The two most flexible reward programs that are not locked-in to an Airline or a Hotel Chain are Ultimate Rewards from Chase and Membership Rewards from American Express. Both are excellent programs with great redemption opportunities and multiple ways to earn them. This post with compare and contrast some of the key points of these two rewards programs.

Whats Common:

  • The first thing that is common between these two programs is that they are both not locked to a particular Airline or Airlines (like Miles and More is to Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian or United MileagePlus to just United) or Hotel Chain (like Hilton HHonors to the Hilton Chain).
  • Secondly, they can be transferred to multiple other programs – Hotel, Airline, Retail, Gift Cards
  • Thridly, they both have redemption directly for Travel
  • Fourth, they both have ‘shopping malls’ that allow earning rewards on purchases from a wide set of retailed/brands
  • Fifth, both have multiple cards that earn to the same program – personal and business cards. (See below for list)
  • Sixth, while not the best return, both allow redemption for cash or cash Gift Cards

Whats different:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards has 1:1 transfer to several airline and hotel programs (United, Marriott, Amtrak, to name a few), where as Membership Rewards the ratios are not always 1:1 (Hilton is 1:1.5 and SPG is 1:0.33)
  • Membership Rewards has 16 Airlines and 5 Hotel programs you can transfer to, where as Chase has 9 total programs you can transfer to (Air, Hotel and Amtrak)
  • Membership Rewards can be redeemed directly on Amazon.com
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards has many opportunities to earn multiple points for each dollar spent (unto 6x), but Membership Rewards tops out at 3x (for travel)
  • Membership Rewards allows transfer to Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), which itself has excellent redemption and transfer opportunities
  • Last, but not the least both have multiple cards that allow you to earn points, but American Express has more cards to choose from. Having multiple cards to get over a period of time allows one to really pile on the points with multiple sign-up bonuses!

Any feature of these two reward programs that you love? Which program do you have points with? Do share by leaving a comment below.

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Posted by unroadwarrior | 12 Comments

12 Responses to “Chase Ultimate Rewards vs. American Express Membership Rewards”

  1. Mariah B says:

    Ultimate Rewards can also be used directly on Amazon.

  2. unroadwarrior says:

    @Mariah, thanks for the clarification. I missed that on the Chase UR site.

  3. PhatMiles says:

    Where is the Amex Shopping Portal? I have an Amex Plat and I do not have access to the portal.

  4. Steven says:

    Amex closed its shopping portal and you can’t transfer Chase Sapphire (NON-PREFERRED) to these partners.

  5. Nic says:

    Membership Rewards no longer has a mall.

  6. Nic says:

    UR has United, MR has Delta.
    UR participating cards have no foreign transaction fee, MR most cards have foreign transaction fee.
    UR cards have $95 annual fee, MR cards have $125+.
    UR cards give you 40K-50K bonus points for signup, MR cards give you 25K.
    The title shouldn’t be UR vs MR, it should be when you are done getting UR cards, move on to MR cards.

  7. Steve says:

    Another consideration, if you are going to take into account earning possibilities, is that American Express cards are churnable while Chase are not.

  8. Haldami says:

    @nic

    While UR has better standard offers, MR has increased point promotions and targeted offers a lot more than UR. UR cards may have lower annual fees but the platinum has better benefits than any UR card.

  9. Miles says:

    Why would you get the Business Green Rewards card instead of the Blue for Business?

  10. Crissy says:

    There is also an AMEX Green for Membership Rewards. Not as rewarding at the Gold Card, but has a lower annual fee.

  11. A.J. says:

    Can theSaphire Preferred 40,000 bonus points be redeemed for cash back?

  12. unroadwarrior says:

    Yes they can. Details are here.

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