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American Express Membership Rewards (US)

(160 ratings)


This program was reviewed and rated by our editors in January 2012. Changes in the program past this date are possible, especially program partner information. We recommend you subscribe to the #1 source of frequent flyer information, Inside Flyer Magazine, to get the most current information possible.

Flexible points

American Express (AMEX) began as an express mail business in Albany, New York in 1850. The company expanded into financial services in 1882 by issuing money orders and Travelers Cheques in 1891.

While the company is no longer known for the quick shipment of goods, the name is a reminder of the company's history.

Today, American Express is widely known for its credit and charge cards. The company issues co-branded credit cards with a number of airlines and also has a loyalty program of its own, Membership Rewards. Cardmembers who own eligible cards can earn Membership Rewards points for spend and then the points can be redeemed for airline miles, hotel points, merchandise and other types of awards. The advantage to Membership Rewards is that you can convert the points into the programs that can get you where you want to go.



American Express offers one Membership Rewards point for virtually every dollar spent on the card and there is no limit to the number of points you can earn. Some AMEX cards offer twice as many points or triple points for certain types of purchases. Additionally, cardmembers can get up to 10 points per dollar spent on every eligible purchase at over 300 online stores.

There are a number of ways to boost your points balance without necessarily spending more money. Cardmembers may link a number of their cards and earn points into a single account. Refer another cardmember to sign up for an eligible American Express card and you can receive 5,000 bonus points per approved referral. And Membership Rewards periodically offers promotions where cardmembers can earn bonus points for select purchases.

With a few exceptions (for example, accounts with extended pay options or flexible payment options), if you have an AMEX Charge Card, it needs to be paid off every month. If not, you'll forfeit the points earned that month, and while you can get them back later, it will cost you $29 for each month your account carried a balance. If your account has additional payment options, you must pay the minimum due in order to receive Membership Rewards points for your purchases.



One of the strengths of the Membership Rewards program is the wide array of award options. Cardmembers may redeem points for virtually anything. Travel awards include air, hotel, cruise, car rental, rail and dining options in addition to vacation packages. Non-travel awards such as clothing, electronics, gift cards, home appliances, concert tickets and sporting goods are also offered for points.

Cardmembers essentially have three options when it comes to flight awards. They may redeem points for flight certificates on partner airlines, make flight reservations and pay with points or a combination of cash and points at the American Express travel website at www.americanexpress.com/travel or they may transfer points into miles. For most partners, point transfers can be made in increments of 1,000 points and will transfer at a one-to-one ratio into airline miles. For conversions into miles with domestic airlines, cardmembers pay an excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point, with a maximum fee of $99. And if you are a few points short of an award, many cards allow you to request a points advance when redeeming for an award or points transfer (amount of available advance varies by customer). Make sure you earn the points that were advanced within 12 months or you will be charged the fee for buying points.

American Express Membership Rewards runs frequent bonus promotions throughout the year where cardmembers who transfer points can earn a bonus, such as a 50 percent point bonus.

Cardmembers can use the Pay with Points option at the American Express Travel site when redeeming for flights, hotels, cruises and vacation packages and the flights are eligible to earn frequent flyer miles.

Cardmembers have the same options for hotel awards, although transfer ratios vary by program; 1,000 Membership Rewards points equals 333 Starwood Preferred Guest points, 1,000 Best Western Rewards points, 1,000 Choice Privileges points, 1,000 Priority Club points or 1,500 Hilton HHonors points. Members can also redeem points for certificates at hotels such as Marriott, Omni, Loews and Fairmont.

Road warriors who would rather redeem points for non-travel awards will find options starting at 1,000 points such as a $10 Bath & Body Works gift card or eGift card. Points will only be worth a penny per point when redeeming for retail gift cards, although Membership Rewards sometimes offers point discounts on gift card awards. American Express gift cards are available starting at 5,000 points for a $25 gift card, making your points worth only $.005 per point. You can also redeem points for Amazon.com purchases or a statement credit for everyday charges such as gas, groceries, office supplies and more.

Cardmembers can redeem for tickets to concerts and sporting events on Ticketmaster.com starting at 2,000 points toward any event ticket.

Visit http://www.shopamex.com to redeem points for purchases at around over 60 retailers, including Apple Store, Godiva, L.L. Bean and Target. You can find additional merchandise awards, magazine subscriptions, flowers and other types of awards at the Membership Rewards online catalog.

Donating points is possible through the Members Give program. For every 1,000 points, AMEX will donate $10 to your choice of more than one million charitable organizations.



American Express partners with a total of 20 airlines. Members can transfer points into miles with Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France KLM, AirTran Airways (only until Feb. 29, 2012), Alitalia Airlines, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, EL AL Israel Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia, JetBlue Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic Airways. Airline partners who offer flight awards such as a roundtrip airline ticket or a companion ticket but do not allow point transfers include Cathay Pacific Airways, Qantas, South African Airways and SWISS. Missing from the airline partner list are American Airlines and United Airlines.

Car rental partners include Avis, Enterprise and National and hotel loyalty programs include Best Western, Choice, Hilton, InterContinental, Jumeirah and Starwood. Marriott Rewards isn't a point transfer partner, but members can redeem points for Marriott free night awards starting at 20,000 points for a weekend night.

The list of retail and service partners is long and varied.



American Express doesn't have an elite program per se, but benefits are offered according to three tiers: Membership Rewards Express, Membership Rewards and Membership Rewards First. Membership is based on the card a member carries.

Cardmembers with cards such as Blue or ZYNC from American Express are eligible for the Express program. These cards have lower annual fees--no fee for Blue and $25 per year for ZYNC--and Blue cardmembers can pay their bill over time. Express members have access to retail, dining, entertainment and merchandise awards; earn up to 10 points per dollar spent for online shopping and the ability to pay with points or points and cash when booking travel through the American Express travel site.

American Express Green, Gold and Premier Rewards Gold cardmembers enrolled in Membership Rewards receive all of the benefits listed above, plus the ability to transfer points to participating loyalty programs. Rewards Plus Gold cardholders earn double miles on gas and groceries and triple miles on airfare. The Rewards Plus Gold card has an $175 annual fee, compared to $95 for the Green card and $125 for the Gold card.

Platinum and Centurion charge cardmembers receive Membership Rewards First membership, five times the regular number of points for weekend shopping and all of the benefits of the Membership Rewards program plus exclusive access to luxury and one-of-a-kind awards. First members can redeem points for First Collection luxury partners and premium awards offered by partners such as Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Jimmy Choo, Paul Smith and Kenzo.

The Platinum Card is an attractive option for frequent travelers who are willing to pay the $450 annual fee. Benefits include access to over 600 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass, including American, Delta and US Airways lounges; $200 annual credit for eligible airlines expenses (in-flight drinks and meals, baggage fees, etc.); refund of the Global Entry fee; the opportunity to purchase one first or business class international ticket and receive a complimentary companion ticket on participating airlines; Starwood Gold and National Executive status; special amenities such as complimentary breakfast and room upgrades at participating hotels worldwide and access to the Platinum Card Concierge service, among other benefits.



Membership Rewards points do not expire, but as mentioned before, may be forfeited if payments aren't made on time. Points cannot be transferred or combined and once redeemed, points are not refundable. When transferring points into airline miles or hotel points, you can transfer them into another cardmember's loyalty program account. Once you transfer into hotel points or airline miles, you can't transfer them back. You can buy Membership Rewards points for yourself in increments of 1,000 for $25 per 1,000 points purchased and a maximum of 500,000 points may be purchased per calendar year. You may not gift points to another cardmember.

If you cancel a linked account or cancel all of your cards issued by AMEX, all of your points will be forfeited immediately. If you keep at least one AMEX card open, you will have up to 30 days from the cancellation date to redeem your points.



Cardmembers can email the service center or call between 9am and 12am ET during the week and from 10am to 6:30pm on weekends. You can also tweet your questions to http://www.twitter.com/AskAmex - Our service center call was immediately connected to a customer service representative without having to go through a phone menu.

Platinum cardmembers can request the Concierge to complete tasks such as arrange for restaurant reservations, plan an event, suggest gifts, deliver flowers or satisfy other requests.



Cardmembers can enroll in Membership Rewards, view account information, pay their bill, redeem points, link accounts, redeem points and more online. Transferring points to a linked frequent flyer or hotel loyalty program can be done very quickly online. It may take longer for points to transfer with some partners but most will appear within 48 hours. You can search for flight, hotel, cruise and vacation packages online using Pay with Points or book your paid travel and earn double points at the American Express Travel site. Cardmembers can also use the Flight Finder tool to search for award travel, transfer points into the corresponding program and book their award flight. Participating airlines include Delta, AirTran and Hawaiian.

The strength of AMEX Membership Rewards lies in its flexibility. Points never expire and members can transfer points into a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs--instantaneously with some. The program offers frequent transfer bonuses where members can earn additional points or miles. American Express Platinum and Centurion cardmembers have access to airport lounges and receive a $200 airline credit each year.

Continental OnePass is no longer a Membership Rewards partner. United and American are not partners. When transferring points into airline miles, be prepared to pay an excise tax offset fee of up to $99. While Membership Rewards points are flexible with many award options, point value can be as low as $0.005 per point when redeeming for a statement credit or gift cards. You could be better off with a cash back card earning one percent or more.

Phone: (800) AXP-EARN (297-3276)

Membership Rewards
P.O. Box 981540
El Paso, TX. 79998-1540

  Earning Ability Award Choices Partnerships Elite-Level Rules & Conditions Service Support Online Services Overall Rating
8.00 9.50 7.00 * 7.50 8.50 8.00 8.08
6.68 6.20 5.62 5.31 5.5 6.02 6.28 5.94

(160 ratings)


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