7 Reasons to Diversify Beyond AMEX Membership Rewards Points

6 Reasons to Diversify Beyond AMEX Membership Rewards Points

AMEX Membership Rewards points are good, but here are 7 reasons to diversify beyond them. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely useful to have 1 million or more Membership Rewards points–and about one third of my Award Booking Service clients have primarily American Express Membership Rewards points, with very few other frequent flyer miles and points.

1. Open Up Other Partner Airline Flight Award Options

One of the key reasons to diversify beyond AMEX Membership Rewards points is that you open up options for first class and business class award flights on other airlines that Membership Rewards doesn't transfer to, for example Etihad First Class (bookable with American AAdvantage miles) and Emirates A380 First Class (bookable with Alaska miles) or the standard level awards on United Airlines or American Airlines, which alliance partners can't book.


2. More Attractive Award Chart Pricing

In addition to other airline partners, a reason to diversify beyond Membership Rewards points is that, even if you can transfer to a partner airline to book awards, you could save a lot of miles by using a different award chart for the same award. For example, AMEX Membership Rewards points can transfer to Cathay Pacific's frequent flyer program, Asia Miles, and could be important if you want to book when Cathay first opens its award chart. But you'll pay more Asia Miles and thus more AMEX Membership Rewards points for premium class awards. 

For example, NYC (JFK) to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class is 67,500 AAdvantage miles but nearly double that–130,000 Asia Miles)–if booking this one way award with Asia Miles. For more on the pros and cons, see Cathay Pacific First Class Awards: Earn Asia Miles or AAdvantage Miles?


3. Better Partner Award Transfer Ratio for British Airways Using Chase Ultimate Rewards

As noted in Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to British Airways Avios Before the Devaluation? AMEX Membership Rewards no longer transfer 1:1 to British Airways; they now transfer at the ratio of 1.25:1, so for a 1:1 transfer ratio you'll want to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points, wait for an AMEX Membership Rewards transfer bonus to British Airways Avios, or transfer SPG Starpoints in increments of 20,000 points to take advantage of the 25% transfer bonus.


4. Better Category Bonuses on Spend

The best AMEX Membership Rewards cards for category bonuses, at least if you have significant airfare spend, are the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold and AMEX Business Gold Rewards cards, which offer 3X points per dollar on airfare spend (you'll need to elect airfare as your 3X category for the AMEX Business Gold Rewards card). And the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card has added a new 2X bonus on U.S. restaurants.

But by diversifying into other cards you can do far better:

  • 5X on Internet and cell phone spend with the Ink Plus
  • 5X on all Amazon spend via the Ink Plus and gift cards
  • 5X on all Whole Foods spend via the Ink Plus and gift cards
  • 5X on restaurants with the Chase Freedom (usually one of the rotating quarterly bonus categories) 
  • 5X on gas with the Chase Freedom (usually one of the rotating quarterly bonus categories) 
  • 5X on groceries with the Chase Freedom (sometimes one of the rotating bonus categories)
  • 2X on all restaurants, including international restaurants, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred


5. Greater Acceptance of Visa and MasterCard 

As you've probably experienced while traveling abroad, more merchants, particularly international merchants, accept Visa and MasterCard than accept American Express. The reason is financial and practical: AMEX charges higher fees to merchants than do Visa and MasterCard, so when a customer pays with AMEX the merchant ends up with less money and more goes to AMEX.


6. Potential for Better Targeted Bonuses 

It's also no secret that issuers such as AMEX and Citi target their best signup bonuses to those who are not yet their customers. So it shouldn't be a surprise that if you're a loyal AMEX customer, you're highly unlikely to receive a 150K AMEX Business Platinum Card Bonus Offer in the mail. On the other hand, if you don't have any Citi credit cards, you may receive the 100K Citi Prestige offer–if you do, jump on it.


7. Earn a Signup Bonus Again

While it's typically possible to earn a Business AMEX signup bonus again, if you don't currently have the card and haven't received a signup bonus for that card in the last 12 months, AMEX signup bonuses have become once in a lifetime for personal charge cards and credit cards. Contrast that to Chase, where it's typically possible to earn the bonus again if you haven't received a signup bonus for the card within the last 24 months.

Do you put more spend on an AMEX Membership Rewards card or another travel rewards card?

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