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The Essential Guide To

American Express Membership Rewards

Last updated: November 1, 2021
Best ways to earn:
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card: 75,000 MR points
Business Platinum Card from American Express: 105,000 MR points
American Express Platinum Card: 85,000 MR points
American Express Cobalt Card: 50,000 MR points
American Express Business Edge Card: Up to 67,000 MR points
Refer-a-Friend bonuses from the above cards
Best ways to redeem:
Transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan
Transfer 1:1 to British Airways Avios
Transfer 1:1.2 to Marriott Bonvoy
Amex Fixed Points Travel

By far the most compelling rewards currency for Canadians is Membership Rewards (MR) by American Express.

MR points excel in pretty much every metric: they are extremely easy to earn, they offer very good value on the redemption side, and as a transferable points currency, the flexibility they provide is unparalleled. If you had to pick one rewards program in Canada to concentrate on, Amex Membership Rewards should be a no-brainer.

Earning Points via Signup Bonuses

Membership Rewards points are some of the easiest points to earn in the Canadian miles and points landscape. The four Amex cards in the MR family all offer very compelling signup bonuses and referral bonuses.

  • The Business Platinum Card from American Express currently offers 80,000 MR points after you spend $6,000 in the first three months, with an additional 25,000 MR points after making a purchase between months 14 and 17. It comes with a $499 annual fee.

  • The American Express Platinum Card currently offers 80,000 MR points after spending $6,000 in the first three months, with an additional 25,000 MR points after making a purchase between months 14 and 17 . The first-year annual fee is effectively $499 ($699 offset by a $200 travel credit).

  • The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card currently offers 65,000 MR points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months, with an additional 10,000 MR points after making a purchase between months 14 and 17. The annual fee is $199.

 

Earning Points via Daily Spending

Now let’s look beyond the bonus offers. What about the return you get on your spending? Here, again, the MR program is outstanding. Depending on the specific card you hold, the earning rates are as follows.

  • Cobalt Card:

    • 5 MR points per dollar spent on all groceries and dining

    • 3 MR points per dollar spent on streaming services
    • 2 MR points per dollar spent on gas, transit, and travel purchases
    • 1 MR point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Gold Rewards Card:

    • 2 MR points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, drugstore, and travel purchases
    • 1 MR points per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Business Platinum Card: 1.25 MR points per dollar spent on all purchases

As you can see, the earn rates are very compelling, especially if you hold more than one MR-earning card. For example, if you held the Gold, Cobalt, and Business Platinum cards, you’d use your Cobalt card at the 5x-earning categories, the Gold card at drugstores, and the Business Platinum for everything else in order to maximize your return.

Transfer Partners

The Membership Rewards program offers outstanding redemption opportunities as well. This is primarily because it’s a flexible, transferable rewards currency.

You can transfer your MR points at a 1:1 ratio to the following frequent traveller programs:

Among these partners, typically Aeroplan and British Airways Avios provide the most value, and is where most Amex MR participants tend to transfer their points.

You can also transfer your MR points to the following programs at rates other than parity:

Out of these partners, typically the Marriott program offers the most value to Canadian points collectors. Asia Miles and Delta SkyMiles can be used for their occasional sweet spots as well.

The benefit of a transferable points currency is that it drastically broadens the set of options available to you. 

Each frequent flyer program has its sweet spots, and transferable points currencies allow you to optimize these sweet spots to get your desired travel plans at minimal cost.

Another benefit of earning transferable points is that you are more protected from devaluations. It’s important to realize that any company can unilaterally change the rules of their loyalty program at any time.

If you hoarded a bunch of Aeroplan miles, and Aeroplan changed their reward chart overnight to make redemptions a lot costlier, you’d have no recourse at all, and would probably be quite upset.

But if you amassed MR points instead, you’d be slightly less affected by such a change, because you’d still potentially have many other avenues to redeem your points for good value, such as British Airways Avios and the other transfer partners.

Amex Fixed Points Travel

One of the unique alternative ways to spend MR points is the Fixed Points Travel scheme that Amex recently introduced.

Basically, you can use a fixed amount of points towards the base ticket price of a regular cash ticket, up to a certain maximum. The number of points required and the maximum ticket price depends on the geographical region you are visiting (you can only book roundtrip flights that originate in Canada).

Here’s the redemption chart for economy class:

Amex-Fixed-Points-Travel-Economy

And here’s the redemption chart for business class:

Amex-Fixed-Points-Travel-Business

The trouble with “fixed points” schemes like this is that the value you get from your points is also fixed.

If you scrutinize the above chart, you’ll see that with Amex Fixed Points Travel, you’ll be getting at most a 2% return. Meanwhile, you can easily get much more than that by transferring your MR points out to Aeroplan, Avios, or the Marriott program.

Amex Fixed Points Travel might work in a pinch if you’re struggling to find award availability with the airline programs, but it should be treated as a backup option rather than an ideal use of MR points.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get American Express business credit cards?

Yes, you can get the business credit cards from Amex even if you aren’t a small business owner in the traditional sense. In general you do this by signing up as a sole proprietorship, the type of business entity that refers to a business being operated solely within your name.

How do American Express referrals work?

Every American Express cardholder can take advantage of the Refer a Friend feature and earn additional bonuses when someone applies via their referral link. The exact amount of the bonus varies depending on which card product is used to originate the referral.

How do you link a new loyalty program to American Express Membership Rewards?

Navigate to “View and Redeem Points” from your American Express dashboard, and then “Frequent Travel Participants” under the “Travel” drop-down menu. If you have multiple Membership Rewards accounts, you’ll have to select the specific account you want to use under “My Points”.

Conclusion

Membership Rewards is in my opinion the strongest rewards program in Canada. Points are easy to earn, and Amex continues to eagerly offer generous signup and referral bonuses. Meanwhile, the program’s wide array of transfer partners allow you to piece together your travel plans through several frequent flyer or frequent hotel guest programs.

 

 

 

18 Comments
  1. Shaw L

    Anyway we can transfer Bonvoy points to MR points? 1.2 to 1?

  2. Rav

    So now points earned from Business edge can be transferred to aeroplan at 1:1?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Yes exactly.

    2. MG YYZ

      Yes, correct.

  3. Alexandrine

    Hi Ricky,
    You should update this article now that the MR Select can be transfered to airline partners!

    1. Erik

      Agreed! Would love to have a fresh comparison between MR and MR select points re transfer ability etc. especially for people who can only have one card for now.

  4. Jason

    Any idea how often AMEX MR has bonus transfer offers for partners (Aeroplan, Marriott, etc.). Sounds like there was one last September for Marriott, but wondering if I should hold off on transferring now.

  5. Harjot

    On the Emirates website it states that MR rewards are transferable to Skyrewards at a rate of 1:1. Is this a US only offer?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Yes, US only.

  6. Grantie

    Can you transfer MR Select to Bonvoy, and then transfer to British Airways Avios?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Yes!

  7. Fatari Fahim

    Hi I would just like to update that the transfer ratio to Marriott Bonvoy has gone back down to 1:1.2. Since I just transferred mine in the last week of 2020.

    1. Fatari Fahim

      Just to now cause any confusion for people who just read short in this page and just skimmed through the top of the page.

    2. Ricky YVR

      Thanks for the update here! Guide updated.

  8. Mike De Paoli

    I’ve held all AMEX MR cards at some point in the past 2 years…
    1P mode, just referring to myself each time.

    Bit concerned about DP’s of some people being “shut down” by AMEX indefinitely and having their balance of points disappear. I have no MR points at present but with their versatility would like to continue earning. Suggestions?

    Amex Gold (personal) was the one I held longest ago (closed September 2019). Safe to self-refer again?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Yeah it’s a tricky one. I’d say you’re good to start again but this time be more conservative if you want to cancel the cards eventually. Only cancel after Month 12 if you need to, while asking for a refund of the annual fee that has posted, similar to the best practices down in the USA.

  9. milegosu

    Was searching if, historically, there were any transfer bonuses from MR-S to Marriott Bonvoy, and I came across this
    “After all, it would be no good earning 2 MR per dollar spent if one MR point were worth, say, less than a dollar.” I think you meant “less than a cent.” It would be nice if 1 MR = 1 dollar 😛

    Anyways, do you know if there has ever been a transfer bonus from MR (MR-S) to Bonvoy? It seems that AMEX US had one earlier this year but unsure if Canadians had it as well. If so, I’m thinking of holding the MR-S points until there is a transfer bonus, if not looking to cancel the biz edge as its AF is coming up soon! Thanks in advance!

    1. Ricky YVR

      Thanks Eric! And now we know. 🙂

Ricky Zhang

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