Hello and welcome to Credit Card Forum!
If I should decide down the road that I would prefer cash back as opposed to travel or another benefit, is it possible to exchange American Express Membership Rewards points for cash. If so, at what rate?
Generally speaking, the conversion to cash or cash equivalent is 50% less. If you would like maintain the value of your reward points but not use them for airfare, I would suggest redeeming points for $100 partner gift cards. Many of those are for full value - i.e. 10,000 Membership Rewards Points equals $100 gift card.
2) Pay with Points for Travel:
The conversion depends upon the card type, ranging from 1 point = 1 cent to 2 points = 1 cent.
All of the charge cards except for the Zync have a 1 point = 1 cent Pay with Points conversion. I also confirmed this with an American Express CSR a moment ago for you. Therefore your Premier Rewards Gold card will give 1 for 1 when using for Pay With Points Travel.
Can I get my wife a card that is earning Membership Rewards points going into the same pool, for free?
All additional cardholders will earn rewards for you. If you obtained a second card under your account your wife's points would go into your rewards pool.
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All the best,