My Experience Using The Amex Pay With Points 50% Discount For The First Time

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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.

Hawaiian

So we had two choices for the two tickets. We could either pay $1,643.58 or redeem 164,358 Membership Rewards points.

Amex

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.

Amex-1

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).

Amx-1

Shortly after making the purchase, the statement shows the transaction amount and then an immediate credit for the same amount.

Amex-3

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.

Bottom line

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?

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.

More articles by lucky »

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Comments

  1. I just wish it was an available benefit on the personal card. I’d much prefer the 50% off versus the 5%.

  2. Lucky… I recently did the same exact thing to Lihue, Kauai, and it worked perfectly through the Amex Business Platinum. The one thing I need to tell you is this: Hawaiian only has a few of the new cabin A330’s operating between LAX and HNL. The outbound flight was perfect… the new First Class cabin was amazing. (Pick the last two seats near the windows for the best seats). However, the return flight was another story. I specifically reviewed the seating charts to make sure I was on a new A330. We boarded the flight, and were seated, but due to a maintenance issue…they had to deboard the flight and within an hour we were reboarded onto another A330, but this one was the older configuration without the lay flat seats. It was not at all as good of a flight. As I understand there are only 3-4 currently operating new A330’s, and any kind of equipment swap is possible.

  3. @ iwantmoremiles — Just have them linked to the same online account. Then when you use the Pay With Points option you’ll see on the last page that it gives you the option of which credit card you want to “use.” That’s where you select the personal one.

  4. On the app page you show for the biz card it also says get 5X points for travel booked thru the Amex travel site. If this is true, would you really need both cards (and pay $1000 a year for them)?

  5. @ James — The 5x points for the business card only applies to tickets purchased through Amex’s website. So if you don’t mind buying tickets through Amex’s website then that totally works, but keep in mind sometimes there are benefits to using other sites.

  6. Hi Lucky;

    I know about the pitfalls of booking hotels via Amex (no status recognition); what are the pitfalls on air travel? If it’s airline specific, I’m considering American.

    Thanks!

  7. As I understand it none of the west coast routes are guaranteed the flat beds right now, though some do get it more often than others. Some routes are being sold on the HA site with the “flat bed seats” marker, like JFK, which means you’re pretty much certain to get them, barring really unusual circumstances. But from the west coast it’s pretty much just chance.

    That said even HA’s old A330 product is probably better than many of the products flown by the mainland carriers from the west coast, and is perfectly adequate if you’re not taking a redeye.

  8. I checked for DCA-MCI for this summer’s Eclipse @ Ambassador weekend cert at the Intercontinental on the Plaza. The only non-stop (American/Repulic metal) priced w Alaskan for about twice what AA is asking. So that’s not gonna work. Good luck on the equipment. Enjoy info on Hawaii since I really want to see volcanos

  9. @Lucky, I thought the new Business Platinum also earns 5x when purchasing airfare on amextravel.com. Is there reason why you recommend switching to the Personal version of the card to complete the transaction? Thank you.

  10. @ John — There are no data points on this working with the business version of the card, and Amex specifically said it wouldn’t. That’s not to say it won’t work, but as of now only the personal version of the card is verified to work in this way.

  11. @Lucky, thanks for the quick reply and the clarification. The option to pay with points is quite interesting. I shall pay attention to it more in the future. I always thought it would be of a lower conversion rate than transferring to airline points.

    Thanks again.

  12. I used this option to book a business class ticket SFO-HND-PVG-LAX flying JAL the first 2 legs and AA back to LAX using a net of 240,000 pts. The other 50% of the points were back into my account with 48 hours. The only downside was the glitchy AMX website that made booking the ticket frustrating since choosing the “Oneworld” option would not show ANY flights even though I knew the flights existed – don’t despair, keep at it and as a last resort call AMX travel and they’ll book it for you and maybe not charge you the $39 fee if you complain nicely! BTW, the trip appeared on the AA app on my phone within 48 hours.

  13. How do you earn miles for a membership reward ticket?

    We are booked next week on Emirates(via Qantas code share) business class AKL-SYD, business class. I also was impressed by how quickly the 50% refund posted.

    Which airline frequent flier program is the best to have on the reservation? I don’t fly to the Persian gulf, mostly to Europe, so Emirates is perhaps not the best program.

  14. Lucky-

    I’m a big fan of yours — having met you a couple times and have been reading your blog for 4 years now. But I have to admit that the constant pushing of the Amex credit cards is really growing tiresome. I get it that you do this for a living and need the referrals, but I can’t be the only one to feel that your blog is becoming less about great trip reports and travel experiences and increasingly about selling credit cards. You used to be unique in this space, but you’re becoming increasingly like everyone else and constantly selling. Please consider your avid readers before hawking another credit card. It’s a law of diminishing returns if you start losing readers over this. Thanks.

  15. Hat tip to Ben, who pointed out you can get JetBlue MINT BOS-LAX for 22k points using this feature. Getting KrisFlyer miles for the flight too. I’m now a firm believer in Pay With Points: completely justifies the Biz Plat’s seemingly outrageous annual fee and i’ll take it any day of the week over the personal’s 5x on airfare spend.

  16. Hmmmmm, this is a pretty amazing double dip. Almost tempted to say “F it” to staying under 5/24 and going for this one. But, @Lucky, how to utilize the $200 uber credits on the personal Plat if you don’t live in the States?

  17. I have used this service at least a dozen times now for economy seats with American. The deal is great, in the beginning it was a little rough because they did not consistently return the 50% points. They used the program associated with my centurion card not the Platinum even though I charged the ticket to the Platinum. One call to Amex and it was fixed within an hour. Now the program has been enhanced to provide a confirmation email. Basically it says

    Congratulations, the flight you booked on April 10, 2017 is eligible to qualify for the 50% Airline Bonus benefit. To review your trip details, please log on to your account at americanexpresstravel.com.

    Further with the Amex card since I use it for business purchases I will pay no less than 5000 in payments to vendors with this card earning me 1.5 points instead of 1 point. I will do this at least 3 times a month earning at least 22500 a month just for vendor purchases which I used to earn only 15000. I moved this to Amex when most of it went to Chase previously. In case anyone wonders why a centurion card, most of those benefits are gone now expect the Hertz Platinum benefit has been wonderful at many airports.

  18. I rather its better to do this with chase sapphire reserve as it gives 50% points discount up front without asking you to pay and refund back afterwards. So you just need exactly amount total instead of having to have more points needed upfront. Also I don’t know exactly how Amex works but since UR points are combinable I see more flexibility there. My two cents

  19. @Bgriff
    I think all HA flatbed are for JFK or international flight for now, they just don’t have that much birds yet. But DL/AA/UT and VX all operate flatbeds from west coast, SFO or LAX or SEA, maybe also SAN. Some products are better(DL,VX), some product are … old(United….)

  20. John or Ben can you explain this chase benefit ? What is the formula for points. Is it only certain airlines. I would like to know more about the chase program.

    @john ithe transaction is almos immediate. Happens pretty much same day. I don’t see a downside to the way Amex does it and sometimes they discount the amount of points needed.

  21. Just went to do this and WHAM BANG.

    Flight for ATL-ROC on June 3 is $292 at delta.com and Expedia. On Amex site, it is $1,126

    I bet people pay this from time to time not knowing.

  22. @leondard the downside of AMEX way of doing is they REQUIRE you to have full points before discount. So for example, if it’s 100k redemption, with 50% off, you will require full 100k MR pts and get the 50k pts back AFTER it’s said and then. But you still need the FULL 100k MR pts at time of reservation/booking.
    With Chase, it’s only 50k UR (the 50% is already discounted) and you only need 50k UR pts at time of reservation/booking. For someone who may have high 6 or 7 digit figures, this won’t matter too much, but for most of us who are flying in family of 4 or more, it can be pain to amass more points needed than really required.

  23. @ John. I was not aware of the Chase program at all. The Amex program is only good for your selected airline when flying economy. Centurian gives you 20% all the time no matter what which I don’t view as a good deal.

    I need to understand more regarding the chase option is it with a specific card ?

  24. @leonard. Yes this is specific to the chase sapphire reserve only. You are not limited to any airlines. Basically you can purchase any seats to any airlines at 0.015 cents per points value

  25. @john, this is incorrect. The Chase Sapphire Reserve allows you to redeem UR for airfare at 1.5 cents per point (you’re getting 50% more value than redeeming UR for cash). Amex’s benefit allows you to redeem MR for airfare at 2 cents per point (get 50% of the points back). Yes, Amex requires you to have all the points up front. But these are drastically different offers in terms of pure redemption value.

  26. @hypertext after looking at the math again, you are correct. I was incorrect. You are getting 1.5 cents per value out of UR points via CSR, and 2 cents per value out of AMEX MR points via AMEX business Platinum. However, the caveat is you need full points up front for the AMEX before the refund. But as you pointed out the correction, the AMEX business 2cent redemption makes more sense. Thanks.

  27. Has anyone noticed that it is taking a bit longer than Ben’s experience to get their points back? My transaction is showing up on the MR site on 4/17 but as of 4/20 the 50% rebate hasn’t shown up

  28. @Chad @Lucky Yes, check the FT thread below. Amex has significantly slowed down the timeline for the 50% rebate posting back to your MR account. I experienced the same behavior this week. Purchased a ticket on 4/16. In the past, 50% rebate has posted within 24 hours. As in your case, rebate has still not posted. Called the MR team and received a canned response about an April 11 protocol change and the new ‘up to 10 weeks’ timeframe for the 50% rebate to post. I have both the Personal Platinum and the Biz Plat cards, but paid with the Biz Platinum Card. It is very discouraging to not know when your rebate will post.

    I am curious to see if the rebate will post after my flight is complete. That happens at the end of this month.

    https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/american-express-membership-rewards/1673580-usa-business-centurion-platinum-50-back-pay-points-flight-redemptions-27.html

  29. @Jonathan. Thanks for the clarification. I hadn’t bothered to contact Amex yet because I assumed I would get a “well it can take 6 weeks to post” type of thing but thanks for the additional info. I have both Personal and Biz Platinum and I paid with Personal. I did receive the email saying the purchase was eligible for the 50% bonus. We will see if it works…

  30. Well I have both platinum cards and tried this on a business class ticket Taipei to Hong Kong on a discount airline (Hong Kong Airlines) even though code shared with EVA (Eva plane) on April12th

    I charged the plane on the personal, but the 50% points never got put back into the account. I will probably cancel, get my miles back and rebook and use business Platinum.

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