American Express Membership Rewards Cards (2019)

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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 discuss 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.

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

There are a total of 19 airline transfer partners:

Amex Mr airline transfer partners June 2018

As of 2019, Aer Lingus, Qantas, and Avianca are also Amex airline transfer partners.

There are 3 hotel transfer partners:

American Express hotel partners 2019

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 co-branded credit card, now is a good time to consider a Membership Rewards earning card instead.  The Delta co-branded 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 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.
  • American Express waives annual fees on all cards for active military service members.  This includes high annual fee cards such as the Platinum Card and the Gold Card.
  • 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.
  • Some 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.
  • Some 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 award travel.  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 Membership Rewards earning 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 current personal American Express Membership Rewards cards:

 Welcome 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, $100 in credits at Saks Fifth Avenue
American Express Gold Card (charge card)40,000 after you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months $2503X points for airfare purchased directly from airlines.
4X at restaurants, 4X at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually. 3X on flights booked directly though airlines or on amextravel.com
$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 Preferred Credit Card20,000 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
Amex EveryDay Credit Card15,000 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
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 welcome bonus of 60,000 points)

The Platinum Card from American Express

Platinum Card from American Express

Terms apply. Click here for more information.

  • Bonus: 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $5,000 in 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Bonus Categories: 5 points per dollar on flights booked direct through airlines, 5 points per dollar on travel booked through amextravel.com
  • $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.
  • $100 annually for purchases made at Saks Fifth Avenue.  This is $50 for January-June and then another $50 July-December.
  • 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. 

All of these perks may make the annual fee worth it, especially if you’re eligible for the current welcome bonus (meaning you do not already have this card).  This card wins best welcome 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.

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 welcome bonus on the Blue credit card
  2. The EveryDay credit card has an extra bonus category (2 points per dollar at US 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.  The public offer for the Amex EveryDay credit card is 10,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in 3 months.  A better offer of 15,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 is available with this referral link.

Amex Everyday Credit card 2019 no annual fee
Terms apply. Click here for more information

Best Amex Membership Rewards cards for bonus categories:

Overall, the American Express Gold Card has the best bonus categories.  But the annual fee is on the higher side.  Here is a list of bonus categories from each American Express Membership Rewards earning card:

Amex Platinum Card: 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly though airlines, 5 points for travel booked through amextravel.com

Amex Gold Card: 4X at restaurants, 4X at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually, 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.  4 points per dollar at restaurants and US grocery stores is excellent!

Amex EveryDay credit card: 2X points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.

Amex EveryDay Preferred credit card: 3X 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

The other 2 Amex Membership Rewards earning cards have no bonus categories other than 2 points per dollar on travel booked through amextravel.com.

Oddly enough, the highest annual fee card, the Platinum Card, isn’t really a strong contender in the earning bonus categories.

Winner: American Express Gold Card

American Express Gold Card

This is the former Premier Rewards Gold Card.  The benefits have improved, but the annual fee has increased.

  • Bonus: 40,000 Membership Rewards points with the link above!
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $2,000 in 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $250
  • Bonus Categories: 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 4 points per dollar at restaurants and, 4 points per dollar at US grocery stores.
  • Notable benefits: $100 annual airline incidental credit (it works the same way as the $200 credit that you get with the Platinum Card), $120 annual dining credit

Conclusion:

Of the American Express Membership Rewards earning personal cards:

  • The Platinum Card from American Express wins for best travel card and welcome bonus.
  • The American Express Gold Card wins for best bonus categories and it’s a runner up for best welcome bonus.
  • The 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.

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 has extra bonus category (Amex EveryDay credit card)
  • There is no welcome bonus offer
  • 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 welcome 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 4 cards could be good options depending on your spending habits.  If you have any questions please feel free to comment or email me.

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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