The Best Cards for Earning the Most Membership Rewards Points

May 18, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American ExpressThe Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express

American Express Membership Rewards is one of the most valuable travel rewards programs out there, and Amex offers plenty of credit cards to help you quickly earn points. In fact, you can even earn Membership Rewards points that can be converted to airline miles much faster than you can earn miles directly with airline credit cards.

In today’s post, I want to show you the best American Express cards to maximize your earning of Membership Rewards points.

About the Membership Rewards Program

According to TPG’s latest valuations, each Membership Rewards point is worth 2 cents. However, it’s often possible to get more value when you transfer points to miles and redeem those miles for international flights in business or first class. American Express currently has 17 airline partners, many of which have a 1:1 transfer ratio. In addition, it frequently offers bonus points for transfers.

Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners:

AeroMexico Club Premier: 1,000 MR points =  1,600 Premier points
Air Canada Aeroplan: 1,000 MR points = 1,000 Aeroplan miles
Flying Blue (Air France/KLM and others): 1,000 MR points = 1,000 Flying Blue miles
Alitalia MilleMiglia: 1,000 MR points = 1,000 Alitalia miles
ANA: 1,000 MR points = 1,000 ANA Mileage Club miles
Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific): 1,000 MR points = 1,000 Asia Miles
British Airways: 1,000 MR points = 800 Avios
Delta SkyMiles: 1,000 MR points = 1,000 SkyMiles
El Al: 1,000 MR points = 20 Matmid points
Emirates Skywards: 1,000 MR points = 1,000 Skywards miles
Etihad Guest: 1,000 MR points = 1,000 Etihad Guest miles
Hawaiian Airlines: 1,000 MR points = 1,000 HawaiianMiles
Iberia Plus: 1,000 MR points = 800 Avios
JetBlue TrueBlue: 1,000 MR points = 800 TrueBlue points
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 1,000 MR points = 1,000 KrisFlyer miles
Virgin America Elevate: 1,000 MR points = 500 Elevate points
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: 1,000 MR points = 1,000 Flying Club miles

The key to earning the most Membership Rewards points is to carry the right combination of American Express credit and charge cards. Keep in mind that you can only be the primary cardholder of a combined total of four personal and business cards accounts. However, this limit does not apply to American Express charge card accounts. Finally, just be aware that Amex will not offer a bonus to those who’ve held a particular card in the past.

The 5 Best Cards for Earning Membership Rewards Points

1. The Platinum Card® from American Express

metal amex platinum card

What this card is great at: This card now lets you earn 5x points on airfare, which is one of the best rates of return from any travel rewards card, not just one that earns Membership Rewards points. You’ll also earn 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, and 1x points on everything else. The card also offers excellent lounge access through various programs, a $200 annual air travel credit plus Uber credits and elite status with hotels and rental car companies.

Credit or charge: Charge

Current bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 within three months of account opening.

Rewards: 5x on all airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines or from American Express Travel, 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, 1x on everything else.

Other benefits: You receive access to Delta Sky Clubs (when you’re flying Delta), Priority Pass Select lounges and American Express Centurion Lounge locations. You also receive a $200 annual air travel fee credit, $200 in annual Uber credits and a credit toward the $100 application fee for Global Entry or the $85 TSA PreCheck fee. You get elite status with Starwood and Hilton hotels as well as Avis, Hertz and National car rentals. This card also includes all of the travel insurance and purchase protection policies available from American Express including premium roadside assistance.

Annual fee: $550, plus $175 for up to three additional cardholders. (See Rates & Fees)

For more information, see:

2. The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

What this card is great at: This recently introduced card earns you 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases for the first $50,000 you spend each calendar year, making it a solid choice for small business owners who want a strong return (4%, based on TPG’s valuations) on spending.

Credit or charge: Credit

Current bonus: None

Rewards: 2x points on all purchases for the first $50,000 spent each calendar year, and 1 point per dollar thereafter.

Other benefits: Cardholders are eligible for discounts through the Amex OPEN Savings plan. Additionally, you may be able to spend beyond your credit limit as long as you pay off that extra amount in full during the next statement period.

Annual fee: None (See Rates & Fees)

3. Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express

Green plastic bags on kitchen worktop.Alex Bramwell via Getty Images.
The EveryDay Preferred Card is a solid MR-earning choice for grocery purchases. Image courtesy of Alex Bramwell via Getty Images.

What this card is great at: This is the card to use for groceries and other purchases that don’t offer a bonus.

Credit or charge: Credit

Current bonus: 15,000 points after you spend $1,000 within three months of account opening.

Rewards: 3x points on up to $6,000 spent annually at US supermarkets, and 2x points at US gas stations. 1x elsewhere. Earn a 50% bonus when you use your card to make 30 or more transactions in a statement period, resulting in up to 4.5x, 3x and 1.5x, respectively.

Other benefits: See Rates & Fees

Annual fee: $95

4. Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

What this card is great at: This card gives you 3x rewards on your choice of one of five different spending categories, for a return of 6% on these purchases.

Credit or charge: Charge

Current bonus: 50,000 points after spending $5,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening.

Rewards: 3x points on purchases from your choice of one of five categories (limited to the first $100,000 spent each year):

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • US purchases for advertising in select media
  • US purchases at gas stations
  • US purchases for shipping
  • US computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers

2x on the other four categories (also on the first $100,000 spent per year), and 1x elsewhere.

Other benefits: Purchase protection, baggage insurance and premium roadside assistance.

Annual fee: $175 (waived the first year)

For more information, see:

5. Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

What this card is great at: This card offers 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines, plus 2x points at US restaurants, US gas stations and US supermarkets. If you have the Platinum card, don’t use this for airfare — instead maximize the 2x bonus categories.

Credit or charge: Charge

Current bonus: 25,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Rewards: 3x points on airfare; 2x at US restaurants, US gas stations and US supermarkets; 1x on everything else

Other benefits: Purchase protection, baggage insurance, extended warranty coverage.

Annual fee: $195 (waived the first year)

Bottom Line

In the points and miles hobby, it’s important to diversify your rewards — so it’s probably in your best interest to bank points with other programs in addition to Membership Rewards. However, if your biggest priority is boosting your MR account balance so you can book an award with one of the Amex travel partners, these cards are your best bets, as they’ll earn you bonuses on airfare, dining out, business expenses and a variety of other purchases.

What’s your favorite card for earning Membership Rewards points?

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, please click here.  

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.