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Everything You Need to Know About American Express Membership Rewards

American Express, like many other credit card issuers, has a rewards program that allows card holders to earn and redeem points. The American Express Membership Rewards program offers some of the most competitive redemption options and is one of the better programs out there when it comes to earning and redeeming points.

Whether you already have an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards (MR) or you're in the market for a new rewards card, check out this guide to how the American Express program works and how you can maximize your Amex spend to earn as many rewards as possible.

How Do Rewards Programs Work?

When you have a rewards credit card, you earn credits for purchases you put on the card. Those credits come in one or more forms, such as cash back, miles or points. Your card issuer will track your credits and you'll be able to redeem them according to your card's or program's specific rules.

Redemption options vary by reward programs. The American Express Membership Rewards program allows you to redeem rewards for many things, such as gift cards, travel, hotel stays and more. Amex Membership Rewards points—in addition to Chase Ultimate Rewards points—are some of the most valuable out there, and knowing how to earn them can open the door to great rewards and savings opportunities.

What Cards Offer American Express Membership Rewards?

Not every American Express card is part of the MR program, so if you're applying for a new card and want to earn MR points, double-check before choosing a card. The following personal cards from American Express all earn points that can be redeemed in the Amex MR portal:

If you're still trying to figure out which card is right for you, think about what types of purchases you make most often and then get a card that gives you rewards for that type of spending. For example, if you spend a lot on travel and are looking for an Amex card that rewards travel purchases and offers extensive travel perks, The Platinum Card® from American Express may be a good choice for you. And don't be afraid to add multiple Amex cards to your wallet. Having multiple rewards cards—especially if they work together in the same program—can mean earning double or even triple the rewards for your spending.

Best Ways to Redeem American Express Membership Rewards

The Amex Membership Rewards program is similar to other credit card rewards programs. As you accumulate MR points, they're stored in your account. Once you have enough points, you can redeem them for valuable rewards.

Unlike other rewards programs—like those offered by airlines—Amex's MR program allows you to redeem your points for a variety of things, giving you the flexibility to use your points how you want. Not all redemption options are created equal, however, so it's important to know that your points may be worth more if you redeem them for certain things. Here are some ways you can redeem your Membership Rewards points:

  • Pay with points at checkout. This option allows you to redeem your points while making online purchases with some select merchants. Popular merchants include Walmart, Grubhub, Amazon and more.
  • Convert points to gift cards. With this option, you can convert a certain number of points into gift cards that you can use at popular companies. Gift cards are not limited to retailers or restaurants, and can be redeemed for a long list of participating companies. Points may be valued up to 1 cent per point when used to redeem gift cards through the portal.
  • Cover card charges. This option allows you to convert your accrued MR points into dollars that cover select charges on your credit card statement.
  • Use the Amex shopping portal. Amex has its own shopping portal through which you can browse and purchase things from electronics and clothing to kitchen supplies. The portal is integrated with the MR program and shows the cost of items in both dollars and MR points.
  • Book or upgrade travel. This is probably the most valuable redemption option, as points used through Amex travel are valued at 1 cent per point (most other redemption options value points at .5 to .7 cents per point). You can use points to book different types of travel expenses, including flights, hotels and rental cars.
  • Transfer points. Like other membership rewards programs, Amex MR points can be transferred to certain partner programs. This can be a valuable option if you already have points in another program or have found a good deal but need a few extra points to complete the purchase.

How to Maximize American Express Membership Rewards

The first step to maximizing rewards in any credit card program is to know what you spend the most on. Get a card that gives you extra reward earnings in those categories. The next step is to optimize all the cards in your wallet to earn for the different types of purchases you make each month.

Depending on the cards you already have, maximizing your rewards in the Amex MR program may mean that you want to get one or more cards that earn MR points. For example, if you spend a lot on travel, groceries and gas each month, it might be worth it to carry both the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, to get credit for gas and grocery purchases, and The Platinum Card® from American Express, so you can earn points when you purchase plane tickets.

How to Get a Card That Earns Amex Membership Rewards

Just like any other credit card, it's important to do proper research before sending in an application. If you've considered what you'll use the card for and what types of rewards you want to earn, as well as what you'll pay in annual fees and other card expenses, you can more easily choose an American Express card that will help you reach these goals.

Keep in mind that card issuers will use your credit history to determine your eligibility for these cards, and in the case of the more premium cards—like the American Express® Gold Card or The Platinum Card®—you'll probably need a good credit score to be approved.

If you don't know your current credit scores, consider getting a free copy of your credit report and scores from Experian so you know what lenders will see when they consider your application. If you're ready to apply for a new American Express card, check out Experian CreditMatchTM, which will show you personalized credit card offers based on your credit file.

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