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Update: The Pay With Points benefit on The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN has been reduced from 50% to 35%. The examples in this post have been updated to reflect the new values.
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 Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. 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.
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.
After you enter your personal information you’ll be brought to the payment information page, where you’ll want to click “Pay With Points.”
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.
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.
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?