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American Express Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards

Which issuer's rewards will earn you more depends on how you spend and how you like to redeem your points


American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards offer a variety of transfer partners, and there are many cards from Amex and Chase that allow you to earn points. Here’s how they compare.

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American Express and Chase are two of the largest credit card issuers in the U.S., and they each have their own proprietary and transferable currency.

American Express has Membership Rewards and Chase, not to be outdone, has Chase Ultimate Rewards. These transferable currencies can be a valuable type of mile or point to earn because they help protect you from devaluation.

If you have all of your miles or points in a single proprietary currency (think American Airlines AAdvantage miles or Hilton Honors points), you could lose a big chunk of the value of your miles and points if their award chart changes. After that, your pile of points that you thought was worth a free flight to Canada may now be worth only half the ticket.

If you transfer your rewards to a partner that devalues your transferable currency, you still have the option to transfer instead to a more advantageous partner. In this article, we will look at both Amex and Chase rewards, then compare the two and decide which one is better.

When to choose American Express Membership Rewards

When transferring to an exclusive Amex partner

Both Chase and American Express have a variety of different hotel and airline transfer partners. While there is some overlap, some airlines or hotels partner with one but not the other.

So, if you’re applying for a Membership Rewards card solely for the purpose of transferring your points to a loyalty program that only partners with Amex (like Delta Air Lines or Hilton), you’ll want to choose the Membership Rewards program.

For staying at luxury hotels

Cardholders of The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card provide access to a variety of card benefits that you can use at luxury hotels. Such properties include the Fine Hotels + Resorts and The Hotel Collection programs.

For example, the Platinum Card gives you up to $200 statement credit each year on prepaid bookings, of at least two nights, made with Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection. Upon arrival, you’ll also receive other perks such as a room upgrade (if available), daily breakfast for two people, late checkout at 4 p.m. and an experience credit for a qualifying hotel purchase.

If you’re a foodie

The ability to earn points is just as important as redeeming them for good value. If you’re a foodie, the American Express® Gold Card earns 4X points at restaurants (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases each year, then 1X point). The card also comes with some statement credits that could go toward your meals: up to $120 in Uber Cash annually and up to $120 in dining credits for purchases with participating restaurants.

For all its attributes, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program lacks any cards that offer bonus points in a grocery or supermarket category. So, if you spend a lot in those, you may want to focus on the Membership Rewards program to truly max out your points balance.

When to choose Chase Ultimate Rewards

When you want to redeem for cash

While you can redeem Membership Rewards points directly for statement credit, you won’t get great value (at 0.6 cents per point) if you do. On the other hand, you can always redeem Ultimate Rewards points for at least 1 cent as a statement credit or direct deposit in an account of your choosing. While that may not be the absolute best redemption option to get the most out of your points, it’s definitely better than the value you get from redeeming for cash back.

For booking travel other than airfare

Another area where Ultimate Rewards points shine compared to Membership Rewards is when redeeming your points directly through the issuer’s travel portal. Both issuers allow you to redeem your points for travel through their respective travel portals, but the value that you get varies widely.

With American Express Travel, you’ll usually get a value of 0.7 cents to 1 cent per point, depending on what kind of travel you book. On the lower end of that spectrum is hotels, cruises and rental cars, while airfare rests in that 1 cent per point range.

With Chase Ultimate Rewards, however, you can get up to 1.5 cents per point on all travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. The boosted point value is automatically given to those who have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and that value is consistent across all kinds of travel, not just airfare.

When transferring to an exclusive Chase partner

Just like with American Express, there are some Ultimate Rewards travel partners that are unique to Chase. If you want to transfer your points to partners like Southwest Airlines, United Airlines or Hyatt hotels, choose Chase Ultimate Rewards. This option is especially attractive to those who are already members of those loyalty programs, such as Southwest Rapid Rewards, and are applying for an Ultimate Rewards card to supplement their Rapid Rewards points.

When to choose both Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards

There are a few situations in which you might consider using both Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards:

When transferring to a common transfer partner

American Express and Chase have a few common transfer partners — like Marriott Bonvoy and British Airways. Make sure that you are aware of the transfer ratios — though many transfer partners transfer at a 1:1 ratio, there are some exceptions. Also, it’s important to be aware that both Amex and Chase offer periodic transfer bonuses to some partners, which can help reap you extra value when transferring. So for diehard Marriott Bonvoy fans, you may have two streams of easy points flowing in to cover your hotel stays.

If you’re trying to optimize your miles and points

Both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards can provide a lot of value. If you’re really trying to optimize and maximize your miles and points, you probably want to pay attention to both programs. That way, you’ll have a healthy balance in each program and can use each program for the redemption method that best suits it.

Plus, since each rewards program offers many ways to earn points: using the issuer shopping portal, referring a friend to apply for a card, spending on a rewards card — you can earn rewards in any way that best fits your lifestyle.

Perhaps you prefer to shop on the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal because it includes your favorite brands, but you like to use your Amex Gold Card for all your grocery spending. With the two issuer programs, you can diversify how you earn rewards while enjoying their collective benefits when you redeem.

Bottom line

So, which one is better? As with most things in life, it depends. Take a look at the two rewards programs’ individual cards, benefits and transfer partners and see which one works best for you. Don’t forget, the ability to earn plenty of points based on the categories you spend the most on is just as important as the redemption options.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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