American Express Removing 20% Pay with Points Rebate for Amex Platinum Cardholders

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American Express announced that the 20% rebate on Pay With Points that cardholders of the consumer (non-business) version of the Platinum Card get as a benefit will end in February. Below is the official announcement.
 Effective February 1, 2013, personal Platinum Card members will no longer receive 20% of Membership Rewards back when booking a trip with American Express Travel using Pay with Points. You can still use Pay with Points when you book with American Express Travel, including to pay for any airline without seat restrictions or blackout dates, and pay for either all or part of your trip. As a Platinum Card member, you cn also enjoy more than 40 additional benefits offered to you, including earning double Membership Rewards points when you book at amextravel.com

If you choose to cancel your Card as a result of this change, you can do so and receive a partial refund of your annual fee by calling us at 800-525-3355 (from outside the U.S. or Canada call us collect at 954-473-2133) no later than 5p.m. EST on December 30, 2012. Please note that if you cancel your account, you will need to redeem points before you cancel. Unused Membership Rewards points will be forfeited when you cancel.

In case you’re not familiar with it, this benefit – a 20% rebate or a 25% bonus depending on how you look at it – matters when you want to redeem points to pay for airfare directly with Amex travel. Normally 1 point = 1 cent, but with the Platinum and Centurion cards, 1 point = 1.25 cents. So a $500 flight which would normally cost 50,000 points, would only cost 40,000 points if you have a Platinum card.

One of the sweet spots is using them for domestic coach airline tickets that cost $312.50 or below since those would require 25,000 points using Pay With Points – generally the standard domestic economy roundtrip threshold for award tickets with the legacy carriers. Plus, you earn miles (including elite miles) on Pay With Points purchases, so this can be a valuable benefit if you want to save money on airfare, but still earn elite status.

My take
While I generally can get more value with my points when transferring directly to the airline partners (especially during transfer bonuses), Pay With Points can come in handy when you have points to burn and are looking to save money while still earning elite status. This is definitely a negative change, though not really game changing- at least not for me since Pay With Points isn’t the reason why I keep my Platinum (lounge access) or Premier Rewards Gold cards (Membership Rewards transfer partners and 3/2/1 earning ratio) open. I do hope American Express decides to add other benefits to the card, because the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold still offer 1.25 cents per point when redeemed for travel and their annual fees ($95) are drastically lower than the Platinum ($450) and Premier Rewards Gold ($175) cards. I’m hoping Amex gets creative and starts to reinvest in their program, because they are making the decision easy for me to put more and more of my spend on other credit cards.

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