I have a simple rule with credit cards – I want something in return from the card vendor, every time I use the card (other than the credit, that is). As an Un-RoadWarrior, my 1st choice is always Airline Miles. My all time favorite cards for earning miles are the American Express cards. Here I will review three programs available with American Express cards that I have used to earn Airline miles. They are:

  1. American Express Membership Rewards
  2. Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card
  3. HiltonHonors American Express Cards

The main advantage of earning miles using these particular programs offered by American Express Cards is that you can defer which airline you want to earn the miles on until later.

This is distinctly different from an airline branded credit card where you have no choice as you can only earn miles on the airline whose mileage program issued the card (duh!) I would like to point out here that American Express too has airline branded credit cards. The Delta mileage program card is an example.

In case of these three cards discussed here, you earn points in the program associated with the card. You can then redeem these points for awards in that program itself, or transfer these points as Airline Miles to any of several Airline Miles programs available. So, to the airline you want and when you want!

American Express Membership Rewards:

This is the most popular Rewards program from American Express. It comes with almost all of their credit cards and usually at no additional fee beyond the card’s annual fee. This program has great rewards you can redeem its points on and also an extensive list of Airline Miles you can transfer points to. Here is the latest list of the Airline programs to which the transfer option is available.

A big downside to converting Membership Rewards points to airline miles for is that if one is converting points to a US-base

American Express Cards

d airline, there is a tax that needs to be paid (yes, Uncle Sam wants your miles too!). The rate of this tax at this time is $0.0005 per point, with a maximum fee of $75 (effective 09/01/2009, it will be $0.0006 per point, with a maximum fee of $99). There is no tax if one is converting points to a non-US based airline. Another reason to accumulate miles on non-US based airlines.

Another downside of the Membership Rewards program is that the points earned are associated with the card itself. If at any time you decide to cancel the card, the points accumulated become void.

Starwood Preferred Guest and HiltonHonors:

The Starwood Preferred Guest (aka SPG) and the HiltonHonors American Express cards are pretty similar to each other in function and options. Both are hotel rewards programs. As you can probably guess by the names, the SPG card is for the Starwood group of hotels: Sheraton, Westin, W (the hotel not the ex-president), etc and HiltonHonors is for the Hilton group – Hilton, Hampton Inn, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, etc. Like the Membership rewards program, these programs also allow the points to be transferred to Airline Miles programs. In fact, as you can see here for SPG and here for HiltonHonors, the list is even more extensive than that for the Membership Rewards program. SPG also has an ongoing promotion that award an additional 5,000 miles for every 20,000 points transferred to an airline program.

I love these two programs and have points in both. I see no downside to either. Both cards also have great hotel rewards available too. Also, if you charge enough in a year on the cards, you get Silver status in the respective programs.

Why American Express?

A lot of people don’t like American Express cards because they are not accepted in as many places as Visa and Mastercard. That is true. On the plus side, the #1 reason I love American Express is because of their excellent and consistent customer service – anywhere in the world. Visa and Mastercard can never give you that. The reason being that Visa and Mastercard do not issue the cards, banks do. And the customer service you get is from the issuing bank. As they say – YMMV, based on the bank. With American Express, they alone issue the cards and they handle the customer service, hence ensuring a minimum standard. And of course, they have these excellent, flexible rewards programs.

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Posted by unroadwarrior | 20 Comments

20 responses to “American Express – The best Airline Miles Credit Cards”

  1. Saurooon says:

    Hi there,
    http://www.unroadwarrior.com – da best. Keep it going!

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for the kind words Sauroon.


  3. […] American Express – The best Airline Miles Credit Cards | 41 view(s) Follow my Tweets! Check out my latest blog post – Why Starwood Preferred Guest is the best loyalty program « http://bit.ly/2gjnYo 30 mins ago RT @minglecard: Chase debuts loyalty card http://tinyurl.com/mkdmu8. No annual fee. Points never expire! Cool!! 2009/08/21 Just added myself to the http://wefollow.com twitter directory under: #blogger #travel #airline 2009/08/21 […]

  4. […] fee, but it is substantially discounted as opposed to purchasing a full years membership. Some American Express cards and special ‘club’ cards from United and Continental include lounge […]

  5. […] you and I, but also to all the 3rd party partners that offer miles for their services. So, the way American Express is able to give Delta SkyMiles on their credit card to you every time you make a charge is by first […]

  6. […] Probably the easiest way to get miles is by getting a credit card offered by the program you earn your miles on or a card that lets you transfer miles/points earned to your program. Typically credit cards also give a very generous chunk of miles for a new card. British Airways has a card that gives up to 100,000 miles! Learn more about Picking the Right Airline Miles Credit Card in my two part article on the topic and in my article on American Express cards. […]

  7. I got a letter inviting me to sign up for one of these the other day. You get a free expresso machine too if you spend over 500 dollars in the first month. They are definitely the way to go!


  8. admin says:

    Aaron, thanks for sharing. AmEx cards are certainly the way to go. They know what the customers want. Did you get the expresso machine?

  9. Credit Cards says:

    Credit Cards…

    This was a great post it had wonderful information thanks for the share !…

  10. […] transfer miles, wherever possible from other non-airline programs to airline programs. Such as from America Express Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest to appropriate […]

  11. […] would be that there is no tax on transfers to ANA (or any other non-US airline). You will have to pay Uncle Sam to get your miles transferred to CO. __________________ My blog on Airline Miles and Frequent Flier tips: UnRoadWarrior.com is now […]

  12. […] American Express Blue Cash (5% cash back at supermarkets, gas stations, and drugstores, plus up to 1.25% cash back for all your other purchases. Points normally worth one cent) […]

  13. […] of you already know about the 25K Membership Reward (MR) Points signup bonus offer for American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card. Regular readers also know that I applied for the card with this offer in […]

  14. […] American Express: Coverage is secondary unless you purchase the Premium protection plan. Cover all fees when the ‘rental company provides appropriate documentation’. […]

  15. […] need Skymiles. They have been having a perpetual 50% transfer bonus for first time transfers from Membership Rewards (MR) to Skymiles. The last offer just ended on May 31 and the new one is back already for transfers […]

  16. […] American Express Platinum Card needs no introduction. It is the premier card in the AMEX line up that is available to everybody (with excellent credit that is). Elite status in Hotels, Car rentals, airline lounges… the benefit list is pretty huge. The Points Guy covers it in good depth. […]

  17. […] few years ago (four to be precise) my wife got one of them American Express Cards that gave her 50,000 Membership Rewards points just for signing up and spending $1,000 in a few […]

  18. […] American Express has been very creative off late. Last weekend they had the Small Business $25 offer, that they participated in. Now they have their new Gift Chain offer. Instead of me explaining it in details here, I will pass you on to an excellent and detailed post by Mommy Points where you can read all about it. (Thanks Mommy Points.) Here is a brief synopsis: […]

  19. […] American Express Rewards is one of the best reward programs out there. The flexibility and variety of rewards available is out of this world. I have in the past redeemed Membership Rewards for Macy’s Gift cards (in a convoluted way, though) and for hotel stays. Just last week I redeemed them for airline tickets. The tickets for my flight were pretty steep and reward availability for Saver Rewards (you know the advertised 25,000 mile round trip awards) were unavailable. I did not want to shell out the chase, so I decided to burn up some of the 85,000 Membership rewards I had. […]

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