Have you ever heard of “Membership Rewards First” ???

You learn something every day, I guess. Maybe this is common knowledge already, but I wasn’t aware that Amex has different names for the two tiers of the Membership Rewards program. This distinction (and the similar one you get with Chase between cards like the Freedom and the Sapphire Preferred) is always the most difficult thing to explain to people who are just getting into churning. It’s hard enough to keep all the programs straight in the first place, so learning that Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards points aren’t the same across the board is a bridge too far. Just tell your dad, “Yes, the Freedom card earns Ultimate Rewards points, but they’re not the same Ultimate Rewards points that the Sapphire Reserve earns,” and watch his eyes glaze over. (Sorry dad.)

Anyway, the other day, I applied for the Amex Green card using an incognito offer for 25,000 points. This is such a comically bad card, I’m almost embarrassed to use it to hit the $1000 spending requirement. Maybe I’ll just use it for some online purchases to try to save face. It’s honestly crazy that Amex still offers this card – it’s like if Microsoft still offered to sell you Windows on floppy disks. I get that they need an entry-level charge card with minimal benefits, but do they really need an entry-level charge card with minimal benefits? 25,000 points isn’t a bad welcome offer, though, so I figured it was worth the credit inquiry to pick it up.


amex-green copy

(Other people pay more attention to credit inquiries than I do, so I’ll leave it to them to determine whether Amex does a hard inquiry for current customers when applying for incognito offers. I know that applying for a new card while logged in only gets a soft inquiry, but since the whole point of incognito offers is to use your browser to trick Amex into thinking you’re a brand new customer, it would make sense that those applications get more scrutiny.)

I haven’t received the card yet, but today I got a letter in the mail from Amex with some interesting verbiage:

While setting up your rewards program membership, we noticed that you are already enrolled in a more rewarding American Express Membership Rewards program. We are pleased to inform you that since you already have at least one eligible card enrolled in the Membership Rewards First program, as a special thank you for opening a new card with us, we have automatically enrolled your new Green Card Card [sic] in this program.

I guess I just assumed that all the points would pool together in one account, since that’s what happened when I opened my Blue for Business card, which also earns the crappy Membership Rewards points. It doesn’t really seem like much of a special thank-you, although I guess it’s good to have written confirmation just in case I go to transfer my points and find out that I can’t due to a system glitch. However, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of “Membership Rewards First,” which apparently is what Amex calls the Membership Rewards program we’ve all come to know and love.

Nothing groundbreaking, sure, but I do like learning about stuff like this, since it helps me understand the infrastructure behind the rewards programs whose value I’m trying to maximize.




  1. sirtheta1729 says:

    No only does American Express they have different names for the tiers of the Membership Rewards program, they also have three(!) tiers; in descending order: MR First, MR (Normal), and MR Express.

    The only difference between MR First and MR (Normal) is that the former includes concierge services. (And as you may discern from the benefits of various American Express cards, requires you to be a [Business] Platinum cardholder or better. )

    All other American Express cards are enrolled in the MR (Normal) program with the exception of the “Blue” MR-earning cards (Blue, Blue for Business,
    and presumably the replacement for the Blue for Business, the Blue Business Plus), which are enrolled in MR Express. What advantage does the MR (Normal) tier has over MR Express? Only the ability to transfer to travel partners, of course, meaning the only no-annual-fee card that both keeps your MR account active and lets you transfer to travel partners is the EveryDay credit card.


    1. Carl says:

      Got the same language with my Blue for Business Plus card.


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