American Express Membership Rewards Review by AskMrCreditCard.com
Review of the American Express® Membership Rewards® Program
Summary - The American Express® Membership Rewards® Program is perhaps the most comprehensive credit card reward program today. There are three key features that make it standout among other reward programs.
- It has more airline and hotel partners than any other reward program
- You can earn unlimited reward points
- Membership Reward Points do not expire
Those who travel a lot, spend a lot on their card, or simply are members of multiple frequent flyer or frequent guest program will like this reward program a lot. Let's have a detailed look at this reward program.
Three Levels of Membership - The American Express Membership Rewards has got 3 tiers in their reward program. They are the Membership Rewards Express, the regular Membership Rewards, and Membership Rewards First. There are some some differences between the three levels, which we will highlight below. (though the review itself will focus on the regular level and the Membership Rewards First Level.
Membership Rewards Express - The Membership Rewards Express is the lowest tier. It is essentially identical with the regular program with the main difference being that they you cannot transfer points into frequent flier miles or frequent guest points. The American Express Credit Cards that have this program are the Blue, Blue for Business and the Platinum Business credit card. Notice that all these cards have no annual fee.
Regular Membership Rewards - The regular Membership Rewards is available to Amex charge card holders. Originally, this was the only tier until Amex started introducing their elite platinum and centurion cards and their no annual fee rewards cards. The following cards have the regular MR.
Membership Rewards First - The Membership Rewards First is identical as well except that it has got a couple of more features. The first additional feature is the First Collection. It is a catalog of high end goods (like Mikimoto pearls, Lamboginhi Car) which you can exchange reward points for. It also has the international companion airfare feature, cruise privileges and also exclusive events for card holders.
Airline Travel - The American Express Membership Reward Program has over 20 airline partners. Unlike other general reward programs whereby you redeem points for flights on airlines of your choice, with the American Express membership rewards, you either transfer points into your frequent flyer program or redeem points for a airline ticket certificate. The number of partners for the American Express Membership Rewards is impressive, though the most notable absentee is United Airlines. The table below shows their current airline partners of the American Express® Membership Rewards® program.
Hotel Travel - The American Express® Membership Rewards® program also allows you to transfer points to frequent guest program. Below are some of their partners.
Cruise Travel - You can use your Membership Rewards® points to book any available cabin on a Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, NauticBlue, Norwegian, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean International, or Silversea Cruise. Points will vary based on number of occupants, cabin, cruise, and season.
Car Rental Rewards - The American Express® Membership Rewards® program has 3 car rental partners. They are Avis, Hertz and Enterprise. You can redeem points for certificates for all these partners at the following rate.
Shopping Rewards - The American Express® Membership Rewards® Program has many shopping merchant partners. On the Membership Rewards website, American Express has listed 10 categories of shopping reward items. Some of these items overlap, but the table below very much sums up the number of items in each category.
Dinings and Entertainment Rewards - The American Express Membership Rewards has seven categories of entertainment rewards. These consist of either gift cards or dining experiences at various restaurants.
Gift Cards - As with most reward programs, the Membership Rewards also has gift cards as part of their rewards. The thing I really like about their gift card rewards is that unlike other programs like the ThankYou Rewards or Worldpoints, you need less points to redeem for a certain value amount. For example, 1,000 points gets you a $10 gift card, 2,000 points gets you $20 in value. Other cards require for example 1,500 points for a $10 gift card. This is an area where Amex shines. But in terms of the number of partners in gift cards, you still can't beat Discover.
The American Express® Membership Rewards® program also allow you to contribute your reward points to charities. The exact charities are not listed on the website unless you are a membership rewards member. But there are over one million charities that you can donate to with either your points or exchange your points for cash.
Membership Rewards First
The highest tier of the Membership Rewards Program is the Membership Rewards First. There are a couple of additional features in addition to the regular membership rewards program. Firstly, there is the international airline companion ticket feature whereby you can get a free business or fist class companion ticket if you buy a full fare ticket from Amex. You also get unique invitations to rare events. First also has their own unique shopping rewards called First Collection, which includes some very high end rewards.
ShopAmex.com - In addition, you can enroll in ShopAmex.com, an online shopping comparison site whereby you can buy numerous well known brands and and just use a single checkout. You can also use your American Express Membership Reward Points to shop. If you do not have enough points, you can use a combination of points and charge the rest to your American Express Rewards card.
Bonuspointmalls.com - Amex has an online shopping portal (with partners with many brand name merchants) whereby cards with have membership rewards can earn 3 points for every dollar that you spend at Bonuspointsmall.com. For cards with Membership Rewards First (ie the platinum and centurion card), you can earn 4 points for every dollar spend at at merchants through BonusPointsMall.com.
Lastly, you can earn unlimited reward points on any American Express card that enrolls in Membership Rewards and points do not expire.
Verdict - The American Express Rewards Program is perhaps the most comprehensive credit card reward program. Unlike most other credit card reward programs, it has numerous airline partners which you can either transfer points or get travel certificates. Furthermore, they have more hotel partners than any other reward program. Most reward program have have only about three hotel partners which mainly consist of the Hyatt, Ritz Carlton and Marriot. The American Express Membership Rewards program has over 15 hotel partners. You can either exchange points into hotel frequent guest points or choose from over 250 hotels and exchange points for stays at these hotels. The number of cruise rewards, shopping and entertainment rewards is unmatched by any other reward program.