Membership Rewards guide

By   |   Verified by Bill Ryan Natividad   |   Updated 11 Aug 2023

american express rewards guide.

Membership Rewards is a loyalty program offered exclusively by American Express. Members can earn points per dollar spent and redeem them for flights, hotels, events, merchandise, and more.

But perhaps the most beneficial way to use Membership Rewards points is to transfer them to a partner airline or hotel rewards program. Given the range of transfer partners available, it's much easier to attain a high-value redemption — and get the biggest bang for your buck.

Take a closer look at what the program offers, how to earn points, what they can be redeemed for, where they can be transferred, and more.

Amex release new offers regularly. It might be worth taking a moment to compare the latest Membership Rewards credit cards.

Key takeaways

  • Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for flights, hotels, merchandise, and more.
  • A range of airline and hotel transfer partners makes Membership Rewards points very useful.
  • Membership Rewards points do not expire.

Earning Membership Rewards points

It's easy to earn rewards points using your American Express card. Here's how to do it.

Sign up for a Membership Rewards credit card

Sign up for a credit card linked with Membership Rewards program to start earning points. There are several cards to choose from, each with its own rewards structure and benefits.

  • Sign up bonus. Amex are known for their aggressive sign up bonus offers, which, once triggered, can yield a substantial number of Membership Rewards points.
  • Everyday spending. Once you have a Membership Rewards credit card, you will earn at least one point for every dollar spent on the card. You can also earn considerably more than one point per dollar on certain categories of goods purchased. Point earning expenditure includes everyday purchases such as groceries, gas, and dining out.

Bonus point offers and promotions

In addition to earning points on everyday spending, bonus point offers and promotions are available to cardholders, for example, during the annual Amex Shop Small event.

Redeeming Membership Rewards points

There are several ways to redeem Membership Rewards. In fact, Membership Rewards points are arguably some of the most flexible you can earn.

Redeem points for flights, hotels, and other travel

One of the most popular ways to redeem points is for travel-related rewards such as flights, hotels, and car rentals. You can also redeem points for travel experiences like cruises and tours.

Merchandise and gift cards

If you prefer non-travel rewards, you can also redeem points for merchandise and gift cards from various retailers.

Shop PayPal With Points

Instead of paying with your credit card or PayPal balance, use your Membership Rewards to pay.

Statement credits

Another option for redeeming points is to use them as statement credits towards your credit card balance.

Make a donation through the JustGiving website.

Status tiers

Membership Rewards consist of three status tiers, offering additional benefits to cardholders. The tiers are Gateway, Ascent, and Ascent Premium.

The higher your status tier, the more benefits you will receive. These may include exclusive access to events, airport lounges, and more.

Membership Rewards Gateway

Gateway is the entry-level for Membership Rewards. It comes free of charge with personal Amex cards in the lower range of annual fees. Gateway membership delivers a wide range of redemption options.

Membership Rewards Ascent

Ascent is the second level of Membership Rewards, granted to some premium cardholders paying higher fees. Other cardholders can access this membership level by paying an additional annual fee. It has all the redemption options offered on Gateway, plus additional transfer options.

Membership Rewards Ascent Premium

This is the highest Membership Rewards tier available to personal (rather than corporate) cardholders. The tier is built into the higher-level platinum cards and allows members the extra option of converting Membership Rewards points to Qantas Frequent Flyer points.

Membership Rewards Spirit

For top-tier corporate card members only, this level offers all the previously-mentioned redemptions plus conversion to Qantas points on a 1:1 ratio.

Membership Rewards Choices

Choices membership level is available for some Amex business cards. It is similar to Ascent but does not allow the conversion of points to frequent flyer or hotel points.

Transfer partners

You can also transfer Membership Rewards points to various airline and hotel partners. These partners offer members a great way to maximise the value of their points for Business and First Class long-haul flights or stays at luxury hotels.

  • Air New Zealand Airpoints. Transfer 200 Membership Rewards points to 1 Airpoints Dollar.
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. Transfer 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 Asia Mile.
  • Emirates Skywards. Transfer 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 Skywards Mile.
  • Etihad Guest. Transfer 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 Etihad Guest Mile.
  • Hilton Honors. Transfer 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 Hilton Honors Point.
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich. Transfer 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 Enrich Mile.
  • Marriott Bonvoy. Transfer 3 Membership Rewards points to 2 Bonvoy Points.
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus. Transfer 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 Royal Orchid Plus Mile.
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. Transfer 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 KrisFlyer Mile.
  • Velocity Frequent Flyer. Transfer 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 Velocity Point.
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Transfer 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 Flying Club Mile.

Note that Qantas Frequent Flyer is not a Membership Rewards transfer partner in Australia. However, several direct-earn credit cards linked with Qantas Frequent Flyer are available from Amex.


How much does it cost to belong to the Membership Rewards program?

Membership at Gateway, the entry-level, is free. Higher membership levels (Ascent, Ascent Premium) are free with specific premium cards or can be purchased in return for an additional annual fee. Some levels (Ascent Spirit, Choices) are only available to business or corporate cardholders.

What is the best way to redeem Membership Rewards points?

It largely depends on your lifestyle. If you are a frequent traveller, conversion to frequent flyer points may deliver the best return. Otherwise, retail gift cards or account cashback offer the greatest flexibility (possibly a lower return per dollar spent).

Is there any limit to the number of Membership Rewards points I can earn?

No. Unlike some competing cards, American Express cards have no cap on how many points you can earn in a month or year.

Do Membership Rewards points expire?

No, Membership Rewards don't expire. You can hang on to them as long as you like. This is a particularly attractive feature of Membership Rewards points.

Who can manage the Membership Rewards account?

Only the primary cardholder can operate the points account and select redemptions.

Do additional cardholders earn Membership Rewards points?

Yes, additional cardholders earn Membership Rewards points, which are added to the main cardholder's account.

Is Membership Rewards worth it?

Membership Rewards' most defining feature is its redemption flexibility. Few programs in Australia come close to it thanks to the extensive choice of transfer partners. Membership Rewards points have you covered for everything from domestic short-haul and Trans-Tasman flights, to long-haul international flights with highly-ranked airlines (although Qantas isn't one of them). If you've tried to book a flight using points, you'll appreciate how beneficial this flexibility is.

With their attractive sign up bonuses and a range of cards at different levels, there's something for everyone from the casual points collector to high-volume business spenders. So, in summary, Membership Rewards is one of Australia's best credit card rewards programs.