You Can Potentially Double Dip With Amex Points

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Update: The Pay With Points benefit on The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express has been reduced from 50% to 35%. The examples in this post have been updated to reflect the new values.


Here’s a very cool development, as outlined by Frequent Miler, and also as discussed in this thread on Reddit.

Two awesome airfare benefits offered by the Amex Platinum Card

Last year we saw Amex make some major changes to both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express. Specifically:

  • The Amex Platinum Personal Card offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines or through Amex Travel.
  • The Amex Business Platinum Card offers a 35% refund on Pay with Points redemptions, when redeeming on your designated airline in economy, or on any airline in first or business class. Pay with Points ordinarily gets you one cent of value per point, meaning that you’re getting 1.35 cents of value after the refund. In the past my preferred use of Membership Rewards points was converting them into partner airline miles, but if I can get 1.35 cents of value per point for cash bookings, that’s useful in some cases.

Regardless, the point is that the Amex Personal Platinum Card is my go to card for revenue airfare, and the Amex Business Platinum Card is my go to card for redeeming points as cash towards the cost of a ticket.

But it gets even better — get 35% off plus 4x points per dollar

Let me first explain this as simply as I can, and then I’ll give an example and provide more details. Say you want to make a Pay with Points booking in order to take advantage of the 50% off airfare benefit, and say you have both the Personal and Business Platinum Card:

  • All your cards that accrue Membership Rewards points are linked
  • When you go to the Amex Travel portal and select with the Pay with Points option, “use” your Amex Platinum Personal Card rather than your Amex Business Platinum Card to finalize the purchase
  • You’ll still be eligible for the 35% refund through Pay with Points, plus you’ll earn 4x points for the cost of the ticket; you’re not earning the fifth point per dollar spent because Amex recognizes it’s not a “paid” ticket, but you are earning the four bonus points per dollar

Looking at the terms

What I hadn’t originally realized is that there’s no requirement to actually “charge” the Pay with Points ticket specifically to the business card. At least that’s how I read the terms. What matters is that you have the business card and use a card that’s linked to the same Membership Rewards account. Here are the relevant terms of the 35% refund benefit, in the interest of being thorough:

To use Pay with Points, you must charge your eligible airfare purchase through American Express Travel to a Membership Rewards® program-enrolled American Express® Card. Points will be debited from your Membership Rewards account, and credit for corresponding dollar amount will be issued to the American Express Card account used. If points redeemed do not cover entire amount, the balance of purchase price will remain on the American Express Card account. Points must be used at the time of booking. Pay with Points requires a minimum redemption of 5,000 points.

Business Platinum Card Members will receive 5 extra points for every 10 points they redeem for either a First or Business class flight on any airline, or for flights with their selected qualifying airline using Membership Rewards Pay with Points with American Express Travel (35% Airline Bonus). For First or Business class flights on a Card Member’s selected qualifying airline, the Card Member will still receive only 5 extra points for every 10 points redeemed. Card Member must select a qualifying airline at www.americanexpress.com/airlinechoice. Only the Basic Card Member or Authorized Account Manager(s) on the Card Account can select the qualifying airline. The airline you select for the 35% Airline Bonus and the $200 Airline Fee Credit must be the same. Card Members who have not chosen a qualifying airline will be able to do so at any time. Card Members who have already selected a qualifying airline will be able to change their choice one time each year in January at www.americanexpress.com/airlinechoice or by calling the number on the back of your Card. Card Members who do not change their airline selection will remain with their current airline.

An example

Let’s say you want to fly JetBlue Mint from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, with a one-way fare of $499. You could book it through the Amex Travel website for $499 or 49,820 Membership Rewards points.

Amex-Pay-With-Points-1

After you enter your personal information you’ll be brought to the payment information page, where you’ll want to click “Pay With Points.”

Amex-Pay-With-Points-3

On the next page you’ll want to select that you want to pay for the trip entirely with points, and then you’ll be prompted to select which card you want to use. Select the Personal Platinum Amex rather than the Business Platinum Amex.

Amex-Pay-With-Points-4

This is because the full cost of the trip will be charged to the card, then you’ll have a credit posted and the points will be deducted.

So in the above scenario you’d:

  • Pay 49,820 Membership Rewards points
  • Be refunded 17,437 Membership Rewards points, based on the Amex Business Platinum benefit
  • Then you’d receive 4x points through the Personal Platinum Card for the total cost of the ticket, for a total of 1,993 Membership Rewards points
  • That means in the end your real “out of pocket” on the ticket is 30,390 Membership Rewards points

So assuming this works, 30,390 Membership Rewards points is your out of pocket for a $498.20 ticket, which is a value of ~1.64 cents per point. That’s pretty decent, given it can work on all kinds of tickets.

Potential risks

I don’t see any issues with selecting the Amex Platinum Personal Card as the card to charge things to, given that the terms of the 35% rebate don’t indicate that you need to charge to the Amex Business Platinum Card. The terms just state that the purchase has to be charged to a linked Membership Rewards card.

The only potential downside is that Amex may change whether or not they post 4x points on these bookings in the future. However, for the time being, it looks like you should be able to get ~1.64 cents per Membership Rewards point using this benefit, which is awesome. Also keep in mind that these bookings qualify for mileage earning with your preferred airline, making this an even better deal.

Using the 35% Pay with Points option was already a good deal, and there’s only upside with this technique.

Has anyone used the opportunity to stack 5x points and 35% off to get even more value out of Amex points?

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Comments

  1. Thank you. Appreciate including the links for credit cards so we can quickly sign up.

    This is why I come here. I love articles like these, where you put our best interests ahead of all petty things going on in the rest of the world.

  2. How many people actually have both credit cards? It will literally cost $1000/yr in annuall fees to employ this tactic. I’m sure some people do, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.

    Still a cool hack though.

  3. @pat it all depends on how much you spend on airfare. I personally have both because my spend pattern is such that the annual fees are far outweighed by the incremental points benefits. If you don’t spend a lot on airfare, it’s easy to assume this applies to a small minority of people out there, but I’d venture to guess that I’m not alone to be getting a ton more value out of my cc spend since the introduction of these new benefits.

  4. Theoretically, you won’t need both cards as of March 30 when the Business plat will earn 5x pts on Amextravel.com (assuming you don’t need to call it in).

  5. @Ben– have you used this trick yet and confirmed it worked? If so that’s fantastic news. I have both cards as it makes sense for my travel patterns.

    The one part of the equation I don’t like is that you’re not taking into account the MR points you would have earned had you paid for the ticket with your personal platinum (5/$), as opposed to using your points. You end up with a net loss of 1 MR point/ dollar spent, right? So it brings your actual, apples to apples redemption value back (slightly) under 2 cents/ point.

    In your above example, had you simply paid for the ticket, you’d have earned 2491 MR points if you bought your ticket with your personal platinum Amex. Effectively, you’re paying 25408 points for $498.20 of ticket, getting 1.96 cents/point redeemed.

    I still think it’s great value. Just think you need to factor in the opportunity cost of not using your Personal Plat card to pay for the ticket.

  6. @Pat – between the airline credits and Amex offers, it’s possible to come out well ahead of the annual fee. Especially if you add Green card AUs and maximize Amex offers on those. Ancillary benefits of having two are redundant, but Amex offers and the airline credits continue to stack.

  7. I could get more than 9 cents per MR point value by transferring them to KrisFlyer and redeeming a Suites ticket from JFK-SIN-HKG…

    On a side note why are Credit, Debit, Melissa, and DCS’ comments still visible on your recent posts?

  8. @Kevin–
    If that’s how you define “value”, I can get over 12 cents of value per point flying Delta from SFO-SLC-CDG on Thanksgiving day. Don’t waste your valuable points on SQ F.

  9. I have both cards now and haven’t yet named an airline on my Business card side. Is there a plus or minus for choosing the same airline for both cards? I was originally thinking of picking two different airlines so on the Business side I could use my point rebate and on the Personal side use it for the $300 travel credit.

  10. Isn’t 5x Air coming to the Amex Plat Business Card on March 30th?

    So you can employ this trick with just one card.

  11. TPG already confirmed with amex that this wont be working:

    5x on Pay with Points bookings — you won’t earn points on flights booked as part of a Pay with Points redemption, so the new 5x earning rate will not apply to these reservations.

  12. Meh! If u think 2.17cent is “increible value”, u are better off with a 2% cash back card. Way less hassle and the flexibility of cash is worth the 0.17 difference.

  13. @Sach yes, the airline treats this as a paid flight because it’s not reliant on having award space. Youre buying a cash ticket but just paying with Amex MR points,

  14. @Tom

    Devils advocate mode on.

    It’s 2.17 cent per point, not 2.17% back on spend.

    If Plat personal is used to buy a airline ticket at 5X points that is 10.85 cents back per dollar spent.

    The Plat business earn 1.5X points on purchases of $5K+, so 3.255 cents back per dollar spent.

    So better than any cash back card I know of.

    Devils advocate mode off.

  15. @Ethan SFO-CDG flights on Thanksgiving day start at Economy $572 or Business $2230 one way. The direct Air France flight for $8828 you are referring to for the 12 cent value is really only $3818 when you do roundtrip. So you are really back at 2.7 cents per Delta mile here (3818 / ( 2x 70,000). You will never see a SQ Suite ticket from North America to Asia less than $8,300 one way. And comparing Delta One to SQ Suites is a joke of its own. I think it would be a massive waste too use AMEX MR points on Delta. And you pay a fee to transfer to Delta as well.

  16. The Citi hank you portal gets you 3 for travel and still 1.6 for AA flights with the prestige would be the comp . Though the $250 airline credit didn’t work thru the portal .

  17. @ Tom — I would agree if I were earning one point per dollar spent, but I’m instead earning anywhere from 1.5x to 5x points per dollar spent.

  18. @ Kevin C — Not based on how I’d define “value.” I define value based on what I’d otherwise pay for the ticket. In the case of Pay with Points, those are typically tickets I’d otherwise be willing to pay cash for. Meanwhile the Suites tickets on KrisFlyer are ones I couldn’t afford to buy in cash.

  19. @Kevin— my one-way ticket to Paris though SLC (where I prefer to connect as they have a pretty upscale Wendy’s, and I’m usually craving a burger a couple hours into a transatlantic flight) costs $8832. I like one-way tickets for the flexibility. So I’m getting over 12 cents value per point, right? It’s not available every day, but it’s usually available at the 70k Skymile award on July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas day, allowing me to capture this value.

  20. @lucky That definitely is a great way to look at it. I always just determined the value based on what the cash price would be on the cheapest rate in that cabin, on that airline, on that route. If you base it that way, Suites typically represent 9 cents per mile and Business is typically 4-4.5.

    @Ethan choosing an extra layover in SLC for a layover is pretty absurd in my opinion but to each their own.

    If you were only looking to fly one-way on Thanksgiving on that exact route, SFO-SLC-CDG, it would still only cost you $3818. You would book it roundtrip and then ignore the return trip. Assuming you get it for 70k SkyMiles, you are still only getting 5.4 cents per mile. But like you said, 70k trips are typically hard to find during holidays and they typically go for more, for example for 140k one way, you are back at 2.7 cents per mile.

  21. @Kevin C,

    Using a random example of a high end redemption to Asia is not relevant for most people and should not drive a decision to use this trick or value MR points – of course you can come up with various examples with high value redemptions but question is if they are easy to execute, have relevance, and the overall volume of points needed.

  22. @PAK I was just listing a rather easy redemption example. There are countless others. In the past 2 years, of the approximately one million MR points I have redeemed, the majority of the redemption “values” have been in the 9 cent range, with all of them over 4 cents for sure. SQ is just one example, there is Aeroplan you can transfer to, Flying Blue, British Airways for cheap flights inter-Asia or Hawaii, ANA for cheap business class flights etc. I just think that these points should be used exclusively for things like Ben pointed out that you normally would not spend cash on.

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