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American Express Membership Rewards points are some of the best rewards you can earn because they're flexible - you can use them for travel, gift cards, or statement credits, among other things.
Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards include:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- The American Express® Gold Card
- American Express® Business Gold Card
- American Express® Green Card
- Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
Each card offers a unique set of bonuses and benefits depending on how you spend and travel.
While Amex's rewards program has a lot of flexibility, that doesn't mean all redemption options get the same cents per point value.
This post will cover some of the best and worst ways to use your Amex points. The data points here are calculated from the American Express Rewards calculator: http://global.americanexpress.com/rewards/calculator
The Worst Ways to Redeem Your Amex Membership Rewards
Let's start with the worst ways to use your Amex points.
1. Shop With Points
Amex has a shopping portal with many products you can buy with Membership Rewards points. While this is a versatile way to use your points, it doesn't have a high redemption value.
For 10,000 points, you'll only get a value of 0.5 CPP— which is not the best value for Amex points.
If you're set on using points for merchandise, you might be better off buying a gift card or going through a shopping partner like Amazon.
2. Transferring Points to Partners
Amex has a ton of airline transfer partners that you can transfer your points straight to.
Most partners offer a 1-to-1 transfer rate, so if you transfer 1,000 points to them, they will give you 1,000 points back. Sometimes, American Express runs promotions for transfer partners where you can get a better rate.
One thing to keep in mind here is the Excise Tax Offset Fee.
In most cases, American Express charges an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point (capped at $99 for any single transfer) when you transfer points to U.S. airlines with a card such as The Platinum Card®.
American Express's U.S. airline partners that charge an excise fee include:
On a 100,000-point transfer, that fee equates to $60. In addition to these charges, the airline may also charge taxes and fees.
However, not all partners charge this fee. Some of the airline programs where you can transfer Membership Rewards points without paying any fees include:
- Are Lingus Aeroclub
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- Air France / KLM Flying Blue
- ANA Mileage Club
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Avianca LifeMiles
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest Miles
- Iberia Plus Miles
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Singapore KrisFlyer Miles
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Since these are points from airlines outside the United States, American Express won't charge you the Excise Tax Offset fee to transfer points into these programs, although you need to evaluate their value (Note: some of them are hard to redeem points from). Transferring points to their hotel partners will also be free of charge.
Unfortunately, the only way to transfer points to your Delta SkyMiles account is through AMEX, so be prepared to pay the fee to utilize them.
To get the best redemption rates, you need to do a lot of research before you transfer your points.
3. Redeeming for Statement Credit
If you don't want to pay your card bill, you can redeem your points for statement credits, effectively wiping out any purchases you made with the card. While this option is handy, it also isn't recommended.
However, if you're in a pinch, this can help.
It's best used as a last resort if you need some last-minute funds to cover your balance. But each point will only be worth 0.6 CPP. So the low value makes it not a great option.
We'll talk about other setups later in this post if you're after cash.
4. Donate Your Points to Charity
With JustGiving, you can donate your points to over 1.5 million charities. Unless you can redeem your points for travel, you'll likely get no more than 0.7 cents per point from this redemption option.
The points aren't the greatest value for your money, but if you don't need your points, this is a decent option.
Beware of the value change, though. Depending on the organization, the value of your points may vary, so pay attention.
Doing the math can help you make a bigger impact.
5. Booking Travel via AmexTravel.com
With American Express Travel, you can book all kinds of travel, including hotels, vacation packages, and cruises.
If you book travel through the American Express Travel portal (excluding airfare), you will only earn 0.7 CPP. In addition, considering other companies will give you 1 CPP, booking your travel using the Amex Travel portal may not be the best way to spend your Amex points.
Keep in mind that using the Amex Travel Portal is NOT the same as using a transfer partner.
Similar to option 1, you can use your points to spend with certain merchants.
The cents per point come out to 0.7 mostly, except for NYC Taxis and Ticketmaster.com. Those have different point-to-cent ratios, so check the redemption rate before redeeming, as redemption rates may vary from retailer to retailer.
You also need to be careful because some platforms like Amazon can automatically fill in that you're using M.R. points when you check out.
If you want to use your points for shopping, there are probably better options in this list.
7. Redeem for Business Checking
This option is new for 2022.
If you have a business checking account with Amex, you can redeem your points for cash. You'll get 0.8 CPP, so 10,000 points would come out to $800. These points are considered rebates instead of income, so you're not taxed on them.
So if you have a lot of points, cashing out your business checking account through your Business Platinum might be a better option. (More about this below)
8. Gift Cards
Gift cards come in different types, and your redemption value varies. Then again, there are many 1 CPP options with less variance, which is not too bad.
It may not be the best redemption method for your Amex points because it has additional hoops to jump through.
The Best Amex Membership Rewards Redemption Methods
9. Upgrade Your Seat
With Upgrade with Points, you can bid on seat upgrades at over 20 participating airlines using your Membership Rewards points. This is a convenient option if you are worried about cramped seats on long flights.
It might make more sense to upgrade your seat with the actual card and earn more points because there are higher-value options to redeem your points. However, membership rewards here are worth at least 1 CPP depending on how you use them.
If you value your seat on the plane, you might like this option.
10. Book Flights Via Amex Portal and Hotels Via Amex FHR
This is a great option for the avid traveler.
Compared to other companies, you can get a decent rate on your points. You can expect to redeem 1 CPP with flights and hotels if you book it through the Amex Portal.
But if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could get 1.5 CPP when you book through their own portal.
With this option, you can get an elevated value for your points, whether it is flights, and pay yourself back.
11. Business Checking Account with Business Platinum
This is a better option than the 7th option mentioned above.
Instead of $800 per 100,000 points, you can get a better rate of 1 CPP. That comes out to $1,000 per 100,000 points. You must have the Amex Business Platinum card, though.
If you run a large business, that might be enough to offset the annual fee, but you still need to do the math.
12. Morgan Stanley Cash Out
If you own a Morgan Stanley brokerage account, this might be useful.
It's similar to a business checking account using your business platinum but on a more personal card side.
If you own the Platinum Card from American Express Morgan Stanley edition, you can cash out your points to your brokerage account at 1 CPP.
The points can be cashed out anywhere once they reach your brokerage account.
Though, you might want to consider these things first before you use this option:
- To get the Morgan Stanley Platinum Card, you need to be approved.
- You must have a Morgan Stanley brokerage account to apply for this card. Among the easiest ones to go for is Morgan Stanley Access Investing, which only requires $5,000 to open and charges 0.35% per year on investments.
- The Morgan Stanley Platinum Card has an annual fee of $695.
I made a blog post about this before and how to waive the annual fee. You can learn more about it here: https://www.asksebby.com/guides/waive-amex-platinum-annual-fee
13. Charles Schwab Cash Out
You can transfer M.R. points at 1.1 CPP to your brokerage account with the Platinum Card from American Express Charles Schwab. So if you're looking to redeem for cash, this might be the best option.
However, as with any other Amex Platinum cards, there are a few things you need to consider:
- Again, you need to be approved to qualify for the Schwab Platinum Card.
- A Schwab brokerage account (either your own or a trust you oversee) or an IRA at Schwab (not managed by an independent investment advisor) is required to apply for the card. The eligibility rules can change at any time.
- Amex reserves the right to cancel your American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab if you do not maintain a Schwab account.
- Currently, the Schwab Platinum Card annual fee is $695.
14. Using Amex Business Gold Card's Rebate Feature
If you have a Business Gold, you can get a 25% rebate when you book an eligible flight.
So, if you use 100,000 points to cover a $1,000 flight, you'll get 25,000 points back. That means you used only 75,000 points for a $1,000 purchase, which works out to a rate of 1.33 CPP.
The maximum rebate is 250,000 points, so you wouldn't want to redeem more than 1 million.
15. Using Amex Business Platinum Card's Rebate Feature
Platinum Business cardholders can redeem M.R. points for travel and get a 35% rebate when they use their card for either first class or business class travel or flights with the airline of their choice (via the travel incidental credit).
That means if you spend 100,000 points for a $1,000 flight, you'll get 35,000 points back. Considering the 35% points rebate, the effective value is 1.54 CPP.
This is your best bet if you're looking for a simple travel redemption. The maximum rebate here is 1 million points per year, so you wouldn't want to redeem more than 2.85 million.
16. Using Amex Business Centurion Card's Rebate Feature
This is the same for the two previous options, but even better!
You can redeem your points with Business Centurion for a 50% rebate. As you know, spending 100,000 points for a $1,000 flight would get you 50,000 points back.
With the rebate, you can effectively get 2 CPP, the highest rate we've discussed.
On top of that, there is no maximum rebate. However, the personal Centurion card does not offer flight rebates.
17. Transferring Points to Amex's Airline or Hotel Partners
Finally, you can transfer your points to American Express airline and hotel partners.
The rate here can be up to 10 CPP, but it can generally fluctuate or come out to about 2 or 3 CPP when you get through all the transferring. There are a lot of nuances to this one.
But for avid travelers, this might be a decent option for you.
American Express points can be redeemed in many ways, so it's important to know which one gives you the most value.
While you can use them for merchandise or shopping with Amazon, they don't provide good value.
Most people will get the best value from their points by transferring them to airline or hotel partners or using your Amex business card.
Ultimately, it all depends on what kind of travel you're looking for and how much work you're willing to put in. Spend some time comparing the cash cost via Amex Travel to the points cost if you transfer to a partner to see which one will save you the most money.
Watch this video to find out how to get the most out of your Amex points:
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