Earning Rewards With American Express

By: Richard Greenwood

AMEX and travel have always gone hand in hand and cardholder enjoy a range of travel related benefits such as purchase protection, travel insurance and travel rewards used for items such as flights and hotel stays. American Express card holders now have the option of a number of travel reward schemes, all of which sit under the Mebership Rewards umbrella. Some of the options are:

Choices Membership: Rewards Choices allows you to redeem your rewards points against a wide variety of travel choices, gift cards, home and electronic products, and personal products. You can also use the points to help pay off the balance owing on your AMEX card. Among the special Amex travel rewards you get with this option is TravelKey, where your points can be redeemed for travel through Travelscene American Express and for accommodation rewards throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

Ascent Membership: Rewards Ascent gives you the benefits of Choices but with something more the option to redeem your earned Amex travel rewards points in frequent flyer and frequent guest programs partnered with American Express credit cards. This program is particularly useful for frequent travellers, giving you access to Amex travel rewards partnerships with many frequent flyer programs like Qantas Frequent Flyer, Velocity Rewards of Virgin Blue, and several other airlines.

Spirit: The Membership Rewards Spirit program is exclusive to American Express Qantas Corporate and Business accounts. The Amex travel rewards you earn under the Spirit program may be transferred to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, 1 Amex travel rewards point for 1 Qantas Frequent Flyer point. Once the transfer is completed, you may then use your points with any of Qantas' partners in the oneworld alliance. Alternatively, you may transfer the Amex travel rewards points to a frequent guest program partner hotels (Hilton HHonors, Priority Club Worldwide and Starwood Preferred Guest).

Blue Sky: The Blue Sky awards program is exclusive to American Express Blue Sky credit card. The rewards points you receive in the Blue Sky rewards scheme do not have the usual blackout dates and you can fly any day of the year to a range of desinations. Other than flights it is possible to redeem Blue Sky rewards points for a huge range of travel related items including car rental, entertainment and shopping.

Program Membership Fees

There are fees that apply to every type of Membership Rewards program. Choices -- $40 for all personal and gold charge cards; blue and gold personal credit cards; and business cards; for corporate cards, the annual program fee is $55 or 8,250 points. Ascent - $80 for all personal and gold charge cards; blue and gold personal credit cards; and business cards; for corporate cards, the annual program fee is $89 or 13,350 points. With some cards such as the Rewards Maxiniser and Platinum AMEX credit cards, program membership costs are included in the annual card fee. Spirit -- $59 for the Business Card and $89 (or 13,350 points) for the Corporate Card. Blue Sky - complimentary membership with your Blue Sky credit card

Once you have a valid Membership Rewards account, you earn 1 point for every $1 spent on any of your American Express credit cards. If you have supplementary cards, the Amex travel rewards earned on those cards are linked automatically to your primary card account. If you have multiple AMEX credit cards such as a corporate or business card plus a personal card you can pool all your points together.

To maximise your points earned, you do not really have to increase your spending; instead just use your American Express credit cards for all your regular purchases. AMEX has now made it easier to make use of AMEX travel rewards. Depending on how long you have been a member, you get a corresponding loyalty discount which means you need to use less points to receive certain rewards. Members since the 1970s get 20% discounts; since 1980s, 15%; since 1990-1995, 10%; and since 1996-2000, 5%.

You also maximise points earned on every dollar spent by taking advantage of special offers from American Express credit cards' Bonus Partners. This will earn you Bonus Points on top of the Membership Rewards points.

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