American Express Membership Reward card (Amex MRCC) is one card that I recommend everyone should keep in one’s wallet, without fail. Not only this card gives a status symbol of using an Amex card but also the reward rate and features of the card are among the best in class.
About the Amex Membership Reward Card
The Amex Membership Reward card is the twin of Amex Gold Charge card (review coming soon); with nearly all the benefit that the Gold charge card offers but in the form of a credit card and lower fees.
In the Amex portfolio, this would sit in the entry-level card category along with Amex Smart Earn credit card (Review soon). However, at overall level it fits as Lifestyle card suitable for people who have a decent monthly income (~50,000/month).
Eligibility of Amex Membership Reward Card
One is eligible to apply for Amex Membership Reward card provided one has INR6 lakh or above annual income. Importantly, one should have a good credit history and no record of any payment defaults. As per my knowledge, Amex takes the income criteria and credit history very seriously for its credit card customers.
Typically, Amex MRCC is available at first-year fees of INR1,000 only (one can get it for free too if applied via this link); however, from second year onward the fees jumps to INR4,500/year.
Amex has smartly used the carrot and stick approach with fees; wherein, if the annual spend is under INR90,000 one has to pay the INR4,500+GST fees for the next year. However, if one spends between INR90,000 and INR150,000, 50% of next year fee is waived. Annual fees to completely waived off if one spends above INR150,000 in the preceding year. If at all one pays the full year fees of INR4,500 in the second year, you get 5000 bonus reward points.
Benefits and reward rate on Amex Membership Reward Card
Amex MRCC card gives 1 reward point for every INR 50 spent, resulting in earn rate of meagre 0.80%. The good part is one earns reward points even for wallet load, unlike HDFC Bank credit cards.
The reason Amex MRCC is very popular because one get 1000 reward points every month for simply doing 4 transactions of INR1,000 each month. These could be anything e.g. wallet load or transactions where one does not earn any reward points, such as fuel, insurance and utility (electricity, water and gas bills) payments.
Considering the reward rate of 40 paise/reward point, the bonus reward points translate into savings of a whopping 10.8%. The logic is, if one earns 80 reward points for INR4000 spent on the card + one earns 1000 bonus reward points. Total is 1080*0.40= INR432 on spend of INR4000. This makes Amex Membership Reward card a must-have credit card in one’s wallet. No other card offers this kind of reward rate in India, except HDFC Diners Black and HDFC Infinia, but they are super-premium credit cards available only at very high-income levels.
How to maximise the reward rate
I did some working to arrive at an annual spend amount that I should put on Amex Membership Reward card to maximise my reward rate.
As per my calculations, one must spend INR150,000 annually, to get a full fee waiver. This results in earn a reward rate of 4.2%. Anything above this amount drastically pulls down the earn rate as incremental spend will only earn 0.80% vs 1.5-2.5% on most other credit cards. Also, if the spends are less than INR150,000, one ends up paying fees on the card and it reduces the earn rate significantly.
Amex typically runs promotions where one can earn accelerated reward points on insurance payments (in 2019 the offer came in Feb-April, an apt time when people make insurance payments) or school fees. Thus, if one uses these offers smartly then one can easily meet the INR150,000 spend criteria and also achieve earn rate of more than 4.2%.
Also, time to time Amex offers additional reward points for taking supplementary credit cards for family members. These supplementary credit cards are free and no additional charges are applicable.
Where to redeem reward points
As mentioned earlier, 1 reward point is worth ~0.40 paise. To maximise the redemption value one can opt for Amex domestic travel vouchers worth INR11,000 against 24000 reward points, valuing 1 point at 46 paise. These vouchers can be used on Amex portal to do domestic flight and hotel bookings.
The second best option is to redeem 18000 points for INR8,000 Amazon gift voucher, valuing reward points at 44 paise. The easiest option is to redeem against statement credit in slabs of 10000 (for 24000 points) or 7500 (for 18000 points) giving a value of 42 paise for every reward point.
Not to forget, the reward points never expire on your Amex Membership Reward card. 🙂
Pros of Amex Membership Reward Card
- Excellent customer service
- Reward points never expire.
- Earn rate including the bonus rewards is a cool 4.2% for spends of INR150,000/annum. Nonetheless, the caveat is as soon as the spends cross INR150,000/annum reward rate declines rapidly
- In case someone plans to settle abroad; having Amex card in India for over a year helps one to get Amex in the new country fairly easy. (A unique benefit of having Amex card, which no other card provider offers)
- No lounge access, considering some might be paying annual fees of INR4,500/ year
- Standard earn rate on a transaction is low at 0.80%
Amex Membership Reward card is the card that one should hold. Given the expenditure threshold for the annual fee waiver and the corresponding high reward rates, it’s difficult to say no to Amex.
You can apply RIGHT NOW and get 2000 bonus reward points on spending INR5,000 in the first 90 days of Cardmembership + Zero Annual fees for the first year.
In the interest of full disclosure, Credit Cardz may earn a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the links in this post. However, opinions and views expressed here are of the author's alone and not those of the bank, credit card issuer, or anyone else and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.