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What Are American Express Membership Rewards® Points?

The American Express Membership Rewards program gives Card Members flexible ways to earn points on eligible purchases, plus a variety of redemption options.

By Megan Doyle | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor

8 Min Read | October 1, 2021 in Cards

 

At-A-Glance

Membership Rewards is American Express’ loyalty program. It lets Card Members earn, save, and redeem points in ways that match their spending styles. 

Each Amex Credit Card offers different ways to earn points, and points values vary depending on how you redeem them.

Aside from earning points through regular spending, Amex provides additional ways to earn extra points, such as welcome bonuses, referrals, and Amex Offers. 

Americans use credit cards more than debit cards – but why? One reason is for their rewards programs. With credit card rewards, like the American Express Membership Rewards program, eligible Card Members can earn reward points for all eligible purchases. These points can then be redeemed in a variety of ways, from statement credits to travel and more – giving Card Members a way to earn rewards for purchases they’re already making.


But how exactly do American Express Membership Rewards points work? Read on to learn how to earn Membership Rewards points, how to check your balance, and how to redeem rewards – plus a few tips on how to make the most out of these points. Note that terms apply to all benefits listed below and all offers are subject to change.

 

What Are Membership Rewards Points?

Membership Rewards is a loyalty program in which you can earn points by using your eligible American Express Card. While most eligible Cards are automatically entered into the Membership Rewards program, note that some Cards require enrollment. Visit membershiprewards.com/terms for more information.


Generally, you’ll earn at least 1 point per dollar on all eligible purchases, but different cards offer different ways to accelerate your points-earning potential. For example, with the American Express® Gold Card, you earn 4 points per dollar spent on restaurant purchases, while the American Express® Green Card offers 3X points on eligible transit purchases. Similarly, the value of Membership Rewards points can change depending on how you redeem them.


There’s no limit to how many Membership Rewards points you can earn. And as long as you’re an active Card Member and your account is in good standing, points will never expire – so they’ll be ready to redeem when you are.

 

How to Earn American Express Membership Rewards Points

If your Card is enrolled in the Membership Rewards program, you’ll automatically earn Membership Rewards points anytime you use your Card for eligible purchases. Transactions like cash advances or person-to-person payments are generally not eligible.


American Express offers a variety of ways to earn points and boost your points-earning potential:


Welcome bonuses. Some Cards come with welcome offers that can provide an initial boost of points for spending a certain amount of money within the first few months of Card Membership. Welcome offers tend to change over time. For example, Gold now has a welcome offer for new Card Members to earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points if they spend $4,000 in their first six months of Card Membership.


Category multipliers. While Cards generally offer a base-level reward of 1 point per dollar spent on eligible purchases, most Cards also offer additional rewards on specific spending categories, like dining, groceries, gas, or travel. For example, The Platinum Card® offers 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 such purchases a year. Taking advantage of these points accelerators can help boost the amount of points you earn, especially if you choose a Card that’s a good match for your spending style.


Enroll in Amex Offers. Amex Offers is a program that lets you earn extra rewards – points, miles, cash back, etc., depending on the Card – when making select purchases through eligible retailers, restaurants, and services. To check for the current list of Amex Offers, you can log into your account or opt into emails from Amex. Amex Offers are available to all consumer and business American Express Card Members, but you must enroll in the offers you’d like to receive.1

 
Extra benefits. If you have a Membership Rewards Credit Card, be sure to keep an eye out for any extra benefits, like earning points with Rakuten. Rakuten is an e-commerce portal that lets you earn bonus points on qualifying purchases at eligible retailers. To earn extra points, link your American Express account to your Rakuten account. Rakuten will automatically transfer points to your Membership Rewards account every three months.


Refer a friend. If you refer a friend or business to American Express and they’re approved after applying through the referral link, you might be eligible to earn extra points – and they might get a welcome bonus.

 

How to Check Your Membership Rewards Points Balance 

In order to manage the Membership Rewards points you earn, you’ll first need to create an online account for your Card. Once that’s done, there are a few ways you can check your points balance:

  • Your online account. Total available points will appear on the main page of your account, below your total balance.
  • MembershipRewards.com. You can also access your available balance by going to MembershipRewards.com and logging in with your American Express account info. Here, you’ll see point activity and options for redeeming points and receiving special promotions.
  • The American Express® App. You can see your points balance when you click the “Membership” tab. From here you can explore rewards and ways to use points.

When you first earn points, they appear as pending. They’ll be added to your points balance and available for use usually between 24 to 72 hours after you make your monthly payment. 

 

How to Use Membership Rewards

American Express offers several ways to redeem points, so you have the flexibility to redeem for the rewards that mean the most to you. Of note, the value of Membership Rewards points varies depending on how you redeem them – one point is usually worth anywhere from 0.5 cents to 1 cent. For more on Membership Rewards points values, read “How Much Are American Express Membership Rewards® Points Worth?


There are seven main ways Card Members can redeem points, depending on their particular Card and other factors:


Pay with points at checkout. Sixteen different retailers let you link your Membership Rewards account so you can cover some or all of your purchase at the retailer’s online checkout.

  
Redeem for gift cards. You can redeem points through American Express’ Membership Rewards Gift Card portal. There are over 80 brands to choose from, from retailers and restaurants to travel and entertainment.


Cover your Card charges. Prefer to use points like statement credits? Amex lets you apply points to eligible charges from recent statements, with no minimum requirement.

 
Book or upgrade travel. You can use points toward all or part of travel booking at AmexTravel.com, whether it’s a flight, hotel, vacation, car rental, or cruise. And remember: Points never expire, so they’re ready to be redeemed when you’re ready to travel. You can also use points to place an offer on a seat upgrade with participating airlines.


Transfer points to travel partners. The Membership Rewards program makes it possible to transfer points to 20 different frequent flyer and hotel loyalty program partners. That’s more than any other major U.S. credit card rewards program, making it easier for you to transfer points to the partner you prefer. You’ll need to link your loyalty account to your Membership Rewards account. Points generally transfer within 24 hours.


Go shopping online. Redeem points toward purchases made through American Express’ merchant partners directly at MembershipRewards.com. Browse sports gear, appliances, the newest tech, and more. American Express even makes it easier to support small businesses online with the ShopSmall Marketplace, where you can redeem points toward purchases with select small businesses.


Give back. American Express has partnered with JustGiving so you can use points to donate to a charity of your choice. There are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations to choose from.


No matter how you choose to redeem Membership Rewards points, note that Card Members are responsible for paying any federal, state, or local taxes that might apply.

 

Getting the Most out of Membership Rewards

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the American Express Membership Rewards program:

  • If you’re getting a new Card, take advantage of special promotions, like welcome offers or friend referrals. They tend to offer thousands of points you wouldn’t receive otherwise.
  • Regularly check Amex Offers for points-earning opportunities that align with your spending habits. For example, one offer recently became available to enroll and get 5X points for every eligible dollar spent at Amazon.com, up to 2,000 points.
  • Consider redeeming points in ways that will give you the biggest value. You can check the American Express Rewards Points Calculator to learn what Membership Rewards are worth based on different redemption methods.
  • Maintain responsible financial habits. It’s not worth overspending for the sake of earning points.  

 

The Takeaway

American Express Membership Rewards offer an assortment of ways to earn and redeem points. Pick a Card that best matches your spending habits so you can earn the most rewards, and then use points for statement credits, gift cards, online shopping, travel, and more. Membership Rewards points never expire – as long as your account remains in good standing – and there’s no limit to how many you can earn. 

ARTICLE SOURCES

1 Prepaid cards and products, American Express Corporate Cards, and American Express-branded cards or account numbers issued by other financial institutions are not eligible.

Megan Doyle

Megan Doyle is a business technology writer and researcher whose work focuses on financial services and cross-cultural diversity and inclusion.

 

All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

The material made available for you on this website, Credit Intel, is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax or financial advice. If you have questions, please consult your own professional legal, tax and financial advisors.