Ending soon: double everyday membership rewards points

Participants in the American Express Membership Rewards program have long been accustomed to automatically receiving double points for purchases charged to an American Express card at stand-alone supermarkets, gas stations, drugstores, the U.S. Postal Service, and wireless phone bill payments.

AmEx aggressively touted the extra earnings in its marketing, referring to them as "everyday" double points, in contrast to double points that might be earned on a limited-time promotional basis.

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Beginning October 1, everyday double points will be history. AmEx began advising affected cardholders of the upcoming changes in August. (The change only applies to those Amex charge cards linked to Membership Rewards—not the co-branded cards affiliated with the programs of Delta, JetBlue, Starwood Preferred Guest, etc.)

Replacing the embedded everyday double points offer will be an online mall where Membership Rewards members can earn two points per $1 spent at more than 100 retailers. And it's safe to assume that the participating retailers will be inclined to offer extra points to increase their share of the Membership Rewards market, further richening the points payout.

No doubt there will be some grumbling from cardholders who have come to depend on everyday double points to pump up their accounts. Indeed there's something to be said for the relative ease of automatically earning extra points for gassing up at the corner Mobil station and other such recurring purchases.

But the universe of everyday double-points merchants is actually quite limited. And the roster of merchants that will award double points from October will be extensive, covering a wide range of retail categories and price points.

My best guess: most Membership Rewards participants will earn more points under the new scheme than they did under the old one. But they'll have to work harder to do so, remembering to channel their purchases through the AmEx online mall to earn double points.

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