Membership Rewards Questions Answered

Following my post “Ultimate Rewards Questions Answered,” I figured that it would be helpful to do the same with Amex Membership Rewards questions and answers.  Here’s what you need to know…

Membership Rewards Questions Answered

Membership Rewards Credit and Charge Cards

American Express offers a huge lineup of cards that offer Membership Rewards points for spend.  Many are charge cards (in which the balance must be paid in full each month) and others are credit cards.

American Express limits cardholders to having 4 or 5 Amex credit cards (personal + business cards count towards the same total), but they have no known limit for charge cards.  Authorized user cards and employee cards do not count towards that total.

Membership Rewards Charge Cards include:

  • Personal Charge Cards:
    • Gold Card
    • Green Card
    • Platinum Card (including each branded variety Schwab, Mercedes-Benz, etc.).  A full list can be found here.
    • Premier Rewards Gold
  • Business Charge Cards:
    • Business Gold Rewards
    • Business Green Rewards
    • Business Platinum

Membership Rewards Credit Cards include:

  • Personal Credit Cards:
    • The Amex EveryDay Credit Card
    • The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card
    • The Blue Card
    • The Mercedes-Benz Credit Card from American Express
    • The Morgan Stanley Credit Card from American Express
  • Business Credit Cards:
    • Blue Business Plus
    • Blue for Business Credit Card

Membership Rewards Signup Bonus Q&A

Can I sign up for another card within the same family and get another signup bonus?  E.g. If I previously had the Platinum card, can I also get the bonus for the Platinum Mercedes-Benz card?

Yes.  Every branded version of the Platinum card is considered a different product.  Business cards are different products than similarly named personal cards.  The Gold Card is a different product than the Premier Rewards Gold card.  As long as it is a different product, you can get a new signup bonus.

Can I get a second signup bonus for the exact same card again?

Usually not.  Most Amex signup offers have the following language:

Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.

This means that if you’ve ever had the card before, regardless of whether you got a signup bonus the first time, you can’t get a signup bonus now.

There are two exceptions:

  • After about 7 years the record of your having the card seems to drop off Amex’s radar (unverified).
  • Targeted offers sometimes do not have the lifetime exclusion language. In that case, you can get the bonus.

Can I get a second signup bonus for the exact same business card again if I apply with a different business?

No.  This used to work, but no longer does.

If I sign up for a new card, but do not qualify for the signup bonus, will I still get the other advertised card perks?

Yes.  If you are approved for a card, you will get other perks besides the signup bonus.  These can include first year free (when applicable), airline fee credits, elite status benefits, lounge access, etc.

If I refer a friend who is not eligible for a new signup bonus, will I still receive referral credit?

Yes.  Amex often offers bonus points for referring friends.  If they use your referral and are approved for that card, you will receive the referral bonus even if they are not eligible for a signup bonus (i.e. if they had the card before).

Is there a limit to how many Amex cards I can sign up for at once?

There is no known limit with charge cards.  With credit cards they limit you to 1 card within 5 days and 2 cards within 90 days.  It is not unusual for people to get around these limits by calling for reconsideration.

Is there a limit to how many Amex cards I can have altogether?

There is no known limit with charge cards.  With credit cards you are limited to 4 or 5.  Amex does count across consumer and business cards to enforce this limit.

Do Amex charge cards count towards Chase’s 5/24 Rule?

Yes, personal Amex charge cards and credit cards count towards Chase’s 5/24 Rule (with a few exceptions, if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards in the past 24 months, Chase won’t approve you for new cards).

No, business Amex cards (regardless of whether they are charge cards or credit cards) do not count toward 5/24.

Membership Rewards Cancelling & Product Changing Q&A

Will I lose points if I cancel my card?

Not necessarily.  Amex defaults to pooling together all of your Membership Rewards points (if yours are not pooled together, I’d recommend contacting them to fix that).  As long as you have one Membership Rewards card open, your points are safe regardless of where they came from.

To keep your points safe, I recommend keeping at least one Membership Rewards card open at all times.  Unfortunately, all no-fee Membership Rewards cards are credit cards (as such, they are counted towards your 4 or 5 card Amex credit card limit).  The best of the no-fee cards, in my opinion, are:

Will I get my annual fee back if I cancel?

It depends how recently you were charged the annual fee.

You will get your annual fee back if you cancel within one statement period after the annual fee posts.  After that, you will not get any of the annual fee back if you cancel.

If you product change to a less expensive card, you will get a prorated refund of the difference.  So, if you decide to cancel an expensive Amex card and you are not within one statement period of the annual fee posting, consider product changing first to a less expensive card.

Which cards can I product change to?

Amex limits you to product changing within type.  If you started with a charge card, you can’t product change to a credit card.  If you started with a business card, you cannot product change to a personal card.

  • You can product change from one personal charge card to another personal charge card
  • You can product change from one personal credit card to another personal credit card
  • You can product change from one business charge card to another business charge card
  • You can product change from one business credit card to another business credit card

In addition to the above restrictions, Amex may impose additional restrictions on which cards you can product change to.

Will I get a signup bonus if I product change from one card to another?

You won’t get a publicly advertised signup bonus, but you may qualify for a targeted upgrade offer.  See: Everything You Want To Know About American Express Upgrade Offers.

Membership Rewards Point Transfer Q&A

Which Membership Rewards cards allow point transfers to airline loyalty programs?

Almost all currently advertised cards do allow point transfers.  Some older Amex cards, though, do not allow point transfers.  The Membership Rewards Terms & Conditions (US version) lists the following cards as not eligible for point transfers:

  • American Express® Platinum Credit Card
    (PLEASE NOTE: This is not the Platinum charge card)
  • Blue for Business® Credit Card
  • Blue for Students®
  • Some Blue from American Express Cards
  • Business Management Account
  • Gold Optima® Card
  • Optima® Credit Card
  • Optima® Platinum Card®
  • Platinum Business Credit Card®
    (PLEASE NOTE: This is not the Business Platinum charge card)
  • ZYNC® Card

None of the above cards are commonly advertised anymore, but some may still be available.

Since points are pooled together, you can transfer points as long as you have a single Membership Rewards card that allows transfers.  So, even if you have one of the above cards, you can still transfer points as long as you have another card that allows transfers.

Two no-fee cards that do allow transfers are:

What are points worth if I don’t transfer them?

Not a lot.  Except when they run special offers, you’ll be lucky to get 1 cent per point value when redeeming for products or travel.  One exception is with the Business Platinum card.  That card offers a 35% point rebate when points are used to purchase airfare with your selected airline or with any airline in business or first class.  When points are used in that way, the 35% rebate results in a per-point value of about 1.54 cents.  That’s pretty good.

What are points worth if I do transfer them to airline or hotel programs?

It depends.  Most loyalty programs offer a range of awards from very poor value to very high value.  If you cherry pick the best awards, it is possible to get 2 cents or more value with many programs.  If you’re not careful, though, you can easily redeem points for less than 1 cent per point value.

Can I move my points to a friend or family member’s Membership Rewards account?

No.

Can I transfer my points to another person’s loyalty program account?

Yes, but only if you have added them as an authorized user (or employee) to your account.

Does Amex charge a fee to transfer points to loyalty program accounts?

Yes, but only with transfers to US airlines.  Transfers to foreign airline programs are free.  For transfers to US airlines, Amex charges an excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99).

Which transfer partners does Amex have and which are best?

A full list of transfer partners can be found here: Amex Transfer Partners.  At the time of this writing, the transfer partners I consider most useful include:

  • Aeroplan / Air Canada
  • Air France KLM Flying Blue
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
  • Etihad Guest
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

More information can be found here: Amex Transfer Partners.

Can I get my points back after a transfer if I change my mind?

Not usually, however it is possible in some cases.  Full details can be found here.

How do I decide whether to transfer points or pay with points for travel?

Unless you have the Business Platinum card, I don’t recommend using Membership Rewards points to pay for travel.  In general, you’ll get the most value by waiting for an opportunity to book high value award flights by transferring points to miles.  With the Business Platinum card, though, it can be worth using points to pay for airfare in order to get the card’s 35% pay with points rebate.

To decide, you could check to see which approach costs the fewest points.  For example, search for desired flights through Amex Travel to find the pay with points price, then calculate your final price after your rebate.  For example, if a flight is listed at $450 through Amex Travel, then the pay with points price for Platinum cardholders will be 45,000 points.  If the flight qualifies for the 35% rebate, then your final point price will be 45,000 x .65 = 29,250 Membership Rewards points.

Next, log into various Amex transfer partner programs and run flight award searches to see how many miles the airline would charge for an award.  In some cases it may be necessary instead to check the airline’s award charts since not all do a good job of showing available awards online.  Then compare one to the other.  Make sure to factor in any award fees, though!

When point prices are roughly equal, there are still other important factors to consider:

  • When flights are booked through Amex, you will earn miles for the flight as long as you attach your frequent flyer number to the reservation.  Flights booked with airline miles do not earn miles.
  • Transferring points in order to book awards often leads to more flexibility with changes and cancellations.  Singapore Airlines, for example, has very low change and cancellation fees even when you use their miles to book Star Alliance flights (such as United).

Any other questions?

Please comment below.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

  1. […] In a bit of a bummer (but less of a bummer than it could have been), United announced some coming MileagePlus changes that amount to a minor devaluation for now, opting for a baby step towards revenue-based domestic awards. Even still, as the airline loyalty landscape has changed over the past few years, those who do not hold or covet elite status benefits have continued to gravitate towards transferable currencies. Many readers have questions about these powerful programs, and this month we brought you both Ultimate Rewards Questions Answered and Membership Rewards Questions Answered. […]

Comments

  1. Another way to look at point value would be to use the new Blue Business that earns double points. Then getting a Schwab platinum to transfer to cash at 1.25. Spend $10,000 with Blue Business = 20,000 points. Transfer to Schwab for 1.25 = 25,000 points = $250 divided by $10,000 original spend would make the Blue Business a 2.5% cash back card (if one was not interested in fooling around with airline miles).

    • Good observation. I don’t think of this as a change in point value, but in the value of earnings from a specific set of cards. Still, I forgot to include the 1.25 value in the redemption options. I’ll add that.

  2. Greg

    I am confused. You said:
    If you started with a business card, you cannot product change to a personal card.

    Then in the bullet points underneath:
    You can product change from one business charge card to another personal charge card.
    You can product change from one business credit card to another personal credit card.

    Are these not contradictory?
    thanks

    • Oops. You found an error in the bullet points. Fixed. They now read:
      You can product change from one business charge card to another business charge card.
      You can product change from one business credit card to another business credit card.

  3. So AMEX won’t prorate the annual fee if you cancel mid year? I could have sworn I was told by an agent that they do on two separate occasions. Can you confirm this with your source?

  4. Do you know if it is possible to have several of the same cards at the same time? Obviously, you’d not be able to get the bonus more that once, but for instance, could you have 2 Ameriprise Platinum cards open simply for the card benefits?

    • I have two Business Platinum cards open right now (had one open, upgraded a Gold to Platinum also). One of these days, I’ll downgrade one, just haven’t done it yet.

      • Thanks Nick. I also have 2 Business Plats (and Business golds), But I’m not sure if I can apply for a new personal card (such as Ameriprise Plat) if I’m already a cardholder or do a product change to Ameriprise. Just curious.

  5. For those of us with negative MR balances, any DPs of starting fresh after closing all MR earning cards?

  6. New to Amex MR and thinking of getting the Schwab to cash out at 1.25x. Flights just don’t look super attractive. We’ll see though

  7. Hi All 😉

    So just to reconfirm, as it does seem pretty clearly stated. One *cannot* get the bonus on a card that they have had in the past, even if they never received the original bonus. Miss the bonus on a couple MB plats, stings! Cheers.

  8. Thanks for the overview. I was targeted for an offer and it did not contain the lifetime exclusion language, yet AmEx will not honor the bonus. I provided the sign up offer letter as proof, but have gotten nowhere. Any advice? Long time reader, thanks

  9. I have an employee Amex Business card from my employer. I track my spending separately online. Can my employer allow my card to use membership rewards points (in this case at Amazon?) If so – how?

    • I think it depends on which kind of Amex card you have specifically, but yes it may be possible. Years ago I changed my corporate Amex to one that earns points, but I had to pay a fee to do so (it may have been $75 or $85 per year, I’m not sure).

  10. I was finally ready to start collecting AmEx cards and was researching articles to gain knowledge. I was very happy to come across this one! This is very comprehensive and detailed. I learned a ton! Thank you so much!

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