Using Amex Premium Roadside Assistance

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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.

Bottom Line

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?

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the helpful post, but am I misreading this, or did you seriously characterize 10 miles as “nearly twice” the distance as 7 miles?

  2. This is great to hear, I ended up dropping our AAA coverage since I never used the thing and kept paying for it. I realized I had coverage with Amex Platinum and so dropped AAA, good to know how they are in real situations, guess I made the right call here.

  3. I used this service once or tried to. And there was only one tow company in this area I was in. I talked to the tow company after Amex road aide assistance said there were no available tow trucks in my area. The person from the tow company said the road side assistance person didn’t want to pay what the tow company was charging and instead of telling me that they just didn’t want to pay that much. They just said that no trucks were available. I called Amex back and complained about this new piece of information I found out. In the end Amex called back the tow company and pissed the owner off so bad that he almost refused to pick my car up when I was paying for the tow myself.

  4. @Michael – These sorts of posts are intended to generate referral income by people clicking on the credit card link and applying. It’s a sales pitch, treat it accordingly. The facts in this post are correct, but the commentary and analysis of those facts can be disregarded. From there, arrive at your own conclusion.

  5. @Ed – I’d say “disregarded” is a little strong. I mean, for someone whose default roadside assistance option is AAA, this Platinum benefit is actually a welcome surprise. If someone has both an AAA membership and a Platinum card, they can now drop the AAA membership, as the Platinum benefit is clearly superior. Most of us are so focused on only the rewards earning side of credit cards, that we often forget about the other benefits cards have to offer, such as this.

  6. Nice post! I used it a few weeks ago as well for my wife’s car. I got a flat when I was driving and the spare was flat as well. Called both and Amex Plat was by far the best – 9 miles to station and response time was under an hour. FWIW, the driver (great guy and I’m sure this isn’t the case everywhere) said that AAA is horrible. They pay the least, pay late, and often try to force you to go to a AAA service station. The guy told my that my call was sent in through an insurance company and he picked up the call quickly. Great reminder of this perk. Really helped me out in that situation. I enjoy using the Amex Plat.

  7. Found a typo in this sentence: “the additional distance would cost $3 per mile, or half as much as AAA.”

    This should be “the additional distance would cost $3 per mile, nearly 100% less than AAA.”

  8. I have AAA+ as my commute is long (in terms of both miles and time); AAA+ tow 100 miles. Annual cost is about $150 (including my wife). Maybe it is time to drop AAA+ and use the roadside assistance from AMEX Platinum (coverage should be the same for Business Platinum, right?).

    I don’t recall the last time I used a tow over 10 miles. Even if over 10 miles tows are needed, the money saved over the years of no AAA annual fee should cover it. Definitely no tow in the last 4 to 5 years (since we got new cars). Battery jump start was maybe year and half ago.

  9. It sounds like you have the entry-level AAA membership. Of course each AAA club region has different benefits, but mine includes 100 miles per tow, plus an extra tow up to 200 miles per year.

  10. @Jason, who in their right mind would ever put non airline ticket spend on an Amex Platinum?

  11. Michael — I got mixed up at one point and thought that AAA was 5 miles free. I eventually realized it was 7, edited most of the text, but missed a spot. So you are right, and I have now edited it to say 50% more than AAA.

    Thanks for finding that. I really do appreciate your attention to detail.

  12. @Jack, @ tda – It was a joke. Read the preceding sentence, and maybe you’ll understand.

  13. Elizabeth — You are correct. I have the basic AAA plan. The higher plans include more distance.

  14. @Jack, @tda – Well, nevermind, Travis apparently “corrected” the ridiculous math.

  15. @Jason – Of course he has to use a Chase card. Travis is too cheap to actually pay the $550 annual fee, so just uses his “best friend’s” account as an authorized user (for him and his wife, actually, so the entire family can access the lounges).

    So, instead of going through the hassle of explaining to the friend, and then reimbursing the friend, he used the Chase card, and then cites “because it’s best for non-bonused spend.” HAHA

  16. @Travis – If it was 5 instead of 7, it still wouldn’t be “nearly twice”. It would be exactly twice.

    Next you’ll say you thought it was 6 miles free.

  17. @Antella

    I put all my big ticket consumer purchases on my Amex Platinum. Their extended warranty protection and well-earned reputation for backing the consumer has me making all of my big consumer charges on their card.

  18. I’ve used the service at least twice that I can remember in the last few years. Once I left my dome light on and needed a jump. It was a quick call and an attendant came in less than 20 minutes.

    Another time my friend’s car wouldn’t start after a day at the beach. I called and used my benefit and we were on our way very quickly.

    I definitely don’t have AAA anymore since this benefit was added to AMEX Plat. It would be a total waste of money. To me it seems similar to AAA Plus, which is $81 in Southern California.

    One thing that should be a part of the post Travis is that you can only use the service 4 times per card number per calendar year. So if you’re feeling very generous treating your friends and relatives, be sure to save one use for yourself!

  19. Ugh. Just tried to use it for the first time. I’m out of town, and the card is not in my wallet. CSA won’t tell me my card no. So… I’m stuck, and on to Plan B.
    Damn.

  20. I dropped my AAA years ago in favor of my amex coverage. There is another huge advantage that hasn’t been discussed. AAA usually gets a ton of calls because there are many many AAA members. So when you request assistance you are likely going behind a long line of people. You deal with a much shorter line through Amex. I have used amex’s roadside assistance over a dozen times in the past 15 years either for myself or someone else and the assistance have always arrived within 15-45 minutes. This is 100% of the cases. Meanwhile I have had nothing under 2 hours with AAA. Go with Amex roadside assist…unless you’re Ed who seems to be a pessimistic cynic with a bone to pick.

  21. used it twice once to get the daughters flat fixed, and once to tow our car. Never had AAA and dropped my towing insurance from my policy. AAA does have different plans that pay for towing more than 8 miles.

  22. I have AAA mid-tier plan because I take a lot of road trips out West, so the 10 free miles from Amex would end up being a small discount on a hefty towing bill.

    AAA pays for itself with hotel rate discounts. I don’t see it making sense for anyone to drop it unless they Airbnb everything or don’t travel

  23. Dead car battery in my own garage. Called Amex Platinum and within 45 min a guy was there. No charge. Citi Prestige also has the similar benefits as well

  24. Or stick with a good 2% card like Fidelity’s Visa or Citi’s Double Cash and put aside some of the cash you save from skipping annual fees towards an emergency fund.

  25. omgstfualready: Where exactly did I say I left her stranded and panicked? I actually went and picked her up myself — was there within 10 minutes.

  26. I appreciate this story; however, Amex left me stranded, locked out of a rental car at glacier point in Yosemite at around 10pm. They denied my request for roadside assistance because the vehicle was not my personal, it was a rental. Called JPM since I held the Ritz card and they specifically said they didn’t care who’s car it was, they’d send someone out ASAP. So just be mindful that Amex roadside assistance doesn’t apply for rental cars.

  27. I actually had to use the service on my fake, new Jeep Cherokee a couple weeks ago. Amex was great, but the first truck they sent out turned out to be the wrong kind (not that they knew that). My Jeep was stuck in park and couldn’t be hooked up to the long, flatbed truck without dragging it on the ground. The driver told me that he’d never do that to his car and suggested I go with another company. A moment after he went to go call his boss, I get a call from someone claiming to be his boss asking if the driver was trying to get out of a job. I explained the situation, and the person on the phone said there would be nothing wrong with the car towing it that way. I explained all of this to the driver, and he gave me a look like I was crazy and explained that I didn’t actually speak with his boss. So I call back Amex to ask for their guidance. Amex took a while to find a different kind of truck, and the guy from Amex even had to call me back it took so long, but they finally sent out the right kind of truck. (When the first guy called back to talk to his boss to say I’d canceled the job, they were clearly arguing about it until the driver shared with his boss that I’m a lawyer—the conversation immediately stopped).

    The second driver got my Jeep to the dealership, and when he was disconnecting it, he did something wrong and the Jeep almost rolled on top of him, but he got it in time.

    Amex was clearly the most competent part of the service. Just keep in mind that the weak link to the service might be the tow company. Look out for your own best interests, and don’t be afraid to call Amex back if something doesn’t sound right.

    (And, in case anyone was curious, I just needed a new battery. . The first tow truck driver tried jumping the battery because that’s what he thought it was, but it didn’t work.)

  28. Donald — You get 4 per card number. And each AU has their own card number. So effectively, adding AU’s has no impact on how many service calls you get per year.

  29. I called CSR first and I had to pay a surcharge of a fair amount after 50usd. Called amex, done. No charge. CSR is only premium in name.

  30. Great information. I’m now thinking about upgrading to Amex Platinum from my Platinum Delta Amex.
    Also, can we keep the comments positive?

  31. FYI, one thing to do with an overheating car is to turn on the heater full blast, that pulls heat from the engine. True, the pax compartment is deathly hot, make sure you also put all the windows down.

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