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Over the past several months we’ve seen American Express make some changes to both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. The changes I’m most excited about have been those that impact earning and redeeming points for airfare.
Airfare and the Amex Platinum Card
As of last October, the personal and business versions of the Amex Platinum Card added distinct new benefits when earning and redeeming points for airfare, as follows:
- The Amex Personal Platinum Card now offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines
- The Amex Business Platinum Card now offers a 50% points refund when using the Pay with Points option, either on your designated airline, or for any airline in first or business class
This is exciting for a couple of reasons. First of all, the personal card now offers the best return of any card on airfare. I value Amex points at a minimum of 1.7 cents each, so to me that’s the equivalent of an 8.5% return on airfare.
Meanwhile on the redemption side, in the past I’d always redeem my Amex points by converting them into points with an airline transfer partner. Now you can essentially get two cents of airfare per point when redeeming your points as cash towards the cost of airfare, assuming you have the Amex Business Platinum Card. That’s a great return, especially when you consider those tickets aren’t subjected to capacity controls like award tickets, and also you earn miles for those tickets.
My first experience using the 50% off benefit
Ford and I are going to Hawaii a bit later this year for his birthday. I’ve already explained part of our hotel booking process, though I decided to try something a bit different in terms of flights. Paid first class fares to Hawaii are typically pretty reasonable, and as a result, upgrades and first class award tickets are often tough to come by (since the cabins sell out).
I thought it would be fun to book Hawaiian’s new A330 fully flat first class to Hawaii, as it’s a product I haven’t yet reviewed (though Tiffany shared some thoughts about it based on her experience).
Our first destination in Hawaii is Lanai, so the one-way first class fare from Los Angeles to Lanai was $822. That’s actually a bit higher than some of Hawaiian’s other first class fares to Hawaii, though we had specific dates we needed to go, and we wanted to go to Lanai rather than Honolulu. So to book the $822 ticket you’d usually need 82,179 Membership Rewards points.
So we had two choices for the two tickets. We could either pay $1,643.58 or redeem 164,358 Membership Rewards points.
We redeemed points, and that’s because in conjunction with the Amex Business Platinum Card you get a 50% refund of those points. So we had to pay the 164,358 points upfront, and I was very impressed by how quickly the 50% refund posted. Within a day we had 82,179 points deposited back into the account, meaning both tickets cost 82,179 miles.
So we’re paying ~41,000 miles per person for a flat bed to Hawaii, the connecting flight to Lanai, and we’ll be earning miles for those tickets.
When you consider that the majority of US airlines charge 40,000 miles for a one-way saver ticket in business class to Hawaii, and that most of those airlines have virtually no saver level award space, I consider that to be a good deal.
Waiting to see if the deal gets even better…
As I explained a few weeks ago, there’s a chance that this deal gets even better, that you essentially get 2.17 cents of value per point. This only works if you have both the Amex Personal Platinum Card and the Amex Business Platinum Card.
On the final page of the booking process you’ll be asked which card information you want to use to finalize the ticket purchase. That’s because the way the Pay with Points option technically works is that it charges your credit card and then immediately refunds you. So you select the personal version of the card, even if you’re using the 50% Pay with Points refund feature of the business card (this assumes both cards are linked).
Shortly after making the purchase, the statement shows the transaction amount and then an immediate credit for the same amount.
Supposedly when the statement closes you get the 5x points for the airfare purchase, but are only debited 1x points per dollar for the refund, meaning you’re left with a net of 4x points per dollar spent. If that were the case, I’d get a further refund of ~6,600 Membership Rewards points. I’ll report back, as the statement closes in a couple of weeks.
I’m loving the new 50% Pay with Points refund through the Amex Business Platinum Card. Being able to get two cents of value towards the cash cost of a ticket is tough to beat, especially given how reasonable many premium fares are nowadays, and how they compare favorably to award costs. In this case we’re paying 41,000 Amex points one-way for first class to Hawaii, getting exactly the flights we want, are earning points, and will potentially get it even cheaper, if the further 6,000+ point refund posts.
To those with the Amex Business Platinum Card — has the 50% Pay with Points refund change how you redeem your points?