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The sleeping giant, known as American Express has been awoken. In a shot across the bow of Citi and Chase, effective October 6, 2016, American Express has made the following changes to The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express:
- Amex Platinum will earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. (Terms Apply)
- Business Platinum Card – Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com. (Terms Apply)
- Business Platinum Card cardholders will earn 35% points back when using Membership Rewards® Pay with Points through American Express Travel to book a flight with their selected airline.
- Business Platinum Card cardholders will now earn 35% points back when using Membership Rewards® Pay with Points through American Express Travel when booking a first or business class ticket with any airline.
- Terms Apply.
Note: Amex recently dropped this benefit from 50% to 35%. See our breakdown of the changes for all the details.
With the Citi Prestige® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® stealing all the thunder from American Express in the premium cards category, it was clear Amex needed to do something to be able to continue competing for customers within this category. One option was to launch a new card with similar benefits to the Citi Prestige® Card and Sapphire Reserve; the other was to improve on its existing products, most likely in the Platinum family of card products. After a couple of weeks of speculation, Amex finally revealed their plans.
5X Points on Airfare with Amex Platinum
American Express has confirmed that the Amex Platinum will earn 5X points on airfare purchased directly with airlines and through American Express Travel. This benefit does not extend to Business Platinum Card.
Prior to October 6, 2016, the Amex Platinum earned 1X on airfare purchased directly with airlines; this is a significant improvement. Furthermore, presently the most points offered by any other card for airfare purchased directly with an airline is 3X points (Chase Sapphire Reserve®), which places the Amex Platinum as the undisputed go-to card to use for airfare purchases, considering the value of American Express Membership Rewards points.
A $500 airfare purchase that would have previously only earned 500 Membership Rewards with the Amex Platinum (or 1,500 Citi ThankYou Points with the Citi Prestige or 1,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the Sapphire Reserve) will now earn 2,500 Membership Rewards. If you're buying a lot of plane tickets, you need to reconsider your strategy with this increased bonus opportunity.
Improvements with the Business Platinum Card
The Business Platinum Card will now earn 5X points on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. The Business Platinum Card also earns 1.5X Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on any purchase of $5,000 or more. This benefit may not seem like a big deal, but if you're a business owner making large purchases on your card, you just got a 50% bump in all of your earnings. It provides a fantastic incentive to use your Business Platinum Card on a large purchase, particularly when you wouldn't be earning a bonus on that charge.
Additionally, Business Platinum Card cardholders will earn 35% points back when paying with Membership Rewards points through American Express Travel to book an a with their selected airline. This benefit is further extended to any airline when booking a first or business class ticket. Note that Amex recently dropped this benefit from 50% to 35% and introduced a points cap of 500K per year. See our breakdown of the changes for all the details.
The 35% points back benefit is significant. A $1,000.00 ticket will now, in essence, require 65,000 Amex MR points. Keep in mind that these are paid tickets not subject to award availability limits. Furthermore, unlike awards, tickets purchased with Amex points earn miles and credit towards elite status.
Membership Rewards Transfer Partners
American Express has arguably the second most impressive list of airline transfer partners, behind Marriott Rewards. Among the most notable are Delta, British Airways, Air Canada (Aeroplan), Air France/KLM, Singapore Airlines and Iberia. In most cases, the transfer ratio is 1:1 and there are regularly transfer bonus promotions, such as a 50% bonus promotion on transfers to British Airways which ran through October 10, 2016.
Cash Back Options
While we typically like to leverage transfer partners, if you're looking at cash back instead, 5% on all your airfare isn't too shabby. You can redeem Membership Rewards as cash back with a value of one cent per point. Spending $5,000.00 annually on airfare would generate 25,000 Membership Rewards, which you could convert into a statement credit of $250.
Other Amex Platinum Benefits
- Access to American Express Centurion Lounges
- Access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on Delta
- Access to Plaza Premium Lounges
- Complimentary membership with Priority Pass Select
- Access to Airspace Lounges
- A $200 Airline Fee Credit for incidental airline expenses
- Upgrades to Marriott Gold status and Hilton Honors Gold Status
- A $100 credit for Global Entry or the TSA Precheck program application
- Access to the FINE HOTELS & RESORTS collection
The single place where the Platinum cards had severely fallen behind the rest of the pack was on spend. You earned 1x points on everything, and other cards were offering 2x, 3x and sometimes 5x depending on the card and type of purchase. The introduction of 5X points on airfare purchases has indeed addressed this issue, but is it enough?
Is This Improvement Enough?
The ability to earn 5X points on airfare purchases is certainly a move in the right direction for Amex, but is it enough to make the Amex Platinum card more valuable than the Prestige Card or the Sapphire Reserve? The Sapphire Reserve earns 3X points on all travel and dining purchases.
If you already have an Amex Platinum, you need to seriously consider using the card for airfare purchases. However, for someone that has to pick one from these three cards, an argument can be made that the Amex Platinum is still in third place. From an earning standpoint, the lack of other types of purchases than can earn bonus points, such as with the Prestige Card or Sapphire Reserve, makes it tough to have this card come out of your wallet regularly.
Another consideration is that when purchasing airfare, the Sapphire Reserve still offers better travel insurance and protections than the complimentary coverage with the Amex Platinum. If you value those types of benefits more than bonus points earned, the increased earning potential is not likely to change which card you use.
The Amex Platinum will no longer be a card you simply get or keep for its benefits. With the ability to earn 5X points on airfare purchases, there is at least one category of purchases for which this card will become the go-to card for many.
If you're making large purchases on the Business Platinum Card, the 50% earning bonus is nice as is the possibility of getting 35% back on redemptions through the Amex travel portal.
All in all some nice improvements. This won't skyrocket these cards to the top for everyone, but they are some much-needed enhancements to encourage cardmembers to use their cards. So, have you found a new favorite card with these improvements?
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