American Specific Membership Rewards factors switch companions

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  • The Amex Membership Rewards points you can earn with cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card are some of the most valuable credit card rewards out there.
  • Transferring Membership Rewards points to airline and hotel partners is one of the ways to get the most value from them.
  • Airline partners like Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic can help you get the best value on first-class award flights. 
  • Not all Amex transfer partners are created equal – make sure to pay attention to the transfer ratios, because they’re not all 1:1.

When it comes to transferable credit card rewards points, you might automatically think of Chase Ultimate Rewards or Capital One miles. But the American Express Membership Rewards program was one of the first points currencies to allow folks with associated credit cards to convert their hard-earned rewards into miles and points with various airline and hotel partners.

In fact, the Amex Membership Rewards program debuted way back in 1991 with just seven US airline partners. Today, Membership Rewards works with 19 frequent-flyer programs and three hotel loyalty programs. Those numbers are impressive in and of themselves – consider, Chase has just 13 partners total, and Citi ThankYou Rewards has 16, but only airlines. 

What sets Amex apart even more, however, is the excellent quality of its partners, and the myriad redemption opportunities they represent.

Here is a comprehensive guide to American Express transfer partners and how to get the most value from your points when taking advantage of them.

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Before you can redeem Amex points, you’ve actually got to earn them. Only a handful of Amex cards – both business and personal – rack up Membership Rewards points. Other Amex rewards cards earn either cash back, hotel points with programs including Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, or airline miles with programs such as Delta SkyMiles.

Here are the ones to keep in mind:

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Featured Reward

60,000 points after your spend at least $5,000 in your first 3 months of account opening

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
    • Enjoy VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
    • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
    • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
    • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more when you select one qualifying airline.
    • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
    • $550 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.
    Pros
    • Long list of travel benefits, including airport lounge access and complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott
    • Annual statement credits with Saks and Uber
    Cons
    • Bonus categories leave something to be desired (no bonus rewards on general travel or dining)
    • One of the highest annual fees among premium travel cards

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    Regular APR

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    Featured Reward

    35,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 3 months of account opening

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
    • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
    • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
    • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
    • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
    • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • Annual Fee is $250.
    • Terms Apply.
    Pros
    • Great rewards for dining and for shopping at US supermarkets
    • Monthly statement credit for eligible dining purchases recoups some of the annual fee
    Cons
    • Underwhelming welcome bonus
    • Annual airline fee statement credit comes with many restrictions

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    Regular APR

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    Featured Reward

    30,000 points after you spend at least $2,000 in your first 3 months of account opening

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  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
    • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours.
    • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide.
    • Receive up to $100 per year in statement credits when you use the American Express® Green Card to pay for your CLEAR® membership at select airports and stadiums across the U.S. and Permissible Biometric Scanning Technology terms: eye scanning, irises scanning and fingerprints scanning.
    • Use the American Express® Green Card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy to any of the lounges in the LoungeBuddy network – no memberships, elite statuses, or first class tickets required. Earn up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year on your LoungeBuddy purchases.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • $150 Annual Fee.
    • Terms Apply.
    Pros
    • 3x bonus categories of travel and restaurants that rival the more-expensive Chase Sapphire Reserve
    • Reasonable annual fee compared to many other travel rewards cards
    Cons
    • Annual statement credits with CLEAR and LoungeBuddy won’t be useful to everyone
    • Underwhelming welcome bonus

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    Regular APR

    12.99% to 22.99% Variable

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card has been collected independently by Business Insider, and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer
    • 3x points at US Supermarkets
    • 2x points at US gas stations
    • 1x points on all other eligible purchases
    • Use your Card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 50% extra points on those purchases less returns and credits. Terms apply.
    Pros
    • Strong rewards at US supermarkets
    • You can earn a 50% points bonus each billing period when you make at least 30 purchases
    Cons
    • Annual cap on earning bonus rewards at US supermarkets
    • Not the best option for earning rewards outside of US supermarkets and US gas stations — especially if you don’t make at least 30 purchases per billing statement to earn the bonus

    Featured Reward

    75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 within your first 3 months of account opening

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
    • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
    • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That’s an extra half point per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
    • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when you book on amextravel.com.
    • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
    Pros
    • More travel benefits than you’ll find on any other business credit card
    • Generous airport lounge access options, from American Express Centurion Lounges to Priority Pass
    • Complimentary hotel elite status
    • Access to Amex concierge services
    Cons
    • Very high annual fee
    • Limited opportunities to earn bonus points
    • Annual statement credits won’t be useful for everyone

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    Regular APR

    13.24% to 19.24% variable APR

    Intro APR

    0% intro APR on purchases for the first 12 months from account opening

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners. 2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter.
    • Enjoy the flexibility to put more purchases on the Card and earn rewards when you buy above your credit limit*.
    • You’ve got the power to use your Card beyond its credit limit* with Expanded Buying Power.
    • More buying power for your business means more opportunities to earn points. That’s everyday business with the Blue Business Plus Card.
    • *The amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to us, and other factors.
    • 0.0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.24% – 19.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors at account opening.
    • No Annual Fee
    • Terms Apply
    Pros
    • The rate no-annual-fee card to earn Amex Membership Rewards points
    • Solid earning rate on the first $50,000 in purchases each year
    Cons
    • For spending above $50,000 each year, you won’t earn bonus points with this card
    • No welcome bonus

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    Now for a quick rundown of the current lineup of Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners.

    You can transfer your Amex points to all of the following airline and hotel partners. Points transfer to many of these instantaneously, though some transactions might take a few business days to process.

    Most transfer ratios are 1 Membership Rewards point to 1 airline mile or hotel point, but those that vary have been noted.

    Airlines

    • Aer Lingus AerClub
    • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1.6)
    • Air Canada Aeroplan
    • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
    • Alitalia MilleMiglia
    • ANA Mileage Club
    • Avianca LifeMiles
    • British Airways Executive Club
    • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
    • Delta SkyMiles
    • El Al Matmid (50:1, only through Dec. 31, 2020)
    • Emirates Skywards
    • Etihad Airways Guest Program
    • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
    • Iberia Plus
    • JetBlue True Blue (1:0.8)
    • Qantas Frequent Flyer
    • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
    • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

    Hotels

    • Choice Privileges Rewards
    • Hilton Honors (1:2)
    • Marriott Bonvoy

    Once you start looking into booking awards using partner miles or points, your next step will be to actually transfer your Amex points to a partner program.

    In order to do so, log into your Amex account online. Click on the “Rewards” tab, and you should see your points balance and various options including one with an arrow that says, “Transfer Points.” You will be redirected to a page that lists the various partner programs and the current conversion ratios.

    Before you can initiate a transfer, you must link your Membership Rewards account to your various frequent-flyer and hotel accounts. Doing so is as simple as clicking on the partner you want to use, then entering your credit card’s security code and four-digit ID as well as your account number with the partner. Once you link accounts, you should be able to transfer whenever you like.

    One thing to keep in mind: American Express also periodically offers transfer bonuses that tend to range from 20-40% to various partners. For instance, there is currently a 40% bonus to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for some cardholders, and bonuses of 40% to Hilton and Marriot through the end of October 2020. It’s worth checking on available transfer bonuses from time to time, or taking advantage of ones you come across in order to get even more value from your points.

    Before you get too overwhelmed with the number of transfer partners and all the points possibilities, here are the nine that deserve the most attention, with some examples of what makes them such fantastic options.

    Just a quick note on some of the numbers, airlines, flight cabins, and routes cited here: These are accurate as of the time of publication, but are subject to any coronavirus-related fleet and network changes individual airlines make, as well as government-imposed travel restrictions.

    Air Canada Aeroplan

    This mileage program has had a few ups and downs in recent years, including being spun off then reacquired by Air Canada. The airline has announced several major changes that will take effect in November, but its award charts have not changed much, so its miles have largely retained their value. Thus, Aeroplan remains one the best frequent-flyer programs for those who want to redeem their Amex points for flights on Star Alliance carriers such as United, Lufthansa, SWISS, and EVA.

    Aeroplan’s new award formula will include 10 distance-based charts for travel within and between four regions: North America, Atlantic, Pacific, South America.

    Yes, it’s a bit convoluted. In general, though, economy flight redemptions are a solid bet, and you should keep your eye out for specific premium award opportunities – especially in light of the fact that Aeroplan is eliminating fuel surcharges that used to range into the thousands of dollars.

    Here are three possibilities based on both the distances of specific routes and the partner airlines you can fly:

    • You’d only need 55,000 miles each way for business class on ANA from either Vancouver or Seattle to Tokyo Haneda. For comparison, United would charge you 88,000 MileagePlus miles.
    • Likewise, business class on Lufthansa or SWISS between Europe and several airports in the eastern US should cost just 60,000 Aeroplan miles, but would require 77,000 United miles.
    • Finally, thanks to that same distance-based formula, you can book coach tickets between the West Coast of the US and Canada and Hawaii starting at 12,500 miles each way versus 22,500 United miles – that’s nearly twice as many miles!

    Air France/KLM Flying Blue

    Flying Blue is the mileage program of numerous airlines including not only Air France and KLM, but also carriers like Kenya Airways and TAROM. Members can also redeem their miles for flights on SkyTeam partners like Delta, Aeromexico, and Korean Air, among other partners.

    Though Flying Blue levies hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges for flights to and from Europe, there are still a couple reasons to recommend the program.

    First, it offers monthly rotating “Promo Rewards” with discounts of 20-50% off award pricing between certain cities and regions. In real terms, that means rewards for under 11,000 miles each way between North America and Europe in economy, or 28,750 miles in business class … if you can find them. Those numbers are hard to beat.

    But even on a regular basis, Flying Blue members seem to have a lot more access to premium awards on both Air France and KLM than they would with other programs, such as Delta SkyMiles.

    ANA Mileage Club

    Getting back to Star Alliance for a moment, you can find some phenomenal possibilities by transferring your miles to All Nippon Airways’ underrated frequent-flyer program.

    Without getting too bogged down in the details, Mileage Club does have a few important restrictions. Awards must be booked round-trip, though there’s some flexibility thanks to open-jaw and stopover allowances. But the real beauty of the program is just how few miles you need even for the most premium experiences in the skies.

    For example, you would need just 88,000 miles round-trip to fly business class on airlines like SAS and TAP Portugal between North America and Europe. Want to bump it up to first class on an airline like Lufthansa? That’ll cost you 165,000 miles round-trip. Sure, that’s still a lot of miles, but it’s a far cry from the 242,000 miles United would charge you.

    You could fly from North America to most of Asia for 85,000-95,000 miles round-trip in business class on Star Alliance carriers like Asiana or EVA, or 150,000-180,000 in first class. Yes, that’s a lot of miles, but is still around half what other airlines’ frequent-flyer programs would charge.

    Interested in taking either United’s new services between Newark and either Cape Town or Johannesburg? You would need just 104,000 miles round-trip in business class with ANa, versus 176,000 United miles, or 170,000 Aeroplan miles.

    British Airways Executive Club

    Thanks to a distance-based award formula that can result in exorbitant pricing for long-haul flights in premium cabins, some folks might shy away from transferring Amex points to British Airways. However, Executive Club has offered some of the most frequent transfer bonuses of any Amex partner, and is still an excellent choice for certain short-haul awards (flights that are about three hours or less).

    Flying from the West Coast of the US to Hawaii will only cost you 13,000 Avios each way in economy on either American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, versus 15,000-22,500 using either of those carriers’ miles. Likewise, using Avios to book shorter flights within Asia on Cathay Pacific, within Australia on Qantas, or from Miami or Dallas to the Caribbean on American Airlines can be a good way to save money on routes that can be expensive to book using cash.

    You can also get from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Tokyo for just 27,750 miles each way in economy on JAL, or from Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus for just 13,000 miles each way at off-peak times. Keep in mind that you can transfer Avios between British Airways Executive Club, Aer Lingus AerClub and Iberia Plus for even more options, including some with lower surcharges on flights to and from Europe.

    Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

    While this Hong Kong-based airline’s award chart won’t be for everyone, if you’re positively raking in the Amex points thanks to bonuses and spending, you might want to splurge with a few redemptions.

    Like American Airlines AAdvantage, Asia Miles will charge you 70,000 miles each way in business class or 110,000 miles in first between the West Coast of the US (and Canada) and Hong Kong. The reason you might want to use Asia Miles instead of AAdvantage (or Alaska Mileage Plan miles, for that matter), is that it’s easier to come by award space using the airline’s own frequent-flyer program rather than a partner, and unlike American and Alaska, you can transfer points from Amex as well as other credit card programs.

    Another great premium possibility is to use 75,000 Asia Miles each way for Qatar Airways’ outstanding business class between its hub at Doha and certain destinations within the US, including Boston, Chicago New York JFK, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

    Delta SkyMiles

    Although Delta has made drastic changes to its award program over the past six years, it’s still one of Amex’s standout transfer partners for a number of reasons. First, it’s the largest US carrier on the list, it’s part of SkyTeam, and it also boasts non-alliance partners like Virgin Atlantic, so you can use your SkyMiles in a variety of ways.

    That said, Delta has done its best lately to peg the value of SkyMiles to about 1 cent each, especially for awards on Delta itself. So use your Amex points for cheaper economy tickets that can cost as little as 5,000 miles each, or simply to top up your account with a few thousand miles here and there for specific tickets you are certain you will need to book in the near future (especially if that bumps you up from economy to business class).

    Etihad Guest

    Due to a clunky online interface and the fact that you have to call customer service to book awards on partner airlines, you might want to avoid Etihad Guest in general, unless you can pinpoint a few specific awards.

    However, the carrier has a lot of interesting airline partners, including American Airlines, Air New Zealand, ANA, Korean Air, Royal Air Marco, and Virgin Australia, among others. The airline also offers occasional award sales, bringing the price of some tickets down even further.

    In general, though, here are two great awards you could consider transferring Amex points for:

    • First, you can snag a one-way, one-segment business-class ticket on Royal Air Maroc, including between the US and Morocco, for just 44,000 miles.
    • Second, Etihad makes first-class award space much more easily available to its own mileage program members than those of partners, including American Airlines AAdvantage. So if you want a shot at one of Etihad’s fabulous first-class suites between Abu Dhabi and either the US or Europe, you’ll probably want to start hoarding Amex points for a transfer to Etihad Guest.

    Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

    Singapore Airlines partners with several of the other major transferable points programs, including Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards, so before you transfer Amex points, consider what other options you have. That said, there are a few redemption sweet spots to be aware of.

    Economy awards between North America and Hawaii on either United or Air Canada are priced at a reasonable 17,500 miles each way, while flying business class within the North America on either of those carriers is 23,000 miles each way.

    But the real reason you might want to transfer Amex points to KrisFlyer is to redeem them for business- or first-class flights on Singapore Airlines itself, since the airline is very stingy with releasing award space to partners.

    Sure, flights cost a lot of miles – flying business class on the world’s current longest flight from Newark to Singapore will set you back 99,000 miles each way, or first class from New York JFK to Frankfurt will require 86,000 miles — but spending some time in the lap of luxury could well be worth it.

    Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

    Although Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is being wrapped into a new Virgin-wide rewards scheme called Virgin Points, award redemption levels appear to be the same for the time being … which means you can book some great awards at relatively low levels.

    Among the best examples are using just 50,000 miles to fly Delta One Suites between the US and Europe, or 60,000 miles between the U.S. and Asia. – a bargain considering you’d need around 85,000 Delta SkyMiles for either option. You might also want to use 90,000-95,000 of them to fly ANA’s gorgeous new business-class suites round-trip between the US or Europe and Japan, or 110,000-120,000 miles to fly first class.

    Now that we’ve gotten the best partners out of the way, here are the details on the rest and why might or might not want to transfer your hard-earned Amex points to them.

    Aer Lingus AerClub: In reality, Aer Lingus AerClub is linked to British Airways Executive Club, so it’s relatively easy to transfer your Avios between accounts, but why add another layer of complexity to your rewards strategy?

    Aeromexico Club Premier: Although the transfer ratio to Aeromexico might seem favorable, and there are sometimes transfer bonuses, the Club Premier award chart lacks any truly great redemption opportunities.

    Alitalia MilleMiglia: Given the rollercoaster of Alitalia’s financial woes in recent years, not to mention its uncertain future, you might want to avoid transferring points into a mileage program that might change dramatically (or cease to exist) in the not-too-distant future.

    Avianca LifeMiles:While this program offers some fabulous award opportunities on Avianca’s Star Alliance partners, its booking engine is not the most reliable, and its customer service reps can be hard to reach. At the moment, Avianca is struggling through bankruptcy, and though Lifemiles itself will likely live on no matter what happens to the airline, it’s unclear how much longer these miles will be useful for booking travel.

    El Al Matmid: El Al is also undergoing financial turmoil and a transition to new ownership, so there’s no telling how this Israeli airline will fare in 2021. It won’t matter much to Amex cardholders at that point, though, considering the Matmid program will no longer be eligible for Membership Rewards transfers after the end of 2020.

    Emirates Skywards: Emirates recently reduced the sky-high fuel surcharges it once tacked onto its award tickets, but mileage prices are still astronomical, especially for sought-after seats in first and business class.

    Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles: While this program can come in handy specifically for tickets within Hawaii and between the islands and the US mainland, you might be better off simply getting one of Hawaiian Airlines’ co-branded credit cards to enjoy extra earning and perks.

    Iberia Plus: Another partner linked to British Airways Avios, Iberia’s mileage program is a great way to save on fuel surcharges, and does have some excellent award options between the US and Europe, including certain business-class tickets that cost as few as 34,000 Avios. However, its search engine can be hard to use, and customer service is almost non-existent, so do your homework before transferring Amex points here.

    JetBlue TrueBlue: Folks can get a lot of value from TrueBlue points for flights on JetBlue, but the conversion ratio of 5 Amex points to 4 TrueBlue points takes it out of the running as a truly great transfer partner.

    Qantas Frequent Flyer: You might find some good deals redeeming Qantas miles for expensive flights on the airline’s own metal within Australia and the South Pacific, but award prices for flights beyond that are jaw-droppingly high for the most part.

    Choice Privileges Rewards: Booking some budget stays in the near future? Choice points could come in handy, but are unlikely to be a frequent transfer option for more aspirational travelers.

    Hilton Honors: Amex points covert to Hilton Honors points at a 1:2 ratio, which is great on the surface. But if you’re interested in Hilton stays and perks, you should probably apply for a co-branded card instead. For instance, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is currently offering 150,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 3 months of account opening, and it confers automatic top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond elite status, statement credits at Hilton Resorts and on certain eligible stays at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties, plus a free weekend night reward each account year.

    Marriott Bonvoy: Considering the paltry 1:1 conversion ratio and Marriott’s excellent stable of co-branded credit cards, you might want to avoid Amex transfers and instead apply for a product like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card. It’s currently offering new cardholders five free nights (worth up to 50,000 points each) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, plus benefits like automatic Gold elite status, 6 points per dollar on Marriott purchases, and 2 points per dollar on other purchases.

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    American Express Membership Rewards points are among the most valuable and versatile travel rewards out there. That’s thanks not only to the sheer number of airline and hotel loyalty programs cardholders can transfer their point to, but also the variety of excellent redemption opportunities available.

    The key to optimizing Membership Rewards points is to pick a credit card that will earn the most of them on the things you tend to purchase most frequently. And then, on the other side of the travel rewards equation, you will want to focus on just a few of the transfer partners with the best redemption opportunities for your needs and goals.

    Once you pinpoint the right card and the right partners, you should be able make some strategic transfers and enjoy some excellent award flights and hotel stays.

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