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American Express UK issues 17 different credit and charge cards, including cobranded hotel and airline cards. That’s a dizzying array to choose from, but only eight publicly available Amex cards — six personal and two business — grant full access to the company’s Membership Rewards program.
In the points and miles world, Membership Rewards points are valued at a respectable 1.5p apiece per TPG UK’s most recent valuations, and can be used to facilitate adventures across a myriad of partners. The program partners with 12 different airlines (including household names like British Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic), as well as three hotel chains (Hilton, Radisson and the new Marriott) and two other partners (Club Eurostar and Nectar). It is the Membership Rewards points’ flexibility that makes them so valuable.
Whether you’re looking to dive into the Membership Rewards program for the first time or you’re looking to expand your portfolio, select a card for a family member or pair an existing personal card with a business card, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a deep look at this program, with an analysis of each of the MR-earning cards, what they offer, how to redeem the points and how to maximize benefits.
Earning With Credit Cards
First, here’s a quick glance at the welcome bonus, bonus category structure, annual fee and benefits for each of the seven most valuable Membership Rewards-earning credit cards.
|Card||Welcome Offer||Annual Fee||Perks|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||30,000 points after you spend £2,000 in the first three months||£450||Priority Pass and Centurion Lounge access; Gold status with Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, Shangri-La, Melia Rewards and Hertz Plus Rewards programs; Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts use for room upgrades, breakfast, late checkout and more; Platinum Concierge; worldwide travel insurance|
|American Express® Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card||10,000 points after you spend £3,000 in the first three months||£140 (waived for the first year)||Two airport lounge passes; 10,000 anniversary points when you spend £15,000 in 12 months; Hertz Gold Plus Rewards status; hotel upgrades and room credits when booking through American Express Travel; travel inconvenience and accident protection|
|The American Express Card||None||£60||Travel inconvenience and baggage insurance; extended warranty up to £1,500 per item; refund protection up to £200 per item; purchase protection up to £2,500 per item|
|The American Express Rewards Low Rate Credit Card
|2,500 points after you spend £1,000 in the first three months.
|£0||Travel accident insurance up to £150,000; refund protection up to £200 per item; purchase protection up to £2,500 per item|
|The American Express Rewards Purchases Credit Card||0% interest rate for 18 months on purchases||£0||Travel accident insurance up to £150,000, refund protection up to £200 per item; purchase protection up to £2,500 per item|
|The American Express Rewards Rewards Credit Card||5,000 points after you spend £2,000 in the first three months.||£0||Travel accident insurance up to £150,000; refund protection up to £200 per item; purchase protection up to £2,500 per item|
|The American Express Platinum Business Charge Card||40,000 points after you spend £6,000 in the first three months||£450||Comprehensive worldwide travel insurance for the cardholder and up to 99 supplementary cardholder employees, refund protection up to £300, purchase protection up to £2,500, dedicated concierge and travel team|
|The American Express Gold Business Charge Card||20,000 points after you spend £3,000 in the first three months||£125||Comprehensive worldwide travel insurance for the cardholder and up to 99 supplementary cardholder employees, refund protection up to £300, purchase protection up to £2,500, dedicated concierge and travel team|
Redeeming Membership Rewards
Transferring to Partners
With transferring your hard-earned Membership Rewards points to partners is where the magic really unfolds. By transferring Membership Rewards points to 12 airline and three hotel transfer partners, you’re able to search for award travel across the globe, covering major routes and cities on airlines you may never otherwise have the chance to try. With transfers to these airline partners at least, you should be able to obtain at least more than 1p per point value from your Membership Rewards.
Below, we’ve listed out all of those partners, along with transfer ratios and the transfer times discovered in our testing.
If you haven’t done so already, link all your different transfer partner accounts to your Membership Rewards account. This prevents delays in the future when you may need to make a quick transfer.
|Air France-KLM Flying Blue||1:1||4 working days|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||1:1||3 working days|
|British Airways Executive Club||1:1||3 working days|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1:1||3 working days|
|Delta SkyMiles||1:1||up to 30 minutes|
|Emirates Skywards||1:1||2 working days|
|Etihad Guest||1:1||5 working days|
|Finnair Plus||1:1||3 working days|
|Iberia Plus||1:1||4 working days|
|SAS EuroBonus||1:1||5 working days|
|Singapore KrisFlyer||1:1||3 working days|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1:1||usually 30 minutes|
|Hilton Honors||1:2||5 working days|
|Marriott Bonvoy||2:3||5 working days|
|Radisson Rewards||1:3||10 working days|
There are endless ways to utilise these transfer partners to get maximum value for your Membership Rewards points. Here’s just a sampling:
- Transfer your points to Etihad to redeem on its partners, such as 44,000 miles for a one-way business-class flight from Brussels to New York on Brussels Airlines or from London Heathrow to Muscat on Oman Air’s amazing 787 business class.
- Transfer to Hilton Honors (and double your points), and the Conrad London St. James can be booked for 40,000 Membership Rewards points per night.
- Transfer your points to your Singapore KrisFlyer account to fly the new first class suite on the A380 for 80,000 Membership Rewards if you book Singapore to Sydney or vice versa, for example.
- If you transfer your points to Marriott Bonvoy you can book the JW Marriott Hotel in Bangkok for only 35,000 Bonvoy points per night, off-peak.
- Singapore KrisFlyer also now allows Star Alliance partner awards to be booked online, making it easier to take advantage of sweet spots like the continental US to Hawaii round-trip on United for 35,000 miles in economy or 69,000 in business.
- Transfer your points to British Airlines Avios to take advantage of the great value Reward Flight Savers like London to Madrid or from London to Dubrovnik for only 6,500 Avios (off peak, one way).
- If you’re looking to book on Delta, including its Delta One Suites, transfer points to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club. For instance, you can grab a Delta One Suite ticket from Europe to the US on Delta’s new Airbus A350 or reconfigured Boeing 777 for 50,000 miles (and no fuel surcharges!).
Unfortunately, several of the options for redeeming your points represent less-than-stellar value and should typically be avoided. These include:
Use Points for Charges — This is like a cashback option for covering eligible charges on your billing statement. What are eligible charges? I’ve yet to find a solid definition, and American Express can change whatever charges it deems eligible at any time without prior notification. You’ll only receive 0.4p per point with this option, so it’s not a very good return.
Shop Amazon — After linking your Amazon and Membership Rewards accounts, you can use points to pay for your purchases at a slightly better (but still poor) value of 0.5p per point. Although this option can be useful for promotions, you may want to turn this option off to prevent accidental and unauthorized use of your points when making Amazon purchases.
Gift cards – While the range of retailers you can choose from is attractive — Costco, Topshop, IKEA, Harrods and M&S — the redemption value isn’t. You’ll only receive 0.5p per point, and could be getting much better value by transferring to hotel or airline partners for free travel.
The American Express lineup of Membership Rewards cards offers something for everyone — from heavy travelers, to budding small business owners, to those looking to dip their toes in without shouldering a large annual fee. If you’re looking for a single big redemption like first class with Singapore Airlines, or several smaller redemptions like short-haul European hops with British Airways, Amex’s transfer partner network can provide supreme value.
Unfortunately American Express has recently tightened its rules on sign-up bonuses, which you can read about here.
Know before you go.
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