This article is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. It has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the issuers listed. Some of the offers you see on the page are from our partners like Citi and American Express, but our coverage is always independent. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page.
- The points you can earn with cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express , the American Express® Gold Card , and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express can be used for tons of different things, from cash back to first-class travel.
- In addition to getting points from lucrative welcome bonuses, you can earn bonus points on certain spending categories, like restaurants, travel, and US supermarkets.
- You can use Amex points to book travel, both through Amex and with airline and hotel partners. This will generally get you the most value for your points.
- Other options for redeeming Membership Rewards include paying with points at retailers and swapping points for cash back.
- See Business Insider's list of the best rewards credit cards »
Amex Membership Rewards points are some of the most valuable credit card rewards you can earn. Top cards like the Platinum Card and the Amex Gold Card earn Membership Rewards (MR) points, and you can use these rewards to book travel or get cash back.
We're focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won't be worth it if you're paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it's important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.
How to earn Amex points
The following personal American Express cards earn Membership Rewards points:
- Platinum Card — $550 annual fee (See Rates), premium benefits including airport lounge access, Uber credits, and Saks Fifth avenue credits
- Amex Gold Card — $250 annual fee (See Rates), annual dining credits, bonus rewards at restaurants worldwide and more
- American Express® Green Card — $150 annual fee, bonus points on a wide variety of travel purchases
- Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express — no annual fee, earn 2x points at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 spent each calendar year, then 1x), get a 20% points bonus when you use your card 20 times or more in a billing period
- Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express — $95, earn 3x points at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 spent each calendar year, then 1x), get a 50% points bonus when you use your card 30 times or more in a billing period
And the following business cards earn Amex Membership Rewards points:
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express — no annual fee (See Rates), earn 2x points on the first $50,000 spent each year, then 1x
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express — $595 annual fee (See Rates), includes many of the same benefits as the Platinum Card, plus statement credits for U.S. Dell purchases and a 35% points bonus (up to 500,000 points per calendar year) when booked through amextravel.com
- American Express® Business Gold Card — $295 annual fee (See Rates), earn 4x points on the two categories where you spend the most each month from a list of six categories (4x points on up to $150,000 in combined purchases from these two categories each calendar year, then 1x)
When you open an American Express card, you can often earn a large welcome bonus, in addition to being able to rack up points quickly through your normal, everyday spending.
For example, when you open the Platinum Card, you'll earn 75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of card membership. When you open the Amex Gold Card, you'll get 60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening— although some people are targeted for a higher offer. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within your first 3 months of card membership.
Once you have a healthy stash of Amex points, here are the main ways you can use them. Be sure to log in and look at the Amex Membership Rewards portal for other options, like donating points to charity.
If you want to build up your supply of points with a welcome bonus, or if you want to find a card that earns bonus points on better categories for you, be sure to check out our guide to the best Amex cards.
Redeem points for cash or gift cards
You can exchange Membership Rewards points for cash or gift cards, but keep in mind that this is usually a pretty terrible value compared to other redemption options.
Different merchant gift cards have different prices and values for your points. Some offer a not-horrible 1 cent per point — meaning a $25 gift card costs 2,500 points — but the others are as low as 0.5 cents per point — so that $25 gift card would cost 5,000 points.
You can also redeem points as statement credits against specific charges — essentially, cash back used to pay your card. However, this is a similarly poor value, only offering 0.6 cents per point. You can do much better.
Use points to check out online at major retailers
When you check out online at a growing list of major retailers — such as Amazon and Best Buy — and enter your American Express card number, you can opt to pay in part or in full with points.
While promotions occasionally make this worthwhile — for instance, there have been deals where you could save $30 at Amazon by using a single Membership Rewards point at checkout — it's generally a poor value of 0.7 cents per point.
Buy merchandise through Amex or tickets through Ticketmaster
Amex offers a shopping portal that has a wide range of different products, all of which can be purchased with Membership Rewards points. However, you'll only get 0.5 cents per point, so if you were set on using points for merchandise, you'd be better off going through a shopping partner like Amazon, or possibly buying a gift card.
To buy tickets through Ticketmaster using points, you simply apply points at checkout, but this offers the same 0.5 cents per point.
Book travel through the Amex Travel portal
Now we get to the good stuff.
Amex Travel is essentially a travel-booking website operated by American Express. It works similarly to travel booking sites like Expedia or Orbitz.
Airfare is the best option when you're paying with points. When you book a flight through Amex Travel, you'll get 1 cent per point. You may also find "Insider Fares," which generally offer a slightly better value — a lot of these fares are on Delta.
Unfortunately, if you want to book anything else through the Amex Travel portal — like hotels, cruises, rental cars, or vacation packages — you'll only get 0.7 cents per point.
This is in contrast to Chase, which offers the same price for anything through its travel portal — 1 cent per point if you have a basic card like the Chase Freedom® , 1.25 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, or 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Bid for upgrades on your next flight
American Express lets you use points to bid for discounted upgrades to first class, business class, and premium economy on participating airlines.
A number of airlines offer an option to place cash bids on upgrades before your flight — if there are available seats in premium cabins, you can snag them at a potentially steep discount. Most airlines that offer this manage it through a third-party service called Plusgrade.
Under the Amex partnership with Plusgrade, you can use Membership Rewards points to place bids on about 20 airlines, including Aeromexico, Air Canada, Etihad, Norwegian, Qantas, SAS, Singapore Airlines, and TAP Portugal.
Each Membership Rewards point is worth $0.01 toward a bid, according to a spokesperson for Amex. So 1,000 points is worth $10 — a solid valuation. The best value from points, however, can be had by transferring them to one of Amex's 22 airline or hotel partners, and booking flights or hotel stays that way (see the next section for more on that).
To bid for an upgrade using your Membership Rewards points, visit americanexpress.com/upgrade and enter your reservation details. If your bid is accepted, you'll receive an email.
Transfer points to a hotel or airline partner
Just like with any transferable points program, the best potential value you can get is from transferring your points to a partner program. Amex has 19 frequent flyer and three hotel loyalty program partners, and you can transfer points to any of them.
This is particularly valuable for flying, as opposed to hotel stays. In most cases, the cash price and the miles price of a ticket aren't linked, so it's possible to get exponentially increased value from your points by transferring them and booking an award ticket instead. That means potentially being able to fly long-haul in first or business class with points, among other things.
The only catch is that you may need to search for saver availability — which are lower-priced award tickets. This can be tricky, but there are a ton of helpful guides online. Once you have a flight in mind, if you're having trouble figuring out how best to use your points, just do a Google search for that specific trip.
Ultimately, remember to compare pricing between the Amex Travel portal and how many points you would need through the frequent flyer program. Because award tickets sometimes have cashand fees — occasionally rising into the hundreds of dollars — it's good to compare.
It's exceedingly rare to get under 1 cent per point when you book flights by transferring to a frequent flyer program — as long as you're booking saver space — and while researching examples for this article and comparing to cash fares, I found values ranging from 1.2 cents per point to around 20 cents per point (in the case of flying first class to Japan).
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.
Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please click here.