Earlier this year American Express eliminated the 20% bonus with the “Pay with Points” option for the American Express Platinum card. Oddly enough it was only eliminated for those accounts with the Amex Platinum Personal card, NOT the Amex Platinum Business card. The two cards have similar perks – same point earning opportunities, same redemption loyalty partners, same benefits with $200 airline credit, club lounge access, and global entry fee reimbursement.
For those that are not aware, the “Pay with Points” option allows you to use your points through the American Express travel website. Let’s say you want to book a flight with JetBlue and it costs $173. With accounts holding the personal card it will require you to redeem 17,300 points. While business card owners will still require the same 17,300 points for redemption, you’ll receive a 20% rebate on the points spent, so ultimately costing you only 13,840 points. Instead of the “Pay with Points” option you can transfer your Amex Membership Reward points to JetBlue and book directly through JetBlue with your new points. This $173 flight costs 11,000 points (this is an example of one particular flight, remember JetBlue does not have an exact science of how many points are required based on flight price, but as the price goes up so does the number of points). To receive 11,000 JetBlue points you must transfer 13,750 Membership Reward points. While this is still let than using the “Pay with Points” option, you will still need to pay $8.25 to transfer your points and then another $2.50 on taxes/fees when booking with JetBlue. Also, when you book through Amex travel you’ll earn points for your flights – the airline looks as this as if you paid through a normal cash transaction so all points and bonus points are earned. When you book with JetBlue directly via points you will not earn any points. This is true of all airline programs.
So in the scenario above, I’d personally opt to use the “Pay with Points” option only if I had the American Express Platinum Business card. I actually like to get a much better value out of my points than 1.2 cents per point so in actuality I wouldn’t use my Amex Membership Reward points for this same reservation, but I know many like the “Pay with Points” option as it is easy and seamless. No thinking or strategy required!
Now back to the Business vs. Personal card. A friend of mine called Amex yesterday to complain about this, he has the Personal Platinum card not the Business Platinum card. While the supervisor on the phone essentially said tough luck, she did say that if he applied for the Business card and cancelled the Personal card she would reimburse the annual fee on his current account. While this does require another credit check and approval process when applying for the Business card, it is a way to be able to use your points with a 20% bonus if you like this redemption option.
Just remember, when you use the Pay with Points option, make sure you are getting a better value than if you were to transfer your points to the loyalty program with the airline you are looking to fly and booking directly with the airline.