When it comes to redeeming rewards, American Express’s loyalty program offers you a long list of ways to redeem points and take advantage of credit card rewards. But some redemption methods have more impact than others.
With a few exceptions, ticket redemption provides the best value for your Membership Rewards points. If you want to travel an extra mile (or thousands more), consider transferring your points to one of American Express’s travel partners. You can earn 2 cents or more of value per point by finding sweet spots in redemption tiers.
The Best Way to Use American Express Points
Find out how to maximize your rewards today:
Redeem your points on the American Express Travel Portal
The American Express Travel Portal is an established travel site where you can book all types of travel, including hotels, vacation packages and cruises. If you book travel through the American Express Travel Portal, you’ll get a rate of 0.7 cents per point (excluding airfare). This makes it a relatively unattractive option for using American Express points.
Like most travel sites, American Express Travel lets you search for flights on a range of dates and multiple airlines. From 5,000 points, you can use your award to book any available flight. Fare averages 1 cent per point.
For airlines, tickets you book with American Express Travel will appear as cash tickets, allowing you to earn miles and elite status on award flights. This is another factor to consider when determining the total value of the ticket.
Airfare prices on American Express Travel are often competitive compared to other travel sites. However, you must deduct the booking fee from the total value of the ticket. Domestic flights and vacation packages cost $6.99, international flights and vacation packages cost $10.99, and phone reservations cost $39. Before making a reservation, you should compare with other travel sites to make sure you are getting the best value for your money.
Another travel option is American Express’s Points Upgrade Program, launched in 2019, which allows you to bid for upgrades using your Membership Rewards points. For 20 different airlines, you can use 1 cent per point to upgrade a cash economy class ticket to a premium class ticket. With the program, you can offer an upgrade on an eligible booking and then find out if the offer has been accepted within five days of your flight.
As we’ll explore later, transferring points can provide more value than using American Express’ travel portal, but it takes some work. While booking travel through Amex Travel may not be the best deal, it’s a great option if you want an easy way to book your flight without worrying about blackout dates and restrictions.
Transfer American Express Points to Airlines
If you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you can find referral redemptions worth two to three times the value you get through the travel portal.
This is especially true if you are interested in special travel in a premium airline cabin. If you use points for this, you can get excellent value. American Express has 20 travel partners — including 17 airlines that can take you wherever you want — and your points are transferred 1:1 to most of them.
The value of each point varies from program to program. You also need to take into account that when you switch to a U.S. airline or hotel chain, American Express charges 0.06 cents in GST for each point transferred (up to $99). This GST is relatively small, but it is important to take it into account when calculating your value.
If you want the best value in your membership rewards, it’s all about airfare. The estimated points value for each American Express airline partner below is based on the latest ratings from The Points Guy and reviews from CreditCards.com:
American Express airline partners
|Airline partner||Transfer time||Transfer ratio||Estimated point value (including transfer ratio and excise fee, where applicable)|
|Aer Lingus||Instant||1:1||1.5 cents|
|Aeromexico||24 hours||1:1.6||0.6 cents|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA)||48 hours||1:1||1.4 cents|
|Asia Miles||72 hours||1:1||1.3 cents|
|Avianca LifeMiles||Instant||1:1||1.7 cents|
|British Airways||72 hours||1:1||1.5 cents|
|Delta SkyMiles||Instant||1:1||1.41 cents|
|Emirates Skywards||48 hours||1:1||1.2 cents|
|Etihad Guest||120 hours||1:1||1.4 cents|
|Flying Blue||96 hours||1:1||1.2 cents|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Instant||1:1||0.9 cents|
|Iberia Plus||48 hours||1:1||1.5 cents|
|Singapore KrisFlyer||Up to 24 hours||1:1||1.3 cents|
|Virgin Atlantic||Instant||1:1||1.5 cents|
Transfer American Express Points to Hotels
Only three of American Express’s travel partners are hotels, not as lucrative as the transportation options of the top airlines, but those partners are Hilton, Choice and Marriott — large chains with thousands of hotels around the world.
While all hotel chains are worth less than 1 cent for points, if you’re already a loyal customer at one of these hotels and only need a few thousand points for your next free night, it’s still a good idea to transfer your Amex points to these hotel partners It’s worth it. Here’s a comparison of hotel pickups:
|Hotel partner||Transfer time||Transfer ratio||Estimated point value (including transfer ratio)|
|Choice Privileges||Instant||1:1||0.6 cent|
|Hilton Honors||Instant||1:2||0.6 cent|
|Marriott Bonvoy||Instant||1:1||0.8 cent|
Redeem American Express Points for Gift Cards and Cash Back
With American Express, you can redeem your points for a variety of gift cards, including travel, restaurants and retailers. Gift cards are a great redemption option—most are worth 1 cent per point, which is comparable to membership rewards. However, beware of lower value gift cards. American Express Gift Cards are only 0.5 cents per point.
You can also redeem your American Express points for billing credit for credit card account charges (minimum 1,000 points required to redeem). Unfortunately, bank statements are only worth 0.6 cents per point, so they are a poor use of the point.
Redeem American Express Points When Shopping
American Express has a number of shopping partners – including Amazon, Walmart, Grubhub, and Best Buy – that allow you to link your account to their website and redeem points with one click at checkout.
Additionally, you can use your Membership Rewards points via PayPal wherever the service is accepted. These options are convenient, but they also don’t work well with points, as you only get 0.7 cents worth of each point. However, if you haven’t planned a vacation, this option might be attractive.
On the American Express shopping portal, your points are worth less. While you can find a variety of items through the portal, your rewards are worth 0.5 cents per point. If you decide to use your Membership Rewards points for online shopping, visiting one of American Express’s shopping partners may be your best option.
Use American Express Points for Charities and Concerts
You can also use your American Express points to support your choices from thousands of different charities. Just choose the charity you want to donate to and you can use your points for 0.7 cents per point.
You can even use your points to buy tickets for concerts and events through Ticketmaster and AXS, but this is not recommended. Each point is worth 0.5 cents when redeemed for event tickets.
There are many ways you can earn American Express points, so it’s wise to know which ones offer you the most value. While it’s easy and convenient to use them for gift cards or shopping partners like Amazon, these often represent value for money and are generally not recommended.