While this is hardly surprising thanks to the merger with United and strong ties that both companies have with Chase, it still stings. The partnership between American Express and Continental will officially be ending on September 30, 2011 (yes, that’s over a year from now).
What does that mean? As an American Express Platinum card holder, you’ll no longer have access to Presidents Clubs. And equally bad, Continental OnePass will no longer be a transfer partner with Membership Rewards. While there are other excellent Star Alliance frequent flyer programs linked to Membership Rewards, most notably Air Canada’s Aeroplan program, there are some regions where Continental was best. While Aeroplan is great to Europe, South America, Australia, and most of Asia, they have insane award rates to the Middle East and India, for example, where Continental was the way to go. So for travelers traveling to those regions, this is a big blow. And Continental is also a partner with Emirates, so that was the most practical way to get an Emirates flight with Membership Rewards points.
So what will American Express do to make up for this?
$200 Airline Fee Credit — Cardmembers can check a bag or enjoy an in-flight meal on American Express. Every year American Express will cover up to $200 of incidental airline fees that are charged on the Cardmember’s enrolled Card on a selected airline. The $200 Airline Fee Credit can apply to fees such as baggage fees, flight change fees, in-flight food and airport lounge day passes.
20% Travel Bonus — When Cardmembers use Membership Rewards Pay with Points to pay for part or all of their travel including airlines, hotels, cruises and vacation packages, they will get 20% of those points credited back to their account. For example, if a Cardmember redeems 30,000 points to pay for an airline ticket, American Express will credit 6,000 point to the Membership Rewards Cardmember’s account.
American Express® Travel App — This complimentary mobile app will help keep travelers informed with flight alerts, an airport lounge locator, airport guides and more.
Number two and three are utterly useless. Number two only applies when using the “pay with points” option, which gives you one cent of value per point. Even 20% more is a bad deal.
Number one is certainly interesting, though I wonder how many asterisks there are with that benefit, in particular what the “select airlines” are.
(Tip of the hat to The Wandering Aramean)