The American Express Membership Rewards program is the best bank travel rewards program in Canada. The program shines since it’s flexible and valuable. What many people don’t realize is that with Amex Membership Rewards, you can earn large amounts of points in a short period of time which never expire as long as you have an active American Express card which gives. Keep reading now to find out how the American Express Membership Rewards program works and why you should seriously joining
Earning Amex Membership Rewards in Canada
Earning points on spending is simple, each dollar from purchases put on a credit card will earn MR points. You earn a minimum of 1 MR per $1 spent with all Amex credit cards, but the Platinum card gives 1.25 MR per $1 spent. Some cards even offer bonus categories where you earn 2 MR or even 5 MR per $1 spent. In addition, you can earn points by referring a friend or from American Express promotions.
The three most popular cards where you earn American Express Membership Rewards are American Express Gold and Platinum cards (both personal and business versions) and the Cobalt card.
Using Membership Rewards
There are many ways to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points which is why the program is so popular. Once you know how the redemption system works, you can decide how to use your points to get the most value out of them.
Statement credit for travel expenses – Your MR can be used to offset or reduce any travel expenses on your credit card statement. 1,000MR would give you $10 if it’s against travel relates expenses such as flights, hotel rooms or car rentals. This is a great way to use MR points since it would give you a 1cpp (cent per point) value.
American Express Fixed Points Travel Program – You can use MR to book any flights at any time with the Amex Fixed Points Travel Program which allows you to use your points to offset the base cost of the flight with a better value than using statement credit. For example, you can book a flight to Hawaii would cost you just 50,000 MR as long as the base fare is not more than $800. 50,000 MR points are worth $500 so if your base fare falls between $501-800, you come out ahead using the American Express Fixed Points Travel Program as opposed to claiming a statement credit for the same amount.
Statement credit – You can use American Express Membership Rewards to offset or reduce any expense on your credit card statement not related to travel. 1,000 MR would give you $7. While this option can be practical and easy to use, I don’t recommend it as it’s one of the least valuable options.
Merchandise and gift cards – Similar to almost all loyalty programs, Amex has a catalogue from which you can redeem your points in exchange or merchandise or gift cards. I don’t recommend this option at all since you usually get very poor value for your points.
Converting Membership Rewards to Frequent Travel Participants
The ability to convert your points to several other loyalty programs is what distinguishes American Express Membership Rewards and makes it the best rewards program in Canada. Once your points are converted into another loyalty program, you can’t transfer them back into MR. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s best to keep your points as Membership Rewards until you have a precise and available redemption you need to book before transferring any points.
Converting to Aeroplan – A very popular option for Canadians is to convert Amex Membership Rewards into Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. The Aeroplan redemption chart is based on regions and allows you to redeem your points on nearly 30 different airlines from Star Alliance including Air Canada, United, Lufthansa, Swiss, Air China, Air Nippon, EVA, and more. Here are a few examples of how you can maximize your Aeroplan points:
- 7,500 Aeroplan points can be redeemed for one-way short-haul flights e.g. Toronto – Chicago
- 12,500 points can be redeemed for a one-way flight anywhere in Canada and the USA (except Hawaii) such as Vancouver – Halifax or Toronto – Los Angeles.
- 25,000 points get you a one-way flight in North America in business class
- 30,000 points are good for a one-way flight to Europe
- 45,000 points are enough for a one-way flight to Australia or anywhere in Asia
- 165,000 points can be redeemed for a round-the-world trip in business class
Converting to Avios – Amex also offers to convert 1:1 MR to Avios. Avios is the currency of British Airways and can be used to redeem British Airways flights and other One World airlines and partners including American Airlines, Alaska Airline, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Emirates, etc. While the Aeroplan chart is based on regions, Avios is based on distance flown. Here are some examples:
- 4,500 Avios – Flights under 650 miles like Melbourne-Sydney (This can’t be redeemed in North America as the minimum is 7,500 Avios per flight)
- 7,500 Avios – short-hauls (between 651 and 1,151 miles) such as Toronto- New York or Buenos Aires- Sao Paulo
- 12,500 Avios (37,500 in business class) – flights less than 3,000 miles. That includes Seattle to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines or Montreal-Dublin on Aer Lingus
- 30,000 Avios (19,500 off-peak) – Vancouver – Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific
Note that American Express sometimes offer transfer bonus to Avios up to 30% bonus so 1,000 MR can be converted to 1,300 Avios during such a promotion.
Additional airline transfer partners
Amex MR can also be converted to Delta SkyMiles, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad miles and Alitalia MilleMiglia at a ratio of 1,000MR = 750 miles. The transfer ratio is lower when compared to Aeroplan or Avios, but this could be practical if you need a top-up of points in any of these programs to make a redemption. Delta, in particular, can be a good option as they serve many Canadian cities.
Converting to Marriott Bonvoy
With 29 brands and over 6,500 hotels on all continents Marriott is the largest hotel chain in the world which is why their loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy is incredibly valuable.
You can convert 1,000 Amex MR into 1,200 Marriott points which is a decent value. Best of all, American Express Platinum cardholders get Gold Elite status which gives you access to room upgrades and late checkout.
Marriott Rewards points can be booked at all Marriott brands (Marriott, JW, Courtyard, Autograph Collection, Residence Inn, etc.) as well as Ritz Carlton and Starwood brands (Sheraton, Westin, W, Four Points, etc.). There is simply no other hotel loyalty program that gives you access to more properties.
The best cards to earn American Express Membership Rewards
There are multiple cards that earn you American Express Membership Rewards, but the three I’ve featured below also rank on my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada. All of the cards have unique features, so make sure you read my full review of each card before you apply.
Here are the best personal cards that earns American Express Membership Rewards:
American Express Personal Platinum Card (see full review here)
- $699 annual fee
- 25,000 Membership Rewards points sign up bonus
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- $200 Annual travel credit
- Unlimited airport lounge access
- Special benefits at Toronto Pearson International Airport
- Hotel status upgrades
- Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits
- Exclusive dining experiences with the Global Dining Collection
- Comprehensive travel insurance package
- Buyer’s assurance
- Purchase protection
American Express Gold Rewards Card (see full review here)
- $150 Annual fee
- 25,000 Signup points after charging $1,500 in purchases (30,000 when using a referral link and adding an authorized user)
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on grocery, gas, pharmacy, and travel
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Comprehensive travel insurance package included
American Express Cobalt Card (see full review here)
- $10 Monthly fee ($120 Annually)
- 2,500 monthly welcome points (30,000 total) after charging $500 in purchases
- Earn 5 points per $1 spent on food (grocery, restaurants, bars, food delivery, etc)
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel (includes public transportation and taxis/Uber)
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Note that MR-select points earned with the Cobalt card can’t be converted into airline miles