Amex rewards: How to get the most value from your points

A smiling couple sit on their sofa and use a tablet to review redemption options through amex rewards.Image: A smiling couple sit on their sofa and use a tablet to review redemption options through amex rewards.
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These offers are no longer available on our site: American Express® Green Card, Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express

The American Express Membership Rewards® program is great for frequent flyers.

American Express is well known for its benefits and perks, like the world-class Centurion airport lounges. But it also offers powerful rewards that can be transferred to airlines and hotels all over the world.

Here’s what you need to know.



How to earn Amex rewards points

The best way to earn American Express Membership Rewards® points is with — you guessed it — a credit card. These are a few of our favorite American Express cards.

  • Platinum Card® from American Express
  • American Express® Gold Card
  • American Express® Green Card

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card and The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express also offer Membership Rewards, but they aren’t quite as lucrative. Plus, there are a few business credit cards that offer Membership Rewards points, like The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express.

But before you apply, keep in mind that not all American Express credit cards offer Membership Rewards points. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a great option for groceries, but the cash back you earn with this card isn’t in the form of Membership Rewards points.

If you’re considering applying for an American Express rewards credit card, make sure you take a close look to find out whether you’ll get Amex rewards or cash back before you apply.

Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for frequent flyers and luxury travelers

The Platinum Card® from American Express caters to luxury travelers with world-class airport lounges.

You’ll have the opportunity to earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases during the first 6 months of card membership.

Plus, you’ll get five points for every $1 you spend on flights booked with the airline or through American Express, and on prepaid hotels booked through American Express. All other purchases earn one point per $1 spent.

The $695 annual fee is partially offset by a number of travel and lifestyle credits. You’ll receive a $200 annual airline fee credit that can help pay for things like checked bags, priority boarding, and onboard food and drinks with one selected airline, plus a $189 Clear credit to help you breeze through airport security. The Uber credits (doled out in $15 monthly increments, with a bonus $20 in December — for an annual total of $200) can help pay for rides back and forth from the airport.

American Express® Gold Card: Best for foodies with a big appetite

The American Express® Gold Card rewards you for every bite you take.

Whether you enjoy dining out or cooking at home, you’ll earn four points per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide and on the first $25,000 you spend each year at U.S. supermarkets. You’ll also earn three points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex, and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Make sure you save room for dessert: The American Express® Gold Card features a 60,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases during the first 6 months after account opening.

The $250 annual fee might seem like a big bite to swallow, but it’s partially offset by a couple of credits that you can use toward dining purchases: You’ll get $10 in monthly dining credits that can be used at select restaurants when you enroll. And if you add your card to your Uber account, you’ll get $10 in monthly Uber credits, which you can apply toward Uber Eats orders as well as Uber rides.

American Express® Green Card: Best for commuters

The American Express® Green Card could make your commute a little more enjoyable.

You’ll earn three points for every $1 you spend on local transit like buses, subways, trains, taxicabs, rideshares and ferries. While this bonus category doesn’t include gas, if you drive to work you’ll earn the same three points per $1 on tolls and parking. Plus, you’ll earn three points per $1 spent at restaurants; three points per $1 spent on travel purchases like airfare, hotels and car rentals; and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Meanwhile, you can supercharge your Membership Rewards balance with a 40,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $2,000 on purchases during the first 6 months after account opening.

It also offers up to $200 in various travel credits that can help offset the $150 annual fee.

Amex trifecta

The Amex trifecta is a strategy that combines three cards to help you squeeze more rewards out of your spending.

If you’re trying to maximize American Express Membership Rewards, you could spread your purchases across these different cards, so you can tap into the various bonus categories they offer that complement each other.

Here’s an example of how you might use each of these cards together.

  • Use the Platinum Card® from American Express for travel.
  • Use the American Express® Gold Card for restaurant and grocery purchases.
  • And use the American Express® Green Card for commuting to work.

If you run a business, you could also substitute in one of these cards.

In addition to capitalizing on the different bonus categories, you could turbo charge your Membership Rewards balance with multiple welcome bonuses.

The choice is yours. Just pick the cards that make the most sense for your budget and spending habits.

How to redeem Amex rewards points

Amex rewards: Top transfer partners

Loyalty programValue of points or miles
Delta SkyMiles®2.07 cents
Air Canada Aeroplan points1.73 cents
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles®1.37 cents
JetBlue TrueBlue points1.32 cents

American Express Membership Rewards points are worth an estimated 2.07 cents each, based on Credit Karma’s point valuations.

But it all depends on how you redeem your points. Because American Express offers a flexible rewards program, you can usually get the best value when you transfer points to a handful of airline and hotel partners.

Here are some of the best ways we’ve found to use American Express Membership Rewards.

1. Take a trip around the world

You could book a round-the-world ticket by transferring your points to ANA Mileage Club or AeroMexico Club Premier.

With a round-the-world ticket, you can check off the top places on your bucket list as you fly around the globe.

But there are specific rules — depending on the airline — about how many stops you can make and which direction you can travel. So before you transfer your points, make sure you understand what you’re getting into.

2. Turn your Membership Rewards into Delta SkyMiles®

If you’re looking for a simpler redemption option, Delta SkyMiles® are a great choice for traveling overseas.

They’re the highest-rated American Express transfer partner, with miles that are worth 2.07 cents each, based on Credit Karma’s point valuations. You might get the best value by booking an international flight, and because Delta flies all over the world, you’ll have plenty of destinations to choose from.

3. Turn your Amex rewards into Air Canada Aeroplan points

If you’re interested in visiting our neighbors to the north, Air Canada might be your best bet.

Air Canada Aeroplan points are worth 1.73 cents each, based on Credit Karma’s point valuations. The airline flies out of 50 cities in the United States with Canadian hubs in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

4. Turn your rewards into Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles®

Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles® are worth 1.37 cents each, based on Credit Karma’s point valuations. While it’s not the most valuable Amex transfer partner, it could be a worthwhile transfer to make if you already use Hawaiian Airlines frequently.

5. Turn your Amex rewards into JetBlue TrueBlue points

If you’re not interested in island life or dusting off your passport, JetBlue is a decent choice for domestic flights.

JetBlue TrueBlue points are worth 1.32 cents each, based on Credit Karma’s point valuations. While JetBlue doesn’t fly to as many destinations as some of the other airlines on this list, you should be able to get around the U.S.

Less-valuable options for redeeming Amex rewards points

Amex rewards: Less-valuable redemption options

Redemption optionsValue of points or miles
Transfer to Hilton Honors™0.48 cents
Go shopping0.5 cents
Cash back0.6 cents
Transfer to IHG® Rewards Club0.62 cents
Pay with points at retail partners0.7 cents
Book a hotel through Amex Travel0.7 cents
Transfer to Marriott Bonvoy™0.91 cents

The American Express Membership Rewards program offers some great redemption options. But as with any rewards program, there are also some options that don’t provide such great value.

Here are some redemption options to watch out for.

  • Flights — While your points are worth 1 cent each when you book a flight through the American Express travel portal, you could get a much better value by transferring your points and booking directly through an airline like Delta.
  • Hotels — If you book a hotel through the American Express travel portal, your points are only worth 0.7 cents. You could transfer your points to Marriott Bonvoy, IHG or Hilton Honors, but these partners’ points are also worth less than 1 cent each, based on Credit Karma’s point valuations.
  • Cash back — If you use points to cover your card charges, your points will be worth only 0.6 cents each.
  • Pay with points — You can “pay with points” at retailers like Amazon and Walmart, but your points will be worth only 0.7 cents each.
  • Go shopping — If you choose to shop with points, your points will only be worth half a cent.

About the author: Tim Devaney is a personal finance writer and credit card expert at Credit Karma. He’s a longtime journalist who prides himself on being a good storyteller who can explain complex information in an easily digestible wa… Read more.