American Express Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards: Which One Is Better?

American Express cards earn Membership Rewards (MR) points, and Chase cards earn Ultimate Rewards (UR) points, which point system is best for you?

We're going to look at the best use cases for both of these programs, and also consider the long-term strategy at the end of this post.

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American Express Membership Rewards Points

 Amex MR points are great for first-class and business-class products. You'll need to transfer the MR points to transfer partners to redeem the points. 

Good for aspirational travel ("YOLO redemptions").

 Examples:

  • ANA
  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • Singapore Airlines

One thing to be aware of is that first class flights require significantly more points. From the chart below, round-trip economy class tickets cost 60,000 miles, and round-trip business class tickets cost 120,000 miles. 

 https://www.asiamiles.com/en/redeem-awards/flight-awards.html

https://www.asiamiles.com/en/redeem-awards/flight-awards.html

For most people, especially if you're younger and just starting out on your credit journey, I recommend going for economy flights. Set up flight alerts and book discounted fares with points.

For deals I use:

  • US Bank Altitude Reserve points
  • Chase Ultimate Reward points
  • Ritz Visa Infinite portal (domestic)
  • Cash (if saving points or disappearing deal)

Transfer Partners (for Outsized Value)

When it comes to airline transfer partners, Amex has a better list than Chase for international flights. 

American Express

  • ANA
  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • Singapore Airlines

Chase

  • Korean Air Skypass (can be used for Emirates and Etihad, but more complicated)
  • Singapore Airlines

In case you're curious, it's hard to get outsized value from transferring to Ritz-Carlton, as far as I know. Many properties are Tier 5 (70k Ritz = 70k UR points) that can be booked for $500 to $800 (33k to 53k UR points via travel portal w/ CSR).

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

With Chase UR points, the best hotel redemption is for Hyatt properties. Chase UR points transfer at a 1:1 rate for Hyatt points. You can use 5k UR points for $100-$200/night Hyatt Place (Category 1) or use 30k UR points for $700/night Park Hyatt (Category 7).

Transfer partners (hotels):

  • Hyatt (Category 1) = 5k UR for $100-$200/night Hyatt Place
  • Hyatt (Category 7) = 30k UR for $700/night Park Hyatt

When I stayed at a Hyatt Place in Arizona, I was able to find a reward redemption for 5k points ($50). 

  • 5k UR => 5k Hyatt
  • Category 1 = 5k Hyatt / night

Depending on the retail price of the hotel, you're getting at least 2-4 cents per point in value. 

a) $100 / night = 2 cents per point

b) $200 / night = 4 cents per point

In my opinion, transferring UR points to Hyatt is the best redemption for hotels compared to other hotel groups. 

By transferring the points out and paying with points, you'll be able to avoid taxes and resort fees. 

 https://world.hyatt.com/content/gp/en/member-benefits/compare-tiers.html

https://world.hyatt.com/content/gp/en/member-benefits/compare-tiers.html

Chase UR points have good redemption value when it comes to last-minute United flights or Polaris flights. You can also use UR points to book Southwest Airline deals or to get Companion Pass.

Transfer partners (airlines):

  • United for last-minute flights or Polaris
  • Southwest for deals or Companion Pass

Important: Don't transfer your points out until you have a specific redemption in mind. You can always transfer UR points -> Airline, but you can't transfer the points back.

For flight deals, I recommend using the Chase Travel Portal via the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Chase Ink Preferred. 

Chase travel portal (CSP/CSR/CIP):

  • Deals

Long-term Strategy

Although American Express has better airline redemptions, I recommend going for Chase cards first because of the 5/24 rule. You will not be approved for the core selection of Chase credit cards if you have opened more than five cards from any credit issuer in the past 24 months.

You can always get Chase cards first, and then move on to Amex cards, but not the other way around (unless you wait 24 months).

For most people, I recommend getting the Chase Quadfecta first and then move on to Amex cards. If you want to talk strategy on what card to get next, feel free to fill out a free card consultation form.