amex gold cards

Like a game show, do you take the cash back, or the Amex Points?

There are lots of know it all’s in the world of travel, particularly in the field of earning points. Despite this, far too many people fail to take full advantage of their points earning potential. Yes, you used the right card with the good category bonus, yes you signed up for that double points promo, but did you remember to go through a portal to make that initial purchase, so you could earn up to 25% more reward?

You should, and now that Rakuten, formerly known as eBates, allows you to get paid in Amex Membership Rewards Points, you really, really should…

a plate of food on a tableAmex Membership Rewards x Rakuten

In case you didn’t already know, you can earn a percentage of cash back on virtually every online purchase you make, in addition to what you’d usually earn by just paying at the merchant. It’s the premise of affiliate marketing. But now it’s much, much better – because Rakuten allows you to earn Amex Membership Rewards Points instead.

You click over to first, you look through merchant cash back offers and then you click over, and you earn cash back from Rakuten, in addition to the points you earn when you press “buy” at any of 1000’s of stores, airlines, hotels or online travel agencies. Now that you can choose Amex Points instead of cash back, all sorts of new opportunities emerge.

a screenshot of a websiteChoosing is easy, you just login to your Rakuten account (or make one). Head to account settings, where you can switch to earning American Express Membership Rewards Points.

In short: it’s your choice whether to earn cold hard cash back, or to earn Amex Points, and if you know how to use Amex Points for great arbitrage opportunities, the points may be the better offer. If Rakuten is offering 10% back on something in cash, it means they’re also offering 10x Amex Points per dollar spent, if you go that way.

Today Only: 14X On Top Travel Brands

From IHG to Expedia, you can earn a whopping 14% cash back // 14X Amex Points, in addition to what you earn when you actually press “purchase” at any of the sites. One Mile At A Time highlighted these earlier today, and earning say… 14,000 Amex Membership Rewards Points for a $1000 IHG purchase, in addition to the points you’ll earn when you stay, or via card spending bonus is just astounding.

Oh, and here’s the best ways to spend Amex Points, since you’ll be earning them so easily.

a screenshot of a computerYes, even though you’re clicking through Rakuten, if you pay directly with the hotel brand website, a la IHG, Hilton, Marriott and so forth, you’ll still earn points on the stay and also be eligible for elite status benefits. If you pay through Expedia, or another, you wouldn’t, though has its own brilliant loyalty program.

While many of these are “today only”, these opportunities do come back, so be sure to check back. Really, Rakuten should be a part of every online purchase you make, from fashion to electronics to travel and more. Even flowers for Valentines Day, in case you’ve forgotten what day it is…

If you don’t already have a Rakuten account, this link gives you $10 when you spend your first $25 through the site.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Sadly not available to those of us living within the European Economic Area (EEA). due to GDPR implications. Shame !

  2. Two other comments:

    1. You can install a plug in for Chrome (not sure about other browsers) from Rakuten and then anytime you go to a site with payback a message pops up showing the percentage and asking if you want to register for it. Basically you get the benefits without ever going through the Rakuten site and it is totally non-disruptive to normal shopping.

    2. You can select Membership Rewards as you method of payment and still use any credit card so you can benefit from stacking other offers (Chase/Amex offers) or bonus categories. You still get your Membership Rewards even if you didn’t make the purchase w an Amex card that typically collects Membership Rewards

    I get 3000-5000 extra Membership Rewards quarterly through Rakuten. Not a ton but a nice bonus on top of my other earnings.

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