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American Express Membership Rewards is one of the premier flexible rewards programs available to points and miles fans. You can earn Membership Rewards (MR) via a slew of different credit cards, and you can collect every point into a single account which then transfers to almost 20 different airline and hotel partners. Transfer partner highlights include British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, ANA Mileage Club, Delta SkyMiles, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, all top-value frequent flyer programs!
As each card features a different set of high-earning bonus categories, and with MR points converting to (most) airline partners at a 1:1 ratio, it’s possible to earn airline miles much faster using MR earning cards than via traditional co-brand airline cards. Amex also offers more Membership Rewards earning cards than Chase or Citi do for their in-house rewards programs, allowing you to stack a bunch of cards together and build a high-earning combo of credit cards that also feature some killer perks and benefits.
Membership Rewards Earning Credit Cards
Amex provides four personal and three business MR earning cards that we think offer top value.
Consumer Membership Rewards Cards:
- The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
- American Express® Gold Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
Small Business Membership Rewards Cards:
- The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
- American Express® Business Gold Card
If you maximize bonus categories using a combination of Amex cards, you can easily double or triple the points you would earn if you were to keep swiping a single card. It’s also worth noting that some of the best Membership Rewards earning cards are business cards, and while more people than ever before now qualify for business cards, there are plenty of folks that will only be approved for personal cards. With that in mind, where we add business cards to the mix, we also try to provide an alternative from Amex’s lineup of consumer Membership Rewards cards.
Membership Rewards Two Card Strategy
The Amex EveryDay Preferred earns 3x points for every dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 in purchases a year, 2x points for every dollar spent on gas at U.S. gas stations, and one point for every dollar spent in all other categories. Amex also awards an additional 50% bonus Membership Rewards points if you make at least 30 transactions in a calendar month, bumping the earning rates up to 4.5x points for groceries, 3x points on gas, and 1.5x points on all other purchases. One of the most rewarding cards available for essential everyday purchases.
The Amex Gold card earns 4X points at US restaurants, and 4x at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year), plus 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, and 1 point for every other dollar spent using the card. You also receive a $100 airline incidentals credit each year. While the bonus categories overlap somewhat, you can earn a ton of Membership Rewards with a basic two-card combo.
This combo earns:
- 4.5x Membership Rewards at US Supermarkets up to $6,000 in purchases a year, plus 4x up to $25,000 per year
- 4x Membership Rewards at US restaurants
- 3x Membership Rewards on fuel at US gas stations and flights booked directly with the airline
- 1.5 Membership Rewards on all other purchases
Maximize your Earnings:
Make sure to use your Amex EveryDay Preferred for all Grocery and Gas purchases, and your Amex Gold for flights booked with airlines, at U.S. restaurants, and on supermarket spend once you pass the $6K spend on theAmex EveryDay Preferred. For any non-bonus purchases, use your Amex EveryDay Preferred, and ensure you put at least 30 purchases on the card each month to receive the additional 50% bonus points. If you qualify for business cards, you can replace the Amex EveryDay Preferred with the Blue Business Plus, which earns 2x points on all purchases for the first $50K each year, or, if you're just looking to minimize annual fees, the Amex EveryDay. If you’re hunting perks over points, you could substitute the Amex Gold card with the Amex Platinum.
Total Annual Fees:
Membership Rewards Three Card Strategy
Taking on a three card strategy, we’re assuming you have a higher annual spend and you’re typically hunting for more than just points, which is why we recommend adding the Amex Platinum to your Membership Rewards earning combination. You’ll take a small hit on the points earning side, but pick up what we think is the best lounge access available on any card, a bigger airline incidentals credit, monthly Uber credits, and complimentary elite status across a bunch of rewards programs. The Amex Platinum earns 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines, plus 5x points on prepaid hotels and flights booked on amextravel.com, otherwise, cardholders receive 1 point per dollar on all purchases.
We’ve also added the Blue Business Plus over the Amex Gold card. This helps to keep the annuals fees down, but still allows you to earn 2x points on every purchase, and you can utilize the bonus categories on the Amex EveryDay Preferred to maximize the number of points earned on everyday purchases.
This combo earns:
- 5x Membership Rewards on flights booked directly with the airline and on prepaid hotels and flights booked on amextravel.com
- 4.5x Membership Rewards on groceries at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 in purchases a year
- 3x Membership Rewards on gas at U.S. gas stations
- 2x Membership Rewards on non-bonus purchases up to $50K per year
- 1.5 Membership Rewards on all other purchases
Total Annual Fees:
- Amex Platinum: $550 (Rates & Fees)
- Amex EveryDay Preferred: $95
- Blue Business Plus: No annual fee (Rates & Fees)
American Express Application Restrictions
Due to Amex’s no-nonsense approach to welcome offers, you can only receive the welcome bonus on each individual card product once per lifetime, so we recommend researching the best offers available for each card before you pull the trigger on an application. Amex has also introduced new language stating they will take into account your history applying for Amex cards when deciding if new cardmembers are eligible for the welcome offer.
“Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.”
The good news is that Amex offers the more cards that earn its in-house rewards than the competition, so you have plenty of opportunities to pocket a substantial balance of Membership Rewards points.
Unlike building out an Ultimate Rewards earning combo of cards, there is no 5/24 policy restricting Amex card applications. If we had to nail down the order to apply for different card combos, we’d recommend filling out your UR earning cards before putting together an Amex combo like the above.
From most reports, Amex limits applicants to a maximum of 4 credit cards, and one of each charge card. Reports on the total number credit cards allowed differ, with some folks claiming approval for a fifth credit card, but we have yet to see any consistency.
Putting together the right combo of cards means researching where you spend enough to maximize each card's bonus categories. This allows you to build out a set of cards offering the highest number of points on each dollar spent while managing the out of pocket expense of the combined annual fees.
You also need to examine how you travel, and if you can take advantage of the huge number of perks available on a card like the Amex Platinum. Because if you don’t use all the perks, it is hard to justify the premium annual fee, and you may be better with the Amex Gold or the Business Amex Gold. Or, even sticking to the Amex EveryDay Preferred, which offers sky-high returns on everyday spend.
Have a favorite set of Membership Rewards earring cards? Let us know in the comments below!
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