Amex Membership Rewards is Stepping it Up for the Holidays

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I posted a couple weeks ago about some amazing one-day specials that Chase Ultimate Rewards is offering throughout the holiday season.  In short, they will have days where they offer 10x points at retailers like Best Buy, Apple, and Target.  Those are “five star” retailers in my book, especially around the holidays.  In that original post, I wrote that I hoped Amex Membership Rewards would get the hint and step up their game as well.  Today I got an email from Membership Rewards showing that many of their popular retailers had increased their earnings to 6x points for a “limited time”.  It seems that the 6x offer is for Platinum Card holders and the 5x is for Premier Gold Card holders for many popular stores.

Here is a sampling of some of the current Membership Rewards offers compared to some of the current Ultimate Rewards offers.  Keep in mind that some Ultimate Reward retailers will have some one-day specials that greatly increase the earnings on that particular day.

Keep in mind that when Membership Rewards says 6x you will be getting 6 points per dollar.  When Ultimate Rewards says 6x, it means you are earning “6 extra” points on top of your regular earnings, so essentially it really means 7x.  That is another little way that Ultimate Rewards often has the edge over Membership Rewards.

I have frequently been asked what is worth more, an Ultimate Reward point or a Membership Reward point.  As with almost every question in the miles and points world, it depends…  It depends mostly on how you want to use the points in the future.  When possible, I like to redeem my points in the Continental/United, Hyatt, and Starwood Preferred Guest programs.  SPG isn’t a good transfer option with either UR or MR, and Hyatt and Continental/United are both only options in Ultimate Rewards.  So, I personally value UR points more just because they feed into two of the three points programs that I use the most.  There are some programs, like British Airways, that are transfer options for both UR and MR, but many programs seem to be partnered with one or the other.  The one thing I like better about Membership Rewards is the transfer bonuses they have offered in the past – sometimes a 50% transfer bonus or more.  So far Ultimate Rewards has not done transfer bonuses, so that win goes to MR.

All that being said, I do think a UR point is currently slightly more valuable than a MR point, but both do have great value due to their flexibility.  You really can’t go too wrong earning points in either (or both) program(s).  I highly recommend comparing the points payout for your selected retailers to then make a decision on which shopping portal to use after seeing what the different payouts are.  The chart above can get you started, but it is always good to double check for yourself.  As always, I am more than happy to help answer questions!

Need an Ultimate Rewards points-earning card?

With all of this talk of Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, I know there are a few of you who still don’t have cards that can earn points in one or both of those programs.  If you don’t yet have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, I highly recommend getting it now so that you can take advantage of all these great points earning opportunities this holiday season.  For many families, this time of year is when a lot of purchase get made anyway, so it can be a great time to meet minimum spending requirements on your credit card (in a responsible way, of course).  You get 40,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $3,000 in the first three months and pay no annual fee the first year.  I plan to post more about my own experience with this card within the next week!

Need a Membership Rewards points-earning card?

I love the benefits that my The Platinum Card® from American Express affords me when I travel (airline lounge access, $200 airline fee reimbursement, etc…).  The highest offer I know of right now for the traditional Amex Platinum is for 25,000 sign-up points and a $450 annual fee.  However, the Platinum Mercedes Benz version comes with 50,000 sign-up bonus points and a $475 annual fee with many of the same benefits.  In my opinion the Platinum  card is “worth it”, (at least for the first year when you get the bonus points) as long as you travel frequently and will use the travel benefits.  As you can see from the chart above, you also have a higher Membership Rewards earning rate through their shopping portal.

However, if you don’t think you will use the the travel benefits enough to off-set the fee, the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card may be a better fit for your family.  It comes with 15,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first three months, and has the $175 annual fee waived the first year.  You earn 3x Membership Rewards points on airfare and 2x on gas and groceries.  Plus, you can take advantage of the “limited time” Membership Rewards point earnings listed above!

Disclosure: Some of the credit card links I have provided in this post would provide me a commission if you were approved for the card by using my link.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. Thanks MommyPoints for the analysis. I understand that there is a $100 credit for the Global Entry expense. What happens if I am traveling with my husband or with my mom, would they have to stand in the “regular” line at customs or they can join me in this shorter line? If they are not included, if I add them as an acct user, would they also get the $200 baggage credit and the $100 Global Entry credit? Thanks!

    • @ Pearl–they would have to stand in the regular line, as only children (IIRC) are allowed with you through global entry. You can add then as additional cardmembers on your account ($175 fee for the first 3), and they too would be eligible for Global Entry credits and lounge access, but the $200 baggage credit is per account, not per card.

      • @Pearl, Mark is correct. It is actually a great idea to the get authorized users added if you have 2 or 3 people who want to also obtain Global Entry. It will then more than pay for itself plus they will have lounge access. Sadly only one $200 airline credit per card though. 🙂 Thanks, Mark for answering!

          • That’s what Google pulled up but I wasn’t sure. If I may ask another question, my wife and I both applied for Global Entry and when I tried to apply for my 5-year old daughter, GOES stated that she is elegible for NEXUS/SENTRI but not Global Entry (must be 14). Do you know a way to have her join us in the shorter line when traveling back from Europe/Asia? Thanks in advance.

          • @Paul, I clarified that during my own Global Entry interview. I was informed that children under 14 traveling with you can join you for expedited entry back into the US without Global Entry. It is only once they turn 14 that they must have their own Global Entry approval, so you should be good to go.

  2. The thing I do not like about American Express is that when they say “5x” the points they mean 1 pt from your purchase earned on the card and 4 additional points for the shopping mall.

    Ultimate Rewards means you get 1 pt earned on the card and the bonus points are ON TOP of what you earn on the card….so if Ultimate Rewards mall says “5x” you get a total of 6 pts when it is all said and done…

    • @Kelly, very good point. UR says earn 5x extra points (or whatever the case may be) on top of your regular earning where 5x on Amex will mean you get 5x period. I will add that to the post – thanks!

  3. I’m wanting to get in on the MR game but for 15k that seems way to low. I don’t travel enough to justify the 50k plat or Benz, so I may just be waiting for a 50k ish card to show up. Thanks!

    • @Ben, you are right that 15K isn’t exactly earth-shattering these days! If you can say you have a “business” and spend $10K on the card within 6 months the Amex Business Gold Rewards card also has a waived fee the first year and comes with 50,000 MR points if you meet the 10K minimum spend. It is 3x on airfare, 2x on advertising, gas, and shipping, and 1x on everything else.

    • @gpapadop, here is the official answer from the Global Entry FAQ’s:
      Q: As a Global Entry program member, or NEXUS or SENTRI member with the Global Entry benefit, can I extend my expedited benefit to my travel companion(s) (children, spouse, or co-traveler) who is/are not part of the Global Entry program?
      A: Global Entry benefits are member specific and cannot be extended to others.

      It doesn’t say you have to join them, but certainly they can’t join you. I the real answer is to make sure everyone over 14 has it.

  4. Hi,

    Will you post when Amex Rewards has 10x at Apple? I’m waiting to get my iphone 4S and check your blog every day.


    • @Tovah, I will do my very best to remember to share that info here, but it will be on 11/28 if you want to put it on your calendar. Also, it is a one-day “sale” with Ultimate Rewards, not Membership Rewards.

  5. Hi, Is ticket purchase through expedia counted as 3x points? I was told by the rep that to get the 3x point i have to use the Amex membership rewards travel portal to buy ticket. Is this the way supposed to be?

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