American Express Membership Rewards Review and Value Analysis

As we analyze and review the American Express Membership Rewards (MR) program, we’ll be continuing our series where we’re on the hunt to find the most valuable travel related credit card rewards program.

To date, here are the other credit card rewards programs that I’ve reviewed:

How do you Earn American Express Membership Rewards points?

Like the other programs, Membership Rewards (MR) points are earned primarily through credit card use.  In addition, there are points offered for shopping and travel booking online.

Here are a couple of the best travel related American Express cards for earning Membership Rewards points:

The Platinum Card ® from American Express and American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card.

How Valuable Are AMEX MR Points for Travel?

In my opinion, the MR program has one the best (read most lucrative) rewards programs.  Best of all is the fact that you can transfer AMEX MR points to airlines.  I’ve included the reward chart below .

Airline Conversion Rate (transfers by the 1,000’s unless otherwise noted)
Delta Airlines 1:1 (i.e. 1000 Delta SkyMiles requires 1,000 Membership Rewards Points (MRP)
AeroMexico 1:1
Air Canada 1:1
AirTran 1 credit requires 1,500 MRP
Alitalia Airlines 1:1
All Nippon Airways 1:1
British Airways 1:1
Continental Airlines* (until Sept 30th, 2011) 1:1
EL AL Israel Airlines 15 Matmid points = 1,050 MRP
Air France & KLM 1:1
Frontier Airlines 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines 1:1
Iberia Plus Airlines 1:1
JetBlue Airways 200 TrueBlue Points = 250 MRP
Singapore Airlines 1:1
Virgin Atlantic 1:1

On top of that, American Express Rewards often offer bonus transfers.

Remember, these deals are not available all the time, but fairly often airlines (and hotels) will offer transfer bonuses.

What Makes Membership Rewards Points So Appealing?

Flexibility

With the MR points, you can basically be earning points for all of the above airlines at the same time.  Then, depending on your trip plans, you can transfer the points to the airline that has the lowest award rates or best availability.  Or, if you are a few thousand points short in your mileage account, you can top it up with Membership Rewards points.

Overall Rating and Final Thoughts on the Membership Rewards Program

This is one of the best credit card rewards programs.  The annual fees are high so you need to be sure you are getting a lot of use out of your cards.

As for the program itself, I’ll give it a 4/5 rating.

Good points:

  • Flexibility – points can be transferred to lots of airlines or hotel chains
  • Frequent bonus miles transfers
  • Opportunities to earn up to 3 points per dollar spent on travel

Concerns:

Cards come with steep annual fees – The Platinum Card ® from American Express= $450,American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card = $175 (first year free).  You must be a high spender to justify keeping an Amex Rewards card in your wallet.

When you cancel your card, you lose your points within 30 days. (Just be sure to transfer them before that.)

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