There are a variety of ways that you can redeem your American Express Membership Rewards program points, but not all of the redemption options provide equal value, so it’s important to understand the best redemption values before proceeding.
Of course, different redemption options will have different values to each person, depending on your interests and the usefulness of each option for you, but it’s generally a good idea to understand the various point redemption rates, as you may be decreasing your spending value if you redeem your Membership Rewards points for less valuable rewards.
For instance, you may be earning 1 point per $1 spent on all of your everyday purchases, which would generally be equated with a 1% cash equivalent rebate, but since a $50 American Express Gift Card redemption requires 10,000 points (1/2 a penny per point), that would actually reduce your spending value to a 0.5% rebate on all of your everyday purchases.
On the other hand, a $50 Barnes & Noble Gift Card requires 5,000 points to redeem, so that would maintain a 1% rebate on your everyday spending and give you a better reward value for your Membership Rewards points.
Depending on whether you shop at Barnes & Noble on a regular basis, a B&N gift card may be a good option for you, but somebody who wants to be able to use their rewards toward more general purchases may find more value in the American Express Gift Card option, even though it’s actually a less valuable reward.
Membership Rewards Qualifying Cards
Here are some of the more popular American Express Bonus Cards that offer the Membership Rewards program.
List of Ways to Redeem Membership Rewards Points
There are many ways to use Membership Rewards points including retail purchases, dining and entertainment events, travel, point transfers to frequent flyer and loyalty programs, gift cards, statement credits toward everyday card purchases, combined points/card purchases via ShopAmex, and purchases on Amazon.com.
Transfer Membership Rewards Points to Airline and Hotel Guest Loyalty Programs
One of the best options for frequent travelers is to transfer your points to airline rewards programs and hotel guest loyalty programs.
For most of the loyalty programs, 1,000 Membership Rewards points will equal 1,000 miles, points, or credits.
Your Membership Rewards points must be transferred in 1,000-point increments with the following exceptions:
JetBlue Airways: 250 points = 200 JetBlue TrueBlue points; must be transferred in 250-point increments.
El AL Israel Airlines: 1,000 points = 20 Matmid points.
Starwood Preferred Guest: 1,000 points = 333 Starpoints.
Hilton: 1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points.
Virgin America: 200 points = 100 Elevate points; must be transferred in 200-point increments.
Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts: 2,300 points = 100 Sirius Points; must be transferred in 2,300-point increments.
One thing that makes transferring Membership Rewards points to loyalty programs so lucrative is that you can combine your Membership Rewards card points with bonus offers that you receive from a loyalty program’s rewards cards like the Hilton HHonors Bonus Card or the Delta SkyMiles Bonus Card, which makes for a great way to multiply your loyalty rewards quickly.
However, it is important to understand that every time you Transfer Membership Rewards Points into a U.S. Airline Frequent Flyer Program, your linked card account will be charged an excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99), which American Express charges to offset the federal excise tax that they must pay when you transfer points, and they may offer you the option to use points to pay this fee.
On the other hand, it’s free to Transfer Membership Rewards Points into Hotel Loyalty Programs, plus you can get an excellent value for your points toward free hotel nights.
Use Points for Merchandise on MembershipRewards.com
You can use your Membership Rewards points to redeem for various products on MembershipRewards.com.
However, the redemption rates for merchandise are generally not great for the consumer, and you can usually find the products for a lower price than the equivalent points that are required.
For example, MembershipRewards.com offers the Kindle Fire HD 7″ tablet with 16 GB for 34,630 points (which is more than $340 worth of points at a 1 point per penny ratio), while you can actually purchase this same tablet at Amazon.com for only $199.
In a case like this, you are actually better off redeeming 20,000 Membership Rewards points for $200 worth of Staples Gift Cards, and then purchasing the Kindle Fire HD 7″ at Staples for only $199.
They do offer point-reduction sales on select merchandise from time to time, but even then, the redemption rates are still generally more expensive than the outright purchase price of an item, so this is not one of the best ways to redeem your Membership Rewards points.
Redeem Membership Rewards Points for Gift Cards and Certificates
This is generally one of the better value options for redeeming your Membership Rewards points, excluding the actual American Express gift cards and certificates, as you can get a 1 point per penny ratio on most merchant gift cards, especially at the $100 gift card level.
They also offer sales on select gift cards from time to time, so you can get even better redemption rates if you wait for a sale to occur.
Plus, there are a variety of gift cards to choose from including Banana Republic, Bath & Body Works, Dell, Gap, Groupon, iTunes, Lands’ End, Nike, Old Navy, Staples, The Home Depot, and many others.
Gift cards are available in various denominations, but just make sure that you check the redemption requirements, as sometimes the lower denominations have worse redemption values than the higher denominations, so it may be worth saving your points until you can get a $100 gift card for 10,000 points.
On the other hand, the American Express Gift Cards require double the amount of points as other merchant gift cards, so these are not the best option in regards to value, although they can be used anywhere that accepts American Express.
Use Pay with Points
You can use Pay with Points to book travel on American Express Travel, for products on ShopAmex, TicketMaster, Telecharge, and elsewhere.
When you use Pay with Points, your linked card account will be charged for your purchase, American Express will deduct points from your program account, and then American Express will apply an accompanying credit to your card account.
The credit to your account may appear during a different billing cycle than the charge for your purchase, so you are still responsible for paying the amount due on your card statement by the due date.
If the points you use don’t fully cover the entire amount of the charge, the difference will remain charged to your card account, which means that you can use your card to pay for any amount of the price that your points don’t cover.
If you use a Pay Over Time feature (such as the Extended Payment Option) for a purchase using Pay with Points, the statement credit you get may not be applied to that feature, but instead might be applied to your Pay in Full balance, so just call the number on the back of your card if you think this has happened.
You must use a minimum amount of points for some Pay with Points rewards:
American Express Travel: 5,000 points.
Ticketmaster: 2,000 points.
Telecharge: 7,000 points.
The redemption value for air travel using Pay with Points is 1 point per penny or the equivalent of a 1% rebate on your points earned (i.e., a $400 flight will require 40,000 points).
So overall, this is not a bad value, although you may be able to find cheaper flights elsewhere, or you may get a better value by transferring your points to an airline’s loyalty program first.
You can also earn 1 extra Membership Rewards point on each dollar of eligible purchases made when you book using a Membership Rewards program-enrolled card on the American Express travel website.
On the other hand, hotel redemption values are not as optimal, so you’ll probably save money booking your hotel on another site.
In addition, the ShopAmex redemption values are generally 2 points per penny, so again, it’s not the best option to get the most value from your Membership Rewards points.
Shop with Membership Rewards Points on Amazon.com
You can use your points in the Amazon Shop with Points Program to directly pay for your purchases on Amazon.com with Membership Rewards points.
However, you only get $7 in spending for every 1,000 Membership Rewards points (1 point equals 7/10 of a penny), so you’re really not getting a full 1% rebate on your purchases if that is your goal.
However, this is an easy redemption option, and the prices on Amazon.com may be low enough to make this worth your while.
You can also use a combination of points and your American Express Card, in case you don’t have enough points for what you need.
Use Points for Everyday Charges on Your Card
You can use your Membership Rewards points to pay for everyday charges on your card.
You must use points towards specific, eligible charges on your online card statement, and not just for a general statement credit.
You can use as little as 1,000 points this way.
The charge must occur in the U.S. or in a U.S. territory and be for at least $5.
However, the redemption value is 6/10 of a penny per 1 point, so it’s also not the best rate for using your points.
For instance, American Express wants 50,000 points for a $300 charge on my card and 6,113 points for a $36.68 charge on my card.
Using Points for Statement Credits
You can redeem your Membership Rewards points directly for a statement credit on your card account.
You can use points in 20,000-point increments to get a $100 credit on your card account.
This, once again, is not the best ratio for your points, as 1 point is only worth 1/2 a penny in this scenario.
However, this is the most flexible option for redeeming your Membership Rewards points, as you can redeem your points toward any purchase that you make anywhere with your card.
Pay for New York City Taxi Cabs
You can Redeem Membership Rewards Points for NYC Taxi Cabs in real-time at the end of your rides.
The ratio is 1 point per 1 penny to pay for New York City Taxi Cab fares, so it’s a decent way to redeem your Membership Rewards points.
You simply choose to pay with “Credit,” and when you swipe an eligible AMEX card on the Taxi TV screen, you will be given the option to use points for your ride fare, including tip and tolls.
Use American Express Mobile App to Pay for Charges
You can use the American Express Mobile App to pay for your charges on the go with Membership Rewards points.
Learn how to Use Membership Rewards Points via the AMEX Mobile App to redeem your points on the go for any purchases that you make with your American Express card.
As you can see, there are many ways to redeem your Membership Rewards points with different redemption values depending on what you choose to do with your points.
The Membership Rewards program for select American Express Credit Cards is an excellent rewards program, but you have to be careful how you choose to redeem your points to get the best value out of your card spending.