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The best* ways to use American Express Membership Rewards points

From frequent flyer points to travel and shopping, learn how to get the most value out of your Membership Rewards points.

The American Express Membership Rewards program allows you to earn points for your everyday spending, which you can then redeem for a variety of rewards. As with many other credit card reward programs, you can use the points you’ve earned through Membership Rewards for a variety of redemptions, including frequent flyer points, travel, gift cards and cashback, as well as for online shopping. With hundreds of individual options available, we’ve rounded up the best* rewards based on popularity, dollar value and convenience.

What credit cards offer Membership Rewards points?

American Express offers a variety of personal and business cards linked to the Membership Rewards program. You can browse and compare your options in the table below to help you find a card that suits your needs.

Comparison of American Express Membership Rewards credit cards

Rates last updated October 19th, 2018
Name Product Bonus Points Rewards Program Rewards Points per $ spent Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Bundle - Qantas
75,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
1
0.5
20.24% p.a.
$50 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($249 p.a. thereafter)
Up to 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the criteria with this dual Visa (issued & serviced by Westpac) & Amex (issued & serviced by Amex).
American Express Essential Credit Card
Membership Rewards Gateway
1
14.99% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Get Smartphone Screen Insurance of up to $500 when you pay for your phone or contract with this card. Plus, a $0 annual fee for life.
American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card
Membership Rewards Ascent
1
20.74% p.a.
$195 p.a.
Receive a yearly $200 Travel Credit and complimentary domestic and international travel insurance, plus 0% p.a. for 12 months on balance transfers.
American Express Platinum Card
80,000 bonus points
Membership Rewards Ascent Premium
1
$1,450 p.a.
Annual $450 Platinum Travel Credit, 80,000 bonus Membership Rewards points and access to more than 1,200 VIP lounges worldwide.
American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Bundle
75,000 bonus points
Westpac Altitude Rewards
2
1
20.24% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($199 p.a. thereafter)
$0 first year annual fee & up to 75,000 bonus Altitude Pts when you meet T&C with this Visa (issued by Westpac) & Amex (issued & serviced by Amex).
David Jones American Express
20,000 bonus points
Membership Rewards
1
20.74% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Not just for David Jones shoppers, receive 20,000 bonus Membership Rewards points or 15,000 Qantas Points. Plus, uncapped points potential.
American Express Gold Business Card
Membership Rewards Ascent
1
$169 p.a.
Take advantage of a no pre-set spending limit, data that feeds to MYOB and up to 51 days interest-free on purchases.
American Express Platinum Business Card
120,000 bonus points
Membership Rewards
1
$1,750 p.a.
Get 120,000 bonus points, platinum concierge, complimentary lounge passes, overseas travel insurance and luxury hotel benefits.
American Express Explorer Credit Card
50,000 bonus points
Membership Rewards Gateway
2
20.74% p.a.
$395 p.a.
Get 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards points, a yearly $400 Travel Credit and 2 entries per year to the American Express Lounge.
David Jones American Express Platinum Card
40,000 bonus points
Membership Rewards
1
20.74% p.a.
$295 p.a.
For DJ's shoppers or Qantas travellers, receive 40,000 bonus Membership Rewards points or 30,000 Qantas Points with uncapped points potential.

Compare up to 4 providers

Membership Rewards program types

American Express offers several different versions of this program based on the card you choose. For example, the American Express Essential and Explorer credit cards give you access to the Membership Rewards Gateway program, the Platinum Edge gets you access to the Membership Rewards Ascent program and the American Express Platinum card provides membership to the Ascent Premium program.

There are some variations in the rewards available to members of these different programs, including different redemption rates. So, where possible, we’ve included details of these differences for each reward option.

Which rewards give you the most value for your Membership Rewards points?

Transferring Membership Rewards points to a frequent flyer program

If you’re a member of a frequent flyer program (or programs), transferring your Membership Rewards points is a fast and convenient way to boost your balance. Amex gives you a choice of transferring points to nine different airline loyalty programs, including Velocity, Asia Miles, Etihad Guest, Emirates Skywards and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

Keep in mind that the point transfer rate and minimum transfer amount varies depending on your rewards program and chosen frequent flyer program. Unfortunately, American Express does not list the full details until you have logged in to your account, but according to the Membership Rewards website, you could be able to transfer points at a rate of 1:1 with the following programs:

Membership Rewards Gateway variations

If you have an Amex card linked to the Gateway rewards program, the highest point transfer rate you’ll get is 3 frequent flyer points for 4 Membership Rewards points. This applies to all the frequent flyer programs listed above, meaning you’ll get 0.75 frequent flyer points per 1 Membership Reward point transferred.

What value will I get from frequent flyer point transfers?

To give you an idea of the value of transferring Membership Rewards points to a frequent flyer program, let’s say you earn 28,000 Membership Rewards points in a year. If you transferred these points to Velocity with a 1:1 conversion rate, you would have enough frequent flyer points to redeem a return economy flight from Melbourne to the Gold Coast (23,600 points plus taxes) or a one-way economy flight from Sydney to Auckland or Fiji (17,800 points plus taxes).

A points transfer to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer would give you enough frequent flyer points for a one-way economy flight from Brisbane or Cairns to Singapore (28,000 points) and a transfer of your points to Asia Miles would allow you to fly economy from Sydney to Hong Kong with American Airlines, Cathay Pacific or Qantas (25,000 plus fees and taxes).

Membership Rewards points to frequent flyer programs

Redeeming Membership Rewards points for travel bookings and services

You can use Membership Rewards points to pay for travel with American Express Travel Online, Webjet or at selected helloworld locations. The amount of points needed for a booking may vary based on your travel plans, the way you book and your Membership Rewards account.

This means determining the value of this option is not as clear-cut as it is with the transfer of points to a frequent flyer program. But as a guide, the American Express Gateway terms and conditions outline the following point to dollar conversion rate for bookings with helloworld and American Express Travel Online:

13,500 Membership Rewards points = $100 travel reward

So, imagine you are booking a return flight from Sydney to Melbourne for $250. You would need 33,750 Membership Rewards points to pay for it. Or, if you wanted to redeem a weekend flight and hotel reward valued at $800, you would need 108,000 points.

In some cases, the value of this redemption is similar to frequent flyer programs, but in other situations, you’d be better off transferring points to a frequent flyer program instead.

Using points for shopping and gift cards

This option gives you a way to save money on purchases you’re already planning to make, freeing up more of your cash (or credit limit) and potentially helping reduce interest charges if you carry a balance. Amex offers three main options for using points to pay for shopping:

  1. Pay with Points. This service is available through the American Express app and allows you to instantly redeem points for part of a purchase you’ve made using your Amex card. Cash value starts from $7 per 1,000 points for the Select + Pay option, but could be slightly higher at $100 per 13,500 points in some cases.
  2. Online shopping partners. You can also redeem points directly when you shop with David Jones or Ticketmaster online. Simply select “Points” as a payment option at the online checkout and then choose how many points you’d like to redeem.
  3. Using points for gift cards. Membership Rewards offers a variety of gift cards you can get with your reward points. The cash value of these cards ranges from $25 to $1,000 and are available for Coles Group, Myer, iTunes, Priceline, Bunnings, Event Cinemas, Hoyts and helloworld.

As with travel spending, these redemptions typically offer $100 for 13,500 Membership Rewards points. However, the specific transfer rate available may vary based on the reward, the retailer and your Membership Rewards stream. Some program partners may offer seasonal promotions that could lead to a greater redemption value.

Paying for your Membership Rewards Ascent fee with points

While it’s usually not cost-effective to use points for cash or credit through a rewards program, the Membership Rewards Ascent program is an exception to this rule. It allows you to redeem 8,000 points to pay for an eligible Membership Rewards Ascent program fee. For personal credit cards, charge cards, blue and gold credit card and business cards, Amex lists this fee as $80.

That means if you choose this option, you’d get 1 cent per point, or around three times as much value when compared to any of the rewards offering $100 for 13,500 points. Note that platinum Ascent cards and corporate cards may not be eligible for this offer, but if you have the right card, it’s a clever way to make your points and your money go further.

What other rewards can I get with my points?

Membership Rewards offers flexible rewards to suit a variety of lifestyles and needs. While the following options are also available, they typically offer less value than the rewards we’ve highlighted above.

  • Cashback on your account. You can use your points to get a credit on your account, with amounts starting from $50 for 8,000 Membership Rewards points. The more points you redeem, the greater the value of this option. In terms of dollar value, it ranges from 0.625 cents per point for $50 up to 0.769 cents per point for $1,000. The dollar value of this reward is typically less than most other redemptions.
  • Using points to pay for your annual fee. Select American Express cards allow you to use Membership Rewards points to pay the annual fee. However, the Membership Rewards website only lists this as an option for the American Express Blue V2, Green Card and Gold Card. Unfortunately, none of these appear to be available for new customers at the moment.
  • Donations. You can also use your points to make a charitable donation to organisations, such as the Cancer Council, the Smith Family, the Starlight Children’s Foundation and the RSPCA. You can use 3,000 or 6,000 points, which translates to a donation of $25 or $50 respectively. While that’s slightly higher than some other rewards, you wouldn’t be able to claim the donation as a tax deduction. So if you’re feeling charitable, it may be better to use your Amex card to pay for a donation and earn more Membership Rewards points instead.

shopping ccf

What else do I need to know?

Keep these details in mind to help you get the most value out of your Membership Rewards points and redemptions.

  • Bonus points. Some American Express Membership Rewards cards offer thousands of bonus points to new members when they apply and meet the spending requirements during the promotional period. Check out our guide to see the latest offers and compare Amex cards and features.
  • Points plus pay. If you want a particular reward but don’t have enough points, many of the rewards available give you the option of using a combination of points and a payment on your credit card to make up the difference.
  • Buying points. Membership Rewards also lets you purchase points to top up your account when you’re making certain redemptions, with a minimum of 1,000 points available for $25. Note that this option is only available when you’re making a redemption and excludes travel rewards.
  • Rewards earn rate. The amount of points per dollar spent that your Amex card offers determines how many points you earn and, in turn, how often you’ll be able to redeem them.
  • Annual fee. With the exception of the American Express Essential (a no annual fee card), cards linked to Membership Rewards have annual fees ranging from $99 for the David Jones American Express to $1,450 for the Amex Platinum. Ideally, the value you get from the rewards should be worth more than the annual fee for the card you choose.
  • Interest charges. Most Amex cards have interest rates on the higher end of the scale, so if you carry a balance make sure you factor this into your account costs.
  • Frequent flyer membership. You have to be a current member of an eligible frequent flyer program if you want to use Membership Rewards points to get more frequent flyer points. Depending on the airline loyalty program, this could attract additional fees.

How to get Qantas Frequent Flyer membership for free here

What can I get with 100,000 Membership Rewards points?

With some Amex cards offering up to 100,000 bonus points for new card members, considering what rewards you could get will help you decide if this type of introductory offer is worth it. So, we’ve outlined some of the top options below:

1. Flights through Velocity. Transferring your points to a frequent flyer program partner could give you up to 100,000 airline loyalty points for Membership Rewards Ascent or Ascent Premium, and 75,000 points if you're enrolled in the Gateway program. Either way, that’s enough for a one-way economy flight from Sydney to London (75,000 Velocity Points plus taxes).

2. Flights through Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. If you transfer your points to KrisFlyer, you can redeem them for a one-way business class flight from Brisbane to Singapore (58,000 points for a Business Saver Award ticket or 90,000 points for a Business Standard Award ticket).

3. Flight upgrades. The seven frequent flyer programs that offer 0.75 to 1 airline point per Membership Rewards point all include a variety of flight upgrade options you could get with 75,000 to 100,000 points. For example, if you had a premium economy flight from Sydney to London with Cathay Pacific, you could transfer your points to Asia Miles and upgrade to business class for 52,500 points.

4. Travel through Amex or a partner. If you used 100,000 points to book travel directly with Amex, Webjet or helloworld, it would be worth about $741. Depending on when you book your flight, this option would offer slightly lower value than the frequent flyer rewards and redemptions listed above.

In general, travel rewards will offer the greatest value for 100,000 Membership Rewards points. But the value of each of these options will also vary based on your travel plans and preferences, so it's worth weighing up each reward before using your points.

The Membership Rewards program offers a variety of ways to use points, with dollar values varying depending on the reward and your program stream. In general, transferring your Membership Rewards points to a frequent flyer program and then redeeming the points for flights or upgrades offers the highest dollar value.

But it’s also worth considering whether you want travel rewards or could get more benefit from another option, such as paying for the Ascent program fee (which yields 1 cent per point). By weighing up the value of all these reward options, you can find the best* way to use your Membership Rewards points based on your individual circumstances and goals.

Pictures: Shutterstock

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* The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms "Best" and "Top" are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.

Amy Bradney-George

Amy is a senior writer at finder.com.au with more than 10 years experience covering credit cards, personal finance and various lifestyle topics. When she’s not sharing her knowledge on money matters, Amy spends her time as an actress.

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