American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points are one of the best transferrable currencies for all sorts of travel. MR points are one of the best transferrable points currencies for domestic and international airfare. They are not as versatile as Chase Ultimate Rewards points because there are fewer valuable ways to redeem them. Nonetheless, Amex offers nine cards that earn MR points. Their lineup includes both personal and business cards. This post presents my ranking of the American Express Membership Rewards earning cards.
The post is arranged from worst to best and the order is determined by how well each card earns points. Other factors like annual fees (or lack thereof) and benefits were not considered for the rankings. However, sign-up bonuses were considered because they are a great way to earn points.
Co-Branded Cards and core Amex cards that do not earn MR points (such as the Blue Cash Everyday Card and the Plum Card) are not included in this list. Cards that earn MR points are the focus of this post. Two exceptions are the Centurion Card and its business counterpart. They are excluded because they are invitation only.
Special thanks to Wallers Wallet (H/T) who also ranked the Membership Rewards Points earning cards in a recent YouTube video. However, my ranking is a little different than his…
9) Business Green Card
The lowest card on the list is the Business Green Card. It’s currently useless for businesses and entrepreneurs, even those who want a basic charge card. However, American Express has a lot of potential with this card. I predict that they will revamp it in 2020, making it more attractive and competitive.
This card earns just one point per dollar on all purchases. It also comes with a meager sign-up bonus worth 15,000 points. This bonus can be earned by spending a whopping $3,000 within the first three months.
8) Business Platinum Card
The Business Platinum Card is a terrible earner for most travelers. It earns 5x MR points on travel booked with amextravel.com only. It also earns 1.5x points on non-bonus purchases of at least $5,000. But such purchases are rare unless you own a larger business. All purchases under $5,000 earn just one point per dollar.
Plus, the Business Platinum Card comes with a public sign-up bonus worth 75,000 MR points. It can be earned by spending $10,000 within the first three months.
As an earner, the Business Platinum Card is not impressive. I wish that American Express would add some more bonus categories to help justify its nearly $600 annual fee. But they will never do that because they want you to have another card as well. This is another sneaky way for them to earn more annual fees.
7) Personal Platinum Card
The personal Platinum Card ranks just above its business counterpart because its categories are a little more inclusive. Plus, its sign-up bonus is more attainable with a lower minimum spend.
The personal Platinum Card earns 5x MR points on travel from amextravel.com and flights booked directly with the airline. This is a little bit better than the Business Platinum because of airfare is included. However, there are much better cards for general travel.
Furthermore, the personal Platinum Card comes with a public sign-up bonus worth 60,000 MR points. It can be earned by spending $5,000 within the first three months. I like this bonus more than the Business Platinum because its more attainable for not that much less points.
6) Everyday Card
The Everyday Card is the only personal no annual fee card that earns fully transferrable points. But that does not mean it’s a good earner.
The Everyday Card has a unique earning structure. It earns 2x MR points at Grocery Stores and just one on non-bonus spend. However, you will receive a 20% points bonus if you use the card at least 20 times per month. That means you can earn up to 2.4x MR points at Grocery Stores and 1.2x points on non-bonus spend. This is a decent earning structure, but there are better earning cards out there for no annual fee.
Furthermore, the Everyday Card comes with a public sign-up bonus worth 10,000 MR points. You can receive this bonus by spending just $1,000 within the first three months. I wish that Amex would offer more points for such a relatively high minimum spend. This would make the Everyday Card more competitive with Chase and Citi’s no annual fee cards.
5) Everyday Preferred Card
The Everyday Preferred Card is the most underrated American Express card, especially for those who do not travel often. It has a solid earning structure and a weak sign-up bonus, making it a decent long-term keeper card.
The Everyday Preferred Card earns 3x MR points at Grocery Stores, 2x points at Gas Stations, and just one on non-bonus spend. However, you will receive a 50% points bonus if you use the card at least 30 times per month. That means you can earn up to 4.5x MR points at Grocery Stores, 3x points at Gas Stations, and 1.5x points on non-bonus spend. With enough use, the Everyday Preferred has the potential to beat some of the highest-ranking cards on this list.
Furthermore, the Everyday Preferred comes with a public sign-up bonus worth 15,000 MR points. You can receive this bonus by spending just $1,000 within the first three months. I wish that Amex would offer more points for a $95 annual fee card. It’s nowhere near as competitive as Chase and Citi’s mid-tier cards in terms of sign-up bonuses.
4) Blue Business Plus Card
Ranking the Blue Business Plus Card fourth might generate some negative comments. But it’s placed here because the three cards ranked above it have much stronger earning opportunities. Nonetheless, the Blue Business Plus is still a better earner than most Amex cards.
The Blue Business Plus does not come with a sign-up bonus. But it does earn 2x MR points on all purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year. That makes it a great long-term keeper card, especially for side hustles and small businesses that have varied expenses. But those who want a nice sign-up bonus as well should look elsewhere.
3) Personal Green Card
2019 was the biggest year in a long time for the personal Green Card, which was first released in 1958. The industry’s oldest surviving credit card became a nice earner when it was revamped in 2019. It’s now competitive with many other mid-tier cards.
The Green Card earns 3x MR points on Travel and Dining. Both categories were expanded with the Green Card’s revamp, making it a great earner for many. Hopefully, these expanded categories pave the way for a revamp of the Platinum Card’s earning structure.
However, the Green Card would rank higher if Amex offered a larger sign-up bonus. The Green Card comes with a bonus worth 30,000 MR points. It can be earned by spending $2,000 within the first three months. This is a decent bonus, but it much less valuable than those offered by competitors that also have lower annual fees.
Overall, the Green Card is a great card for many travelers. This is especially true for those who want to earn MR points quickly on common and broad categories.
2) Business Gold Card
The Business Gold Card is ranks second because it’s an excellent earner. It comes with a public sign-up bonus worth 35,000 MR points. Those points can be earned by spending $5,000 within the first three months. $5,000 is a lot of money for just 35,000 MR points. This is especially true when considering the competition.
However, the Business Gold Card’s value lies in its earning structure. This card earns 4x MR points in your choice of two of the following categories:
- Advertising (TV, radio, and online only)
- Airfare (booked directly with the airline)
- Select Computing Merchants
- US Gas Stations
- US Restaurants
It also earns 2x points in the categories that were not chosen and one point for non-bonus spend. Categories can be re-chosen at the start of every calendar year. There is a $150,000 annual limit for all six categories as well. That means you can earn up to 600,000 MR points if you maximize the 4x categories.
The Business Gold Card barely missed out on first place because of its category limitations and its sign-up bonus. However, these weaknesses do not detract from its earning potential.
1) Personal Gold Card
The personal Gold Card tops this list because of its sign-up bonus and excellent earning opportunities. It comes with a sign-up bonus worth 35,000 MR points, which can be earned by spending $4,000 within the first three months. The spend requirement used to be $2,000 before the Green Card was revamped. Nonetheless, I would rather spend $4,000 than $5,000 for the same amount of points as the Business Gold Card.
Furthermore, the personal Gold Card earns 4x MR points at Restaurants worldwide and Grocery Stores stateside. These categories are very common for families and those who like food. I often think of the Gold Card as “the foodie card” because of its categories.
American Express Membership Rewards points are one of the best points currencies in the industry for domestic and international airfare. Fortunately, Amex offers nine great cards that let you earn MR points in different ways.
This post presents my ranking of the Amex MR earning cards based on earning opportunities. The list will look different if you account for perks, redemption options, and annual fees.
I agree with Lance. One thing I’ll add as well is that the Corporate version of the Business Green Card where you have the card and add employee cards. It won’t even allow the employees to earn MR’s on those cards unless they have a better earning card and/or pay a $90+ fee for the ability to earn MR’s. And I think they only earn at 1/2 MR per $1 on top of that.
I’d like to know how you calculate your point values when you say that MR points aren’t as valuable as UR points. Transfers of UR to Hyatt generate pretty consistently good value but out sized returns are, IMHO, tougher to achieve in the UR ecosystem beyond that.
Hi Jon, Thanks for reading PYCR! The UR vs MR (vs TY) points debate will never stop. I don’t have a specific calculation for points valuations. Specific numbers are inherently unfair because everyone’s valuations are different. Your mileage may vary. Amex has more transfer partners than Chase and Citi. And MR points are more valuable than UR points for domestic and international airfare redemptions. But Chase UR points are more valuable for hotel redemptions (mainly Hyatt), travel portal redemptions, and other simple redemptions. Still, Chase has a few great domestic and international airline partners too. I’m very frustrated with American… Read more »
Sorry, but the Everyday Preferred trumps the Green and even the Gold for people who aren’t full time card churners. Green only earns 3x miles for restaurants/travel, Gold 4x at restaurants and grocery stores — that’s not better than 3x for gas and 4.5x for groceries, and 1.5x on everything else. Especially when “everything else” is 90% of most people’s spend.
Thanks for reading PYCR! I ranked the Everyday Preferred below the Green and Gold because of the monthly 30-transaction threshold. There are many people who do not churn cards either but will not use an Everyday Preferred Card 30x every month.
If Amex lowered or eliminated the threshold and made the 4.5x/3x/1.5x earning structure permanent, this card would probably be #1.