A few months ago, American Express announced that the 20% rebate on Pay With Points (so that points are worth 1.25 cents each rather than just 1 cent each) that cardholders of the personal version of the Platinum Card get as a benefit will end in February.
However, TPG reader Marc-Andre wrote to let me know that he recently signed up for the personal Platinum card and due to the short window that he has had the card, American Express is extending this benefit for him through October 31, 2013 so he may take advantage of it for another nine months before its gone for good.
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.
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.
The fact that this benefit is disappearing on the personal Platinum card is definitely a negative change for a card that people get specifically for valuable perks like this one. However, I wouldn’t really call it a game changer- at least not for me since Pay With Points isn’t the reason why I keep my Platinum (lounge access) or Premier Rewards Gold card (Membership Rewards transfer partners and 3/2/1 earning ratio) open.
An Alternative: The Business Platinum Card
The other thing to note is that while the 20% Pay With Points rebate is going away for the personal Platinum Card, it will remain as a benefit for the Business Platinum card, which essentially carries all the same benefits though no sign-up bonus for the moment, so you could always apply for that card instead and cancel your personal card.
I do hope American Express decides to add other benefits to the personal Platinum card (though I think it’s unlikely), because the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold and Ink Plus 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.