American Express Membership Rewards Cards (2017)

Which American Express Cards Earn Membership Rewards®?

There are several cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards.  These cards come with an annual fee of $0-$550.  In this post I will describe current cards that earn Membership Rewards.  Note that this list only includes personal cards from American Express.  There are also some great business cards that may better suit you if you qualify for a business card.  For now, I will keep personal cards and business cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards in separate posts.

I love Membership Rewards because like Chase Ultimate Rewards and SPG Starpoints, the points can be transferred to several different travel partners.  This gives you flexibility when you’re ready to redeem for travel!

Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners 2017

Amex MR transfer partners

Even if you mostly fly on only one of these airlines, having a card that earns Membership Rewards gives you more flexibility when redeeming.  For example, if you have a Delta credit card, now is a good time to consider a Membership Rewards earning card instead.  The Delta credit cards happen to also be issued by American Express, but they only earn Delta Skymiles.  With Membership Rewards earning cards, you have more options. You can still transfer Membership Rewards to Delta, but in the event that a Delta flight is not available for your dates and destination, you will have several other options!

A few notes about Membership Rewards cards before we get started:

  • If you have your eye on any Chase cards subject to their 5/24 policy such as a Chase Sapphire Preferred or a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you will want to apply for those Chase cards first.  Please read this post about the 5/24 rule if you have not already.
  • Currently, American Express offers 7 personal cards that earn Membership Rewards
  • If you cancel a Membership Rewards earning card without opening another Membership Rewards earning card first, you will lose your points.  So if you ever need to cancel, I suggest either transferring to the partner that you’re most likely to use in the future or opening a no-fee Membership Rewards earning card.
  • 3 of these cards are charge cards.  Charge cards mean you can use the card anywhere American Express is accepted, and then you will pay your bill in full each month.  Generally, there are penalties for carrying a balance, and not paying your bill in full can result in forfeiture of points earned.
  • 4 of these cards are credit cards.  Unlike charge cards, you are not required to pay your balance in full each month.  But just because you have the ability to carry a balance doesn’t mean you should!  As I have stated from the very beginning, if you cannot pay off your credit card in full every month, you should not be pursuing this hobby.  Accruing interest will likely negate any rewards you earn.
  • All of these cards come with the ability to enroll in Amex Offers.  Amex Offers are a great way to save money and can often help offset annual fees.  If you get a card with no annual fee, even better!  Not only can you earn Membership Rewards Points, you can also get cash back as statement credits when you use Amex offers.

Which Amex card is best?

There are many factors that you should use to determine which card is right for you.    These factors may include:

Here is a quick summary of the 7 current personal American Express Membership Rewards cards:

 Sign-up BonusAnnual FeeBonus CategoriesExtras
The Platinum Card® from American Express (charge card)60,000 after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months$5505X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
5X points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com
Airport lounge access
$200 airline fee credit
$200 a year in Uber credits
$100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement
Premier Rewards Gold Card (charge card)25,000 after you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months $0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, then $1953X points for airfare purchased directly from airlines.
2X at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets.
$100 airline fee credit
American Express® Green Card (charge card)0$0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, then $952X at amextravel.com
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card10,000 after spending $1,000 in your first 3 months.$02X points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases. If you make 20 or more purchases with your card in a billing period you earn 20% more points on those purchases
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card15,000 after $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months$953X points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.
2X points at US gas stations
2X points when booking travel at amextravel.com
If you make 30 or more purchases with your card in a billing period you earn 50% more points on those purchases
The Mercedes Benz Card from American Express10,000 after $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
$955X on Mercedes Benz purchases
3X on the first $15,000 of purchases of gasoline in a calendar year at US gas stations
2X at US restaurants
$500 certificate towards the purchase or lease of a new Mercedes after spending $5000 in a calendar year
Blue from American Express® Card0$02X at amextravel.com

So, considering the factors listed above, what’s most important to you?

Best Membership Rewards Card for frequent travelers

If you’re a frequent traveler, the Amex Platinum is a great card and if you can meet the $5,000 in minimum spend in the first 3 months, you will earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points.  The annual fee is $550.  I know that sounds scary,  but you have the potential to get at least $700 worth of credits in your first year of membership in addition to the sign-up bonus of 60,000 points.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • $200 in airline incidental fees*.  This includes baggage fees.  This credit resets in January, so you’re effectively getting $400 credit your first year the card is open.
  • $100 in Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement.  This does not have to be for the cardholder.  In other words, if you already have Global Entry but you need to get it for your child or spouse, you can get the reimbursement once every 5 years.  Just make sure you use the card to pay for the application fee.  Amex will reimburse the $100 as a statement credit, usually within a few days.
  • $200 a year in Uber credits.  Get $15 in Uber credits for U.S. rides each month plus a bonus $20 in December.  That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.  If you use Uber frequently like we do, this is a great perk.
  • 5 points per dollar on plane tickets booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 5 points per dollar on hotels booked through amextravel.com
  • Airline lounge access including American Express Centurion lounges
  • The current signup bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards goes far if you learn how to maximize your redemptions!

*Select a qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 per calendar year in statement credits when incidental fees, such as baggage fees and other incidentals, are charged by the airline to your card.  If you do not need the credit for incidentals such as bag fees which are reimbursable with this credit, you might still be able to get value out of it.  It is common knowledge in the miles and points world that airline gift card purchases (In small denominations such as $50)  may get reimbursed even though the Amex terms state that gift cards do not count.  You can then use the gift card to purchase plane tickets. You can read the flyertalk thread for data points on this.

All of these perks may make the annual fee worth it, especially if you’re eligible for the current signup bonus (meaning you do not already have this card).  This card wins best sign-up bonus for Amex personal Membership Rewards cards.  If you have a business, Amex often sends mail invitations for better offers on their business version of the Platinum Card (I’ve seen some for over 100k).  The benefits are a little different, but if you qualify for a business card and get one of these offers in the mail, it’s definitely worth considering.

With that said, I will probably be closing my Amex Platinum when my anniversary comes later this year.  I will likely get the Premier Rewards Gold Card instead and I will elaborate in another post but there are 2 main reasons for this: 1) I already have a “premium” travel credit card (the Chase Sapphire Reserve) and I love it.  No need to have 2 premium cards considering the high annual fees. 2) I like the bonus categories on the Premier Rewards Gold Card, plus the annual fee is waived the first year, so it’s worth a try.

If you would rather have a Membership Rewards earning card with a lower or no annual fee, there are other cards to consider.

Lowest Annual Fee Membership Rewards Cards:

The Amex EveryDay® credit card and the Blue from American Express® credit card both have zero annual fee.  Both earn 2 points per dollar on travel booked through amextravel.com.  I cannot see any reason to get the Blue credit card for a few reasons:

  1. There is no signup bonus on the Blue credit card
  2. EveryDay credit card has an extra bonus category (2 points per dollar at grocery stores)
  3. The EveryDay credit card also has the potential to earn more points.  If you make 20 or more purchases (in any amount) with your card in any billing cycle, all purchases during that billing cycle earn 20% more Membership Rewards points.

Winner: Amex EveryDay® credit card

Amex EveryDay credit card

Ryan and I use this card at grocery stores since it earns 2 points per dollar on up to $6,000 a year and a bonus 20% Membership Rewards on all purchases in a billing cycle when 20 or more purchases are made in that billing cycle.

Best Amex Membership Rewards cards for bonus categories:

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred credit card, the Premier Rewards Gold Card, and the Mercedes Benz credit card have good bonus categories.  If you do not currently have an Amex MR card and you’re interested, consider the Premier Rewards Gold Card first.

  • It has the highest signup bonus (besides the Platinum Card)
  • Good bonus categories (restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets are bonus categories for the Premier Rewards Gold but NOT on the Platinum Card)
  • 100$ airline incidental credit (it works the same way as the $200 credit that you get with the Platinum Card)
  • $0 annual fee for the first year.  It wouldn’t hurt to try it and then you can always cancel it or downgrade the next year if you feel that the annual fee is not worth it.

Winner: Premier Rewards Gold Card

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

After the first year when your annual fee is due, you may want to consider switching to a lower annual fee card such as the Amex EveryDay Preferred.  It has a $95 fee but has good bonus categories and the potential to earn even more points.  Earn 50% more Membership Rewards on all purchases in a billing cycle when 30 or more purchases are made in that billing cycle.  On the other hand, if you feel that you will use the $100 airline credit that comes with the Premier Rewards Gold Card, that effectively brings down your annual fee to $95.

Conclusion:

  • Amex Platinum wins for best travel card and sign-up bonus.
  • Premier Rewards Gold wins for best bonus categories and it’s a runner up for best sign-up bonus.
  • Amex EveryDay credit card wins for best no annual fee card.

My advice for those new to Amex Membership Rewards is to go for one of those 3 cards.  If the annual fee for the Platinum Card still scares you despite the benefits, I understand.  I would suggest getting the Premier Rewards Gold card since there is no annual fee for the first year.

There are 2 Amex Membership Rewards cards I wouldn’t bother with:

Blue from American Express

  • Even though there is no annual fee, there is another no annual fee card that gives me an extra bonus category (Amex EveryDay credit card)
  • There is no signup bonus
  • If you’re more interested in cash back cards, American Express does have cash back versions of their Blue credit cards that may be worth looking into.

American Express Green Card

  • There is no signup bonus
  • There are no bonus categories other than amextravel.com
  • Although waived the first year, there is a $95 annual fee. WHY?!

Any of the other 5 cards could be good options depending on your spending habits.  If you have any questions please feel free to comment or email me.  Below is a list of all 7 Membership Rewards earning cards.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Amex Platinum Card®

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Annual Fee: $550

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards®Points after you use your card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months

  • 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • $200 in airline incidental fees per year (resets in January)
  • $100 in Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement
  • $200 in Uber credits.
  • Airline lounge access including American Express Centurion lounges
  • No foreign transaction fees

Premier Rewards Gold Card

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Premier Rewards Gold Card

$0 intro annual fee for the first year , then $195

Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership

  • 3 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines.
  • 2 points per dollar at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • $100 airline fee credit each year
  • No foreign transaction fees

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Amex EveryDay® credit card

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Annual Fee: $0

Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards®Points after you use your card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months

  • 2 points per dollar at grocery stores on up to $6,000 per year
  • 2 points per dollar on travel purchased through amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • Earn 20% more points on purchases in a billing period if you use your card 20 or more times in that billing period

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card

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Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card

The annual fee is $95

Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months

  • 3 points per dollar at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.
  • 2 points per dollar at US gas stations
  • 2 points per dollar when booking travel at amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • Earn 50% extra points on purchases within a billing cycle when you use your card 30 or more times on purchases in that billing cycle

The Mercedes-Benz Credit Card from American Express

Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

The annual fee is $95

  • 5 points per dollar on Mercedes Benz purchases
  • 3 points per dollar on the first $15,000 of purchases of gasoline in a calendar year at gas stations located in the U.S.
  • 2 points per dollar at restaurants located in the U.S.
  • 1 point per dollar point on all other eligible purchases.
  • $500 certificate towards the purchase or lease of a new Mercedes after $5,000 is spent in a year.

And the two Membership Rewards cards that I do NOT recommend:

Blue from American Express® credit card

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Blue from American Express® Credit Card

No annual fee

No sign up bonus

  • 2 points per dollar on travel booked through amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • I don’t see any reason to get this card since you can get the Amex EveryDay® credit card which is also no annual fee.  The Amex EveryDay® card at least comes with a 10,000 Membership Rewards® bonus and a bonus category (2x points at supermarkets).

American Express Green Card

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American Express Green Card

$0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, then $95

No sign up bonus

  • Earn 2 Membership Rewards® points per dollar at amextravel.com.
  • Earn 1 point  on all other purchases

 

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