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.
One of my favorite new uses of transferrable points is Amex’s 35% refund on “Pay With Points” bookings. Last October we learned about some major changes being made to both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. Specifically:
- The Personal Amex Platinum Card now offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines
- The Business Amex Platinum Card now offers up to a 35% points refund when using the “Pay With Points” option, which is essentially an opportunity to redeem your Amex points for 1.54 cents each towards the cost of airfare
Historically I’ve considered the best use of Amex points to be for airline mileage transfers, though with this change, I think redeeming them for two cents each towards the cost of an airline ticket can represent a great deal. You’d still earn miles for the tickets as you usually would, so it’s especially good for those looking to requalify for status.
How the 35% points rebate benefit works
Getting the 35% refund when using the Pay With Points feature is pretty straightforward.
The benefit applies on your designated airline, which you can choose once per year. On top of that, it applies for first & business class tickets on all airlines. So first you’ll want to select your airline, assuming you’re redeeming for economy. Personally I see there being a lot of value in this benefit for the purpose of booking discounted premium cabin tickets.
Then you’ll pay the full points price for the redemption — typically you’re charged one Amex point per cent of airfare.
So you need all the Amex points required for the redemption at the time you ticket, and then after the fact you’ll get a refund of 35% of the points.
I recently used this benefit to book Hawaiian first class tickets to Hawaii. Premium cabin saver level award space to Hawaii is virtually non-existent, and given that premium fares to Hawaii are typically pretty reasonable, I consider this to be a great option to have.
Amex has slowed down how quickly the 35% rebate posts
This benefit is a 35% refund, meaning that you have to pay the full points needed for a ticket upfront (at the rate of one point per cent of airfare), and then the 35% refund is posted after the fact. In other words, you need a big balance of Amex points to really maximize this. The terms of the Amex Business Platinum Card state that the 35% points refund should post within 6-10 weeks of when you make your booking:
Extra points will be credited to your Membership Rewards account approximately 6-10 weeks after charges appear on your billing statement.
However, as I’ve reported in the past, typically the 35% refund (formerly 50%, as in the example below) has actually posted within a day or so, which is fantastic. For example, I booked my ticket on April 9, and the refund posted on April 10, just a day later. Others have had similar experiences.
However, for a bit over a week now, it looks like Amex has slowed down how quickly these Pay With Points refunds post. More specifically, those who have taken advantage of this feature in the past week or so report not receiving their refund yet, so we don’t really know how long it will take. Clearly it’s taking more than a few days, though we’ll have to wait a while to see if it actually takes the promised 6-10 weeks, or what.
Why would Amex slow down the speed at which the 35% refund posts?
We don’t officially know why this is happening, though I think the reasoning is obvious enough — this is a really lucrative benefit, and presumably Amex wants to limit the number of people using it, as it’s probably the most costly way that people can redeem points. For example, if you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle on The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, you earn 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent. Then if you have the Amex Business Platinum Card you’re getting a 35% refund on those redemptions. Essentially that means you’re getting over two cents of value per dollar spent on “base” purchases, which is incredible. Of course the two catches here are that:
- You need to have the Amex Business Platinum Card
- You need to have all the points needed for a one cent per point redemption upfront, and the 35% refund only posts after the fact, so you can’t get two cents per point of value for all your points
Along those lines, I suspect Amex wants to limit their exposure with this benefit, and one way to do that is to limit the speed at which people can maximize redemptions with this benefit. I know a lot of people would making bookings for two people by making one booking, waiting for the 35% points to be refunded within a day, and then making the booking for the second passenger. That’s not as easy if points only post weeks later.
The 35% Pay With Points perk on the Amex Business Platinum Card is fantastic, as it essentially means I get over two cents of value per dollar spent on the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card. Unfortunately I’m not surprised to see them slow down the pace at which points are refunded, as they’re doing so fully within the terms. However, this is certainly something to be aware of if you have points and plan on using this feature, especially given what I’ve reported in the past.