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American Express Membership Rewards Program: U.S.A. versus Canada (updated on September 21, 2016)

There have been a few changes to the American Express Membership Rewards program, since my last post when comparing the Canadian and U.S. versions. So let’s do another rundown.

Earning Membership Rewards

First off, let’s start with listing out all the credit cards and charged cards that allow you to earn Membership Rewards within both countries. I ranked the cards below based on their sign up bonuses.

Canadian Cards

Note that the fees are listed in Canadian dollars.

  • American Express Gold Rewards Card ($150 annual fee; 25,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Business Gold Rewards Card ($250 annual fee; 30,000 sign up bonus points; 40,000 when referred)
  • American Express Business Platinum Card ($399 annual fee; 40,000 sign up bonus points; 75,000 when referred)
  • American Express Platinum Card ($699 annual fee; 50,000 sign up bonus points; 60,000 when referred)
  • American Express Centurion Card ($5,000 initiation fee; $2,500 annual fee; unknown sign up bonus)

* If you want an added bonus with your Business card, check out our “Are you a Business Owner” page.

United States Cards

Note that the fees are listed in U.S. dollars.

  • American Express Business Green Card ($95 annual fee; 5,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Business Blue Card (no annual fee; 10,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Mercedes-Benz Credit Card ($95 annual fee; 10,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express EveryDay Credit Card (no annual fee; 15,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Green Card ($95 annual fee; 25,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Gold Card ($160 annual fee; 25,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express EveryDay Preferred Credit Card ($95 annual fee; 30,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card ($195 annual fee; 40,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Platinum Card ($450 annual fee; 40,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Business Gold Rewards Card ($175 annual fee; 50,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Business Platinum Card ($450 annual fee; 75,000 sign up bonus points)
  • American Express Centurion Card ($7,500 initiation fee; $2,500 annual fee, unknown sign up bonus)

* Bonus points promotions occur way more frequently in the United States, along with targeting emails.

Frequent Traveler Participants

It is no secret that the best use of Membership Rewards is to transfer them to frequent flyer or hotel loyalty programs. Below is a list of the transfer partners between both countries.

Canadian Airline Partners

  • Air Canada (Aeroplan): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • Alitalia (MileMiglia): 1,000 points = 750 miles
  • British Airways (Executive Club): 1,000 points = 1,000 Avios
  • Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles): 1,000 points = 750 miles
  • Delta (SkyMiles): 1,000 points = 750 miles
  • Etihad (Guest Miles): 1,000 points = 750 miles

* Note that transfer bonuses have been very infrequent. You may see once or twice a year a 25% transfer bonus to Avios only. Even then, there is no way to predict if it will happen again.

Canadian Hotel Partners

  • Hilton Hotels and Resorts (Hilton HHonors): 1,000 points = 1,000 HHonors points
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts (Starwood Preferred Guest): 1,000 points = 500 Starpoints

* To my knowledge, I have never seen a hotel transfer bonus promotion before. I would note that it is nice to see that Canada does beat the U.S. in one category, as we have a better transfer ratio to Starwood Preferred Guest than the United States (see below).

U.S. Airline Parnters

  • AeroMexico (Club Premier): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • Air France & KLM (Flying Blue): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • Alitalia (MileMiglia): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA Mileage Club): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • British Airways (Executive Club): 1,000 points = 800 miles
  • Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • Delta (SkyMiles): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • El AL Israel Airlines (Matmid): 1,000 points = 20 points
  • Emirates (Skywards): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • Etihad (Guest Miles): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles (new)
  • Hawaiian Airlines (HawaiianMiles): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • Iberia (Iberia Plus): 1,000 points = 800 Avios
  • JetBlue Airways (JetBlue TrueBlue): 1,000 points = 800 points
  • Singapore Airlines (Krisflyer): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • Virgin America (Elevate): 1,000 points = 500 miles
  • Virgin Atlantic (Flying Club): 1,000 points = 1,000 miles

* It used to be that only Canadians can transfer to Etihad, but now it has been added to the United States.

U.S. Hotel Partners

  • Best Western International, Inc. (Best Western Rewards): 1,000 points = 1,000 points
  • Choice Hotels (Choice Privileges): 1,000 points = 1,000 points
  • Hilton Hotels and Resorts (Hilton HHonors): 1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts (Starwood Preferred Guest): 1,000 points = 333 Starpoints

* Unfortunately Best Western is no longer a transfer partner with Membership Rewards.

Note that the United States programs sees a lot more transfer bonus offers. Pretty much every month you may see at least 1 program offering some sort of transfer bonus. So for Americans, I would definitely be waiting for a transfer bonus before ever transferring any of my points. Unless it is absolutely necessary to top up an account urgently for a very specific reward redemption.

For Canadian members, we are mostly out of luck on transfer bonuses, but I am happy that we even have this program available to us.

Depending on how you leverage your miles and points, you should be receiving well above 1 cent per point with these transfers. So I would say that transfer your Membership Rewards to travel partners is the top choice.

Travel Purchases

Both programs allow members to use their points at a set value of 1 cent per point to pay for travel purchases; therefore 1,000 points is worth $10 of statement credit. In the US, they call it Pay With Points, while in Canada you just need to book your trip through American Express Travel. Canadians also have another option called TripFlex, where you have more options on how you want to book your trip, including with an agent or entity of choice. All you have to do is pay with your AMEX card and then request a statement credit.

That being said, you should be able to get more than 1 cent per point when transferring to airline partners, so I would avoid using this reward redemption.

Redeem for Merchandise and Gift Cards

Generally you will be redeeming for well below 1 cent per point, so this is actually one of the worse reward redemption with Membership Rewards. Every now and then you may see some Special Offers in the United States or Point Drop in Canada, but they still are pretty dismal returns. So I can’t see a scenario where I would redeem my points for these reward options. If you do not see yourself travelling in the near or medium future, then I would hold off earning Membership Rewards. I would sign up for a different type of credit card instead.

Entertainment

Both programs give additional experiences to special access to entertainment. In Canada they call it Front of the Lines through TicketMaster, as well as the U.S. TicketMaster.

Lounge Access

When I say Premium, it generally means Platinum and above. American Express has its own Centurion Lounges at certain airports, whereby certain cards in both countries give you free access to those lounges. There have yet to be any Canadian Centurion Lounges, but in the United States, they are located in: Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York (LGA), Miami  (MIA)
Seattle Tacoma (SEA), San Francisco (SFO).

Additional Benefits

Note that the U.S. based premium American Express cards give you access to Boingo Wifi, as well as Global Entry or 1 free TSA Pre.

In Canada, your personal Platinum card, you will be offered special service at the Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), such as complimentary Valet Service, parking discounts and quicker access through security.

Conclusion

Like I mentioned last time. All things considered, I feel that the Canadian Membership Rewards program is relatively competitive compared to the one in the United States. Keep in mind that Canada is almost 10 times smaller than the United States, so we can’t expect the same level of competition.

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Pointshogger aims to provide analysis and updates on earning loyalty reward points and maximizing the value of your points. We hope to inspire our readers to experience the joy of travel and make the most out of what they've already got!

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