9 Common Mistakes Folks Make With AMEX Credit Cards and Points

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9 Common Mistakes Folks Make With AMEX Credit Cards and Points

Devon9 Common Mistakes Folks Make With AMEX Credit Cards and PointsMillion Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

American Express issues some of the best travel cards in our hobby.  So it’s important to make the most of your applications, points earning, and benefits!

It’s easy to get Big Travel with AMEX Membership Rewards points, from top AMEX cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, or The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express.

The AMEX Membership Rewards program changes from time to time so you’ll want to stay in the know and avoid pitfalls and mistakes.

We’re here to help, whether you’re a newbie or a veteran.

Know the Rules and Avoid Common Mistakes to Make the Most of Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points

Let’s have a look at these common errors folks make with AMEX Membership Rewards points, so you can make the most of the program!

1.   You Can Only Earn a Welcome Bonus Once, per Card, per Lifetime

Welcome bonuses go up and down, but you can only earn the bonus once, per card, per lifetime on all American Express cards.

So it makes the most sense to apply when there are increased limited-time offers.  Because you never know if or when a bonus will increase again!

9 AMEX Membership Rewards Common Mistakes
Grab an Increased Welcome Offer While It’s Hot!  Because You Can Only Earn the Bonus Once, per Card, per Lifetime

Keep in mind, you can still earn the bonus on different card products.  For example, you’re eligible for the bonus on both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express because one is a personal card and the other is the small business version.

AMEX has additional rules that may restrict you from earning a bonus if you’ve already applied for lots of cards:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card.  We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.

Fortunately, AMEX will now tell you up front if you’re not eligible for a welcome offer when you’re applying online.

2.   Know Which Cards Earn Transferable AMEX Membership Rewards Points

Not all American Express cards earn Membership Rewards points.  Some, like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, earn cash back.  And others, like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, earn airline miles or hotel points.

Here’s a list of cards that earn transferable AMEX Membership Rewards points:

3.   Understand Cardholder Limits

There’s NO official limit to the number of AMEX credit cards or charge cards you can have at the same time.  But most folks report being able to hold at most 5 AMEX credit cards (not charge cards) at once.  I’ve heard of a few exceptions but they’re few and far between.

That said, the decision to approve you or not is still ultimately up to the bank.

4.   Know All of the AMEX Transfer Partners

Link:   The Big Travel Guide to AMEX Membership Rewards Points

Once you’re collecting AMEX Membership Rewards points, come back to our guide to AMEX Membership Rewards and we’ll take you step by step on how to transfer and which partners are your best bet for different destinations.

Airlines

Here’s a look at the transfer ratios and estimated transfer times for each of the airline partners:

 American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners 
AirlineTransfer RatioEstimated Transfer Time
Aer Lingus1:1Instant
AeroMexico1:1.624 Hours
Air Canada1:1Instant
Alitalia1:1Instant
All Nippon Airways1:148 Hours
Asia Miles1:148 Hours
Avianca LifeMiles1:1Instant
British Airways1:1Instant
Delta 1:1Instant
El Al1000:20Instant
Emirates 1:1Instant
Etihad1:1Instant
Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)1:1Instant
Hawaiian Airlines1:1Instant
Iberia1:11 to 3 days
JetBlue250:200Instant
Singapore Airlines1:1~1 to 2 days
Virgin Atlantic1:1Instant

Not all AMEX airline transfer partners are equal.  You’ll want to think about your travel goals, airline preferences, home airport, and award availability before you consider transferring points!

Note:   The transfer ratios in the table are the standard ratios.  But AMEX frequently offers limited-time bonuses when you transfer points to different airline partners.

Hotels

Here’s a look at the transfer ratios and estimated transfer times for each of the hotel partners:

 American Express Membership Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners 
HotelTransfer RatioEstimated Transfer Time
Choice Hotels1:1Instant
Hilton1:2Instant
Starwood / Marriott1:1Instant

Note:   Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to Choice Hotels (1:1 ratio) or Hilton (1:2 ratio) isn’t typically a good deal.

Choice Hotels are usually inexpensive, so you won’t often get a good value for your AMEX Membership Rewards points.  And there are lots of ways to easily earn Hilton points, so we prefer saving our AMEX Membership Rewards points for transfers to airline partners instead!

Other Notes:

  • There’s a small excise fee of 0.06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99, for every transfer you make to US airlines
  • Transfers are FINAL!  Once you’ve moved points to an airline or hotel partner, you can NOT move them back
  • You can only transfer AMEX Membership Rewards to loyalty accounts under your name or an authorized user on your card

5.   You Can Book Nearly Any Airline Through the AMEX Travel Portal

The standard redemption value when you redeem AMEX Membership Rewards points for travel through the AMEX Membership Rewards travel portal is 1 cent per point.  So a $300 flight will cost 30,000 points.

Folks often forget this, and it can be a very good deal for cheap fares.  However, this is NOT the best way to  book fancy Business Class flights and luxury hotels — that’s when you’ll want to transfer your points.  Unless you’ve got the AMEX Business Platinum card (more on that below!).  🙂

You Can Sometimes Do Better Paying With Points for Inexpensive Coach Fares Instead of Transferring Points for an Award Ticket

But say you want to book a discounted coach flight on the exact date you want — go for it!  There’s no shame in using YOUR points the way YOU want to!

6.   Don’t Forget About the 35% Rebate for Business Platinum Cardholders

Link:   AMEX Business Platinum Pay With Points

When you use AMEX Pay With Points, you get 1 cent per point towards your ticket.  But AMEX Business Platinum cardholders can get a 35% points rebate.  You’ll get:

  • 35% of your points back for ALL First Class or Business Class flights booked through the AMEX travel portal
  • 35% of your points back for all flights, including coach tickets, booked with your selected airline through the AMEX travel portal

This table shows how earning 95,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points from the welcome bonus and minimum spending on the AMEX Business Platinum can get you nearly $1,400 worth of airfare.

PointsValue of Airfare Through the AMEX Travel Portal35% Points Rebate Amount
95,000 AMEX Membership Rewards Points$95033,250 AMEX Membership Rewards points
33,250 AMEX Membership Rewards points~$332~11,637 AMEX Membership Rewards points
~11,637 AMEX Membership Rewards points~$116~4,073 AMEX Membership Rewards points
Total~$1,398

Note:   You must redeem at least 5,000 points to use Pay With Points.  And keep in mind, getting 35% of your AMEX Membership Rewards points back is automatic.  But you’ll have to wait 8 to 10 weeks to see them in your account.

7.   Use ALL of Your Credits Before They Expire

Link:   Don’t Leave Money on the Table!  Make the Most of Your AMEX Platinum Credits

Some of the most generous perks that American Express offers its customers come in the form of credits.  They’re a great way to help offset annual fees.

For example, with the AMEX Platinum card, you’ll get annual credits in the form of:

  • Up to $200 for airline incidental fees on your selected airline
  • Up to $200 in Uber credit
  • Up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits
  • $85 TSA PreCheck or $100 Global Entry Credit (every 4 years)

That’s an easy way to offset your annual fee!

8.   Make the Most of Your Spending Categories

Whether you’ve got 1 or 5 AMEX cards, knowing when to use them and for what purchases is paramount.

Aside from using a card for everything to meet minimum spending requirements, you should have a strategy for when to use each card.

For example, AMEX Platinum cardholders will earn 5 AMEX Memberships Rewards points per $1 spent on airfare, whereas American Express® Gold Card cardholders will only earn 3 points per $1.  So make sure you use the right card in the right situation.

Or for large expenses, the AMEX Business Platinum earns 1.5X points per $1 on purchases of $5,000 or more.

I like to keep a note in my phone that reminds me what cards to use.  That way I don’t forget which card earns the most for buying that chocolate donut.  😉

9 Common Mistakes Folks Make With AMEX Membership Rewards Credit Cards and Points
Earn the Most Points by Using the Correct AMEX Membership Rewards Credit Card!

9.   Know How You’ll Meet the Minimum Spending Requirement and Avoid the Interest Trap!

Have a Plan for Minimum Spending

Link:   How to Meet Minimum Spending Requirements

Remember, your annual fee does NOT count toward your minimum spending.  Neither do cash advances, cash-like instruments like certain gift cards, or money orders.  Returns don’t count, either.  And the clock starts ticking on your minimum spending time period when you are approved, not when you receive or activate your new card.

Definitely go in with some kind of plan.  Each of these credit cards offers you a welcome bonus.  To get the bonus, you’re required to spend a certain amount on purchases within a certain timeframe from being approved for the card.  So be sure you have upcoming expenses that you’d be making anyway.

For instance, this time of year you might know you’ll be buying a bunch of Christmas gifts, Black Friday sales items, making year-end charitable contributions, and maybe you have birthday and anniversary gifts coming up too.  And of course you’ll have your usual grocery shopping and other expenses.

Basically put all your expenses on the card until you’ve unlocked the bonus!  If you get stuck, check out our resource full of ideas to help you meet your spending requirements.  Get your bonus because that’s the fastest way to start traveling!

Paying Interest Will Negate the Value of Your Rewards

We all want to sleep well at night.  So please, please, please do NOT get into this hobby if you’re the kind of person who will fall behind on your bills.  The interest charges on these cards are very high.  We don’t want that to happen to you!

Folks who follow Million Mile Secrets already know this and pay their bills on time and in full.  If you take care of your credit and avoid carrying a balanace, you’ll be rockin’ this miles and points hobby in no time!

Bottom Line

AMEX Membership Rewards points should be part of every miles and points enthusiast’s toolbox, because they can help you achieve your travel dreams!  But keeping on top of changing rules and making the most of your points can be challenging.

Now you know some of the most important rules.  So get out there and start collecting points and traveling!

And if you’re looking for a new AMEX card, we’ve got the rundown on all of the best American Express cards.  Let us know which one is your favorite!

Do you have any other tips for folks new to AMEX cards and Membership Rewards points?  Share your experiences in the comments!

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Amex’s lifetime has been really 5 to 7 years. To be absolutely sure, chat or call Amex and ask them if you’ve ever had the card. Even though you know you had it 6 or 8 years ago, after so many years, your ‘lifetime’ for that specific card is reset by Amex. They don’t advertise this.

Great details info, especially for the starters! Thanks.