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I recently received a question from a Mommy Points reader that I thought I would answer here instead of just to her directly since it was a good question and something I haven’t talked too much about in a while. She already has a few rewards credit cards, but wanted to know which Amex card is a good one to start with if you want to begin building an American Express Membership Rewards balance.
Which Amex Membership Rewards Card to Get First
Amex Membership Rewards points are a great type of points for miles and points fans, and honestly in recent months have gotten even better in some ways. You can use them in a zillion different ways, but my favorite two ways to redeem for them for maximum value are to transfer to hotel and airline partners such as British Airways, Delta, Air Canada Aeroplan, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, ANA, Singapore Airlines.
There are multiple personal and small business credit and charge cards that earn Amex Membership Reward points, and the annual fees for most of the cards range from $0 to close to $500 per year. The sign-up bonuses also range pretty widely among the publicly available and targeted offers. For the purposes of this post, I am only going to focus on the publicly available sign-up bonuses, but do be on the lookout for offers targeted specifically to you as they may be higher. You can also check the CardMatch Tool from creditcards.com to see if you have any available offers there. Of course all of this information is just my opinion, terms and limits apply, etc.
Best Amex Membership Rewards Card with No Annual Fee
If you want to earn Membership Reward points and never have to worry about an annual fee, the easy winner is The Amex EveryDaySM Credit Card as it earns fully transferable Membership Reward points with no annual fee, which is pretty unique. In terms of earning, it awards 2x Membership Reward points at US supermarkets, up to $6,000 annually, and 1x most other places. You also get a 20% bonus on all points earned that billing cycle if you have 20 or more transactions in that cycle.
Best Amex Membership Rewards Card for Travel
If you want lounge access (including to the awesome Centurion Lounges!) and some travel perks like hotel elite status, and a $200 airline incidental fee credit, then the Amex Platinum line-up of cards is a good place to start. They do carry annual fees of around $550, but you can get more value than that from the cards if you maximize the perks and sign-up bonus.
Best Amex Membership Rewards Sign-Up Bonus
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Perhaps better still is The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN that awards essentially the same travel perks at the personal Platinum cards, but the sign-up bonus is currently better, as are the point redemptions perks. Until January 25, 2017 you get a limited time sign-up bonus of 50,000 Membership Reward points after you spend $5,000 on the card and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 in the first 3 months. That is a lot of spending in 3 months, but 100,000 bonus Membership Reward points is pretty solid if you can hit the spending target.
If you are a big spender, you also get 50% more Membership Reward points on purchases of $5,000 or more, up to a million additional points per year.
However, my favorite element of this card is actually that if you use your Membership Reward points to pay for all or part of a flight with your selected airline for the year, then you get 50% of those points back. To put it another way, if United was your selected airline and you purchased a $300 United ticket, you could spend 30,000 Membership Reward points to pay for that ticket and then get 15,000 of them back. This means the $300 airline ticket cost you 15,000 Membership Reward points, and each point was worth two cents each, which is fantastic!
Best Amex Membership Rewards Card for Earning Everyday Points
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In my opinion, the best Amex Membership Rewards card in terms of everyday earning is The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card as it awards 3x Membership Reward points at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually), 2x points at US gas stations, and 1x elsewhere. However, the real hook to this card is that you get a 50% points bonus on all points earned that month if you have 30 transactions in that billing cycle. This can result in up to 4.5x points at US supermarkets, which is great!
The Amex EveryDay Preferred comes with a sign-up bonus of 15,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months and a $95 annual fee. It is also the Amex Membership Rewards card that I use the most in my day to day life.
It Takes Two
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Depending on what you are looking for out of your Membership Rewards earning card, any of those cards could be good a place to start. However, it really takes at least two Amex cards to eventually come up with a truly solid way to both earn and redeem your points, especially if you like some of the travel perks that come with the Platinum cards.
As an example, if you match the everyday earning power of the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card with say the travel and redemption perks from The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, you can have a dynamic duo for both earning and redeeming points.
Of course, most of this advice changes a bit if you have a targeted higher sign-up bonus display for you on one or more of these cards. Which Amex Membership Rewards earning card did you start with?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.