The American Express Membership Rewards program offers valuable benefits ranging from the ability to transfer your points to frequent travel programs to buying gift cards and using your points to offset charges on your credit card statement. However, not all benefits are created equal. Here's a look at the ones that are often the most valuable.
Membership Rewards points are transferable to 18 airline frequent flyer programs and three hotel programs. This makes it one of the most powerfully flexible currencies when it comes to travel rewards, enabling you to pool all your points in one program to transfer to your preferred airline or hotel program.
This means you’re not stuck with earning all your points in one program or having multiple programs you’re constantly trying to earn points on at the same time.
Many of these programs transfer at a 1:1 ratio, although some have a bonus for transfers every now and then. Terms apply.
Airline programs where you can transfer Membership Rewards:
Hotel programs where you can transfer Membership Rewards:
For example, if you were to transfer a mere 13,000 of your Membership Rewards points into your British Airways Avios account, you would be able to get an economy ticket on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Kauai, plus taxes and fees. This ticket would otherwise cost you — at the time of posting — $224 if you were to pay cash.
» Learn more: The 5 best AmEx travel partners — and 8 to avoid
Rakuten shopping portal
Formerly known as eBates, Rakuten is a cash back online shopping portal. When you head to its website before visiting the online merchant, you’ll earn cash back for your purchase. Now, instead of earning cash back, you can earn Membership Rewards points to add to your balance.
The amount of points that you’ll earn from each merchant varies, but chances are that your favorite merchant is there.
Hotel brands including Hilton and Marriott also offer a cash-back/Membership Rewards bonus for making your reservations through the Rakuten portal. Head there first to learn how many points you can earn from shopping.
You don’t have to use your American Express card to make the purchase. Use the portal first before you head to a merchant’s site. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Earn extra rewards on shopping through 'virtual malls'
AmEx Offers are the best thing since sliced bread. Simply by using your card, American Express will give you a bonus at select retailers. Depending on the type of offer that you have, you’ll earn either a cash back bonus or Membership Rewards as a bonus.
As an example, with the offer below, for every dollar you spend on Amazon, you will get an additional 5 Membership Rewards points. If you were already planning to use your card at these stores, that’s a nice bonus for doing nothing different from what you would have done anyway. It is important to note that you must add AmEx offers to your card to use them. You can find them listed in your Membership Rewards portal. Terms apply.
AmEx enables you to invite friends to apply for a card through their friend referral program. Each approved referral will net you 10,000 membership rewards for a total of up to 55,000 membership rewards every calendar year. Terms apply.
This way, you can top off your account balance by just following a few steps — and they’ve made it as simple as sharing your referral through social media or email. All you need is six friends (well, just five and a half, really) to max out on this benefit.
AmEx travel portal booking
If you book your travel through American Express’ travel site, you can use your points to offset the charges directly from the booking engine.
You can book flights, hotels, cars, cruises and entire vacation packages with points.
Have The Platinum Card® from American Express? You’ll earn 5x points through the portal if you pay with your card, and if you hold the American Express® Gold Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll also have access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts properties, each offering on-property amenities such as spa credits, free breakfast, room upgrades and more. Terms apply.
All information about The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card are no longer available through NerdWallet.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card