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I was in need of roadside assistance a couple of weeks ago, or perhaps more accurately, my wife was. Her Jeep Cherokee — the original, not the fake new one — overheated while she was driving home one evening. She called me in a bit of a panic to ask what she should do. In my calmest voice, I advised her to SHUT IT DOWN. NOW!
I mean, that’s pretty much always the answer in my experience, unless perhaps you’re in the middle of a freeway, a really bad part of town, or something like that.
We’ve been AAA members for years. I figure that if you’re going to drive older vehicles (or maybe even newer ones), it’s worth the peace of mind to have some basic roadside assistance insurance. Plus, in the olden days, we used to get maps, and tour books, and the like, which was a nice perk of membership. So my first inclination was to call AAA, just because I’ve been a AAA member since forever.
The AAA roadside assistance agent took my information and informed me that my AAA Basic coverage would cover the first seven miles of towing. Since we wanted to go to our specialist Jeep mechanic that was 15 miles way, we’d pay $6 per mile for the eight additional miles, or about $48 out of pocket.
For comparison, I called the tow company directly, and they quoted the cost of the tow as $75 for “the hook” and $90 for the distance, or about $165.
Neither of those options seemed great to me.
But then I remembered reading somewhere that Platinum Amex cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express, have pretty good roadside assistance included as one of their benefits. And that even extends to authorized users, like my wife and me.
American Express Premium Roadside Assistance to the rescue
I called American Express and told them that I needed some roadside assistance. They advised that our towing benefit would cover the first 10 miles of towing — about 50% more than AAA — and that the additional distance would cost $3 per mile, or half as much as AAA. I was impressed.
She asked for the approximate address of the vehicle and the address of my mechanic, and then computed that I would owe $14.63. That sounded great to me so I had her send the truck. She said that I would need to pay the balance over the phone with her, which sounded far more convenient than dealing with the tow driver along the side of the road. I was curious as to whether I could use a different card, and she said that was fine. So I gave her my Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which I favor for non-bonused spend such as this. At that point she said she’d call the tow company, and that they’d be there within 55 minutes.
We quickly hopped in our other vehicle and headed back to the Jeep, barely beating the tow truck driver. He quickly had it loaded and we were on our way. The agent had advised me not to pay the driver anything additional, since it would all be handled directly by American Express. And sure enough, he never asked.
And for those wondering, it turned out to be just a clogged radiator. I guess that can be expected as you cross the 200,000 mile mark. Fortunately, our mechanic concluded that there wasn’t any permanent damage.
I used the Premium Roadside Assistance benefit that comes with the American Express Platinum card recently and had a great experience. In my opinion, the coverage is better than the AAA Basic plan given that they cover ten miles of towing rather than just seven. And if you need to go more than seven miles like I did, the additional cost per mile is lower at just $3 per mile.
In other words, you get more distance included, and then any overage costs half as much. Win and Win.
At least from what I can tell, American Express Premium Roadside Assistance is better than AAA in almost every way. In fact, it has me seriously considering dropping my AAA membership. The actual towing service was great too, but that can probably be hit or miss depending on the local company that American Express calls. And in my case, the logo on the truck indicated that they work with AAA too.
Have you used Premium Roadside Assistance from American Express? What was your experience like?