1 million amex points worth

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AmEx Membership Rewards: How to Earn and Use Them

American Express offers multiple rewards cards, some of which earn points on purchases in the form of Membership Rewards.

Membership Rewards vary in how much they’re worth depending on how you choose to redeem them. For example, you could potentially double their value by turning them into Hilton Honors loyalty points versus using them to shop at Yeti — and those are just two out of hundreds of options.

Here’s how to get the most out of your American Express Membership Rewards.

» MORE:NerdWallet's best American Express cards 

» MORE: American Express mobile app review

In this article

American Express Membership Rewards: The basics

Earning points: Many American Express cards earn Membership Rewards points with each purchase. Cards that earn points include AmEx's signature Green, Gold and Platinum cards.

You'll earn at least 1 point per dollar spent with your card. Depending on the card, you may earn extra points for spending in specific categories, such as 3 points per dollar at restaurants or 5 points per dollar on certain travel purchases. (Jump ahead to cards that earn Membership Rewards points.) Additional points can be earned through bonus offers for new cardholders, targeted "Amex Offers" that give you bonus points for shopping with specific merchants, or other incentives.

Nerdy tip: Not all American Express rewards cards earn Membership Rewards. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express and the American Express Cash Magnet® Card earn cash back in the form of Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed as a statement credit. And if you have a card issued by American Express with a hotel or airline partner — such as Delta or Hilton — you'll earn points or miles in that partner's loyalty program instead.

Using points: Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for things like:

  • Travel.

  • Point transfers to partners, including airlines and hotels.

  • Gift cards.

  • Statement credits.

  • Shopping.

  • Donations to charity.

You can view all of your options by logging into the American Express Membership Rewards website.

» MORE:Which American Express card is right for you?

How much are American Express Membership Rewards points worth?

You have a lot of options when it comes to redeeming your Membership Rewards points — and the value you get per point varies depending on how you use them. You can also look up the values for different options based on your card using a tool on the American Express Membership Rewards website. Here are ways to redeem:

Book travel via the AmEx portal or Expedia

You can use Membership Rewards points to book travel directly through American Express via the AmEx Travel site, where you can find flights, hotels and vacation packages. You can also use points to book directly through Expedia at checkout. Either way, the value of points ranges between 0.7 and 1 cent each in these cases.

Transfer points to travel partners

AmEx has multiple transfer partners — more than any other major U.S. card loyalty program — and you can transfer your points directly to those partners' loyalty programs. The transfer rate varies by partner, but in most cases, it's 1-to-1, meaning that when you transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards points, you get 1,000 points in the partner program.

One thing to keep in mind: When transferring Membership Rewards points to U.S. airlines, you'll owe a fee of 0.06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99. For a 1,000-point transfer, that comes out to 60 cents.

Airlines:

  • Aer Lingus.

  • AeroMexico.

  • Air Canada.

  • Air France/ KLM.

  • Alitalia.

  • ANA.

  • Avianca.

  • British Airways.

  • Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles).

  • Delta Air Lines.

  • Emirates.

  • Etihad Airways.

  • Hawaiian Airlines.

  • Iberia Plus.

  • JetBlue Airways.

  • Qantas.

  • Singapore Airlines.

  • Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Hotels:

  • Choice Hotels.

  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts.

For details on transfer ratios, see AmEx's website.

The exact value you ultimately get per point depends on which program you transfer to and how you redeem the points within that program, but NerdWallet estimates the overall transfer value at 2 cents per point.

Use points to upgrade your seat

The Upgrade with Points feature, available via the Membership Rewards portal, allows you to bid on seat upgrades with your points at over 20 participating airlines. It’s a convenient option when you fear you may be cramped into a long flight. Still, be aware that your points can lose value as your bid escalates. Membership Rewards are worth at least 1 cent per point, depending on how you redeem them. If you’re not getting the equivalent amount on your bid, it may not be the best use of your rewards.

Cover your card charges

You can redeem your Membership Rewards points for a statement credit, which is essentially a cash-back option. Points are generally worth 0.6 cent apiece when used in this way.

Shop with points via the American Express site

Cardholders can get discounts and shop with points at retailers from Sephora to Tumi, with the point value varying by store. At Yeti, for example, points are worth about 0.5 cent each. Cardholders can also shop for unique experiences, like VIP treatment at the Met Museum in New York, a $300 value that costs 60,000 points, for a value of 0.5 cent each.

Use points toward online purchases elsewhere

When you’re shopping online at retailers including Walmart and Amazon, you can use your points to pay at checkout. You may have to sign into the retailer's account, enter your card number or otherwise follow the prompts to pull up your point balance. Each point is typically worth 0.7 cent when used in this way, with some variance.

Redeem for gift cards

You can redeem your points for gift cards through the AmEx site at several dozens of retailers, from Home Depot to iTunes, and the point value varies by retailer. At Target, a $25 gift card costs 3,572 points, making each point worth about 0.7 cents. At Tiffany, a $250 gift card costs 25,000 points, making each point worth 1 cent.

Donate to charity

After selecting a cause through the JustGiving website, you can make a donation using points. Points are generally worth 0.7 cents when used in this way.

» HOW THEY STACK UP: See how American Express Membership Rewards points compare with other issuer programs on our points and miles valuations page. Or:

Cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points

More than a dozen American Express cards earn Membership Rewards; here are some of the most popular, including some with no annual fee:

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

  • Earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.

  • Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.

Terms apply — see rates and fees.

» READ OUR REVIEW of the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

American Express® Green Card

  • Earn 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on all eligible travel and transit purchases.

  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide.

  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.

Terms apply — see rates and fees.

» READ OUR REVIEW of the American Express® Green Card

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Credit Card
NerdWallet ratingNerdWallet's ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula takes into account the type of card being reviewed (such as cash back, travel or balance transfer) and the card's rates, fees, rewards and other features.

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American Express® Gold Card

  • Earn 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants.

  • Earn 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in spending each year, then 1 point back).

  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines and American Express Travel.

  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.

Terms apply — see rates and fees.

» READ OUR REVIEW of the American Express® Gold Card

American Express Platinum Credit Card
NerdWallet ratingNerdWallet's ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula takes into account the type of card being reviewed (such as cash back, travel or balance transfer) and the card's rates, fees, rewards and other features.

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 5 Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.

  • Earn 5 points on prepaid hotels booked on American Express Travel.

  • Earn 1 point on all other eligible purchases.

Terms apply —see rates and fees.

» READ OUR REVIEW of the The Platinum Card® from American Express

American Express Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN Credit Card
NerdWallet ratingNerdWallet's ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula takes into account the type of card being reviewed (such as cash back, travel or balance transfer) and the card's rates, fees, rewards and other features.

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American Express® Business Gold Card

Earn 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent in two categories (from the following six) where you spend the most each billing cycle (up to the first $150,000 in combined purchases per year; then 1 point back):

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines.

  • U.S. purchases at restaurants.

  • U.S. purchases at gas stations.

  • U.S. purchases for shipping.

  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV, radio).

  • U.S. purchases made directly from select technology providers of computer hardware, software and cloud solutions.

Other spending earns 1 point per dollar spent. Terms apply — see rates and fees.

» READ OUR REVIEW of the American Express® Business Gold Card

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN Credit Card
NerdWallet ratingNerdWallet's ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula takes into account the type of card being reviewed (such as cash back, travel or balance transfer) and the card's rates, fees, rewards and other features.

Learn More

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on eligible flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express.

  • Earn 1.5 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases in key business categories such as software, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more. Cap applies.

  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Terms apply — see rates and fees.

» READ OUR REVIEW of the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Other AmEx cards that earn Membership Rewards points include:

Other ways to earn American Express Membership Rewards points

AmEx doesn’t have a traditional online “bonus mall,” but you can enroll in individual “AmEx Offers” when you log in to your account, either online or via the American Express app. By adding these offers to your card, you'll earn extra Membership Rewards points for a limited time when you use the card at the featured retailer.

You can also earn additional Membership Rewards through the following partners:

  • Rakuten is a cash-back shopping website, but users can opt to earn Membership Rewards points instead of cash. (You need an eligible American Express card first, as well as a minimum of 500 points for a transfer.)

  • Terms apply.

» MORE:Lesser-known ways to snag American Express Membership Rewards

The fine print

Membership Rewards points don’t expire, and there's no cap on the amount you can earn.

» MORE:American Express card benefits you may not know you have

Frequently asked questions

American Express Membership Rewards is a points system. You earn at least 1 point for every dollar you spend with selected American Express cards. Most of those cards also earn extra points on purchases in specific categories, such as travel or restaurants. Not all AmEx cards earn Membership Rewards, however. The issuer has several cards that pay rewards in cash back rather than points.

Options for using points include booking travel, redeeming for statement credit or gift cards or transferring them to partner airline or hotel loyalty programs. How much a point is worth depends on how you use it, but you should be able to get at least 1 cent of value per point.

You redeem your Membership Rewards points by logging into your rewards account online. Redemption options include booking travel, transferring points to airline and hotel partners and redeeming for statement credit, gift cards or merchandise. The value you get per point depends on what you redeem your points for.

You should aim to get at least 1 cent of value per point, so you can think of 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as being worth about $500. However, the exact value of a point varies according to how you redeem it. Using points for travel generally has a higher value than redeeming them for statement credit or gift cards.

American Express Membership Rewards points do not expire as long as your account is open.

Many American Express cards earn Membership Rewards points, but several do not.

Cash back cards such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express earn rewards that you can use as a credit on your statement.

AmEx cards issued with an airline or hotel partner, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Card, earn points or miles in the partner's loyalty program.

Play your credit cards right

Link your cards to identify top spending categories and see which one rewards you most for purchases.

All information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is no longer available through NerdWallet. see rates and fees see rates and fees see rates and fees

To view rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, see this page.To view rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

All information about the American Express Cash Magnet® Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The American Express Cash Magnet® Card is no longer available through NerdWallet. To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, see this page.To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, see this page.

Sours: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/credit-cards/american-express-membership-rewards-review

This Amex cardmember is sitting on 11 million points: Here’s 6 fun ways to redeem them

Many travelers save up transferrable credit card rewards to redeem them for an epic trip. And, many of us are sitting on a stash that only continues to grow as we’ve halted or slowed travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

For example, TPG Senior Editor Nick Ewen is sitting on over 2.1 million points and miles. And although TPG Executive Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz recently burned 322,121 Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the issuer’s Pay Yourself Back program, he still has over four million points and miles saved up and ready to go when the time is right.

But, one small business owner took points and miles hoarding to an entirely different level. A few days ago, a Twitter user posted a screenshot of a friend’s American Express Membership Rewards account with 11,207,702 points.

A friend just sent me this. This is hoarding and I have an attitude that I don’t have the willpower to not spend mine. I would go thru this 11 mill like a wrecking ball. pic.twitter.com/crzGgmQLuS

— Isaac Payes (@AyeshaSelden) February 9, 2021

TPG values Amex Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each. So, based on TPG’s valuations, this individual is sitting on about $224,154 worth of points. However, depending on how this small business owner eventually redeems these points, they could have a much higher or lower value.

I didn’t personally confirm the validity of this screenshot. But, the validity isn’t all that important for the purposes of this article. After all, I thought it would be fun to consider how different people would redeem over 11 million Amex points. But first, let’s discuss why you generally don’t want to hoard points and miles.

Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.

In This Post

The risk of hoarding points and miles

Woman holding wallet on street

There are times when hoarding your points and miles could make sense. But, after seeing various loyalty programs shut down accounts and devalue awards, hoarding points and miles is becoming riskier than ever. And to make matters worse, we’ll likely continue to see devaluations once we get past the current phase of the pandemic and into the next year or two.

Granted, hoarding transferrable rewards such as American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards isn’t quite as bad as hoarding airline miles or hotel points. After all, the value of your airline miles or hotel points could get slashed in half (or worse) overnight with one program’s changes. But, you’ll still likely have some good redemption options with transferrable rewards even if one program removes partners or some partners devalue their awards.

Even so, the value of your points and miles will almost certainly decrease over time. In short, points and miles are a terrible long-term investment so don’t sit on them for years.

Related: Coronavirus devaluations will hurt airlines long-term — here’s why

More than 100 business or first class awards

The immediate response by several people in the points and miles community considered just how many business or first class award flights you could get with 11 million Amex Membership Rewards points. For example, TPG Points and Miles Editor Ariana Arghandewal tweeted, “This is not ok. You could book 100+ international J/F awards with these points.” And TPG Director of Travel Content Summer Hull noted you could book “125 RT business class awards to Europe via ANA” with this stockpile of miles.

Indeed, you could actually book well over 100 round-trip business-class award to Europe. After all, you can book a round-trip business-class award to Europe for just 88,000 ANA miles. And ANA Mileage Club is a 1-to-1 transfer partner of the Amex Membership Rewards program. Best of all, ANA allows a stopover and open-jaw. However, the taxes and fees on your award will vary depending on the route and operating carrier — so be sure to price out a few options before you book.

Likewise, you could transfer Membership Rewards points to other partners and book business- and first-class awards. For example, there’s immense value to be found in transferring Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest, Singapore KrisFlyer, Virgin Atlantic and Iberia Plus and then using your transferred miles to book premium cabin awards.

Related: Here are 7 of our favorite ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points

14 nights in the Conrad Bora Bora Nui’s presidential overwater villa

Conrad Bora Bora Nui

When discussing how to spend over 11 million American Express Membership Rewards points, TPG’s Summer Hull also mentioned the Conrad Bora Bora Nui‘s 3,229 square foot presidential overwater villa. This multi-level villa sleeps up to six guests and features two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a sauna, an infinite pool and a personal butler.

At 1,534,000 Hilton Honors points per night, this presidential overwater villa is generally out of reach for most award travelers. And since the presidential overwater villa is a premium room reward, you can’t even get a fifth night free as an elite when you pay with points.

However, you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards to Hilton Honors at a 1:2 ratio. So, if you transferred 10,738,000 Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors, you’d get 21,476,000 Hilton points. And, you could redeem 21,476,000 Hilton Honors points for 14 nights in the Conrad Bora Bora Nui’s presidential overwater villa. To put this in perspective, you’d need to pay $85,360 for this 14-night stay on random dates I selected.

Related: Maldives vs. Bora Bora: Which remote island chain should you visit?

Up to 700 nights at an all-inclusive resort

Emotions Playa Dorado pool

When I decided to write this article, I initially thought of when my husband JT and I spent a month at an all-inclusive resort using Choice Privileges points. Although we only paid 8,000 Choice Privileges points per night to stay at the Emotions All Inclusive Puerto Plata during hurricane season, the price has since skyrocketed to 30,000 Choice Privileges points per night. Even so, at 30,000 points per night and a 1:1 transfer ratio when transferring Amex points to Choice Privileges, you’d be able to spend 373 nights.

However, Hilton Honors also has several all-inclusive properties. And, as discussed above, you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors at a 1:2 ratio. Plus, you can get every fifth night free (up to four per stay) when you’re a Hilton Honors elite and book a standard room reward using points. Assuming you stay in 20-night increments at the all-inclusive Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort when standard room rewards are 40,000 points per night, you could get up to 35 20-night stays (which equates to 700 nights).

Related: 13 mistakes to avoid at all-inclusive resorts

Up to 2,800 nights at Hilton hotels

My preference is typically to stretch my points for as many nights as possible. Although, if I had over 11 million Amex Membership Rewards points, I’d likely splurge. But, I thought it would be fun to consider how many nights you could get at Hilton properties like the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang that cost 10,000-points per night for a standard reward. However, since you can only get up to four free nights per stay thanks to the fifth-night free benefit offered to Hilton Honors elites, I’ll assume you’ll stay in 20-night increments.

You can transfer 11,207,700 Amex Membership Rewards points to 22,415,400 Hilton Honors points thanks to the 1:2 transfer ratio. Each 20-night stay would cost 160,000 points, assuming all nights of the 20-night stay price at 10,000 points per night and you have Hilton Honors Silver status or higher. So, you could get up to 140 20-night stays from 22,400,000 Hilton Honors points, which equates to up to 2,800 nights. That’s over seven years’ worth of stays — though of course, you can’t actually book out that far.

Related: Visit these top Hilton properties overseas for 10k points or less

Redeem for gift cards

TPG Executive Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz said he would “redeem them for $25 Olive Garden gift cards that I would hand out to everybody in Times Square.” He was likely joking, but you can redeem Amex Membership Rewards for Olive Garden gift cards at a rate of one cent per point. As such, 11,207,702 Membership Rewards points could get you 4,483 physical $25 Olive Garden gift cards that together total over $112k worth of all you can eat soup, pasta and breadsticks.

Of course, there are many other types of gift cards available. One Twitter user responded to the original thread, “That’s a lot of Home Depot gift cards.” Indeed, it would be a lot of Home Depot gift cards, which are also available at a rate of one cent per point. Assuming you went for $1,000 gift cards, you could get 112 $1,000 gift cards, which would be worth $112,000 total.

However, these redemptions are purely theoretical. It’s unclear whether Amex has a cap on how many gift cards you can redeem points for within a specific time. Plus, not all gift cards are available at a rate of one cent per point (some give as low as 0.5 cents per point). Carefully consider your redemption rate and whether gift cards are how you want to use your Membership Rewards points before you redeem.

Related: Exchange your unwanted gift cards for Hotels.com gift cards and more

Cash-out your points

Mixed race woman paying bills on laptop

You can generally redeem American Express Membership Rewards points to cover your card charges at a rate of 0.6 cents per point. At this rate, 11,207,702 Membership Rewards points could cover $67,246 of card charges. But, some cardmembers can cash out at a better rate.

Specifically, if you have The American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab and opt to invest your rewards, you can redeem points to your linked Schwab brokerage account at a rate of 1.25 cents each. At this rate, 11,207,702 Membership Rewards points could become an investment of $140,096 with Schwab.

The information for the American Express Platinum Card for Schwab has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: How to cash out points with the Amex Platinum for Schwab, and why you might want to

Bottom line

Small-business spending on cards like The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express can quickly generate many points. It’s unclear how long it took this individual with over 11 million Amex Membership Rewards points to rack them up. But, his or her substantial point balance is a good reminder for the rest of us to use our points and miles once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. After all, points and miles usually only go down in value and there’s plenty of ways to put them to great use.

Featured image of the Conrad Bora Bora Nui by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

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Katie Genter is a location independent digital nomad who has traveled full-time since June 2017. Her focus at TPG is points, miles, loyalty and credit cards.
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Point extravaganza: How to redeem 1 million Amex Membership Rewards

Over the past year and a half, many TPG readers have been saving up their points for a post-pandemic blowout. Others have just accrued them with no redemption goal in mind. But what happens if you find yourself with over a million points and no idea what to do with them?

We’ve shared our tips on how to redeem 1 million Marriott points and now we’re tackling Amex Membership Rewards. Here’s how TPG’s Points and Miles team would put 1 million Membership Rewards points to good use.

New to the points and miles game? Sign up for our daily newsletter and check out our beginner’s guide for a crash course.

In This Post

Andrew Kunesh, senior reporter

American Express Membership Rewards points have long been my favorite transferable points currency. I find that they have some of the most flexible transfer partners, and I’ve gotten tens of thousands of dollars in value from Amex redemptions in the past, redeeming for things like Lufthansa first-class tickets to Europe.

If I was tasked with spending 1 million Amex points, I’d plan a round-the-world trip with ANA Mileage Club for my girlfriend and me. I developed an itinerary that would let us revisit some old favorites, and see a couple of new cities at the same time. The ideal itinerary would look like this, all in business class:

My ANA round-the-world itinerary
  • New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) — United Airlines, layover.
  • Los Angeles to Sydney (SYD) — United Airlines, stopover.
  • Sydney to Tokyo Haneda (HND) — ANA, stopover.
  • Tokyo to Hong Kong (HKG) — ANA, stopover.
  • Hong Kong to Bangkok (BKK) — Thai Airways, stopover.
  • Bangkok to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD) — Ethiopian Airlines, stopover.
  • Addis Ababa to Istanbul (IST) — Turkish Airlines, stopover.
  • Istanbul to Prague (PRG) — Turkish Airlines, stopover.
  • Prague to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) — Lufthansa, layover.
  • Frankfurt to London Heathrow (LHR) — Lufthansa, stopover.
  • London to Newark (EWR) — United Airlines, home.

The whole itinerary clocks in at 29,218 miles, so it costs 200,000 Amex points (transferred to ANA Mileage Club) per person. This would take 400,000 points out of the 1 million, leaving me with 600,000 to spare.

While I don’t normally advocate for transferring Amex points to hotels, it can sometimes make sense when there’s a transfer bonus. For example, at the time of writing this, Amex is offering a 40% transfer bonus to Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors.

Amex points transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio, or 1:2.8 with the 40% transfer bonus. I’d use this to book high-end Hilton properties with points.

These are the hotels I’d book, alongside the price I’d pay for three nights in December:

  • Hilton Sydney: 45,000 Amex points, equal to 126,000 Hilton points.
  • Conrad Tokyo: 102,000 Amex points, equal to 285,600 Hilton points.
  • Conrad Hong Kong: 78,000 Amex points, equal to 218,400 Hilton points.
  • Conrad Bangkok: 26,000 Amex points, equal to 72,800 Hilton points.
  • Hilton Addis Ababa: 43,000 Amex points, equal to 120,400 Hilton points.
  • Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus: 49,000 Amex points, equal to 137,200 Hilton points.
  • Hilton Prague Old Town: 44,000 Amex points, equal to 123,200 Hilton points.
  • The Waldorf Hilton, London: 86,000 Amex points, equal to 240,800 Hilton points.

So, it would cost a grand total of 873,000 Amex points for two people to go on a round-the-world business class adventure in business class plus four- and five-star hotel stays.

I’d use the remaining 127,000 Amex points to plan a handful of domestic trips by transferring points to British Airways Avios and Avianca LifeMiles.

Related: You can book an around-the-world award ticket for just 75,000 miles — here’s how

Ariana Arghandewal, editor

With a million Membership Rewards points, I would take advantage of sweet spots like ANA’s 88,00-mile business-class ticket to Europe or 75,000-mile award to Asia. A trip to Japan is on my bucket list and I’d love to plan out a three-week itinerary to see as much of the country as I can. I recently got The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and plan on redeeming my points this way, once travel to Japan becomes possible again.

If I had 900,000 points to spare after that, I would go all out: I’d transfer 220,000 points to Aeromexico Club Premier for an around-the-world ticket in business class. I’d bring along my younger sister, who graduated from college during the pandemic and hasn’t had a graduation party or a vacation to celebrate yet.

I have this fantasy of throwing a dart at a map and flying to wherever it sticks. I imagine we’d use that approach to piece together our itinerary.

With the rest of my points, I’d ask my parents to pick a spot on the map and book their flights for them. My dad has family in Europe and Australia that he hasn’t seen in almost three years. The best way to book this reunion tour would probably be with an around-the-world ticket, for which I’d have plenty of points left over.

Benji Stawski, strategic travel reporter

First things first: Unlike winning the lottery, if I had a million American Express Membership Rewards points, I’d try to redeem them right away. History has shown us that points and miles are a bad long-term investment. Although transferable points such as Membership Rewards are slightly more insulated, loyalty programs can devalue their rewards at any moment so you don’t want to hoard points.

Like my colleagues, I’d use my points to book a round-the-world adventure — all in style, of course.

There are a few different options for booking round-the-world tickets with Amex points. Since I’m a Oneworld flyer, I’m going to book my trip with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, a 1:1 transfer partner. The program offers a quasi-around-the-world award option called “Oneworld multi-carrier awards,” which allow you to fly up to 50,000 miles for 345,000 miles all in first class. However, in reality, I’ll likely fly a bit less than that. My ideal itinerary would look like this:

  • New York-JFK to London Heathrow (LHR) – British Airways first class.
  • London to Hong Kong (HKG) – Cathay Pacific first class.
  • Hong Kong to Tokyo (HND) – Cathay Pacific first class.
  • Tokyo to Sydney (SYD) – Japan Airlines business class (first class not available on this route).
  • Sydney to Los Angeles (LAX) – Qantas first class (assuming Qantas brings its A380s back into service, otherwise American Airlines first class).
  • Los Angeles to New York-JFK – American Airlines Flagship first class.

Related: 8 amazing first-class seats you can still book with points and miles

Benji round-the-world itinerary

This itinerary would clock in at just under 23,000 miles so the cost would be 280,000 miles, plus taxes, fees and fuel surcharges. Although one of the segments will be in business class, all segments will be charged like first class. The cash price of all of these flights could easily exceed $25,000 altogether so I’ll be getting terrific value for my points.

Cathay Pacific First Class

I’ll then have 720,000 points remaining, which I’ll use mostly toward booking hotel stays. We usually don’t recommend transferring Amex points to hotels since you typically don’t get as much value out of them, but it can sometimes make sense when there’s a transfer bonus.

For instance, at the time of writing this, there’s a 40% bonus for transferring to Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. Plus, I plan to stretch the value of my points by taking advantage of Marriott Bonvoy’s and Hilton Honors’ fifth-night free benefits on award stays.

Here are some hotels I’d like to stay at during my trip. Like my flights, I’ll aim to stick to luxurious accommodations. As a quick refresher, Amex points normally transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio and Marriott and Choice Privileges at a 1:1 ratio.

  • The Biltmore Mayfair London, LXR Hotels & Resorts: 95,000 Hilton points per night (34,000 Amex points including 40% bonus).
  • The St. Regis Hong Kong: 70,000-100,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points per night (50,000-72,000 Amex points including 40% bonus).
  • Conrad Tokyo: 95,000 Hilton points per night (34,000 Amex points including 40% bonus).
  • West Hotel Sydney, Curio Collection by Hilton: 36,000 Hilton points per night (13,000 Amex points including 40% bonus).
  • Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills: 95,000 Hilton points per night (34,000 Amex points including 40% bonus).

Related: How to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points for hotels

St. Regis Hong Kong

Assuming I book four nights at each hotel (and get a fifth night free at each one), my total cost for my accommodations would come out to around 660,000 points. Will I be getting as good of value from my points as my round-the-world flight? Probably not, but considering I’ll essentially be living out of some of the world’s top five-star hotels for nearly a month, I’d still consider this a pretty solid redemption.

This would leave me with about 60,000 points remaining. I’ll likely save these as a safety net for any last-minute emergency trips. These points should cover at least one round-trip domestic business-class trip.

Related: How to maximize longer hotel stays by using a free night benefit

Katie Genter, senior writer

Larger king room at Protea Hotel Kruger Gate

Like others on the Points and Miles team, I planned out a multidestination trip. But I took a slightly different approach. Instead of considering a traditional around-the-world ticket, I’d utilize various Membership Rewards transfer partners as follows:

  • 50,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points (50,000 Amex points) plus $5.60 per person to fly Delta One nonstop from Atlanta (ATL) to Venice, Italy (VCE).
  • 52,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles (52,000 Amex points) plus $57.32 per person to fly in business class on TAP Portugal from Venice to Cape Town (CPT) via Lisbon (LIS).
  • 27,730 Amex points per person to book South African Airlink in economy class from Cape Town to Skukuza, South Africa (SZK), through Amex Travel.
  • 14,930 Amex points per person to book South African Airlink in economy class from Skukuza to Johannesburg (JNB) through Amex Travel.
  • 7,750 British Airways Avios (8,000 Amex points) plus $63.83 per person to fly British Airways (operated by Comair) in business class off-peak from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (VFA).
  • 35,000 Avianca LifeMiles (35,000 Amex points) plus $51.70 per person to fly Ethiopian Airlines in business class from Victoria Falls to Cairo (CAI) via Gaborone, Botswana (GBE), and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD).
  • 25,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (25,000 Amex points) plus $88.20 per person to fly Qatar business class from Cairo to Dubai (DXB) via Doha, Qatar (DOH), including a long stay in the Al Mourjan lounge in Doha.
  • 76,500 Singapore KrisFlyer miles (77,000 Amex points) plus $288.58 to fly Turkish Airlines in business class from Dubai to Atlanta via Istanbul (IST).
Katie's dream trip using one million Amex points

And, here’s how I’d use the rest of the 1 million American Express Membership Rewards points to book hotels for my trip. I’d stay in five-night increments at Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy hotels to maximize the fifth night free perk on awards that both programs provide:

  • Hotel Aquarius Venice, Ascend Hotel Collection: 48,000 Choice Privileges points (48,000 Amex points) for a three-night stay (award pricing valid through Nov. 30).
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cape Town Upper Eastside: 60,000 to 80,000 Hilton Honors points (30,000 to 40,000 Amex points) for a five-night stay.
  • Protea Hotel Kruger Gate: 80,000 to 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (80,000 to 120,000 Amex points) for a 10-night stay.
  • Hilton Sandton: 84,000 to 88,000 Hilton points (42,000 to 44,000 Amex points) for a five-night stay.
  • Protea Hotel Livingstone: 40,000 to 60,000 Marriott points (40,000 to 60,000 Amex points) for a five-night stay.
  • Conrad Cairo: 76,000 to 120,000 Hilton points (38,000 to 60,000 Amex points) for a five-night stay.
  • Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai: 280,000 to 400,000 Marriott points (280,000 to 400,000 Amex points) for a five-night stay
  • Conrad Dubai: 132,000 to 280,000 Hilton points (66,000 to 140,000 Amex points) for a five-night stay.

Hilton hotels use dynamic pricing and Marriott hotels have peak, standard and off-peak pricing. So, the total cost of this trip would range from 913,660 to 1,201,660 points. Of course, I’d also have rental car expenses in some destinations and Uber or taxi expenses in the other destinations. But frankly, I’m surprised how much I could plan with 1 million American Express Membership Rewards points.

Related: 14 cities where you can book luxury hotels at budget prices

Ryan Patterson, contributing writer

American Express Membership Rewards points are some of the most valuable points out there, according to TPG valuations. I would take advantage of transfer partners and move points around for not just one trip, but a few big trips.

If I were tasked to spend 1.5 million American Express Membership Rewards points, I think I would have to take my parents on a bucket list adventure to the Maldives. They have done so much to show me the world, and I feel like I have to return the favor at some point. Here is what I would plan out.

To start off my spending spree, I would go ahead and transfer 360,000 Membership Rewards points to Emirates Skywards for a round-trip ticket in the game-changer Emirates first-class suite with a stop in Dubai. While it is a ton of points to dish out, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For my parents, they would rather travel together. And since travel is a little bit harder for them than it is for me, I would rather send them in business class in the incredible Qatar Qsuite. Two award tickets together in business class is not nearly as hard to come by so I would transfer 280,000 points to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for two round-trip tickets.

After meeting them in the Maldives, I would definitely hope to treat them to an overwater bungalow experience. I think after seeing Brian Kelly’s amazing stay at the Waldorf Astoria I am sold on a redemption at the flagship Hilton property. I receive an annual free night certificate at any Hilton property thanks to my Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card so I would take advantage of that as well as a fifth night free.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

For a seven-day redemption I would transfer 240,000 points to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio, topping off my Hilton Honors account at 480,000 points. Hilton currently requires 120,000 points for one night in an overwater bungalow but they have said they will begin charging 150,000 points per night in the near future.

I would certainly take advantage of my Hilton Diamond status during my stay to earn free breakfast and a space-available upgrade as well.

With this, I would have only spent 880,000 Membership Rewards points plus the money necessary for transfer to and from Male International Airport (MLE). Unfortunately, while there are ways to minimize the out-of-pocket expense, there is currently no way to use points for airport transfers.

With the rest of nearly 700,000 points, I will definitely be trying out Lufthansa first class for 70,000 Avianca LifeMiles, domestic awards on British Airways starting at 7,500 points one way in economy, and maybe even cross paths with Andrew Kunesh on an ANA Mileage Club round-the-world ticket.

How to earn 1 million Membership Rewards points

While earning 1 million Membership Rewards points requires a lot of spending, you can get there much faster with credit card category and welcome bonuses. While it may be tempting to apply for all of the high welcome bonuses at once, keep in mind that Amex does limit the number of cards you can have at once.

As of May 2020, you can only be approved for four personal or business Amex credit cards, and up to 10 formerly known as charge cards. Amex also restricts each card’s welcome bonus to one per lifetime. So if you’ve previously received an Amex Platinum welcome bonus, for example, you won’t be eligible for another one.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 points after you spend $6,000 in the first six months of card membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you “Shop Small” in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined eligible purchases, during your first six months of card membership.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 120,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership.
  • American Express® Business Gold Card: Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership.
  • The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express: Earn 10,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express: Earn 15,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening.

The information for the Amex EveryDay and Amex EveryDay Preferred cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Featured photo by Ryan Petterson/The Points Guy.

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Katie Genter is a location independent digital nomad who has traveled full-time since June 2017. Her focus at TPG is points, miles, loyalty and credit cards.
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