[Introduction] US Point-Transfer Rewards Programs: American Express Membership Rewards

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Introduction to US Point-Transfer Reward Programs:

1. American Express Membership Rewards (AMEX MR)
2. Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase UR)
3. Citi ThankYou Rewards (Citi TY)
4. Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints (SPG)

This post serves as the introduction to the four major transferable rewards programs in US. Because the considerations vary quite a lot by individuals in terms of the best strategies to earn and redeem points, I will not emphasize those in this post. I will be speaking in general about the individual programs.

From the perspective of earning airline miles, there are two major types of credit cards to help you achieve that.

1. Airline co-brand cards: Examples include Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer Card, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard, and American Express Delta SkyMiles Card. When holding these card, you will be earning directly the associated miles of the co-brand airlines when using the cards. You can typically earn higher number of miles when spending on the respective airlines, and those cards will also give you additional benefits like priority boarding and waived checked-baggage fees.

2. Bank rewards cards: Several of major banks in the US have their own reward programs. When you make purchases, you are earning specific points within the reward programs. Some of those allow you to offset your credit card bill directly, to redeem gift cards, or to transfer the points to their hotel / airline partners. The last option is the most valuable way in my opinion because it gives you the greatest flexibility (you only transfer points to those programs when you need to). In other words, you are holding a more valuable “currency” in the world of miles and points. I will have a series of posts introducing the four major transferable points. 

American Express Membership Rewards (AMEX MR)

This is the reward programs run by the American Express. Specifically for airlines, they have the following 17 transferable partners. You can transfer MR points to most of them at 1:1 ratio, with a few exceptions.

The AMEX MR program has very good coverage in their airline partners:

  • SkyTeam: Air France FlyingBlue, Delta SkyMiles
  • Star Alliance: All Nippon Airways, Air Canada Aeroplan, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Oneworld: British Airways, Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles
My most frequent uses of MR points include:
  • Transfer to All Nippon Airways (ANA) to redeem round-trip flight in business class between North America and Asia (95,000 miles).
  • Transfer to British Airways (BA) to redeem for short distance one-way in economy class (Ex: Taipei ~ Hong Kong for 4,500 miles) with BA's Oneworld's partners like Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Alaska Airlines, or British Airways' own intra-Europe flights. 

Please note that the transfer ratio to British Airways is no longer 1:1. However, AMEX MR often offers bonus transfer promotion, and you can consider taking advantage of it when promotion comes.

There are several credit cards that earn MR points, and I will introduce a few that you could consider. For the complete list, please visit our credit card database.

1. American Express Everyday Preferred Card

This is a perfect card for your everyday spending. You can earn 3 MR points per dollar for spending at supermarkets, 2 MR points per dollar for spending at gas stations, and 1 MR point per dollar for everything else. In addition, if you could make 30 or more transactions in a given billing cycle, you will receive 50% more MR points. Please check out further details here. If you don't want to pay the $95 annual fee, consider the no-fee version of Everyday Card instead.

2. American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (AMEX PRG)

The annual fee is $195 annual fee (waived for the first year). If you can take full advantage of the $100 annual airline credits (on incidental charges), it could be thought as an effective $95 annual fee. With this card, you earn 3 MR points per dollar for spending on airlines, 2 MR points per dollar for spending at gas stations and grocery stores, and 1 MR point per dollar for everything else. It's also a decent day-to-day card. In addition, there is no foreign transaction fee. For further details, please check it out at our credit card database.

3. American Express Platinum Card

This is consider a premium card due to the high annual fee ($550), so it might not be for everyone. However, if you travel frequently, it might be worthwhile. You will receive $200 annual airline credits (on incidental charges), $200 annual Uber credits, $100 Global Entry application fee, PriorityPass airport lounge access, Hilton Gold status, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Gold status. Most importantly, you earn 5 MR points per dollar for spending on airlines! Further details are included here.

Thank you for supporting TripPlus! Please check here to learn more about American Express credit cards from our partner.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.

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