American Express Membership Rewards: Now with Fewer Options

Beginning on July 1, American Express Membership Rewards members will have one fewer option for transferring their points. InterContinental's Priority Club Rewards is withdrawing from the program.

If this were an isolated incident, it could be written off as just another incremental change in the ever-shifting alliance landscape of loyalty programs. But this loss is just the latest in a series of partner defections from Membership Rewards, including Southwest, Continental, and US Airways.

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Here's how things stand today:

Airline Partners

  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada
  • Alitalia
  • ANA
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • El Al
  • KLM/Air France
  • Frontier
  • Hawaiian
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore
  • Virgin America
  • Virgin Atlantic

Hotel Partners

  • Best Western
  • Choice
  • Hilton
  • Jumeirah
  • InterContinental (through June 30)
  • Starwood

The Membership Rewards Alternative

While Membership Rewards can still boast good numbers, the real-world utility of its partnerships—especially for U.S.-based flyers—has eroded considerably.

What makes this story interesting is the shift in travel-rewards cards dominance, from American Express to Chase. Because even as Membership Rewards has been shedding some of the partners most important to U.S. members, Chase has been bulking up on partners in its Ultimate Rewards program, available to holders of Freedom, Sapphire, and Ink credit cards. The current lineup:

Airline Partners

  • British Airways
  • Korean
  • Southwest
  • United

Hotel Partners

  • InterContinental
  • Hyatt
  • Marriott

What Ultimate Rewards lacks in sheer numbers it makes up for with heavy hitters like Southwest and United.

The Ultimate Rewards Program

For U.S. travelers looking for transfer options when redeeming their credit and charge card points, the choice between the American Express and Chase programs is already a tough one. In terms of the programs that matter the most, to the most people, it's a toss-up.

On July 1, there will be yet another reason to choose Chase's Ultimate Rewards.

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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