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What’s an American Express Membership Rewards Point Worth?

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Redeem your American Express Membership Rewards the right way and you could potentially double your returns. Here’s what you need to know before cashing in.

American Express Membership Rewards: The basics

American Express Membership Rewards are worth 0.5 cents to 1 cent each, depending on how you redeem them. If you prefer to cash in elsewhere, you can also transfer points to several loyalty programs — 16 airlines and four hotel chains — sometimes at a 1:1 ratio. Although these rewards are modest compared with other points and miles, they also offer more versatility.

Cards that earn Membership Rewards

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 10,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • The annual fee is $0.
  • 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 in purchases.
  • 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 15,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • The annual fee is $95.
  • 3 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 in purchases.
  • 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. gas stations.
  • 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card

  • Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • The annual fee is waived the first year and $195 every year thereafter.
  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel booked directly with airlines.
  • 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants.
  • 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

  • Get 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • The annual fee is waived the first year and $175 every year thereafter.
  • 3 points per dollar spent on one of the following: flights booked directly with airlines, U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, gas stations, shipping and various computer and software purchases.
  • 2 points per dollar spent on the other 4 categories.
  • 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • The $450.
  • 2 points per dollar spent on American Express travel.
  • 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN

  • Welcome Offer: Get 40,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Annual fee: annual fee is $450.
  • 2 points per dollar spent on American Express travel.
  • 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

How to get more American Express Membership Rewards

There are three ways you can get more American Express Membership Rewards:

  • Sign up for an American Express credit card and collect a sign-up bonus. (Generally, you can’t do this more than once.)
  • Centralize your spending on an American Express card that earns points.
  • Purchase additional points through your American Express portal.

Among these options, purchasing points is the most costly. Membership Rewards points cost 2.5 cents each and are generally worth 1 cent or less when redeemed. You can purchase them in 1,000-point increments, up to a maximum of 100,000 points per year on most cards.

If you’re just a few points shy of purchasing a flight with miles, you might be better off earning more rewards instead of splurging on points.

How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards

Good redemption options
Generally, the best return you can get on your Membership Rewards is 1 cent per point. Here are a few ways you can hit that maximum redemption value:

  • Booking travel through American Express. When you book through American Express, you’ll be able to choose from almost 100 airlines and thousands of hotels throughout the world.
  • Gift cards. Usually, when you use credit card rewards for gift cards, it cuts the rewards value. Not so with American Express. At the gift card hub, you can purchase gift cards from outlets such as Gap, Chili’s Grill & Bar and Universal Studios and still get a competitive value.
  • Charity. If you’re feeling generous, you can choose to donate your rewards to more than a million charities. Your contributions are tax-deductible, too.
  • Uber. You can use Membership Rewards to pay for Uber rides in-app, once you link your account to an American Express card that earns points.

You can also transfer points to carriers and hotels, sometimes at a 1:1 ratio. Depending on the loyalty program, this can also be a high-value redemption. Transfer partners are listed here.
Bad redemption options
In most cases, if you’re getting less than 1 cent per point for your Membership Rewards, you’re missing out on a big chunk of value. These are some of those lower-value redemption options you might want to avoid:

  • Merchandise. When you shop for merchandise on the American Express site with your points, you generally won’t get more than 0.5 cent of value per point.
  • Amazon.com. You’ll get 0.7 cent per point when you redeem points through Amazon.com purchases. That’s still less than the standard 1 cent per point.
  • Everyday charges. You can redeem points for statement credit and get 0.6 cent per point. If you want statement credit, you’d probably be better off with a cash-back card.

Fine print

  • Points don’t expire, as long as your account stays open.
  • Once you redeem your rewards, you can’t cancel the order or get a refund.

Top NerdWallet cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express

If you do most of your shopping at the grocery store, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express could be the easiest way to earn Membership Rewards. You’ll get 3 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 in purchases each year, which could add up to $180 worth of rewards per year. You can also earn 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. gas stations and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere, giving this card even more earning power.

It comes with a decent sign-up bonus, too: Earn 15,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. The annual fee is $95, which is relatively high, but it could be worth it if you plan to spend around $6,000 on groceries every year and are constantly filling up on gas.

Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN gives business owners big rewards and major flexibility. You can earn 3 points per dollar spent on your choice of five categories — flights booked directly with airlines, U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, gas stations, shipping and various computer and software purchases — 2 points per dollar spent on the remaining four categories and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

The card also comes with a big sign-up bonus: Get 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. The annual fee is waived the first year and $175 every year thereafter, so you’ll come out ahead after about $5,800 per year in purchases that earn triple points (not counting the sign-up bonus). If you plan to spend less, consider a card with a smaller annual fee.

Methodology

The calculated value of these points is based on an estimated redemption rate, not a credit card rewards earn rate. Therefore, you may notice that these numbers don’t match the rewards rates on our credit card finder tool. Read on for how we estimated these points values.

We calculated the value of each Membership Rewards point by dividing the dollar value of the item purchased, provided by American Express, by the number of points used in a transaction. For merchandise from the American Express site, we looked at a low cost item (TurboTax Deluxe) and a high cost item (an iPad Mini 3) to determine the value of each point.

Current as of May 1, 2015.

Claire Davidson is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.

  • pinchvalve

    Home Depot Gift Cards are 10,000 points for $100, or .01 per point. For the DIY’er, this is the best way to turn points into cash.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Good point! Generally speaking, you can mostly redeem Amex MR points for 1 cent per point, the industry standard.

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  • http://www.tomflies.com/ Tomflies.com

    .6 cents per point if offsetting a charge. Learned from experience today.

    • Pecked

      Try .006 per point if offsetting a charge. I would be ecstatic if it were point-six.

      • SeeWolf

        They said said “.6 cents”, which is equal to .006 dollars (which I assume is what you meant). So what they said was fine.

  • http://www.doctorofcredit.com/ doctorofcredit

    This article is in desperate need of an update.

  • # drocto

    Came to this link via a Google search. See that this site posts undated articles (no timestamp). Will not come back to this site.

    • CU1

      I agree that this particular page is outdated, which is sad and potentially misleading.

    • Berneigh

      There’s a date at the bottom

  • wirkkala

    I’m not sure this needs an update, I realized today that using points for charges redeems them at around 0.6 cents per point.

    Today April 10, 2015 the site says I need:

    958 points to pay for a $5.75 purchase

    or

    2500 points to pay for a $15 purchase

    That’s = 0.006 dollars per point

  • http://www.stock-soup.com/blog.html Stock Soup

    at best buy it’s .69 cents, which rounds to 7c per point