A Beginner’s Guide To Using American Express Membership Rewards Points

by Credit Card Wisdom on August 7, 2013

American Express offers many of its cardholders points in its Membership Rewards program. But like other programs run by various card issuers, card members have many different ways to redeem their points. And while it is always a good thing to have more options, cardholders have to carefully choose the best way to redeem their valuable points.

Airline point transfers

The only way to consistently earn more than one cent in value per point is to transfer points to airline miles. Fortunately, American Express offers point transfers to several major airlines including Delta, Air Canada, Hawaiian, and British Airways. And don’t count out smaller carriers such as Frontier and Virgin America. The catch is that some cards that earn Membership Rewards points are not eligible for point transfers. These cards are:

Blue for Business® Credit Card
Blue for Students®
Blue from American Express
Business Management Account
Gold Optima® Card
Optima® Credit Card
Optima® Platinum Card®
Platinum Business Credit Card
ZYNC® Card

But thankfully, the points earned from using an ineligible card can be transferred to miles once cardholders also acquire an eligible product. Through June 7, 2013, Membership Rewards points can be transferred to British Airways Avios points with a 35% bonus. And since British Airways points can be redeemed for flights on American Airways, for as little as 9,000 points for a round trip flight, this can be an incredible value.

But as with most points and miles, the most valuable awards tend to be for last minute travel, and tickets booked in business or first class. The key to maximizing a flexible point system like this is to hold points until the best available award seats are found, and then to transfer just enough necessary to book the award.

Other options

The Membership Rewards program is filled with other ways to spend points, including booking travel, purchasing merchandise, and gift cards. But in nearly all cases, cardholders receive one cent in value for each points. In some instances, gift cards can offer a 20% discount, which results in 1.25 cents per point. In contrast, cardholders can receive as much as 5-10 cents per point when redeeming mileage awards in business or first class. But the worst options, by far, is redeeming points for statement credits, as cardholders only receive one half of a cent each for their points.

By learning about the best mileage transfer options, cardholders can utilize their Membership Rewards points to earn the most valuable rewards possible.

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