Cheap Business Class Tickets & The Amex Business Platinum 50% Off Benefit

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Just under two weeks ago American Express announced a huge new benefit for The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. I’ve been playing around with it a bit, and am really liking what I’m seeing.

The new Amex Business Platinum Card benefit

The biggest new perk that was announced for the Amex Business Platinum Card is that you now receive a 50% refund on points when using Membership Rewards Pay with Points to book a flight with your selected airline, or when booking a flight in first or business class on any airline.

Typically using the Pay with Points option doesn’t represent a great value, as you’re basically getting one cent per point of value (a $1,000 ticket would typically cost 100,000 points). That’s not a good deal at all, given that I value Membership Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each.

However, now that you get a 50% refund, you’ll basically be getting two cents of value per Membership Rewards point, which is huge. It’s the most cents per point you’ll get towards the cost of a ticket from any transferrable points currency.

Also keep in mind that if you have this card, all the Membership Rewards points you earn across all your linked Amex cards are eligible for this offer. In other words, by having the Amex Business Platinum Card you’re also increasing the value of points earned on cards like The Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, etc.

Playing around with premium fares using Pay with Points

Miles & points are my passion above all else, so I love to spend hours just playing around looking at things, time permitting. As you guys know, I often post about cheap paid premium cabin fares that I see. In many ways the decreasing cost of paid business class tickets is also decreasing the value of miles, since business class is getting attainable for many even without miles.

Twice in the past year I’ve flown to Europe on paid British Airways business class tickets for similar prices to what you’d pay for economy.

But I was curious to test out this new benefit on cheap paid business class fares in general. Keep in mind that while you have to designate just one airline for using this benefit for economy flights, you can get the 50% refund on points for all business & first class flights, regardless of the airline.

To give one example, take a look at the cheap paid business class fares from Los Angeles to Changsha on Hainan Airlines. The flight costs ~$1,788 roundtrip in business class on many dates (in the past we’ve seen even lower fares).

amex-travel

That means the ticket would cost 178,756 Membership Rewards points, though you’d get 50% of those refunded. That means your real out of pocket is ~89,378 Membership Rewards points.

Hainan Airlines is an Alaska Mileage Plan partner, so you can credit your miles there. The flight covers a distance of ~14,000 miles roundtrip, meaning you’d earn ~28,000 miles roundtrip (both elite qualifying and redeemable).

If you’re MVP Gold you earn a further 100% mileage bonus, for a total of 42,000 miles.

If you’re an MVP Gold 75K member you earn a 125% mileage bonus, for a total of 45,500 miles. You also receive 50,000 bonus miles when you requalify for MVP Gold 75K, which required a total of 90,000 elite qualifying miles on partners. If you’re going to allocate that bonus proportionally to the 90,000 elite qualifying miles, here you’d be earning ~16,000 further redeemable miles from this trip, for a total of 61,500 miles.

So in the end you’d be spending under 90,000 Membership Rewards points, and would be earning between 28,000 and 61,500 redeemable Alaska miles depending on your status (and I actually value Alaska miles more than Amex points). That’s sort of crazy, no?

This also works great for fares originating outside the US. Take some cheap business class fares on American between Toronto and Beijing, which cost ~$2,073.

amex-travel-1

Amex has a further discount that brings the cost down to 190,412 miles. After the 50% refund, you’d pay ~95,206 Membership Rewards points.

As a last crazy example, take a Qatar Airways paid business class fare between Cairo and Miami (via Doha), which would cost ~$1,546. After the 50% refund you’d pay 77,298 Membership Rewards points.

amex-travel-4

Meanwhile as an Executive Platinum member I’d earn ~40,000 redeemable AAdvantage miles for that itinerary.

Those are just a few examples…

What’s my point?

A couple of things, really.

First of all, when you’re using this benefit you can in many cases outright buy a paid business class ticket using points for less than you’d pay for an award ticket, without even factoring in how much better availability is on paid tickets. American charges 140,000 miles for roundtrip business class award tickets to Asia, while above you’d be paying ~95,000 miles, and you’d also be earning a lot of miles.

This is a pretty powerful option for those who like to redeem points for tickets rather than booking discounted business class tickets, as you can save points while also getting flights towards elite qualification and earning redeemable miles.

Furthermore, I’m impressed by how well Amex’s online travel tool works. No, it’s not going to work well for complicated multi-city tickets, but I’ve had pretty good luck using it even for tickets not originating in the US.

Bottom line

This new benefit on the Amex Business Platinum Card allows members to basically get two cents of value per Membership Rewards point, which is great. That should be useful for most people with the card, since you can get that kind of value even on simple domestic itineraries.

However, as many of you know I track discounted business class tickets pretty closely, and am really fascinated by the implications of this for those who usually book discounted business class tickets and/or those who care about requalifying for status. In many cases you can save miles using this system over the cost of an award ticket, and also have access to better availability and mileage accrual.

I’m not suggesting all of the above are necessarily practical or useful for everyone, but it is interesting to see just what a good value this can represent.

Anyone else excited at the prospect of using the 50% points refund option being offered by the Amex Business Platinum Card for premium fares?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. But I guess you will need to have the full point balance before the 50% discount in order for it to work right?

  2. One MAJOR downside is that you will still need that amount of miles in your account to book. But this plan works nicely if someone has a huge balance in their account. Unfortunately when I book my trips I pretty much wipe out my account.

  3. Ben, we’ve seen reports of tickets purchased with Thank You points being treated differently (similar to consolidator fares) for purposes of EQMs (and maybe EQDs in future) similar to some lower earning partner airlines. Any thoughts on whether these tickets purchased with Amex MR points will appear to AA as 100% equivalent to tickets purchased strictly in $’s for achieving status?

  4. Ben,

    Unfortunately, this is yet to work for me with your favorite airline – Southwest [which you have to call in]. I recently attempted to book a RT flight from HOU to LIR (Liberia, CR) and while availability on southwest.com was plentiful, AMEX travel agents weren’t able to pull it. Even after reaching out to SW, AMEX called me back saying they are only able to book “certain” SW flights. Sigh.

  5. Don’t you have to choose one airline and then only that airline can be used to get the 50% MR refunded to you? Can you use any airline like Hainan airlines? Huh? And you can’t change it for the rest of the year?

  6. I’ve used this twice already. Your AX card gets charged, then creditted. The points get taken in full at a penny a point, then two days later it gets creditted. Works really well so far, only downside is that you must have the points in the first place.

    Also a note, when I called to complain about tickets through an agency, the gent politely explained that they did not want to bonus flights through OTA’s like Expedia.

  7. @farsighted99 guess you picked that name for a reason…

    If you read carefully, it says that 50% refund on points are for your selected airline or on any airline if its a first or business class booking:

    “The biggest new perk that was announced for the Amex Business Platinum Card is that you now receive a 50% refund on points when using Membership Rewards Pay with Points to book a flight with your selected airline, or when booking a flight in first or business class on any airline.”

  8. Not a dealbreaker, but you could also consider the 5X you’re missing out by not purchasing with platinum.

  9. Did you use the special fares chart, like CitiTYPs

    You would get 150% of miles flown as RDMs for discount J, 200% of miles flown as EQM, and 30% of Miles flown as EQD.

  10. I mean, it definitely makes getting the card for the bonus super attractive. After the first year, I’m not sure the incremental increase in the value of my MR balance is worth $450 a year. (And that’s really all that fee gets me, since I already have the Personal Platinum.)

  11. Does anyone have any reason to think this same 50% benefit will eventually be extended to the personal version of the Platinum Amex? That is, has anyone noticed a trend in the past of Amex piloting new programs on their business cards only then to later extend them to personal versions? Thanks

  12. I have been eyeing those cheap transpacific J fares the first thing I learned the new business plat benefits. It’s definitely a game change for me. A roundtrip paid premium fare to China under 100k MR is a steal. I mean, where else can you get that? The cheapest FF program for business class redemption that I know of is Alaska , and the charge $200 fee on top of miles for redemptions on Hainan.

    One thing though, some of the ex-china fares showing up on google flight aren’t really available on amex travel site, for instance i just can’t get hose PVG->SFO/SJC delta one $2200 ish fare to show up on Amex site.

  13. @ George A.

    I used this with Southwest for HOU-AUA and it worked out great. I had to make a few calls to get to the right person at AMEX, but it wasn’t a big deal. They ultimately said AMEX could not book Southwest international, so told me to just book myself and then call in to use points for the charge. That phone call was super easy and quick. Hope this helps.

  14. I may have missed this, but in this scenario you also get all of the PQM’s for your airline as well, correct, because it will be seen by them as a purchased ticket?? If so, that’s quite huge. Less points for J ticket, and double the PQM??

  15. Is this eligible to be used in conjunciton with their international airline program? Hypothetically, could I book in international business through Amex travel, using points to pay, and then still receive my companion ticket free? The int travel fares never seem to make much sense, but if this was possible to stack these two it conceivably could be a major deal….

  16. @Lucky — I have a sort of silly question regarding revenue spend that might count toward something like Concierge Key status. Do you have any sense whether, when you pay with points in this fashion, the full revenue amount of the ticket would be considered by the airline in determining your overall spend?

  17. Has anyone heard that you can’t get the 50% points back on Insider Fares (i.e. purchase lower Insider Fare for 100% points or 50% back on a higher priced non-Insider Fare)?

  18. @JS I’m dying to know the answer to he same question! Anyone have success getting points back on insider fare?

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