In an effort to fend off the up and coming (or perhaps already top dog) Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, American Express Platinum will now offer 5X Membership Rewards points on airfare.
Specifically, you can earn 5X MR points on airfare booked directly with airlines and through American Express Travel.
Previously, Amex Platinum only offered as much as 2X on travel booked via AmexTravel.com.
So this is a huge upgrade to the card and really the only time Amex Platinum has offered a major category bonus.
In announcing the change today, American Express noted that travel was important to its cardholders, and that they wanted to launch the change before the busy holiday travel season.
While 5X on travel is certainly awesome, a lot of Amex Platinum cardholders probably use points to redeem travel, and often won’t pay for airfare out of their pocket unless it’s a short-haul regional flight.
Still, for the frequent flyer who does, it’s a very nice change.
The downside is that the $200 annual airline fee credit pales in comparison to the $300 travel category credit Chase Sapphire Reserve offers and is much more restrictive.
Business Platinum Now Offers 50% Airline Bonus and 1.5X Points on $5,000+ Purchases
If you have the business version of Amex Platinum, there are some exciting new changes as well.
However, let me first point out that you won’t get the increased 5X points on airfare, which is kind of lame.
Instead, you can earn 2X on travel purchases made at the American Express Travel website.
And you will now receive 50% of your points back when using “Membership Rewards Pay with Points” through American Express Travel.
Specifically, you get 5 extra points for every 10 points you redeem for either a First or Business class ticket on any airline, or for any flight with your selected qualifying airline.
This is known as the “50% Airline Bonus” and it should be noted that the airline you select for the 50% Airline Bonus must match the one designated for the $200 Airline Fee Credit.
Those with Business Platinum will also receive another new benefit; 1.5X MR points on all purchases of $5,000 or greater.
It has to be a single purchase of at least $5,000, not combined purchases that total that amount.
For example, if you buy something for $5,000 on the nose you’d earn 7,500 MR points for that transaction.
You can earn a maximum of 1,000,000 extra points via this benefit per calendar year per account, so big spenders be warned.
Who Are These Changes Good For?
I’m envisioning a small business owner with an Amex Platinum (ironically not the business version) who books lots of travel for his or her company.
If this individual is constantly booking flights for their employees using the card, they can earn 5X on those flights and rack up tons of points with no limit.
I could see such a person spending $100,000 on flights in a calendar year, which would equate to a massive 500,000 MR point haul.
But not everyone is in such a situation. For most folks, going with a card that offers a strong sign-up bonus, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Plus, might work out better.
After all, most people open these credit cards in order to get free flights with the bonus miles they earn, with no intention of actually paying for flights out of their own pocket.
So many cardholders won’t actually see much benefit to any to these changes.
You Might Be Able to Earn 5X Via the United MileagePlus X App
While not technically an airline purchase, it’s possible to earn 5X on purchases made with the Amex Platinum card via the United MileagePlus X app.
These seem to code as direct airfare purchases, seeing that it’s a United Airlines shopping portal.
And because you buy e-gift cards through the app, you can basically do your normal shopping at many stores and earn both Ame MR points and United miles.
It’s a nice double dip. For example, let’s say you need dog food and buy it at Petco. You can buy a $100 e-gift card for Petco and earn 500 United miles and another 500 MR points, all in one transaction.
Then you just have the clerk scan your e-gift card at the store when checking out. It’s super easy and quick to buy gift cards via the app and they can be used immediately.
You can also buy Amazon gift cards and then move the money to your Amazon account, though you only earn 0.5 United miles per dollar. Still, you’d ideally get the 5X MR points as well.
In summary, you earn two rewards currencies in one transaction, at what can be a very good multiple depending on the store.
While this might come and go, and isn’t a guarantee, when it works it’s pretty hard to beat, both for convenience and value.