There are several travel rewards programs out there attached to credit card products. American Express Membership Rewards are perhaps the most famous- they certainly pioneered the ‘transfer partner.’ But now, there’s a new(-ish) kid in town: Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s compare the two programs below!
Option to transfer points
One obvious similarity between the two programs is their option of transfer partners. Many other credit cards, like a Southwest or a JetBlue credit card, are tied to one singular travel program. The points you earn with those cards are only able to be used with those programs. Not so with Chase and American Express’ programs. They have transfer partners, a varied grouping of airlines and hotels that you can use your points towards.
Furthermore, you’ll be able to use each of the points in these programs toward booking travel directly, through either Chase’s or American Express’ dedicated flight booking engine.
Each has their own shopping portals that you can earn a large swatch of bonus points by buying through that point of purchase. You’ll use each one of the credit cards on these purchases just like any other online store. You can also use the points for cash back or gift cards (but usually an awful deal).
Credit Card options
By far the best personal rewards card in either program is Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Both Chase’s Ultimate Rewards and American Express’ Membership Rewards have several different cards in each program, geared to both personal and business customers.
Cards in Chase’s arsenal are:
- the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire cards
- the Ink Bold and Ink Plus business credit cards, and
- the Chase Freedom card (which can be used in the program only if you have one of the other cards).
American Express has:
- the Platinum Card
- the Premier Rewards Gold Card
- the Gold Card
- the Green Card, and
- the Amex EveryDay Credit card.
Most of these products have business versions of the card.
Different Transfer Partners
Each program has different transfer partners.
Membership Rewards has: AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alitalia, ANA, Asia Miles, British Airways, Delta, El Al Airlines, Emirates, Air France, Frontier, Hawaiian, Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore, Virgin America, and Virgin Atlantic, as well as Best Western, Choice Privileges, Hilton and SPG. The option to transfer points to SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) is an added benefit, since it has many transfer partners of its own.
Chase Ultimate Rewards has: Southwest, United, British Airways, Korean Air, Amtrak, Marriott, IHG, Hyatt, Ritz Carlton, and Virgin Atlantic.
With American Express, the points for each partner can vary (like 1:1.5 for Hilton). Chase stays constant at 1:1. Furthermore, you can use Membership Rewards right on Amazon.com. In addition, there seems to be more ‘bonus’ transfer point opportunities in the Membership Rewards program each year (currently a 30% bonus on points transferred to Virgin Atlantic).
I don’t think that there’s one ‘better program’ out there, but I do recommend having a card that earns points in each of these programs. The power of having so many transfer partners at your disposal will make travel planning easier (or more complicated, if that’s the way you choose to look at it!). So, which one do you feel is the best for you? Let us know in the comments below, and tell us about your experiences with either the Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards programs!