Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active With No Annual Fees

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Karen, commented:

One question which I haven’t seen addressed anywhere is what card you recommend to keep from having our AMEX Membership Rewards points disappear.  My understanding is that if you don’t have an active AMEX Membership Rewards card, the points are forfeited.  Once the Costco AMEX disappears, what should we replace it with to keep our AMEX Membership Rewards points active?  Thanks.

Great question, Karen!

You need at least 1 card that’s linked to your AMEX Membership Rewards program number or you will lose ALL your points.

Having the Costco AMEX won’t help you because it does NOT earn AMEX Membership Rewards points, only cash back.  So Karen must have another card that DOES earn AMEX Membership Rewards points.

Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active With No Annual Fees

You’ll Lose ALL of Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Unless You Have at Least 1 Card Linked to Your Membership Rewards Program Number

The best way to keep the points active and transferable is to open an AMEX EveryDay® or AMEX EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card.

I’ll explain!

How to Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active

AMEX Membership Rewards works a little differently than other points programs.

That’s because AMEX doesn’t link the points you earn to each individual card.  Instead, you get a separate Membership Rewards program number where all of the cards linked to your program are pooled.

Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active With No Annual Fees

All Your AMEX Cards That Earn Membership Rewards Points Are Linked to Your Program Number. For Example, I Have 2 AMEX Cards That Share the Same Program Number. If I Cancel 1 of Them, I Can Still Keep All of My Points

Keep in mind, having an AMEX card that does NOT earn Membership Rewards points, like the Costco AMEX or AMEX Gold Delta card, will NOT help you to keep your points active.  That’s because they’re not linked to your Membership Rewards program number.

If you cancel all of the cards linked to your program number, you will forfeit all of the points you’ve earned.  But there are a few ways to keep your points!

1.   Keep (or Open) a Card Linked to Your Program Number

Link:   AMEX EveryDay®

Link:   AMEX EveryDay® Preferred

You won’t lose your points if you have another AMEX card which earns Membership Rewards points AND which is linked to the same Membership Rewards program number as the credit card you want to cancel.

Remember that personal and small business AMEX cards can have separate Membership Rewards program numbers, so make sure to link all of your cards to only 1 Membership Rewards account!

Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active With No Annual Fees

Keep at Least 1 Membership Rewards Card Linked to Your Program Number to Keep Your Points!

Consider opening a new card to keep your points active, like the AMEX EveryDay card, which has NO annual fee.  So it’s a great card to keep long-term, and prevents your points from expiring.  You’ll also get:

  • 2X AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 at US supermarkets up to $6,000 a year and
  • 1X AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 on other purchases
  • 20% more points (less returns and credits) when you use your card 20+ times on purchases in a billing period
  • Terms & Limitations Apply

So this card is a great way to both keep and earn AMEX Membership Rewards points without paying an annual fee.  And, you can still transfer your points to travel partners!

If you don’t mind paying an annual fee, the AMEX EveryDay Preferred card has a higher sign-up bonus and earns more bonus points at supermarkets and gas stations.   Check out my review of both cards!

Here are all the cards that earn AMEX Membership Rewards points:

Personal CardsBusiness Cards
Premier Rewards Gold Card From American ExpressThe Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
American Express® Mercedes-Benz PlatinumThe Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Enhanced Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN
AMEX EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
AMEX EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
American Express® Gold Card
American Express® Green Card
Blue from American Express® Note: These are the ONLY AMEX cards that earn Membership Rewards points that can NOT be transferred to airline & hotel programs. But you can use these points on the Membership Rewards website for other redemptions. Includes personal AND small business versions of the card.

2.   Transfer Them to Travel Partners

Another way to keep your points is to transfer them to an airline or hotel partner before they expire:

 American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners 
AeroMexicoAir CanadaAlitalia
ANAAsia MilesBritish Airways
Delta AirlinesEl AlEmirates
EtihadFlying Blue (Air France / KLM)Hawaiian Airlines
IberiaJetBlueSingapore Airlines
Virgin AmericaVirgin Atlantic
 American Express Membership Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners 
Choice HiltonStarwood

Keep in mind that you’ll have to abide by the rules of the program you transfer your points to.  So for example, if you transfer to Delta, you won’t ever have to worry about losing your points.  That’s because Delta miles never expire.

Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active With No Annual Fees

Transfer Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Partners to Keep Them Active. But Remember to Check the Expiration Date of the Program You Transfer to, Otherwise You’ll Lose Them!

But say you transfer to Hawaiian Airlines miles.  You’ll have to have activity in your Hawaiian Airlines account within 18 months, or you’ll lose those, too.

3.   Take Advantage of the Grace Period

The terms suggest you have 30 days to transfer the points out of your Membership Rewards account if you cancel all your Membership Rewards cards, but have at least 1 open (non-Membership Rewards) American Express card.

If you voluntarily cancel enrollment in the program or cancel all Linked Accounts enrolled in the program but keep at least 1 AMEX card open and in good standing, you will have up to 30 days from date of cancellation to redeem the points accrued in the program account.

I interpret this to mean you can cancel all your cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points, but still have 30 days to transfer points as long as you have any other American Express card, like the Costco AMEX.

Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active With No Annual Fees

If You Take Advantage on the 30-Day Grace Period, Call AMEX to Confirm You Won’t Lose Your Points

However, if you decide to take this route, I would confirm with an AMEX representative that you do indeed have 30 days from cancellation to use your points before losing them.  This could be risky!

4.   Get Your Points Reinstated

If you get a new Membership Rewards card within 1 year after cancelling, you may be able to request your points be reinstated by writing a letter to AMEX, or sending them a secure message through your online account.

Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active With No Annual Fees

The Worst-Case Scenario Is to Ask AMEX to Reinstate Your Points. I Wouldn’t Count on It, but It Is Possible

But, I wouldn’t use this as my primary way to avoid losing points and there is NO guarantee American Express will reinstate your points.

I recommend take 1 of the actions above and using this as an extreme last resort!

Bottom Line

To keep your points active, you must have at least 1 card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points and is linked to your Membership Rewards program number.

I recommend the AMEX EveryDay card, because it has NO annual fee and you can still transfer your points to travel partners.

Other ways to keep your points include:

  • AMEX EveryDay Preferred (has an annual fee but with more points)
  • Transferring your points to airline or hotel partners
  • Transferring or redeeming them within 30 days after you cancel your card that earns AMEX Membership Rewards points
  • Getting them reinstated when you open a new card that earns AMEX Membership Rewards points within 1 year

I recommend either opening a new card, or transferring the points to partners, because the other options are riskier.

Remember, American Express cards that do NOT earn earn American Express Membership Rewards points (such as the Costco AMEX or AMEX Gold Delta) will NOT keep your points active.

Karen, I hope that answers your question!

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8 responses to “Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active With No Annual Fees

  1. Thanks, Darius. One correction, however. I do indeed have a Costco card that earns membership rewards points. It’s a business costco card which I’ve had for a long time; perhaps they are no longer issued.

  2. Citi ThankYou Points: There is an additional category of ThankYou Points, namely those earned with the Citi ThankYou Preferred credit card. Points earned with that credit card are treated like those earned with the Citi checking accounts, namely cannot be transferred to travel partners. Accordingly, your statement of

    “Citi ThankYou points you earn from a Citi credit card never expire, as long as your account is open and can be transferred to travel partners as long as you have a Citi Prestige, Citi ThankYou Premier, or Citi Chairman card.”

    is only partially correct. The points earned with the Citi ThankYou Preferred card can never be transferred to travel partners, even if you have a Citi ThankYou Premier card.

    I learned all these rules through a serious of frustrations. I cannot understand why Citi calls these different types of points by the same name. I hope that they are not intentionally confusing their customers, because I believe such methods are counterproductive.

  3. I currently have the Amex Gold and Platinum business cards. If I get a personal EveryDay card, will I be assigned a different Membership Rewards number? How can I link my business cards to a new personal account?

  4. Hello,

    Can I convert my American Express Blue card (10 yrs old) to an Amex Everyday card? Currently the points are not much value to me other than cash. I have collected a lot of points from Costco purchases and would love to be able to transfer to air/hotel partners.
    I would lose history if the card is converted right?
    What happens to my points?
    Do I use them up before converting?

  5. Hi Daraius,

    Similar to RS above, I’ve also had the Amex Blue card for a long time and want to keep that credit history. Do the MR points accrued on the Blue card become transferable to airlines if I add another qualifying card? Thanks,

  6. @Karen – Thanks for telling me! I’m not familiar with that card, but that’s excellent! Keep it for as long as you can!

    @Rachel – It depends on whether you opened the cards yourself, or if they were issued by your employer. Either way, it’s possible to link your AMEX account under 1 program number. You just need to call AMEX to set it up.

    @RS – You should be able to convert to the AMEX EveryDay card, but you should use up your cash rewards 1st to be safe!

    I’m not sure what will happen to your credit history, though I believe you’ll be able to keep your history if you keep the same card number.

    @AN – Yes, when you have another card that earns AMEX Membership Rewards points, the points earned from your AMEX Blue card become transferable, too.

    I believe you’ll keep the credit history, but I’d check with AMEX before you make the switch to be completely sure!

  7. RS & AN, I’ve had Blue since 2000 and just in September, Amex sent me a letter telling me they’re going to convert my Blue to Everyday. Nothing changed, same account number, rewards points transferred (so I can finally use it in a more meaningful way!) and credit history continued. The only complaint? I didn’t get to apply for it and get the bonus and 0% APR…

  8. my amex rewards card is a business card. is there a no fee business card that i can use to keep the points? thanks.