American Express is well known for having some of the best travel rewards cards available.
The American Express Membership Rewards program is a big reason why.
This program offers some of the highest flexibility and value when redeeming for travel, giving you the ability to transfer points to multiple airline and hotel partners. Of course you can also redeem through Amex’s own fixed points flight chart or use points for travel bookings made any way you want.
Plus, with redemption options like cash statements, merchandise, and gift cards available, there’s something here for everyone.
But our goal is to make sure you know about all the ways to redeem your points while arming you with the knowledge to get the most out of these valuable rewards.
American Express Membership Rewards at a glance
|Value of a Membership Rewards Point:||High: $0.025 for transfer to Aeroplan
Low: $0.0068 for merchandise
|Ways to redeem Membership Rewards:||* Flexible Points Travel Program – 1 cent per point (CPP)
* Transfer to airline partners – 2.5 CPP
* Flights using fixed points program – 1.75 CPP
* Transfer to hotel partners – 1.16 CPP
* Redeem through Ticketmaster – 1 CPP
* Donations to charity – 1 CPP
* Gift cards – 0.82 CPP
* Statement credits – 0.7 CPP
* Shopping on Amazon.ca – 0.7 CPP
* Merchandise – 0.68 CPP
|How to earn Membership Rewards:||* 3 personal credit cards
* 2 business credit cards
|Who these rewards are good for:||* World Travellers
* Entertainment Lovers
|Frequently Asked Questions:||* Level of flexibility? Best
* Blackout dates? No
* Will I lose my miles if I cancel an award flight? No
* Do rewards expire? No
* Rewards cover taxes and fees? Yes
* Can rewards be transferred? Yes
* Is there a way to earn rewards faster? No
Calculating the value of a Membership Rewards Point
There are actually several different ways you can make use of American Express Membership Rewards.
And, as usual, different redemption options means different redemption values – anywhere from 2.5 cents to 0.68 cents.
The many ways to redeem your Membership Rewards
This varying range is exactly why we wanted to let our readers know all the details.
Using your points for travel is without a doubt going to give you the best value.
And the easiest way to redeem your rewards for travel is through the Flexible Points Travel Program.
Flexible Points Travel Program – 1 cent
The Flexible Points Travel Program allows you to either:
- purchase any travel with your American Express card and then use points to cover that purchase, or
- book travel directly through American Express, and pay for your travel directly with your card by using points, or a combination of the two.
Though this is this the easiest way to redeem your points, it’s also giving you the lowest value for travel redemption: 1,000 points = $10, a 1 cent value.
Added bonus: Even if you choose to redeem your Membership Rewards for one of the other travel options, you could still use the Flexible Points Travel Program to pay the taxes and fees.
Simply charge the taxes and fees to your card, and then use your points for them – giving you truly free travel with your points.
Transfer Points to Airline Partners – 2.5 cents
For the most part, transferring your Membership Rewards to airline partners will give you the highest value for your points.
With that said, this higher value comes with greater restrictions. You will have to book well in advance and be flexible on your dates to get the most from these programs.
Please note: If you collect points using the
How do you transfer points to an Airline Partner?
You’ll need to create an account with the partner (for some of them it can be created through the Amex site), then transfer your membership rewards points to them. For some, the transfer is instant, for others it can take up to 5 business days to complete.
Please note: Once points are transferred, they cannot be transferred back.
Which airline programs are available to transfer to?
Here are the airlines you can transfer your points to, as well as the transfer ratio.
Please note: You’ll need to transfer points in increments of 100.
- Aeroplan: 1,000 MR = 1,000 Aeroplan miles
- Alitalia MilleMiglia: 1,000 MR = 750 Mille Miglia miles
- British Airways Executive Club: 1,000 MR = 1,000 Avios
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: 1,000 MR = 750 Asia Miles
- Delta SkyMiles: 1,000 MR = 750 SkyMiles
- Etihad Guest: 1,000 MR = 750 Etihad Guest
There’s quite a range of partners to choose from, with at least one airline from each of the major airline alliances represented (Star Alliance, SkyTeam, Oneworld).
Our choice for top airline transfer partner: Aeroplan
For most people, Aeroplan will be the option of choice.
Air Canada serves the most destinations in Canada, and offers the easiest way to use your points for travel inside our great country. Air Canada also has the most direct flights from Canada to the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America.
Plus, with the ability to redeem Aeroplan miles on Star Alliance, you can use your points to fly to almost anywhere on Earth.
We value an Aeroplan mile at 2.5 cents.
Related: How To Maximize The Aeroplan Program
Our second choice for airline transfer partner: British Airways
British Airways Executive club would offer the next best choice to use your points as it’s the only other program that has a transfer ratio of 1:1.
You’ll have access to not only British Airways, but oneworld alliance as well. This will allow you to use your points for travel anywhere outside of Canada.
We value an Avios at 1.75 cents.
Our final choice for airline transfer partner: Delta SkyMiles
The fact that you can use Delta SkyMiles on WestJet is why this option ends up on our list.
While the transfer ratio is not 1:1, there’s still some value in checking out what Delta may have to offer.
Please note: These flights were originally researched on November 5, 2018.
|Toronto to Vancouver – March 2019|
|Number of Membership Rewards Needed||40,000|
|SkyMiles Taxes and Fees||($65.36)|
|Membership Rewards Value Per Point||1.2 cents|
|Calgary to Amsterdam – April 2019|
|Airlines||WestJet & KLM|
|Number of Membership Rewards Needed||66,700|
|SkyMiles Taxes and Fees||($135.53)|
|Membership Rewards Value Per Point||1.65 cents|
For WestJet flights, it was difficult to find domestic flights that weren’t in or out of Toronto.
However, for flights to the United States and international destinations, it wasn’t hard to find an option using either Delta or a SkyTeam partner.
With flights to Europe, taxes and fees are considerably less than an equivalent redemption on either Aeroplan or Executive Club, giving Delta much better value for these flights.
Delta SkyMiles allows anyone to check what a potential redemption is worth without an account, so it’s easy to see what might be available.
And even with the 4:3 ratio, if you do your research, you could score a pretty good deal.
Fixed Points Travel Program – 1.75 cents
The Fixed Points Travel Program offers the next best value for your points.
How does the Fixed Points Travel Program work? Well, it’s all in the name.
American Express has set distances that require a set number of points – simply login to your Amex account and search for a flight you want to book.
The chart below will tell you how many points are required, as well as the maximum base ticket price they cover, for each distance.
If you can get the maximum base ticket price, your value per point ranges from 1.5 to 2 cents each.
But it’s important to note that not every long-haul Canada/US flight is going to cost $700, so without doing your research, you could end up losing out on some value.
Just be sure to get a value of more than one cent, otherwise using your points to redeem against travel purchases would be a better option.
Transfer to hotel partners – 1.16 cents
The last travel redemption available is hotel partners.
Membership Rewards has only 2 hotel options: Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors.
For Marriott Bonvoy Rewards, 5 Membership Rewards points become 6 Marriott Bonvoy points.
We value a Marriott Bonvoy point at 0.97 cents when redeemed for hotel stays, giving this transfer option a Membership Rewards point value of 1.16 cents.
For Hilton Honors, 1,000 Membership Rewards points will give you 1,000 Hilton Honors points. A rough value for one Hilton Honors point is 0.6 cents per point.
Redeem points through Ticketmaster – 1 cent
If going to concerts and sporting events are your thing, American Express has you covered.
Not only do you get Front of the Line access to concert tickets as part of American Express invites, you can use your points to pay for Ticketmaster purchases as well.
2,000 points will give you a $20 Ticketmaster credit, a value of 1 cent.
Donations to charities – 1 cent
Currently, you can donate your points to only one charity – Save the Children.
Different denominations are available, but they are all worth the same: 1 point equals 1 cent.
Please note: You can only redeem for donations in denominations of 1,000, 3,000, 5,000, or 10,000 points.
Gift cards – 0.82 cents
Membership Rewards has a large range of gift cards available.
Based on the information below, we found an average point value of 0.82 cents.
|Card Name & Amount||Points Required||Value Per Point|
|$50 Keg Steakhouse||6,000||0.83 cents|
|$25 Ultimate Dining Card||3,000||0.83 cents|
|$250 Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Gift Card||30,000||0.83 cents|
|$100 Home Depot Card||12,000||0.83 cents|
|$50 Roots Gift Card||6,000||0.83 cents|
|$500 Air Canada Gift Card||65,000||0.77 cents|
|$50 Esso Card||6,500||0.77 cents|
Cash statements – 0.7 cents
If none of the above options sound good to you, these points can also be converted for statement credits.
1,000 points gives you a $7 credit statement, a value of 0.7 cents per point. A minimum redemption of 1,000 points is required.
Shop at Amazon.ca – 0.7 cents
Shopping with your points at Amazon.ca gives you the same value as cash statements, but with no minimum redemption.
1,000 points for $7 off an order at amazon.ca.
Merchandise – 0.68 cents
Like other programs, Membership Rewards has a merchandise catalogue.
And just like most other merchandise catalogues, the value you get with this redemption option is usually not great.
Based on the sampling of merchandise we found, we came to an average value of 0.68 cents for merchandise.
|Item Name||Points Required||Actual Cost||Value Per Mile|
|Cuisinart Velocity Ultra Blender||19,100||$172.89||0.91 cents|
|Beats Pill+ Speaker||39,000||$282.50||0.72 cents|
|Breville The Smart Tea Infuser||30,000||$205.66||0.69 cents|
|Coleman NXT Lite Stand Up Propane Grill||41,200||$280.24||0.68 cents|
|Fitbit Ionic Watch||59,400||$395.50||0.67 cents|
|Dyson Cool AM06 30 cm fan||52,100||$339.00||0.65 cents|
|Apple TV 4K 32 GB||37,500||$226.00||0.60 cents|
|Step2 Real Projects Workshop||16,300||$88.14||0.54 cents|
Please note: All costs have 13% sales tax included in the price.
How to earn American Express Membership Rewards
Unfortunately, there’s only one way to earn American Express Membership Rewards – through American Express credit cards.
The nice part, however, is that even though these are all premium credit cards, none of them come with steep income requirements, making them available to a good number of Canadians.
Plus, they all come with great sign up bonuses to help you get a kick start on that next vacation.
|Credit Card||Welcome Bonus||Earn Rate||Annual fee||Apply Now|
|American Express Cobalt||Up to 30,000 points (terms)||* 5 points per $1 on groceries & restaurants
* 2 points per $1 on gas, transit, and travel
* 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
|American Express Gold Rewards||25,000 points (terms)||* 2 points per $1 on gas, groceries, drugstores, and travel
* 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
|American Express Platinum||50,000 points (terms)||* 3 points per $1 on dining
* 2 points per $1 on travel
* 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
|American Express Business Gold||30,000 points (terms)||* 3 points per $1 at selected merchants
* 1 point per $1 all other purchases
|American Express Business Platinum||40,000 points (terms)||* 1.25 points per $1 on all purchases||$499||Apply Now|
American Express Cobalt Card
- Up to 30,000 points as a welcome bonus in your first year – 2,500 bonus points each month you spend $500 or more of your card,
- 5 points per dollar spent on groceries and restaurants,
- 2 points per dollar spent on gas, travel and transit, and
- 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.
Instead of a straight forward annual fee, this card has a monthly fee of $10. If you keep this card for a year, you’ll end up paying $120, but paying it in monthly chunks makes it a little easier to justify.
The downside? With this card, you can’t transfer to Airline partners, so if that’s your preference for point redemption, this card won’t help you.
American Express Gold Rewards Card
If you’re looking to take advantage of transferring to airline partners, but still want some higher earn rates, the
This card will give you:
- Up to 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in the first 3 months,
- 2 points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, drugstores and travel, and
- 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
Not only can you use the full membership rewards program, but it’s also our number 1 ranked Aeroplan card, with an annual fee of $150.
The Platinum Card
If premium perks are your thing, you can’t go wrong with the
While the earn rate is only 1 point for every dollar spent (with bonuses for restaurant and travel purchases), you’ll get some of the best perks on the Canadian market:
- up to 50,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months,
- free and unlimited airport lounge access at priority pass lounges,
- $200 annual travel credit,
- access to the international airline program, which includes discounts, upgrades and companion fares on select airline around the world, and
- complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status.
And this is just a sampling of that’s available.
For an annual fee of $699, this card will roll out the red carpet for you wherever you go.
Business credit cards
If getting points for your business is what you’re after, these two cards will give you all the same valuable redemption options, with some added business benefits thrown in.
Membership Rewards questions and answers
Here are some common questions and answers about the Membership Rewards program.
How flexible are these rewards?
They are some of the most flexible rewards you can find:
- Transfer options to 6 airline programs and 2 hotel partners.
- Use the fixed points chart for increased value on flight redemptions.
- Book travel your own way, through any provider you choose, with no loss of point value.
- Redeem your rewards for travel, cash statements, merchandise, gift cards, concerts, and even charitable donations.
Are there blackout dates?
No, there are no blackout dates.
Will I lose my points if I cancel an award flight?
If you transferred your points to an airline or hotel partner, you’ll have to consult with the partner.
If you directly used Membership Rewards points, you’ll not lose your points but will be charged a fee for cancelling.
Do these rewards expire?
No, provided your card account is in good standing.
Can you use points to cover taxes & fees?
Yes, but only through the Flexible Points Program.
Can these rewards be transferred?
Membership rewards can be transferred to 6 airline programs and 1 hotel partner.
Is there a way to earn rewards faster?
No, using credit cards is the only way to collect rewards.
Long story short
When it comes to redeeming for travel, the Membership Rewards program is hard to beat.
With multiple transfer options, a fixed points chart, and a great fall-back option in using the Flexible points program, getting great value for travel is in the cards.