American Express Membership Rewards points are some of the most valuable currencies in the world of travel rewards. Depending on how you choose to redeem them, they can be worth as little as 0.6-0.7 cents per point to as much as two cents per point. They’re also among the most flexible since they transfer to 17 airline partners and three hotel rewards programs.
In some ways, though, Membership Rewards points have a reputation as being difficult to earn. Of the 32 cards issued by American Express, only 10 have the ability to earn MR points (six personal and four business versions). There’s also the bank’s once-in-a-lifetime restriction on signup bonuses: If you’ve ever had the card before, you can’t collect the bonus, whereas most credit card issuers will restrict you to a 24 or 48-month look-back period.
Even so, Membership Rewards points are well worth having, and they can unlock a world of unique travel experiences. Here’s a rundown on the cards that allow you to earn them:
Blue and Blue Business Plus
The bad news is that neither of these cards offer a signup bonus, but the good news is they also don’t have an annual fee. The Blue card gives you one point per dollar on all purchases. Blue Business Plus is more generous: You earn two points per dollar on purchases up to a maximum of $50,000 per year, with one point per dollar after that. The beauty of these cards is their simplicity since you don’t have to juggle different spending categories for maximum value.
The EveryDay card also has no annual fee, and it offers a bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. You earn two points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets up to a maximum of $6,000 per year in purchases, with one point per dollar after that and one point on everything else. If you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period, you receive a 20% bonus.
This card’s $95 annual fee is offset by a bonus of 15,000 points after spending $1,000 in your first three months. It also has higher earning rates: three points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year), two points per dollar at U.S. gas stations and one point for everything else. Using your card 30 times during a billing period gets you a point bonus of 50%. You also receive two points per dollar on eligible purchases (cruises, vacation packages and prepaid hotel stays) at amextravel.com.
Green From Amex
The newly revamped Green Card is a winner. It offers a bonus of 30,000 points after spending $2,000 in your first three months. You receive three points per dollar on restaurants, travel and transit worldwide, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. The annual fee is $150.
Business Green Rewards
Unfortunately, the business version is less rewarding. The signup bonus is 15,000 points after $3,000 in eligible purchases over the first three months. The category spending is also less impressive: two points per dollar on purchases booked through American Express Travel, and one point elsewhere. However, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
Also refreshed recently, the personal Gold Card is now more valuable than ever. You receive a signup bonus of 35,000 points after $4,000 in spending during your first three months. The category bonuses are also hefty: four points per dollar at worldwide restaurants and on the first $25,000 at U.S. supermarkets, three points per dollar on flights booked directly with the airlines, and one point on everything else. The annual fee is $250.
While similar to the personal Gold, the key feature of the Business Gold card is its flexibility. The signup bonus is 35,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first three months, and the annual fee is $295. You get four points per dollar in the two categories where your business spends the most, and you may choose among restaurants, airfare, advertising, shipping, gas stations and tech purchases. The rewards are capped at a combined maximum of $150,000 in a calendar year.
The current bonus is 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months, although offers vary and it pays to shop around. You receive five points per dollar on airfare or prepaid hotels booked through airlines or Amex Travel, and one point per dollar elsewhere. The substantial $550 annual fee is offset by a slew of travel benefits such as hotel and car rental status, airline credits, Uber credits and airport lounge access.
The annual fee is slightly higher ($595), but the benefits are similar to the personal version. Both cards are really worth having for the travel benefits rather than the ability to earn Membership Rewards points.
We’ll skip over the fabled Centurion (or “black”) card on the theory that if you can afford a $7,500 initiation fee and a $5,000 annual fee, you’re probably not reading a budget travel website. For what it’s worth, both the personal and business versions of the Centurion give you one point per dollar, regardless of category.
Which card is best for you? It depends on your spending habits and your travel goals. In terms of category bonuses, the clear winners are the EveryDay Preferred, personal Green and Gold (both business and personal). While those allow you to rack up the greatest number of points on an ongoing basis, the lower-earning Platinum cards are incredibly valuable for frequent travelers. Cards that earn Membership Rewards points also give you access to Amex Offers, which can be a lucrative source of points and savings.
Source: frugal travel guy