American Express Membership Rewards is one of the go-to programs of choice for the savvy points collector, with the most airline and hotel points transfer partners of the major credit card points programs.
It’s where many Point Hacks readers focus their efforts on collecting points. For anyone who wants to understand the value of flexible points programs to look at, this is where you should start as well.
This guide to Membership Rewards will cover all aspects of the program, including its transfer partners and benefits — especially given solid sign-up offers on American Express cards
Why should I choose American Express Membership Rewards?
Here are a few quick reasons:
- American Express offers a range of cards. Some have higher earning rates for certain categories, such as travel or at supermarkets
- There are frequent offers for statement credits or bonus points for spend at certain retailers
- Points don’t expire as long as your Membership Rewards account with American Express is active
- Most importantly, you have the ability to accrue points into a flexible program and can transfer those points to different participating airlines or hotel chains as needed
Where can I transfer Membership Rewards points to?
There is a wide variety of direct transfer partners from Membership Rewards, including Velocity Frequent Flyer, KrisFlyer, Asia Miles and Etihad Guest. Certain premium cards also have access to Qantas Frequent Flyer.
For most transfer partners, 2 Membership Rewards points will convert to 1 frequent flyer point (or mile). American Express has a list of most transfer partners and the current conversion rates.
Don’t forget you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points onwards to a range of other international frequent flyer programs. This increases the versatility of the Membership Rewards scheme.
What American Express cards earn Membership Rewards points?
There is a broad range of American Express cards which earns into Membership Rewards — we’ll cover the four most common personal cards below.
The American Express Platinum Edge
The American Express Platinum Edge is an entry-level Platinum card offering great value.
You’ll receive a $200 travel credit each year which you can use on any eligible bookings — easily outweighing the annual fee. Free domestic and international travel insurance is also included.
The Platinum Edge offers bumped-up earn rates at ‘major supermarkets’ and petrol stations of 3 Membership Rewards Points per $1. This also includes gift card purchases of other retailers, from those major supermarkets — learn more in this guide.
For overseas purchases, including online purchases denominates in foreign currency, the card earns a stead 2 Membership Rewards Points per dollar.
On all other purchases including with government bodies, the card earns 1 Membership Rewards Points per dollar.
The American Express Explorer
The mid-range American Express Explorer card offers a $400 annual travel credit with Amex Travel and two lounge visits to the Amex Lounge in Sydney or Melbourne, for a $395 annual fee.
It earns a high 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on most purchases, which equates to 1 frequent flyer point when transferred to most airline programs. Government and ATO spend earns half that rate.
The American Express Platinum Card
The Platinum Card is American Express’ premier card product. It offers a high-cost, high-return strategy in the world of accruing points.
It’s $1,450 a year, but many premium inclusions can offset this, including a decent sign-up bonus and travel credit.
The Platinum Card is for those who want a large Membership Rewards sign-up bonus, big spenders and/or who are after the extensive list of ancillary benefits. It earns 2.25 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, except for government and ATO spend which is 1 point per dollar.
The American Express David Jones cards
These provide perks at David Jones and bonus points in specific spend categories, like supermarkets, fuel and at David Jones.
On the higher end of the scale, the David Jones Platinum card earns 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at David Jones while the standard card earns 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar. Both cards can earn 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 at major supermarkets and fuel stations.
One major benefit of the David Jones American Express cards is that you may still be eligible for bonus sign-up points even if you recently closed a different American Express card product.
This makes it a popular ‘in-between’ card for crafty point hackers who are waiting to be eligible for another American Express card sign-up bonus.
How does Membership Rewards compare with ‘direct earn’ cards?
We consider flexible points program like Membership Rewards to offer great flexibility and value — read more in our introduction to flexible points programs.
There may also be transfer bonuses that give you more points whenever you convert your Membership Rewards balance to a partner program, increasing the value of your points accordingly.
What are the other features of American Express cards?
Bonus sign-up points
If you haven’t held almost any American Express card in the past 18 months, then you might be eligible for a new card sign-up bonus! These vary depending on promotions, so check out our latest sign-up deals.
Acceptance of American Express by retailers
American Express in Australia (much like the US and UK) is not accepted by all merchants, and others charge an additional fee for payment with an American Express card.
As such, any savvy points hacker would likely have both an American Express card and a Mastercard or Visa on hand, for times when Amex is not accepted/preferred. But most major stores will accept Amex without an issue.
All Amex-issued cards, regardless of rewards program, come with ‘Amex Offers‘ which are immediate statement credits for hitting a spending target with a specific retailer.
Examples include a $30 credit for spending $150 at Myer, or $50 credit back after spending $350 with Qantas. These promotions refresh fairly frequently, so check our deals page for any new listings.
A popular yearly offer is the ‘Shop Small’ campaign, where you can get multiple small statement credits by supporting small businesses near you.
The American Express Referral Program
You may find that the best signup bonuses are not public. American Express regularly tweak their sign-up bonuses for Membership Rewards cards, and sometimes the best bonuses to be had are if you let another cardholder refer you.
If you’re in a position to refer someone else to a new card, you both might be able to benefit. As a referrer, you could earn a chunk of bonus points if your referee applies and is approved for a new American Express card.
Summing up: is American Express Membership Rewards for you?
Stowing your points away in Membership Rewards gives redemption flexibility, allowing you to transfer to programs at a later date once you have a firm plan for your points.
It can be helpful to place a value on flexibility when playing the points game. Given that Membership Rewards partners with Velocity, KrisFlyer and Asia Miles, amongst others, this covers all the major alliances and domestic/Trans-Tasman options that you might want outside of Qantas.
The solid range of cards covers both lower and higher spenders, with decent card inclusions and points earning rates overall — especially in the entry-level American Express Platinum Edge card.
All up, Membership Rewards is a great credit card rewards program and deserves serious consideration.