**This post may contain affiliate links. I may be compensated if you use them.

In my opinion, the American Express Membership Rewards program is the best bank travel rewards program in Canada. They’re highly flexible and the points are valuable. While it’s true that not every merchant accepts American Express, you shouldn’t let that deter you from earning points.

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. These points never expire as long as you have an active American Express card. Keep reading now to find out how to maximize your American Express Membership Rewards points.

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express points value

How much your American Express Membership Rewards points are worth depends on what you use them for. Most people will use their points for a statement credit when booking travel expenses. In this scenario, it takes 1,000 MR points to claim $10 in travel. That would give your points a value of 1 cent each. This is without a doubt the easiest way to use your points since you can redeem them for any type of travel expense.

Redemption typeRedemption value
Travel1 cent per point
Fixed points travelUp to 2 cents per point
Gift cards.79 cents per point
Merchandise.70 – .75 cents per point
Statement credit.70 cents per point

While the standard travel redemption rate is not bad, you can double your value if you take advantage of the fixed points travel program. Gift cards, statement credits, and merchandise should be avoided since they’re worth the least, but if you find yourself in a financial emergency, do what you got to do.

How to redeem American Express points

There are actually quite a few ways to redeem your American Express points. Many of the options are done through your login. Just click on your membership rewards points when you’re logged in. You can also apply your points to purchases after the fact which can be convenient. Here’s how to redeem your American Express points.

Any type of travel

Using your American Express points for travel can be quite flexible since you can go through the American Express travel portal or book things on your own. The travel portal is a full service travel agency, so you’ll find things such as flights, hotels, car rentals, and vacation packages. While their selection is pretty good, it’s not the most user friendly and they don’t have the lowest prices. If you have the American Express Platinum card, the annual $200 credit can only be used via the travel portal.

Fortunately, American Express allows you to redeem your points for any travel booked on your own. Just pay for your travel purchase with your American Express card, and you can then redeem your points through your American Express online account. Both ways of booking travel require 1,000 points for $10 in travel, so just go with whatever is cheaper.

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. You can get a value of up to 2 cents per point when going this route.

Amex points fixed travel

Gift cards

American Express has a wide variety of gift cards available for restaurants, grocery stores, retail and travel. In most cases, the redemption rate is the same.

  • $50 gift card- 6,500 points required
  • $100 gift card – 13,000 points required
  • $250 gift card – 32,500 points required

You’ll quickly notice that regardless of the amount you redeem, it’s the same value at .79 cents per point. That said, American Express does have occasional sales with select partners where you can get gift cards for a value of 1 cent per point which is on part with travel redemptions.

American Express Membership Rewards gift cards

Merchandise

Amex has a catalogue from which you can redeem your points in exchange for merchandise. When I last checked, many items had a value between .7 – .75 cents per point. While that’s better than a statement credit, it’s still much lower than travel redemptions. If you really want merchandise, you can use your points for things such as:

  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Headphones
  • Small appliances
  • Toys
American Express Membership Rewards merchandise

Statement credit

Like many other points programs, American Express Membership Rewards allows you to offset or reduce any expense on your credit card statement not related to travel. 1,000 MR would give you $7. That’s a value of .7 cents per point. While this option can be practical and easy to use, I don’t recommend it as it’s one of the least valuable options.

American Express Membership Rewards statement credit

How much are Amex points worth in Canada?

This article is entirely based on American Express Canada. As mentioned, one point is worth at least 1 cent each. For example, 1,000 points are worth $10, 10,000 points are worth $100, and 50,000 points are worth $500. In most cases, you need at least 1,000 points to make a redemption, but when transferring your points, they can go in 100 increments. Refer to the chart above for a full breakdown of the value.

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.

Here’s a quick look at what your points are worth when transferring to a frequent travel participant.

Travel partnerTransfer ratio
Aeroplan1:1
Avios1:1
Delta SkyMiles1:.75
Asia Miles1:.75
Etihad Miles1:.75
Alitalia MilleMiglia1:.75
Marriott Bonvoy1:1.2

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 distances flown. Generally speaking, you can usually get a value of at least 1.5 cents per point for Aeroplan when booking in economy. However, if you’re looking to get premium, business or a first-class seat, you can easily double your value to 3 – 5 cents per point.

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 Airlines, 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.

Marriott Bonvoy

With 29 brands and over 7,500 hotels in more than 120 countries, 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 Bonvoy points (1:1.2) which is a decent value. Generally speaking, Marriott points are worth about 1 cent each. 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. Pro tip, you can get the most value out of your Marriott Bonvoy points by staying at the low or top category hotels.

Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors is the other hotel loyalty program where you can transfer your Amex points. The transfer ratio is 1:000 to 1:000, so it’s 1:1 which isn’t bad. That sad, Hilton has fewer properties than Marriott, and the number of points required for a free night can often be quite high. Unless you have a very specific redemption in mind, or you’re trying to top up your Hilton Honors account, you’re better off transferring your points to Marriott if you want to use your points for hotel redemptions.

Do Amex points expire?

No, as long as you have an active American Express card that earns you Membership Rewards points, your points won’t expire. If you need to cancel your card, just transfer all your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy first. In a worst case scenario, burn your points on statement credits.

How does Amex Membership Rewards compare to others?

To simply put it, American Express Membership Rewards is the best travel rewards program in Canada. There are multiple credit cards where you can earn points and many of them have great welcome bonuses and earn rates. The actual value of your points is incredible since it’s not that hard to get a value of 2 cents per point. You could easily increase that value to even more with one of their transfer partners.

Using your points is easy since you can book any travel and then redeem your points later. This is much better compared to other programs where you’re forced to book things through their travel portal. RBC Rewards is a close second, but American Express Membership Rewards is hands down the best.

How to earn more Membership Rewards points

Okay, you’ve learned that Membership Rewards points are valuable, but what are some ways to earn more points? The first thing to understand is that you can have more than one American Express card that earns you membership Rewards points. This is valuable since you could take advantage of more than one welcome bonus and then combine your points later.

That said since American Express is very strict about the bonuses offered, you should only hold more than one card if you plan on keeping them. For example, someone who has a Platinum Card can use all their travel benefits and then transfer their points to Marriott Bonvoy. You could also hold the Cobalt card which gives you an increased earn rate on certain categories. Those points could also be transferred to Marriott Bonvoy.

The other easy way to earn points is to refer your friends to American Express cards that you already have as it benefits both parties. For example, the American Express Platinum Card normally has a welcome bonus of 50,000 points, but when you use a referral link, you’ll get 75,000 points.

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

  • $699 annual fee
  • 60,000 Membership Rewards points sign up bonus when using a referral link
  • 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

As someone who frequently travels, the American Express Personal Platinum Card is my go to credit card. I love the unlimited lounge access and the hotel status upgrades. Admittedly, the $699 annual fee is quite high, but it’s offset by the annual $200 travel credit. I realize I’m still paying $499, but I can easily get more value than that from the included benefits. Read my American Express Platinum review here.


American Express Gold Rewards Card

  • $150 Annual fee 
  • 25,000 American Express Membership Rewards points welcome bonus after charging $1,500 in purchases
  • 5,000 additional points when you add an additional cardholder to your account at the time of application.
  • 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
  • 1 Free supplementary card ($50 value)

The American Express Gold Rewards Card is a good fit for people who don’t travel often but still want to earn points that can be used towards travel rewards. The earn rate is decent since you get 2 points per dollar spent on grocery, gas, pharmacy, and travel. All other purchases earn you 1 point per dollar spent. One thing that many people don’t realize is that when you sign up with a referral link, you’ll get an additional 5,000 points when you add an additional authorized user. Read my American Express God Rewards review here.

American Express Cobalt Card

  • $10 Monthly fee 
  • 2,500 monthly MR-S points after charging $500 in purchases per month for a total of 30,000 points in the first year
  • 15,000 additional MR-s points when charging $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Must apply by May 5, 2021.
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks (Groceries, restaurants, bars, cafés, and food delivery)
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel (flights, hotels, trains, public transportation, taxis/Uber)
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package included
  • American Express Invites access
  • Free supplementary cards

As mentioned the Amex Cobalt card earns you MR-S points which aren’t as valuable as regular MR points, but that doesn’t mean they’re no good. You can still use your points via the fixed travel program and you can transfer them to Marriott Bonvoy. This card also gives you an insane 5 points per dollar spent on food and drinks. This includes grocery stores and food delivery, so you can earn a lot of points fast. Read my Amex Cobalt review now for more details.

American Express Membership Rewards Guide | How to maximize your points
Avatar

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

Leave a Comment





Get a FREE copy of The Cost of Travel

Subscribe now to get your FREE eBook and learn how to see the world without spending a fortune