American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points are a favorite currency among points and miles enthusiasts. Amex has more transfer partners than Chase (its main competitor), Citi, and Capital One. However, just because Amex has more partners does not mean MR points are the best currency for you. This post explains why you should NOT collect Amex Membership Rewards points.
Your mileage may vary as with everything related to points, miles, and credit cards. The intention of this post is not to dissuade you from collecting MR points if they are the right currency for you. Many people love MR points because they align with their travel plans. However, those who fall into the groups mentioned in this post should consider revising their transferrable points strategy.
You Love Hotels
American Express is currently partnered with three hotel chains (Marriott, Hilton, and Choice Hotels). However, none of them are valuable redemption partners. All three hotel currencies are worth at most 1 cent per point (CPP). Hilton’s points are worth 0.5 CPP, but Amex has a 1:2 transfer ratio with Hilton. That means cardholders will receive 1 CPP for Hilton transfers. Marriott and Choice Hotels points are worth less than 1 CPP, but they have a 1:1 transfer ratio with Amex. These transfer ratios render hotel redemptions useless because you can get more value with other currencies.
Hilton loyalists should check out the American Express Hilton Honors cards. They earn Hilton HH points directly and come with nice sign-up bonuses to boot. Plus, each card comes with a level of Hilton Honors Elite Status and other useful perks.
Marriott loyalists should check out the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card from Amex. Despite having a $450 annual fee (NOT waived the first year), it has the best earning structure and perks of the personal Marriott cards.
Those who are not loyal to any hotel brand and want to redeem points towards hotel purchases should look into Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) point cards. Chase has World of Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott as their hotel partners. They also have a great travel portal.
You Use Travel Portals and Online Booking Sites
Amextravel.com Is Not a Portal
Travel portals are great ways to save money and time when booking travel. But unlike Chase or Citi, American Express does not have their own portal. They do have amextravel.com, which is more expensive than most online booking portals. Amex gives you between 1x and 5x points on travel booked on amextravel.com, depending on your card. Therefore, online booking sites and travel portals from other banks are better options.
Chase Travel Portal
The Chase Travel Portal lets you redeem points towards travel at a fixed rate. The Chase Portal is backed by Expedia.com, which might make it more expensive than online booking sites. But you are getting more value compared to redeeming Amex MR points. You will receive 1.25 CPP if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred. And you will receive 1.5 CPP if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve. You can also book travel if you have a no annual fee Chase card. But you will only get 1 CPP.
Citi Travel Portal
Citi’s Travel Portal is like Chase’s in that you can redeem points towards travel at a fixed rate. However, Citi’s portal is not backed by an online booking site. You will receive 1.25 CPP if you have a Citi Premier. But you will receive just 1 CPP if you have a Citi Prestige (another reason why it should be discontinued).
Online Booking Sites
I do not recommend using an American Express card to pay for travel on an online booking site. Most Amex cards will only give you extra points if you book directly with the hotel or airline. However, booking directly can be more expensive and the savings might not be worth earning the extra points.
Online booking sites could save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars and can also earn you points within general travel categories. Plus, they can also trigger general travel credits from premium cards that have them.
You Want Simplicity
Business owners and consumers often strive for simplicity, especially when they are booking travel. Unfortunately, American Express has a long way to go with offering simplicity in redeeming MR points. American Express has so many options to redeem MR points but only one is truly valuable. Amex’s sole valuable option is transfer partners, which are limited to domestic and international airlines.
The other options are worth at most 1 CPP if you’re lucky. They are ways for Amex to make money on their rewards because most people don’t know better. Most people who are not as savvy with points and miles will redeem MR points for less than 1 CPP and think they got a good deal. But that is not the case. American Express should either eliminate the terrible redemption methods or increase the value of those methods to at least 1 CPP. This way, they can better compete with Chase, Citi, and Capital One.
Chase, Citi, and Capital One all have multiple redemptions that will provide at least 1 CPP in value. The whole point of collecting points and miles is to extract as much value as possible out of your points. All four transferrable points cards issuers give a plethora of opportunities to increase the value of their points. However, American Express gives the fewest.
Amex Membership Rewards Points are a very popular currency among travelers. However, their popularity does not mean they are the best currency for you. Those who should collect them are domestic and international flyers who are confident they can extract loads of value from them.
Moreover, those who love hotels, travel portals, online booking sites, and simplicity should check out another transferable points currency. Chase (and their Ultimate Rewards Points) is American Express’ main competitor. And they are a great place to start if you are not a fan of Amex MR points. While they have fewer transfer partners than Amex, their points are more valuable for more travelers. This is because they are versatile and never worth less than 1 CPP regardless of how you decide to redeem them.