American Express’ Membership Rewards is a strong loyalty program — especially for travelers. Points convert at a 1:1 ratio to several travel partners, including blog favorite Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles. Business Platinum Card from American Express members enjoy a 35% rebate when using Membership Rewards points to purchase select airfares.
But an area where Membership Rewards really disappoints is in the statement credit departments.
I bought lunch at Wendy’s last month for my father-in-law and me. It cost $16.06. I can apply Membership Rewards toward the purchase and pay it off that way (as opposed to cash).
But the cost is slightly ridiculous.
We almost always can find travel redemptions worth at least a cent per Membership Rewards point. And that’s being somewhat conservative. But applying MRs toward my Wendy’s purchase essentially costs $26.77 worth of points — for a charge of $16.06?
Usually, I wouldn’t care very much because I use Membership Rewards points exclusively for travel. But I’m not traveling until, quite likely, Spring 2021. And I still have monthly expenses — while my income is significantly down this year. So I’d like the option to use points at a reasonable value toward statement credit.
But Amex doesn’t seem too interested in that.
Even their Amex-branded gift cards aren’t worth the points.
Even Delta, iTunes, and Fleming’s gift cards aren’t worth it.
Other gift cards, though, do carry a 1:1 redemption value. Some examples are Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Benihana, Bath & Body Works, Calm, and Crate & Barrel.
All of this is rather disappointing — especially because I love, love, love my American Express Gold Card. But may have to start using it less.
Is the Chase On?
Here’s a spot where Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program shines.
Their Freedom, Sapphire, and Ink cards earn points that can be redeemed for travel, cash back, or statement credit — all at a value of at least a penny per.
Third-party gift cards are available at friendly redemptions.
If Chase were to give good, permanent grocery bonus earnings to everyone holding certain cards — instead of just new cardmembers (like those applying for the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited)– I’d seriously consider moving my supermarket and other grocery purchases from my Blue Cash Preferred and Amex Gold Cards.
But as the world adjusts to changes COVID-19 brought, so must Membership Rewards. They must become more award-friendly, such as how Chase manages their Ultimate Rewards program.
I hope Amex will consider doing something — and soon.
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