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Understanding the 3x Airfare Category Bonus on the Amex Premier Rewards Gold

by on March 12, 2013 · 28 comments

in American Express, Credit Cards

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Update: The 50,000 point sign up offer for the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card is no longer available through the Card Match Tool.

Offer Expired: April 19, 2013

There are many cards and ways of maximizing your airfare purchases, but I choose to put all of mine on my American Express Premier Rewards Gold card because it gives 3 points per dollar spent on airfare and also a 15,000 point bonus if you hit $30,000 in spend within a calendar year.

The Premier Rewards is my primary Amex workhorse card for those reasons and is how I  build up my Membership Rewards balance so I can take advantage of periodic transfer bonuses to the program’s airline and hotel partners. I am tempted to book airfare on my Sapphire Preferred at 2.14 points per dollar plus 2 extra points per dollar for clicking through to Travelocity via the Ultimate Rewards portal but I like to diversify my expenses between Amex, Chase and Starwood (plus whatever card I’m trying to hit the minimum spend for the sign-up bonus) so I dedicate airfare spend to Amex.

Per the T&C of the Premier Rewards card, “Premier Rewards Gold Card members will accrue 3 points for each dollar of eligible purchases of airfare booked directly on scheduled U.S. and international passenger airlines.”

Airfare is technically “the price charged for transportation by airplane,” but that definition seems like it might only be on the actual ticket purchased and not any additional fees.

Well, recently I took a deep look at my American Express statements and noticed that I was getting 3 points per dollar on much more than just base fares booked directly with airlines.

Amex PRG Award Fee Bonus Points

I got 3x points on the award fees and surcharges on my US Airways award to South Africa, at least a somewhat silver lining to having to pay all these fees

I also got it for award ticket fees and pet fees on three different airlines.
PRG AA Pet Fee
My elite status waives most other fees, but I’d assume that most fees will count towards the 3x category as long as they are billed in the Travel-Airline category and booked directly with airlines, which Amex will let you see on your americanexpress.com billing statement when you click the + mark next to the expense and scroll to the bottom.

However, one question I get a lot when there are buy miles promotions is whether these charges will count as airfare and thus earn the category spending bonus, and the answer is no. For instance, I recently purchased US Airways miles at a 100% bonus and since the charge is through points.com, it showed up as Merchandise & Supplies – Internet Purchases.”

So for those purchases in the future, I’ll use my Chase Freedom card, which will begin giving a 10% bonus on all points earned at some point this year for all members who have a Chase checking account (those enrolled in the 10 point per transaction + 10% bonus old Exclusives Program will get transferred to the 10% on all spend, including 5x, at some point in 2013 per my contacts at Chase).

Points.com is not classified as TRAVEL-AIRLINE unfortunately

Points.com is not classified as TRAVEL-AIRLINE unfortunately.

If you are looking to get the Premier Rewards Gold card my direct affiliate link is only for 25,000 points, but if you follow the instructions in this post, through the Creditcards.com Card Match Tool you may get offered 50,000 points after only $1,000 spent within the first 3 months with the $175 annual fee waived the first year, which I think is an incredible deal that probably won’t last long.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Brian

    What about check in luggage fees? Think we’ll get 3x points for that?

  • thepointsguy

    I would guess so

  • David

    It’s actually not an either-or proposition between spending on your Amex and earning 2 UR points/dollar through the UR mall… notwithstanding the “directly…” language in the terms and conditions you cite above, booking airfare with your Amex on Travelocity through the UR mall earns 3x Amex points and 2x UR points.

  • thepointsguy

    The issue is with chase- if the points don’t post correctly, they often require that the purchase was made with a n Ultimate Rewards card so they can verify. There are ways around it, but I know people who have been through a lot of hassle chasing points

  • Marianag

    I believe Lucky posted that Amex will not give you 3x if you use sites like travelocity or kayak. you have to buy directly from the airline.

  • Gomer

    Yes, one would think so per their Ts and Cs. But I have found that I get 3X anyway, and the name of the airline usually shows up as the biller, even when I book through a 3rd party OTA. So I’m not sure under what circumstances you don’t get 3X

  • AirDoc

    This is my strategy: go through Chase ultimate rewards portal -> Travelocity -> pay with Amex PRG. This results in 3x Amex MR AND 2x Chase UR! It works. Just did it last week.

  • thepointsguy

    You can buy from OTAs but if you purchase air+hotel it will likely not be coded as airfare and thus no 3x

  • Gavinmac1

    Thanks. do you get 3X points on airfare charges through 3rd party sites like kayak, vayama, etc.? Or does it only apply to purchases directly from the airline?

  • Steve A

    But in those infrequent cases where the UR points don’t post correctly, you’re no worse off than if you hadn’t used the UR mall. Why not use the mall and Amex PRG card and if the UR points don’t post, just don’t worry about them? (Probably heresy for a points junkie)

  • Jason

    Is the 15,ooo point bonus for $30,000 annual spend for all purchases?

  • thepointsguy

    Airfare through an OTA should count as well (though not if part of a tour package)

  • thepointsguy

    Yes

  • http://thehustleblog.com/ the hustle blog

    One nice tip is that all Priceline purchases are billed as Travel-Airline on Amex so all purchases will earn 3x MR points.

  • pssteve

    For all the BIG spenders in my last bill Amex had a notice that Private Jet rentals would no longer get 3x points after April.

  • Jer

    I agree – I get the 3x when using Travelocity, and the majority of the time, they post to my UR account – I’ve very rarely had it where the UR points didn’t post, and… i’m no better off as if i hadn’t purchased it through UR–>Travelocity…

  • Dieuwer

    AMEX PRG Annual fee is $175, Chase SP is $95. Difference: $80.
    So, you need to spend at least $4,000 extra (giving you 8000 MR points @ 2 cpp) with the AMEX to make up for the fee.

  • Dieuwer

    Sounds like a loophole in need of closure ;)

  • Umut

    if you buy an international ticket on Turkish Airlines website does it count as 3x travel? Because I tried buyin TK ticket with another credit card 2 years ago and I was charged foreign transaction fee for using that card there

  • thepointsguy

    Yes it does, however there are foreign transaction fees with this card so is use the sapphire preferred to avoid those and still get 2.14x

  • JL100

    I tried using Amex travel portal to get 4x on airfare but for some reason they didn’t offer the flight times that I wanted, so had to buy on US Air for only 3x.

  • Bobby

    pardon my ignorance, but how do you get the travelocity multiplier if you don’t use your chase card? i just tried to set up an itinerary to book – once through ultimate rewards and once just through travelocity, and the url was the exact same…

  • thepointsguy

    When you click through the UR portal it stored a cookie on your computer and deposits points based on how much you spend

  • thepointsguy

    Correct- i was just saying that 4x guaranteed through Amex travel is a sure thing vs “maybe” with UR, though most people don’t have a hard time using Amex PRG with UR portal

  • cbtanner

    there are other benefits that come with AMEX though such as the Small Business Saturday $25 credit that came this last year

  • Alex

    I would love to put all my spend on my Premier Rewards for flights but after a couple incidences with friends, I’ve realized the baggage insurance on the Platinum Card is substantially better. And as someone who lives in hotels abroad (meaning everything I can about is in a checked suitcase), this is a big issue. I wish they would just make it the same for both cards.

  • Audrey Wei

    Hi Brian, can you please advise if we still receive 4x MR points if we book flights through Amex website with Business gold rewards credit card as well?

  • Robertt

    Is this still true? I’m interested in purchasing flight tickets through online portals like expedia or cheaptickets. Will I get 3x points through these sites or is AMEX enforcing the ‘no online agencies’ rule more than before? Any experience you want to share with the AMEX Travel portal? Thanks!

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