We investigate and compare two dual formulations of the American option pricing problem based on two decompositions of supermartingales: the additive dual of Haugh and Kogan (Oper. Res. 52:258-270, 2004) and Rogers (Math. Finance 12:271-286, 2002) and the multiplicative dual of Jamshidian (Minimax optimality of Bermudan and American claims and their Monte-Carlo upper bound approximation. NIB Capital, The Hague, 2003). Both provide upper bounds on American option prices; we show how to improve these bounds iteratively and use this to show that any multiplicative dual can be improved by an additive dual and vice versa. This iterative improvement converges to the optimal value function. We also compare bias and variance under the two dual formulations as the time horizon grows; either method may have smaller bias, but the variance of the multiplicative method typically grows much faster than that of the additive method. We show that in the case of a discrete state space, the additive dual coincides with the dual of the optimal stopping problem in the sense of linear programming duality and the multiplicative method arises through a nonlinear duality.