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 – 1.2 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
Plus a $150 travel bonus.
Offer ends December 21, 2018.

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 , transfers to Airlines partners is not allowed.

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.

Airline Partners:

  • 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.

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
Airlines WestJet
SkyMiles Needed 30,000
Number of Membership Rewards Needed 40,000
WestJet Cost $547
SkyMiles Taxes and Fees ($65.36)
Total Savings $414.64
Membership Rewards Value Per Point 1.2 cents
Calgary to Amsterdam – April 2019
Airlines WestJet & KLM
SkyMiles Needed 50,000
Number of Membership Rewards Needed 66,700
KLM Cost $1,234.00
SkyMiles Taxes and Fees ($135.53)
Total Savings $1,080.47
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.

Related: How To Get Free Flights Using A Companion Voucher

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.

Fixed Points Travel Program Chart

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 – 1.2 cents

The last travel redemption available is hotel partners.

Membership Rewards has only one hotel option: Marriott Rewards. For this program, 5 Membership Rewards points become 6 Marriott Rewards.

We value a Marriott point at 1 cent, giving this transfer option a Membership Rewards point value of 1.2 cents.

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.

Related: Best American Express Credit Cards in Canada

American Express Cobalt Card

The is a great card for earning Membership Rewards points. It will give you:

  • 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 is the card for you.

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 1.25 points for every dollar spent, 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 SPG Gold Elite status.

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.

Related: Best Small Business Credit Cards in Canada

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 1 hotel partner.
  • 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.

Plus, with the ability to redeem for statement credits, donate to charity, get gift cards, merchandise or shop using your points at Amazon.ca, this program has a lot to offer.