Update: The Pay With Points benefit on The 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.
Just under two weeks ago American Express announced a huge new benefit for The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. I’ve been playing around with it a bit, and am really liking what I’m seeing.
The new Amex Business Platinum Card benefit
The biggest new perk that was announced for the Amex Business Platinum Card is that you now receive a 35% refund on points when using Membership Rewards Pay with Points to book a flight with your selected airline, or when booking a flight in first or business class on any airline.
Typically using the Pay with Points option doesn’t represent a great value, as you’re basically getting one cent per point of value (a $1,000 ticket would typically cost 100,000 points). That’s not a good deal at all, given that I value Membership Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each.
However, now that you get a 35% refund, you’ll basically be getting 1.54 cents of value per Membership Rewards point, which is huge. It’s the most cents per point you’ll get towards the cost of a ticket from any transferrable points currency.
Also keep in mind that if you have this card, all the Membership Rewards points you earn across all your linked Amex cards are eligible for this offer. In other words, by having the Amex Business Platinum Card you’re also increasing the value of points earned on cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, etc.
Playing around with premium fares using Pay with Points
Miles & points are my passion above all else, so I love to spend hours just playing around looking at things, time permitting. As you guys know, I often post about cheap paid premium cabin fares that I see. In many ways the decreasing cost of paid business class tickets is also decreasing the value of miles, since business class is getting attainable for many even without miles.
But I was curious to test out this new benefit on cheap paid business class fares in general. Keep in mind that while you have to designate just one airline for using this benefit for economy flights, you can get the 35% refund on points for all business & first class flights, regardless of the airline.
To give one example, take a look at the cheap paid business class fares from Los Angeles to Changsha on Hainan Airlines. The flight costs ~$1,788 roundtrip in business class on many dates (in the past we’ve seen even lower fares).
That means the ticket would cost 178,756 Membership Rewards points, though you’d get 35% of those refunded. That means your real out of pocket is ~116,191 Membership Rewards points.
Hainan Airlines is an Alaska Mileage Plan partner, so you can credit your miles there. The flight covers a distance of ~14,000 miles roundtrip, meaning you’d earn ~28,000 miles roundtrip (both elite qualifying and redeemable).
If you’re MVP Gold you earn a further 100% mileage bonus, for a total of 42,000 miles.
If you’re an MVP Gold 75K member you earn a 125% mileage bonus, for a total of 45,500 miles. You also receive 50,000 bonus miles when you requalify for MVP Gold 75K, which required a total of 90,000 elite qualifying miles on partners. If you’re going to allocate that bonus proportionally to the 90,000 elite qualifying miles, here you’d be earning ~16,000 further redeemable miles from this trip, for a total of 61,500 miles.
So in the end you’d be spending ~116,000 Membership Rewards points, and would be earning between 28,000 and 61,500 redeemable Alaska miles depending on your status (and I actually value Alaska miles more than Amex points). That’s sort of crazy, no?
This also works great for fares originating outside the US. Take some cheap business class fares on American between Toronto and Beijing, which cost ~$2,073.
Amex has a further discount that brings the cost down to 190,412 miles. After the 35% refund, you’d pay ~123,767 Membership Rewards points.
As a last crazy example, take a Qatar Airways paid business class fare between Cairo and Miami (via Doha), which would cost ~$1,546. After the 35% refund you’d pay 100,490 Membership Rewards points.
Meanwhile as an Executive Platinum member I’d earn ~40,000 redeemable AAdvantage miles for that itinerary.
Those are just a few examples…
What’s my point?
A couple of things, really.
First of all, when you’re using this benefit you can in many cases outright buy a paid business class ticket using points for less than you’d pay for an award ticket, without even factoring in how much better availability is on paid tickets. American charges 140,000 miles for roundtrip business class award tickets to Asia, while above you’d be paying ~95,000 miles, and you’d also be earning a lot of miles.
This is a pretty powerful option for those who like to redeem points for tickets rather than booking discounted business class tickets, as you can save points while also getting flights towards elite qualification and earning redeemable miles.
Furthermore, I’m impressed by how well Amex’s online travel tool works. No, it’s not going to work well for complicated multi-city tickets, but I’ve had pretty good luck using it even for tickets not originating in the US.
This new benefit on the Amex Business Platinum Card allows members to basically get 1.54 cents of value per Membership Rewards point, which is pretty good. That should be useful for most people with the card, since you can get that kind of value even on simple domestic itineraries.
However, as many of you know I track discounted business class tickets pretty closely, and am really fascinated by the implications of this for those who usually book discounted business class tickets and/or those who care about requalifying for status. In many cases you can save miles using this system over the cost of an award ticket, and also have access to better availability and mileage accrual.
I’m not suggesting all of the above are necessarily practical or useful for everyone, but it is interesting to see just what a good value this can represent.
Anyone else excited at the prospect of using the 35% points refund option being offered by the Amex Business Platinum Card for premium fares?
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