Most U.S. bank rewards cards provide their customers with multiple ways of redeeming their points. Be it transferring points to a travel partner, exchanging them for gift cards or using them to book various travel components, there’s usually a plethora of options.

However, cardholders should beware that not all of these opportunities are good.

American Express Membership Rewards can be used to book flights, prepaid hotels, cruises, vacation packages, or upgrade an existing reservation and even offset federal excise taxes when transferring them to U.S. airline programs.

At first glance, Amex Travel doesn’t provide as much value as the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal or the Citi Travel Rewards portal. However, there are ways to increase that value by using one of the booking engine’s features in conjunction with the right credit card.

In This Article

How to Earn American Express Membership Rewards Points

American Express issues a number of co-branded credit cards and some charge and credit cards that aren’t affiliated with a hotel chain or an airline. Focus on the cards that earn Membership Rewards points instead of hotel points or airline miles—these are the flexible points that can be transferred to airlines or used in the Amex Travel portal.

American Express Gold Card

10xT Thoughts: A great card for category spenders who want more rewards for their spend! Currently offering 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Learn more

Some Amex cards earn cash back and don’t offer the option of using the travel portal. Holding the cards below gives you access to the Amex Travel portal.

What Amex Membership Rewards Points Are Worth?

Amex Membership Rewards points are worth different amounts when redeemed for flights, hotels, upgrades, etc. It doesn’t matter which card you use to accumulate them—the points are worth the same (with the exception of the Business Gold and the Business Platinum cards).

Redemption Option Cents per point
Flights 1 cent
Prepaid Hotels 0.7 cent
Cruises 0.7 cent
Vacations 0.7 cent
Upgrade with Points 1 cent
Fine Hotels & Resorts 1 cent

As you probably noticed, we did not include transferring Amex points to airlines as an option. The value in doing so varies depending on how many points you’d need for an award ticket and how much the cash cost of said ticket would have been.

American Express Green Card

30,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months

Learn more

Airline Bonus With Amex Business Cards

American Express offers its Business Platinum Card members a great perk. Any time you Pay with Points to book a business or a first class flight through the Amex Travel portal, you receive a 35% rebate.

The benefit also applies to economy flights operated by your airline of choice—the same one that you select every year in January for the airline fee credit. The rebate is limited to 500,000 Membership Rewards points per calendar year.

When you take advantage of the airline bonus rebate, American Express points are worth ~1.54 cents apiece.

The Business Gold Card members enjoy a 25% rebate, which is ~1.33 cents each, which is still higher than the standard value of 1 cent per point. The rebate limit for the Business Gold Card holders is 250,000 points per calendar year.

Business Charge Card Amex Points’ Value After Airline Bonus Rebate
Business Gold Card ~1.33 cents
Business Platinum Card ~1.54 cents

Remember that you must have the total number of points available in your account necessary to book the original flight, not just the net amount after the rebate. Although the terms state that you’d get your points back in your account within six to 10 weeks, some data points show that they post within a day or two after the reservation is processed.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Earn 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Terms apply.

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When You Should Redeem Amex Membership Rewards Points via Amex Travel Portal

Believe it or not, transferring points to airlines isn’t always the best use of rewards. In some cases, you’re better off redeeming them through a portal. Let’s take a look at such scenarios.

When carriers run airfare sales: From time to time, airlines post pretty great deals on airfare to various destinations. It’s not unheard of to spot economy flights between the United States and Europe for $300, for example.

Many of these deals can be reserved through the portal for a fraction of what an award ticket booked with airline miles would cost. The taxes and fuel surcharges are included, too. For this reason, it might be best to redeem points through a portal instead of utilizing a transfer partner.

When you hold the Business Gold/Platinum Card: Because of the airline bonus, Membership Rewards points are worth more after you receive a 35% rebate. It’s not just economy deals, though. You find business class deals as well. With the rebate, you can take advantage of the fare deal and the higher redemption value at the same time by redeeming points via the Amex Travel portal.

If you have multiple Membership Rewards-earning cards, the points pool into the same place. You just have to make sure you log into your Business Platinum Card account to redeem them.

When you don’t have any Chase or Citi points: I hate to say it, but unless you hold either the Business Gold Card or the Business Platinum Card, redeeming Amex points through the travel portal shouldn’t be your first choice, especially when you redeem them for prepaid hotels or car rentals.

American Express points are worth 0.7 cent to 1 cent when used to book travel elements via its travel portal. In comparison, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points are worth 1.25 to 1.5 cents each, depending on the card you hold. The math doesn’t work out in Amex’s favor here. It’s better to use the other two banks’ currency.

However, if you’re above 5/24 and can’t get approved for any Chase cards or award availability isn’t there, you have to work with what you’ve got in the effort to save money on travel.

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express

Earn 2x points on eligible purchases up to $50,000 annually, 1x on all else. Terms apply.

Learn more

How to Use Amex Travel Portal to Book Travel

Any time you make a reservation for either a flight or a hotel through Amex Travel, remember that the booking isn’t made directly with a travel provider. The portal is essentially an online travel agency, but instead you use your points to substitute cash.

Flights

Flights are one of the travel components you can book in the Amex Travel portal for the maximum value of 1 cent per point.

To begin your search, log in with your American Express account information, enter your departure and arrival airports, travel dates, number of passengers and class of service. For nonstop flights only, check the corresponding box. Search as usual, sort your results by price in cash or points, duration and departure time, and select your options.

01. AMEX TRAVEL

Keep in mind that Delta Air Lines flights are presented first, unless you filter your results by lowest price, because it’s a partner airline of American Express. You can fix that by filtering your results by price if that’s the most important factor.

When you’ve completed your itinerary selection, choose whether you prefer to pay in cash or to redeem Amex points. Enter traveler information and continue with your booking.

02. AMEX TRAVEL FLIGHTS

The travel portal doesn’t display basic economy seats, so you know you can count on a regular economy seat, which usually includes a carry-on bag and a seat selection, at the very least. If you seek a higher class of service, you’ll have an opportunity to upgrade. Please note that you will earn frequent flyer miles on these flights.

03. Amex upgrade your flights

You must redeem at least 5,000 Membership Rewards for a Pay with Points booking through the portal, and if you don’t have enough to cover the entire cost, you can cover the rest with a credit card.

The full dollar amount will be charged to your American Express card, but a credit will apply within 48 hours once the points are deducted. Charges made to The Platinum Card from American Express or the Business Platinum Card will earn 5X points per dollar spent.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 75,000 points after you spend $15,000 in the first 3 months. Terms apply.

Learn more

International Airline Program

The International Airline Program (IAP) is available if you have the Amex Platinum or Amex Business Platinum cards. With the IAP, you’ll have access to discounted flights in premium economy, business class and first class on select airlines. In fact, you can get great deals on 20 airlines including:

  • Aeroméxico
  • Air China
  • Air France
  • Air New Zealand
  • Alitalia
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • KLM
  • LATAM
  • Lufthansa
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss International Air Lines
  • Virgin Atlantic

You can use Amex points to book these flights (and get the rebate) or book with your Platinum or Business Platinum card to earn 5x Membership Rewards points.

The IAP options will be indicated in the search results. All you have to do is run a search for a premium cabin flight and any options available will be shown to you. The discount will be reflected in the price you see. If an itinerary presented includes The Centurion Lounge at a connecting airport, you’ll be notified of that, too.

07. Amex International Airline Program

The redemption rate is 1 cent per point here but, again, you’ll get a 35% rebate after the fact. You can book these flights online via the travel portal or over the phone, but a phone booking is subject to a $39 service fee per ticket. The limit is eight tickets per booking.

If you’re thinking about using an IAP option, you’ll want to compare how many points you’ll need in the Amex Travel portal (after the rebate) to the number of miles required for a similar flight booked as an award ticket.

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express

Earn 2x points on eligible purchases up to $50,000 annually, 1x on all else. Terms apply.

Learn more

Hotels

When you redeem Amex Membership Rewards points toward a prepaid hotel room, the per-point value drops to 0.7 cent. This redemption option isn’t recommended because of the low value you get in return. However, if you’re swimming in American Express points, you might find it worth it. This will apply to very few people.

If available at your destination, Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection options will pop up first. You’ll be able to see which ones they are by reading a disclaimer under each property. Sort by price, star rating and more to find all other rooms.

04. Amex travel hotels

If you book via Amex Travel, these room reservations are treated as third-party bookings, which don’t typically earn elite status or redeemable hotel points, so don’t count on that room upgrade if that’s your jam.

You can use points to submit a partial payment and pay the rest with any credit card. However, if you use the Amex Platinum or Business Platinum to cover the cash portion, you’ll earn 5X Membership Rewards on prepaid hotels.

The Amex EveryDay Card

$0 Balance Transfer Fee on balances transferred in the first 60 days. 10,000 Membership Rewards Points after $1,000 spend in the first 3 months

Learn more by visiting our
credit cards page.

The Hotel Collection

If you hold any of the following American Express cards, you can book properties in The Hotel Collection portfolio:

  • American Express Gold Card
  • The Centurion Card
  • The Platinum Card from American Express
  • Business Gold Card
  • Business Platinum Card

If you book a stay at a property that’s part of The Hotel Collection for two or more nights, you qualify for additional benefits, such as room upgrades (if available at check-in), hotel credits of up to $100 and even discounts on room rates.

book properties in The Hotel Collection with Amex

As long as you hold one of the aforementioned cards, you’re able to use Amex Membership Rewards to cover your room at a rate of 0.7 cent per point. Generally, you’re better off using The Hotel Collection when you plan to pay cash for a stay rather than using points.

American Express Business Gold Card

35,000 bonus points after $5,000 spend in the first 3 months

Learn more

Fine Hotels & Resorts

Participation in the Fine Hotels & Resorts program is open to the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders only.

Fine Hotels & Resorts typically include elite-like benefits, such as early check-in, late checkout, daily breakfast for two, complimentary beverage and property credits, room upgrades, unlimited Wi-Fi and even complimentary nights when you book at least three or four nights, depending on the property.

Amex points redeemed toward these reservations are worth 1 cent each, which gives you an incentive to book these properties over regular hotels, especially during 3rd and 4th night free night promos. Again, using points on these bookings is generally not a great idea.

05. Amex Fine Hotels Resorts

As a reminder, you won’t earn elite status credit for these stays and your current elite status might not be recognized at these properties. However, the perks you get from Fine Hotels & Resorts do mimic many of the elite status benefits.

American Express Green Card

30,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months

Learn more

Cruises

To search for a cruise, select your preferred destination, a cruise line and a sailing date. Filter results by cruise duration, price, star rating, port and vessel name. Select your cabin and sail away.

Booking Cruises with Amex PortalSelect cruise lines offer the Platinum Card and the Business Platinum Card members additional perks, such as shipboard credits and exclusive amenities, as part of the Cruise Privileges program. Membership Rewards points are worth 0.7 cent apiece toward a cruise booking.

Vacations

Booking vacation packages, such as flight + hotel reservations often can save you more money than if you were to book everything separately. Enter your destination, travel dates, number of rooms and the number of travelers per room to begin searching for a perfect package. Sort your results by recommended, price, star rating and hotel name.

Booking Vacations with Amex PortalYou can customize your flight and add a room upgrade by the time you check out and pay.

11. Amex Vacation packages upgrades

The redemption rate comes to 0.7 cent per point toward a vacation package. Compare how much money you’d save by booking a similar package to the extra points you’d redeem.

Cars

Those looking to redeem points for a rental car can do so at a rate of 0.7 cent each. Again, it’s not the best and you might want to look for other ways of redeeming Amex points to maximize their potential.

To search for a rental car, enter your destination, pickup and drop-off date and time. Filter results by car type, price per day, rental car company, features, such as type of transmission and mileage options, and whether you want to pick up the car at the airport or at an off-airport location. That’s it. You’re just a few clicks away from renting a car in your desired destination.

12. Amex Cars

Final Thoughts

When it comes to booking travel with points, Amex Travel is really only useful if you have the Amex Business Platinum or Amex Business Gold and want to book flights because of the rebate. If you don’t have one of these cards, it’s usually a better idea to leave Amex Travel for cash bookings – assuming it’s the best deal you can find.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of value if you have a Business Platinum or Gold in select circumstances, and access to the International Airline Program with either the business or personal Platinum Card is also valuable.

However, if you want to use points in a travel portal for a variety of travel expenses, most people will find it easier with the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal and possibly the Citi ThankYou Travel Center.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

New to the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card to start with. With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months and 2x points on dining and travel, this card truly cannot be beat! 

Learn more

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Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Anya Kartashova

About the Author

Anya Kartashova is a travel junkie who wants to visit everywhere in the world. As she crosses destinations off her list, that list grows even larger with new places being added. There’s no way to determine whether her wanderlust will ever subside. Probably never.

Learn More About Anya


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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