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8 ways to use American Express Membership Rewards points if you're not traveling, from saving money on shopping to ordering food delivery

Amex Platinum Card 4x3
Amex Platinum; Insider

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American Express Membership Rewards is widely regarded as one of the most valuable flexible points programs. One of the best ways to use Membership Rewards points is transferring them to Amex's airline and hotel partners, but because of the pandemic, many people aren't traveling right now.

While most rewards enthusiasts think of the American Express Membership Rewards program as a gateway to travel, you may be surprised to know about the many ways you can use Amex points for non-travel options. For example, you can use your Amex Membership Rewards points for food delivery or merchandise in some cases, and even use them to purchase holiday gifts. 

This is one of many reasons to consider cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, which is currently offering a hefty bonus of 75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, or the American Express® Gold Card, which comes with 60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening.

Annual Fee
$550
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Credit Score
Excellent
A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
4.75 out of 5 Stars
Editor's Rating
Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
Annual Fee
$550
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Credit Score
Excellent
A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
4.75 out of 5 Stars
Editor's Rating
Featured Reward
75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of card membership
Intro APR
N/A
Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
  • Pros & Cons
  • Details
  • Pros
    • Long list of travel benefits, including airport lounge access and complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott
    • Annual statement credits with Saks and Uber
    Cons
    • Bonus categories leave something to be desired
    • One of the highest annual fees among premium travel cards
    • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
    • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That's an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
    • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
    • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
    • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
    • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
    • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
    • $550 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.
    Read Our Review Read Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    How to use Amex Membership Rewards points if you're not traveling

    If you're sitting on a stash of rewards but aren't traveling soon, you don't have to worry about your points expiring. Amex Membership Rewards points don't expire as long as your account is open and in good standing, so there's no harm in waiting to redeem them.

    With that said, some people may prefer to use Amex points to save money on charges, shopping, and other expenses. Although you won't typically get as much value as you could from transferring points to airline and hotel partners or using points through the Amex travel portal, this is a good option for many.

    Here are non-travel options for using American Express Membership Rewards points:

    Use Amex points to cover charges to your account

    You can use Amex Membership Rewards points to cover purchases you charged to your card. You'll only get a value of 0.6 cents per point when you choose this option, but it's handy if you just want to save money on recent purchases.

    You have to have at least 1,000 points in your account to use points for charges, and the charge you redeem points for must be for at least $1 and have never been disputed on your account. Amex notes that, once you request to redeem points to cover charges to your account, you'll see the statement credit show up within 48 hours. 

    Redeem Amex points for merchandise

    You can also use Amex points to pay at checkout with an array of popular merchants, although you'll only get 0.7 cents per point in value when you do. Retailers that let you pay with points at checkout include Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Saks Fifth Avenue, Boxed.com, Dell.com, Staples, and more. 

    This means you could use your Amex points to buy a new flat-screen television, stock up on household supplies, or offset the cost of a grocery delivery or pickup. 

    Order food delivery using Amex points at GrubHub and Seamless

    American Express also lets you redeem your rewards for food orders with GrubHub or Seamless.com. Both options will net you 0.7 cents per point in value.

    The process for using your points depends on if you're ordering online or through the Grubhub or Seamless mobile app. Existing Grubhub and Seamless customers with an eligible card on file will see their point balance and have the option to use points to pay for all or part of the purchase.

    For new customers ordering online, you'll have to make an initial purchase first using your eligible Amex card. The second time you make a purchase, you'll see the points balance associated with the card you have on file. Mobile app users who save an eligible card to file aren't required to make an initial purchase before using being allowed to use points.

    Pay your New York City taxi fare with Amex points

    Cardholders who have American Express Membership Rewards points can currently use them at a rate of 1 cent apiece to pay for NYC taxi fare in vehicles using enabled point-of-sale devices. After you swipe your card, an option to use Membership Rewards will appear only if you have enough points in your account to cover the entire fare and tip.

    If there's ever an issue processing the points payment, the charge will be billed to your card and you'll have to call the number on the back of it to ask that your points be retroactively applied to the charge.

    American Express Membership Rewards also lets cardholders donate points to charity through an organization called Just Giving. With Just Giving, you can turn your rewards into donations to more than 1.5 million registered charities nationwide. You'll get the same 0.7 cents per point with this option, but note that you can only donate points to US charities that are registered as 501(c)(3) and listed on the JustGiving site.

    Once you've added your eligible card information to your JustGiving account, you'll be able to see your point balance and will have the option to use points toward all or some of your donation. The entire charge will go through on your card, but a few days later you'll see a statement credit equivalent to the number of points you applied to the donation.

    Redeem Amex Membership Rewards for gift cards

    When it comes to getting the best value from your rewards points, cashing in Amex points for gift cards is one of your best bets after premium travel. You can redeem your Amex points for gift cards from popular retailers, most of the time at a rate of 1 cent per point. 

    Some of the most popular gift card options include:

    • Apple 
    • Best Buy
    • Bed Bath & Beyond
    • Macy's
    • Old Navy
    • The Home Depot
    • Walmart
    • Sephora
    • REI
    • Nordstrom

    Keep in mind that gift card options can change over time and that you may want to check back for special promotions or discounted gift cards that may appear. There are always dozens of gift card options from retailers, restaurants, travel companies, and more. 

    Use points to order merchandise or gifts through American Express

    While you can use Amex points to pay at checkout with select retailers, American Express also has its own shopping portal you can use to order merchandise directly. Featured brands can include Sony, GoPro, Yeti, Apple, and more, and you can buy items for your home and office, electronics, clothing, or even kitchen appliances.

    Give the gift of travel using Membership Rewards points

    While you may not be planning to travel yourself, you also have the option to give travel to others via your rewards points. This could mean gifting your parents a hotel stay or vacation rental close to home or within driving distance, or booking a flight or cruise for someone you love when you feel it's safe to travel again.

    Fortunately, American Express offers a ton of ways to redeem points for travel for other people. While you can't transfer Membership Rewards points to someone else's account, you can use your points to book travel for them through Amex Travel. Through the Amex travel portal, you can easily book flights, hotel stays, cruises, rental cars, or full vacation packages.

    Alternately, you can transfer your Amex points to one of Amex's hotel or airline partners, then use your miles or points to book travel for someone else. It's also possible to transfer points to someone else's frequent flyer or hotel loyalty program account, but they must be an authorized user on your Amex Membership Rewards card (and have been so for at least 90 days).

    How to earn American Express Membership Rewards points

    There are numerous American Express personal and small-business cards that earn Membership Rewards points. It's a good time to consider applying, because a couple of cards are currently offering elevated bonuses for a limited time.

    Personal cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards points include:

    Annual Fee
    $250
    Regular APR
    See Pay Over Time APR
    Credit Score
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.59 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
    Annual Fee
    $250
    Regular APR
    See Pay Over Time APR
    Credit Score
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.59 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Featured Reward
    60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
  • Pros & Cons
  • Details
  • Pros
    • Great rewards for dining and for shopping at US supermarkets
    • Monthly statement credit for eligible dining purchases recoups some of the annual fee
    Cons
    • Underwhelming welcome bonus
    • Rose Gold is back. You can now choose between Gold or Rose Gold.
    • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
    • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery, plus, earn 4X points for Uber Eats purchases too.
    • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
    • $120 Uber Cash: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
    • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
    • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • Annual Fee is $250.
    • Terms Apply.
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    Small-business cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards points include:

    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. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. 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.

    For rates and fees of The 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 Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

    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 Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please click here.

    For rates and fees of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, please click here.

    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.

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