There are generally better cards for earning Amex Membership Rewards points, with one major exception — airfare purchases. The Amex Platinum is my go-to card for purchasing airfare. In this post, I wanted to share everything you need to know about putting your airfare spending on the card.
Earning 5x points on airline tickets with the Amex Platinum
- On flights booked directly with airlines
- On flights booked through Amex Travel
A few things to note about the 5x points on airfare purchases:
- You’re capped at earning 5x points on up to $500,000 in flight purchases per calendar year (which shouldn’t be an issue for a vast majority of people), and then 1x
- There’s no registration required, but rather you’ll automatically receive the bonus points to your account upon making an eligible purchase (the bonus points should post the same time as the standard points post)
- It doesn’t matter who you’re purchasing an airline ticket for, as long as your card is being used
- While The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review) offers 5x points on airfare purchases through Amex Travel, it doesn’t offer 5x points on airfare purchases directly with airlines
Stack 5x points with great travel coverage
What makes the Amex Platinum Card so great for airfare purchases is that you’re not just earning 5x points, but you’re also getting great travel coverage. Among other things, this includes trip cancellation coverage, trip interruption coverage, and trip delay coverage.
The Amex Platinum Card offers reimbursement when your trip is canceled or interrupted, as follows:
- You can be reimbursed for up to $10,000 in non-refundable travel expenses per trip, up to $20,000 per 12 consecutive month period
- This applies to covered reasons, which includes accidental bodily injury, inclement weather, military orders, terrorist action, call to jury duty, one’s dwelling made uninhabitable, and a quarantine imposed by a physician for health reasons
- Coverage applies to you and your family members (including domestic partners) and traveling companions who purchase a trip with your card
- You must file your claim within 60 days of the covered event
The Amex Platinum Card offers reimbursement for trip delays, as follows:
- This applies if you’re delayed by at least six hours
- If eligible, you can be reimbursed up to $500 per trip for necessary expenses, like hotels, meals, and other essentials
There are of course terms to be aware of, so you’ll want to consult your benefits guide for all the details.
Do you earn 5x points on flights booked with travel agencies?
With the Amex Platinum Card, you earn 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines, or flights booked through Amex Travel. But what about flights booked through online travel agencies (OTAs), like Orbitz, Expedia, etc.?
Technically you have to book directly through an airline or Amex Travel to get 5x points, though often when you make bookings through OTAs, the reservation is still processed directly by the airline. So I’ve often received 5x points even when booking flights through Expedia (since the credit card charge still shows as being from the airline directly), though that’s no guarantee.
This is a case of “your mileage may vary” — don’t expect to receive 5x points with OTAs, but don’t be surprised when you do.
Should you book flights through Amex Travel?
You can earn 5x points on flights either when booking directly with airlines, or when booking through Amex Travel. What are the pros and cons of booking through Amex Travel, which is Amex’s online travel booking platform?
In general, I’d consider using Amex Travel when you’re trying to use the Amex International Airline Program, Amex Insider Fares, or the Amex Pay With Points program, since these are exclusively available through Amex Travel. All of these can potentially be a great deal on airfare.
However, other than that, personally, I’d highly recommend booking travel directly with airlines when possible, especially in this era. Why?
- Airlines have so many schedule changes nowadays, and it’s much easier to change flights if you’re working directly with an airline rather than through a third party
- With tickets being easily changeable without fees nowadays (on most airlines), it’s easier to manage your reservations, travel credits, etc., directly through an airline website
- In some cases you’ll earn more points when booking directly with an airline than when booking through an online travel agency (for example, JetBlue offers double points when booking direct)
How valuable is the Amex Platinum for airfare purchases?
I’d say the Amex Platinum Card is extremely valuable for airfare purchases, especially if this is a big-spending category for you:
- I value Amex Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me that’s the equivalent of an 8.5% return on airfare spending, which is in line with the best return on airfare spending you’ll find on any card
- In addition to that, you get fantastic travel coverage, in the event that your flight is delayed or canceled
For me, the two single biggest factors to consider when deciding which card to use for spending are the rewards you earn and the purchase protection you get, and that’s an area where this card can’t be beaten for airfare.
The Amex Platinum Card is a card that I recommend having mostly for the benefits, as there are generally better Amex cards for everyday spending. The one exception is airfare purchases, where you really can’t beat the card.
The Amex Platinum offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, plus it offers great travel protection. When you combine the two, that’s a fantastic value proposition.
While I still primarily have the Amex Platinum for the perks that it offers, the return on airfare spending sure is a nice added benefit, since this is a fairly big spending category for me.
Do you use the Amex Platinum for airfare purchases, or which card do you use?