I admittedly am a bit biased towards Chase Ultimate Rewards on this site — that is, up until now.
About 3 years ago now, when Chase had recently introduced their 100,000 point sign-up bonus on the Sapphire Reserve card, I dived head first into the miles and points game. And I wasn’t alone. I don’t know the exact numbers, but Chase has repeatedly said they may never be profitable from the card.
Which I’d argue has made them more profitable overall. Since that time, and since I’ve really started to focus on travel rewards and credit cards, Chase has seemed like the gold standard. Not just the Sapphire Reserve card, but their portfolio as a whole. And If you’ve read any of my blogs previously, you know I have fully invested in that theory as well.
So if one man’s wallet is any indicator, I would say Chase’s credit card department is doing just fine. And just because there is no 100,000 point sign-up bonus anymore, does not mean you should avoid, or think you need to go elsewhere for a credit card.
With all of that being said, I have decided recently to expand my portfolio a bit. In other words, I have decided to start earning a credit card currency other than Ultimate Rewards.
Basics of the AMEX Membership Rewards program
I would say that Chase is the “it” credit card currency to have. As I mentioned, ever since the introduction of the Sapphire Reserve, it has been all the “millennial” world (myself included) can talk about (huff). But I think AMEX Membership Rewards have unfortunately fallen to the wayside — for no real reason at all, more or less just a sign of the times (dang millenials).
But as the dust settles a bit, I have found myself intrigued with the Membership Rewards program more and more. And while it’s hard to admit that I maybe just want the opportunity to earn more sign-up bonuses, and get new cards in my wallet, that definitely has a lot to do with it.
So before I go into the reasons why I think Membership Rewards are worth going after, let’s first look at some basics about the program.
American Express has a wide array of both credit and charge cards, as well as cards that earn both cashback and points. Without naming them all, these are a few of the more popular cards.
- Platinum Card from American Express
- American Express Gold Card
- Everyday Preferred Card
- Blue Cash Everyday Card
- and many more…
Obviously focusing on the cards earning Membership Rewards points, these points can be transferred to any one of the 21 (!!) American Express travel partners.
American Express MembershipRewards Transfer Partners
|Airlines (Ratio: AMEX to FF Program)||Hotels (Ratio: AMEX to FF Program)|
|Aer Lingus AerClub (1000:1000)||Choice Priveleges (1000:1000)|
|AeroMexico Club Premier (1000:1600)||Hilton Honors (1000:2000)|
|Air Canada Aeroplan (1000:1000)||SPG-Marriott-Ritz Carlton (1000:1000)|
|Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) (1000:1000)|
|Alitalia Millemiglia (1000:1000)|
|All Nippon Airways (1000:1000)|
|Asia Miles (1000:1000)|
|Avianca LifeMiles (1000:1000)|
|British Airways Executive Club (1000:1000)|
|Delta SkyMiles (1000:1000)|
|El Al Israel Airlines (1000:20)|
|Emirates Skywards (1000:1000)|
|Etihad Guest (1000:1000)|
|Hawaiian Airlines (1000:1000)|
|Iberia Plus (1000:1000)|
|Jet Blue TrueBlue (250:200)|
|Singapore KrisFlyer (1000:1000)|
|Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub (1000:1000)|
On the surface, American Express seems like the easy choice, simply because there are so many more options — 21 with AMEX versus 13 with Chase. One main difference being that not all AMEX partners transfer 1:1. But there is obviously more to it.
So here are the reasons why I’ve decided to diversify my portfolio.
1. 2 is better than 1
I think the main argument against earning both currencies, or any amount of points and miles, is the simple fact of over diversifying. In other words, once you start to earn too much of everything, you don’t really have a good amount of anything. As an example, would you rather have 200,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, or 50,000 Ultimate Rewards, 50,000 AMEX Rewards, 50,000 American Miles, and 50,000 Citi ThankYou Points.
While I definitely agree with the idea to limit your spread, I do think it is advantageous to diversify a bit. Which brings me to my next point (so I won’t spoil it here), but I have come to a conclusion that earning 2 different rewards currencies is ideal.
So maybe the answer above is 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards and 100,000 AMEX Rewards? but let’s dig a bit deeper.
2. AMEX gives me more partner opportunities
As stated above, the biggest benefit I find with AMEX is the potential benefit it extends me. More specifically, the increase in travel partners that are now opened up. While there are a decent amount of overlapping partners, there are some unique partners with AMEX that really intrigue me (i.e. partners that I don’t get with Chase).
Specifically, I love the possibilities that Air Canada’s Aeroplan presents, ANA, Asia Miles, and even the new guy Avianca LifeMiles. All of these specific partners transfer at a rate of 1:1, but unlike Chase Ultimate Rewards require a minimum of 1,000 points per transfer.
But there is something that makes AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partners even more intriguing.
As a sort of add-on to that, it is worth noting that AMEX offers plenty of transfer bonus opportunities. Which make the “overlapping” partners that much better when compared with Chase Ultimate Rewards (much to my chagrin).
For example, you can currently transfer your AMEX points to British Airways Avios with a 40% bonus — in other words, transferring 1,000 points would get you 1,400 Avios! Transferring any large amount and that’s some serious bonus points.
Chase on the other hand, I have yet to see any kind of transfer bonus.
3. The AMEX card portfolio
One of the reasons why I rave so much about Chase and their rewards program is because of the portfolio of cards that Chase offers. I think a rewards program can only be as strong as the cards it offers, and if there are only a few cards to earn with then the program just won’t attract the masses — plain and simple.
I’ve talked about the Chase trifecta, and I’d argue that AMEX has a similar, and competitive portfolio of cards as well. There is the premium travel rewards card in the Platinum Card from American Express, the “middle” card in the Everyday Preferred card, and many cash back/no annual-fee cards like the Blue Cash card.
When you talk about “investing” in a particular points currency, I’d say that this ranks up there as one of the most important statistics. Ultimately, if you aren’t able to continually build your points then how valuable are they in the long run?
4. More Spending Power
One thing that particularly intrigued me about AMEX points, and their credit cards specifically, is the spending power that the cards offer. And when I talk about spending power, I am specifically referring to the amount of extra points I get per dollar spent.
All else being equal, you should always be earning at least 1 point per dollar spent. But as many of us points and miles seekers can understand, getting 2, 3, or even 5 points per dollar is quite easily attainable. And with all the different options that AMEX presents, earning 1 points per dollar would almost be a disappointment.
Recently, I signed up for the AMEX Everyday Preferred card, which offers 3 points per dollar spent on grocery (up to $6,000 per year), and 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations. The reason I point this card out is because these are bonus categories not available with any Chase categories — essentially filling the gap in my current spending.
There are some other examples, like 5 points per dollar on airline spending with the Platinum Card from American Express, or even 2 points per dollar spent on anything with the Blue Business Plus card.
Which ultimately all positively complement the Chase bonus categories I am currently earning.
Ultimately, what I wanted to stress in this post is that earning AMEX rewards will complement my Chase Ultimate Rewards — rather than negatively affecting my earning. Of course, I will earn less Ultimate Rewards over time, as my money (or lack of money) can only go so far, but as mentioned above those points earned are more valuable where applicable.
I am still very much invested in the world of Chase Ultimate Rewards, but am very intrigued with the possibility that AMEX rewards offers. I know that I missed a lot of the “details” on the specifics of the cards, as well as the program itself, but stay tuned as I intend to dive deeper into all things AMEX.