American Express Membership Reward Points provide a reassuring degree of transparency. Most point programs have ridiculously misleading fine print, and end up shortchanging your rewards or modifying your points program over time. Membership Rewards is the oldest and most trusted points program out there, and has won just about every accolade that exists, so you can trust that your points will not be devalued over time.
There are three tiers of Membership Rewards points. The lowest, Membership Rewards Express, is for credit cards, while the Green and Gold are plain Membership Rewards and the Platinum and Centurion get the Membership Rewards First designation. As you move up the ladder, you get more perks and even more flexibility.
The Membership Rewards tiers
Points advances (use ‘em before you earn ‘em): AmEx allows its cardholders to get an advance on their rewards points: 5,000 for Express members, 15,000 for AMR members and 60,000 for First members.
Hotel and airline “top ups.” Express points can be redeemed for hotel gift cards (like credits) from $25 to $100, at a rate of 1 cent per point. The higher tiers get to use their Membership Rewards points to supplement existing loyalty programs. For example, if you need 25,000 airline miles for a free ticket but only have 20,591, you can trade in 4,009 Membership Rewards points and your airline miles to get a free ticket. Most of the time, you can get an ideal 1:1 trade, though there are exceptions including Delta, United and Starwood.
Concierge service. If you’re a Membership Rewards First member, you get a pretty fantastic concierge service that provides a whole host of services. You can order flowers on Valentines Day if you forget (…which we definitely didn’t do…) or have them make reservations at the really nice Michelin-rated restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to.
How much is a Membership Rewards point worth?
We consider a MR point to be worth 1 cent, though depending on how you redeem you can get less or more. However, unlike with Citi ThankYou Points, you have numerous opportunities to get full value without having to jump through hoops. Transferring your points using the top up program could be worth substantially more than 1 cent, while redeeming for cash back only gets you a value of ½ cent per point. Their membership rewards are clearly displayed online – full marks for transparency.
Charge cards vs. credit cards
You probably noticed that the AmEx credit cards are all Membership Rewards Express-level cards. What are the higher-tier cards? They’re actually charge cards, which require you to pay your balance in full each month or face fees or interest rates. Charge cards also don’t have the same impact on your credit score as credit cards do. That doesn’t mean they can’t be pricey. Case in point: the AmEx Platinum is a charge card, and its annual fee is $450.