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As many do at the end of the year, I’m taking stock of my points and miles balances — and discovered that in the course of 12 months I’ve accumulated over 250,000 American Express Membership Rewards points without doing anything particularly exciting. I earned most of the points by opening and using just two new cards — The Platinum Card® from American Express
and American Express® Gold Card
In a normal year, I would probably burn just as many credit card rewards as I earned, from redeeming points for flights and hotels to using cash back to offset travel expenses. But 2021 was far from normal, and again my family was mostly grounded due to the pandemic, only taking domestic trips aside from a couple of short jaunts to Canada to visit relatives.
But 2022 will hopefully be different, and I’m excited to use these points toward a much-needed vacation with my kids. Here’s a breakdown of how I earned over a quarter million Amex points in 2021, and how I plan to redeem my stash in the coming year.
How I earned over 250K Amex points in a year
See Pay Over Time APR
100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership
Like many folks, I used the pandemic as an opportunity to stockpile a ton of points by applying for elevated credit card welcome offers and making the most of bonus spending categories.
I opened the Platinum Card in December 2020 when it was offering a limited-time bonus to earn 100,000 points after meeting spending requirements plus 10x points in eligible categories (right now there’s a similar offer to earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership).
While these big welcome offers were a huge factor, they’re not the only reason I opened both cards. I’d actually hoped to do more traveling and take advantage of perks like airport lounge access and airline incidental fee credits** with the Platinum Card. While that didn’t exactly pan out, I managed to earn a big stash of points by making the most of the card’s 10x welcome bonus categories.
With the Amex Gold Card, the biggest appeal was (and still is) the 4x points categories which line up very well with my family’s spending habits. The card earns 4 points per dollar at restaurants and on up to $25,000 in spending at US supermarkets per year (then 1x), and it’s become my go-to card in both these categories.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what I earned from each card:
In total, between these two cards, I earned 234,534 Amex Membership Rewards points — but a couple of other cards I have had for years also contributed to my points earning this year, for a grand total of 257,282 points:
Another reason I chose to open the Amex Gold Card and Platinum Card? Along with The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, they make up the “Amex Trifecta” — a trio of cards that can help you maximize points earning on every single purchase you make.
I’ll use Amex points for a trip to Ireland and Scotland with my family
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60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening
Of course, there are no guarantees with the pandemic, but I’m hoping to redeem points for a trip to Ireland and Scotland with my boyfriend and three kids later in 2022. I was optimistic enough for this trip, in fact, that this past fall I preemptively transferred Amex points to British Airways Executive Club when there was a 40% transfer bonus (no longer available).
Using British Airways Avios points to book award flights on Aer Lingus from the East Coast to Dublin is a great rewards sweet spot — it costs just 26,000 Avios round-trip in economy per person. With the 40% transfer bonus, I only needed to transfer 93,000 Amex points to British Airways to get enough points for round-trip flights for my family of five.
I may take advantage of my Amex Platinum prepaid hotel credit in Dublin, but will likely use points from other programs for most of our accommodations because it’s tricky to find traditional hotel rooms that accommodate five people in Europe. I’ll likely cash in some Capital One miles from my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to offset an Airbnb or other vacation rental instead.
However, I’ll likely use some Amex points toward flights between Ireland and Scotland. Since these flights are typically inexpensive, it might make sense to Pay With Points to book tickets directly through Amex Travel — but I’ll run the numbers and see if transferring more points to British Airways or another program costs fewer points.
The great thing about Amex Membership Rewards points is that they don’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. Because there’s still so much uncertainty around the pandemic, I’ll probably wait until the last minute to firm up my travel plans. Since most Amex transfers are instant and it only takes a few minutes to book flights online, I’m not worried about not being able to plan so far ahead.
And if we don’t end up making the trip this year, I’ll just sit tight until travel is a possibility again — and continue to boost my stockpile of points in the meantime.
Good to Excellent
3 free nights (each valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases and 10x total points on eligible purchases in select categories
Good to Excellent
$200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
Good to Excellent