American Express recently refreshed a few benefits on their premium cards in response to Chase and Citi upping the game with the Sapphire Reserve and Prestige cards. Here’s a recap of the changes made to the American Express Platinum cards.
American Express – Personal Card Changes
All new and existing cardholders now earn five Membership Reward points for every dollar spent on airfare when booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel. That’s an amazing category spend bonus unmatched by any other card presently on the market. And while the other benefits of the card remain the same, this new category bonus is good on all flavors of the Platinum card including the standard version, Ameriprise, Mercedes Benz, etc.)
Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN
While the business card doesn’t offer a bonus on airfare purchases, this card now earns 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases over $5,000. Not bad.
An additional benefit is the enhancement of the Pay with Points redemption option. Now, when you pay with points to book flights directly with American Express Travel, you get 50% of your points back as a bonus. For example, if you book a ticket that costs $400, you would redeem 40,000 points up front but then get a 20,000-points bonus. That translates to a redemption rate of 2 cents per point!
Here are a couple key points to know:
- If you’re looking to book economy tickets, you can only book with your pre-selected airline that you chose prior (the same airline selected to earn your $200 travel credits).
- However, if you’re booking business or first class, you can redeem points on any airline.
- To reiterate, the 2 cents per mile redemption is the final calculation because 20,000 points doesn’t get you a $400 ticket. You must have enough points to book the $400 flight with 40,000 points, and 6-10 weeks later, you receive your rebate.
- That being said, if you don’t have enough points to book a full ticket, you can pay the difference in cash, then you will get 50% of the points you redeem back.
Depending on your carrier, route, and class of service, this new redemption value can be better than transferring points to one of Amex’s travel partners and redeeming through that airline’s loyalty program. Plus, since you’re booking a revenue ticket (not an award ticket), you’ll still earn miles and credit towards status once you take your trip.
Consider the following examples to see the value of this new redemption option compared to transferring points and redeeming traditional award tickets.
Let’s say your pre-selected airline is Delta. There’s a roundtrip flight from Boston to Tampa on Delta for $350. If you found award space at the lowest level (which is usually 25,000 miles), you could transfer your Membership Rewards to your SkyMiles account and book the ticket. Alternatively, you could book that ticket through AMEX Travel for 35,000 points, then a few weeks later receive a 17,500-point bonus. You’re saving 7,500 points compared to transferring your points to Delta, plus you’ll earn miles on the flight, too.
Now let’s say you want to fly from Dallas to New York on American roundtrip in first class. A revenue fare costs $589, and if you have American miles to redeem, it would cost you 50,000 miles as the saver level. Conversely, you could redeem 58,900 Membership Rewards, then later get your rebate for a total cost of only 29,450 points. Not only is this a great deal, but you save 20,550 points overall compared to redeeming American miles.
If you’re looking to book international flights in premium cabins, those fares tend to be quite a bit higher than domestic first, so while you’ll still get two cents per points in value, you’ll likely need fewer points or miles to book traditional award tickets. That being said, if an airline is running a fare sale (as Qatar has been doing a lot recently), you’ll be able to redeem fewer miles through Pay with Points.
This new enhanced benefit is truly incredible considering what the competition offers:
- With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, any Ultimate Rewards points you have can be redeemed for any type of travel (when booked through Chase) at a rate of 1.5 cents each.
- With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, Ink Plus, or Ink Business Preferred, you can redeem Ultimate Rewards at 1.25 cents each.
- With the Citi Prestige, any ThankYou points you have can be redeemed for 1.6 cents per point on American flights (but that’s being lowered in late July), and you can redeem points on other airlines at a rate of 1.33 cents each.
- With the Citi Premier, you can redeem ThankYou points at a rate of 1.25 cents each.
- With the Chase Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Ink Cash, as well as the Citi Preferred, you can only redeem points for travel at a rate of 1 cent each.
It’s also worth noting that if you have multiple Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards, the points you earn on those cards will also be worth two cents each toward airfare as long as you have the Business Platinum Card and your accounts are linked. Conversely, with Citi and Chase, you have to transfer your points (easily done online) to your premium card in order to get the higher redemption rates.
In summary, these new Platinum card benefits are unique since no previous versions of these cards offered bonus spend categories (with the exception of the occasional targeted offer). And being able to redeem points at two cents each is now industry-leading. Other than these few changes, the cards are largely the same, and both the personal and business versions share many of the same benefits. And while the annual fees can be steep, it could make sense to have the business card for the redemption potential and another card (possibly the personal Platinum) to help rack up additional points.