expect that transatlantic business class awards will start around 55,000 miles one-way, with mild fuel surcharges (around $200 one-way). You can sometimes get even better pricing if you can book a Flying Blue Promo Rewards offer.
Transfer to British Airways Executive Club
British Airways Executive Club is a useful frequent flyer program, especially for oneworld redemptions. Executive Club has a unique distance based award chart, so it’s a particularly useful points currency if you’re trying to redeem for travel on Alaska or American from or within the United States. Avios can be a great deal for travel to Hawaii and the Caribbean.
Avios are also useful for short haul redemptions in other regions, including within Asia and Australia. Lastly, Avios are an excellent value for travel in Qatar Airways business class, which is regarded as one of the best in the world.
Can you pay for flights with Amex points?
Unlike with Chase Ultimate Rewards, there’s typically not an efficient way to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points directly toward the cost of a flight. Amex’s “Pay With Points” program for flights generally lets you redeem points toward flights at around one cent per point, which isn’t great.
There are two exceptions, though:
- The American Express® Business Gold Card (review) offers a 25% rebate on Pay With Points airline bookings; this can get you up to 1.33 cents of value per point toward airfare
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review) offers a 35% rebate on Pay With Points airline bookings; this can get you up to 1.54 cents of value per point toward airfare
Now, there are some things to be aware of:
- This rebate only applies when booking first or business class travel, or economy travel on your designated U.S. airline (you can designate an airline in your Amex account)
- You can pool your Amex points across all cards and redeem at these rates, assuming you have one of the above cards
- With this redemption option, the Amex Business Gold offers up to 250K points in rebates per year, and the Amex Business Platinum offers up to 500K points in rebates per year
- You need to have the full Amex points for the redemption upfront (based on the rate of one cent per point), and then the 25-35% points rebate will post to your account within 6-10 weeks
I’d say this could be a good deal, though as you can tell, there are some major limitations here in terms of the cards you need to have, and how the redemptions work.
How not to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points
I tend to think that if you feel good about an award redemption then that should be enough. At the same time, I’d generally aim to get more than one cent of value per Amex Membership Rewards point. As a result, I’d highly recommend avoiding the following redemptions:
- Transferring points to Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors, and Marriott Bonvoy; these programs no doubt offer value in general, but based on the transfer ratio this just doesn’t make sense, as these points are worth less than other currencies on a per-point basis
- Redeeming points for merchandise, statement credits, etc.; this will get you at most one cent of value per point (and in many cases even less), so you don’t want to redeem that way
- Redeeming points through Amex Travel toward the cost of hotels, flights, and rental cars; the exception is if you have a card that offers a rebate on “Pay With Points” flight bookings, as that’s the primary way you’ll get more than one cent of value per point with this redemption option
Amex has more transfer partners than other transferable points currencies, and generally that’s going to be the best way to use your Amex points. Personally my favorite Amex partners are Air Canada Aeroplan and All Nippon Airways Mileage Club, though I also get quite a bit of value from partners like Air France-KLM Flying Blue, Emirates Skywards, Singapore KrisFlyer, and more.
To those who collect Amex Membership Rewards points, what are your favorite uses of the currency?