The Soup-to-Nuts Guide to the American Express Membership Rewards® Program in Canada
* This post was sponsored by American Express. The views and opinions expressed in it, however, are purely my own.
American Express cards tend to make it to the top of most “best of” lists not only because of the cards’ valuable features and high earn rates, but in large part because of Amex’s popular Membership Rewards® (MR) program. Amex MR is among the most flexible and user-friendly rewards programs in Canada, with a wide array of redemption options.
But Amex cardholders can’t maximize the full potential of their Rewards unless they understand the ins and outs of the program. Get the most out of your Amex Membership Rewards with our comprehensive guide to earning, transferring, and redeeming your Amex MR.
In This Article:
Though Amex offers several kinds of credit cards in Canada, including co-branded airline cards, hotel cards and cashback cards, their most beloved cards tend to be those that earn Membership Rewards®, like the American Express Cobalt® Card and The Platinum Card®.
Earning MR points is very straightforward: You charge purchases to your Amex and, depending on the earn rate of the particular card you own and the type of item you purchase, you’re rewarded with a set amount of MR points. Once you’re ready to redeem your points for a reward you head over to www.MembershipRewards.ca to log into your account. From there you can use points for purchases and earn a statement credit, redeem for merchandise, gift cards, or shop with points at Amazon.ca, and more.
Earning Membership Rewards
There are myriad ways to earn MR points, but the fastest and easiest is to exploit an Amex card’s welcome/sign-up bonus. Consumer-oriented Amex cards in Canada (i.e. non-Business cards) tend to have very attractive sign-up bonuses, for example, new cardmembers can earn up to 80,000 Membership Rewards® points when they sign up for the The Platinum Card®. The prerequisite to earn those points is easy enough: New Platinum® Cardmembers, earn 60,000 Welcome Bonus points after you charge $6,000 in net purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Plus, earn 20,000 points when you make a purchase between 14 and 17 months of Cardmembership. Conditions apply.
Day-to-Day Spending on the Credit Card
The amount of Membership Rewards points you’ll get for your regular spending on the card varies based on the specific card’s earn rate per category, ranging from 1 to 5 MR points per dollar. Here’s an example of earn rates for one of Amex’s most popular cards:
American Express Cobalt® Card
– 5 points per $1 spent at restaurants, coffee shops and bars; stand-alone grocery stores; and food delivery services in Canada (maximum of 150K points can be earned annually at this special rate)
– 3 points per $1 spent on eligible streaming services
– 2 points per $1 spent on airfare, hotels, ground transit, and stand-alone gas stations in Canada (unlimited)
– 1 point per $1 spent on anything else (unlimited)
Refer a Friend
American Express also has a unique referral feature that gives you a set number of MR points if you refer a friend and that friend is approved for a card. But only some cards are eligible, and different cards reward different amounts of MR points per referral. You can learn more by reading our in-depth article about the referral program.
Redeeming Membership Rewards
No other rewards program in Canada has such an impressive mix of possible redemption options, including the option of transferring points to major air travel and hotel partners.
Use Points for Purchases
You can redeem a minimum of 1000 MR points for any eligible purchase—from groceries, to your Netflix subscription, to a flight to Hawaii—and earn a statement credit. Below is a step-by-step look at the redemption process for purchases:
1. Log into your account and select any eligible transaction that you want to redeem points against.
2. A page will appear showing the total number of Membership Rewards points needed to offset your purchase. You then simply select “Use Points” to apply the points to the purchase of your choice. For statement credits, the value of one Membership Rewards point is $0.01 (1000 points = $10).
3. Another screen will appear where you’ll need to agree to the Terms and Conditions. Once you agree, select the “Use Points” button to complete your redemption.
4. You’re all done. The statement credit will then be applied to your account, usually within 48 hours.
MR points can be redeemed for gift cards with many different Canadian brands in industries like retail, travel, and dining. This can be a particularly convenient redemption option when you’re stumped for gift ideas during the holiday season.
1. First, log in at membershiprewards.ca. Then click on the “Gift Cards” tab and select a gift card category from the navigation menu. Or, you can use the search bar just below to find a specific brand you like.
2. If you used the navigation menu, you’ll land on the page for the category selected where all Gift Cards available in that category will be shown. This example shows American Express gift cards, which are prepaid cards that can be used almost anywhere Amex cards are accepted in Canada.
3. Click on the gift card you want to redeem your points for, select the denomination and quantity you want and then click on “Add to Cart.”
4. A pop-up will appear confirming the product has been added to your cart. Click on “View Cart & Check Out” to complete your redemption.
5. Enter the security information requested to complete your redemption and confirm your order.
6. Review the order and you’re done. Gift card orders are usually processed within two business days and take about a week to deliver. Note that the value of a point for a gift card in this example is $0.008, but the redemption value can vary slightly depending on the gift card type. Amex Prepaid Cards can be redeemed at the rate of 125 points per $1. All other gift cards can usually be redeemed at 130 points per $1.
Amazon Shop with Points
One redemption method that many Amex cardholders might not be aware of is Amazon Shop with Points. There are a couple of Amex credit cards that offer this Amazon perk. The option to redeem on Amazon is rare among Canadian rewards programs, and it’s one of the most convenient redemption options available to Amex cardholders, particularly given Amazon’s broad popularity in Canada.
Points can be redeemed at Amazon by completing the following steps:
- Go to amazon.ca/membershiprewards
- Sign in to your existing Amazon.ca account or create a new one
- Link your Membership Rewards and Amazon accounts per the instructions here
- Shop on Amazon as you normally would
- At checkout, choose to pay with your Membership Rewards points. Each point will be worth $0.007 if you opt for this method of redemption.
Redeem for Merchandise
MR points can also be directly redeemed for electronics, kitchenware, apparel, home and garden, and more. To view the merchandise selection just click the ‘Shop’ tab on the MR homepage. Keep in mind that redemption values vary substantially from one item to the next, so before redeeming with this method I recommend always dividing the real world retail price of an item you’re eyeing with the number of MR points required for redemption. This will give you an idea as to whether or not a particular product redemption is a good deal relative to other redemption paths detailed in this guide.
Points for Travel
Though you can redeem points to pay for eligible travel-related purchases on a statement credit as shown above, there are two additional ways for Amex cardholders to redeem points for travel: the Fixed Points Travel Program (which can only be used for flights) and the Flexible Points Travel Program (which can be used for flights, hotels, and car rentals).
Fixed Points Travel Program
The Fixed Points Travel Program is very easy to use because the number of points you need to redeem for a flight is consistent regardless of flight availability, seasonality, etc. Cardholders can redeem points up to a maximum base ticket price (not including taxes, fees and carrier surcharges) within a specified flight category, ranging from short-haul Canada/U.S. to long-haul Worldwide, in either economy or business class. Refer to the charts below to understand how many points will be required for a desired booking.
Here’s how to go about redeeming your Membership Rewards points with the Fixed Points Travel Program:
1. Log in at americanexpress.ca/travel and search for your desired flight.
2. You’ll see both the Fixed Points Travel Program and Flexible Points Travel Program options, unless you either don’t have enough points to redeem for the Fixed Points Travel Program or you’ve searched for a one-way flight, in which case you’ll only see the Flexible Points Travel Program option.
3. As noted, with the Fixed Points Travel Program, you can redeem a set number of points to cover the base ticket price of any flight (up to a max base ticket price), excluding taxes, fees and surcharges. Anything above the max base ticket price, including the taxes, fees and surcharges, can either be charged to your card or you can redeem points for the charges at a rate of 1,000 points per $10 ($0.01 per point).
In this example, the cardholder has selected a Canada/U.S. long-haul flight, for which 40,000 points covers a base ticket price of up to $700. This particular flight has a base ticket price of $438 (which you can find by clicking on “Price Breakdown”). Since it falls below the maximum base ticket price, it qualifies for the Fixed Points Travel Program and all that’s left to pay is $132.79 in taxes, fees and surcharges. Base ticket prices and associated charges may vary depending on when you book.
4. Once you’ve finished selecting your departure and return flights, you’ll get to the checkout page where you’ll see a points slider that will let you choose how many points you wish to redeem for your flight, while also calculating the remaining total due to be charged to your Amex.
5. Check the terms and conditions box and then click “Book Now” to complete your redemption.
Be aware that if you used Membership Rewards points to book your travel, the full cost of your booking including any extra fees will be initially charged to your Card. However, you will receive a statement credit for any points you have redeemed toward the travel purchase within 5-10 business days from the date of booking.
To make the most of the Fixed Points Travel Program, you’ll want to aim to redeem your points for a fare that is as close to the maximum allowable base price as possible. For example, 100,000 Membership Rewards points would normally be worth $1000 for a regular travel redemption, but with the Fixed Points program those points could be worth as much as $1800—the maximum base ticket price for a Canada/US long-haul, business class flight.
Flexible Points Travel Program
You can also use your points to pay for travel purchases you make through American Express Travel Services or American Express Travel online. As with redeeming points for travel via Use Points for Purchases, the value of each point is set at $0.01 per point. Furthermore, while you can only use the Fixed Points Travel Program for flights, you can use the Flexible Points Travel Program to redeem for flights, car rentals and hotels. These are the steps to take to redeem with the Flexible Points Travel Program:
1. Log in at americanexpress.ca/travel to redeem points.
2. Once you’ve logged in and searched for your desired travel option (in this case, a flight), you’ll see both the Fixed Points Travel Program and Flexible Points Travel Program options.
If you don’t want to use points to cover the entire cost of your redemption, you can put the balance of the redemption on your credit card.
3. If you choose to use the Flexible Points Travel Program, the slider will default to zero points.
You can then move the slider to the right to select how many points you want to redeem to cover some or all of the total cost.
4. Agree to the terms and conditions and click “Book Now.”
As with the Fixed Points redemption route, the full cost of a Flexible Points booking, including any taxes, fees and carrier surcharges, will be initially charged to your card. But you will receive a statement credit for any points you have redeemed towards the travel purchase within 5-10 business days from the date of booking.
Transferring Points to a Travel Partner
American Express Canada has seven airline loyalty partners: Aeroplan, Air France KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia MilleMiglia, British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, and Etihad Guest; and two hotel partners in Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. Transferring to eligible travel partners’ loyalty programs allows cardholders to potentially get even more value from their MR points than they would within the Amex redemption system itself.
The most remunerative transfer deals are with Aeroplan and British Airways Avios, which have a 1:1 transfer rate (i.e. 1000 Membership Rewards points net you 1000 Aeroplan or BA Avios points). The rate for the other four airline partners is less advantageous, at 1:0.75 or 1000 MR points for 750 loyalty points. For hotel partners, the transfer rate is 1:1 for Hilton Honours and 5 Membership Rewards points for 6 Marriott Bonvoy points. Transferring to partners can take anywhere from 30 minutes to five days to be processed and you’ll need to transfer a minimum of 1000 MR points.
Transferring Membership Rewards Points to Aeroplan Points
Aeroplan is one of the more popular points programs that American Express cardholders choose to take advantage of. Luckily, American Express makes it pretty easy to transfer points to Aeroplan.
When you log on to your American Express account online, you’ll have the option to transfer your points. You can also call American Express customer service and do it over the phone if you want someone to help you out. Simply choose the number of points you want to transfer in increments of 100 (the minimum transfer is 1000 points). The points convert 1:1, so you don’t lose out on anything by transferring. You should also keep in mind that transfers are final, so you won’t be able to transfer your points back to Membership Rewards once they’re in your Aeroplan account. Once the transfer is complete, you should see your points in your Aeroplan account in as little as 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
Do MR Points Expire?
Technically no. But points can be deducted or forfeited from your account in the below circumstances:
Returning an item. This results in the points you earned from that item’s purchase being deducted from your account.
Missing a required credit card payment. This results in the forfeiture of all points earned during the statement period associated with the late payment.
Cancellation of a card either voluntarily, by the cardholder’s company (in the case of business cards,) or by Amex due to a cardholder’s violation of MR’s Terms and Conditions. This results in the forfeiture of all points in the account.
Forfeited points can be reinstated by making all past due payments required and filing a request with Amex to reinstate the points within 3 months of their forfeiture date. There is a $20 fee for each reinstatement request made online, and a $30 fee for each reinstatement request made by phone.
Reap the Rewards with These Amex MR Hacks
If you’re looking for a credit card rewards program that’s easy to use, generous and flexible, it doesn’t get more rewarding than the American Express Membership Rewards program. Bookmark this guide for future reference, and always keep these essential hacks in mind as you navigate Amex MR:
- Periodically review the assortment of American Express credit cards out there to ensure that your card offers the highest rewards available for your biggest spending categories, e.g. restaurants, groceries, travel, etc.
- Earn extra points by recommending your Amex card to a friend or family member.
- Save your points for redeeming on travel, which will likely earn you the highest value possible per point.
- When using the Fixed Points Travel Program, redeem your points for a fare that is close to the maximum allowable base price.
- Always compare the number of MR points for a given travel redemption with the number of Aeroplan or Avios points required for the same itinerary. If the redemption requires less Aeroplan or Avios points than with MR, transfer your points to the program with the more worthwhile redemption path.
- Doubtful about whether a particular redemption is really worthwhile? Bust out a calculator and do the quick division. If the dollar value you’re getting per point is low, it’s probably better to be patient and wait for a better opportunity. Remember, your points won’t expire as long as you make your payments on time.
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