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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN
When it comes to Amex Membership Rewards points, I’ve been saying for years that the best value is when you transfer them to airline partners. However, that’s all changed recently, and I’ve been using the Pay with Points feature more than ever thanks to the new changes to the Amex Business Platinum Card. With the new benefit, you get 2 cents per point in value when booking business and first-class fares on any airline, and economy fares with the airline of your choice — it’s a perk that’s hard to beat especially for booking employee travel.
First off, an important distinction is that the Business Platinum Card doesn’t have the 5x on airfare like the personal Amex Platinum Card. However, the big value with the Business Platinum is on the redemption side, not the earning side. Since the Business Platinum allows me to get twice the value per point when redeeming, I’ve significantly increased my Membership Rewards spend. Coupled with the redemption value I get from putting business spend on my Business Gold Rewards Card for 3x points on advertising, I really have a great setup that helps me to get superior value from my business expenses.
When it comes to booking travel for my employees, historically, we would look to transferring Membership Rewards points to Delta or Aeroplan. But with the new and improved Pay with Points option, you get 50% of your points back on first and business-class tickets with any airline and on economy tickets with a select airline when you book through Amex Travel. And as an added bonus, I learned after the fact that Business Centurion cardholders get these 50% points back on all airfare — even economy with any carrier. Knowing that I had to find a way to fly TPG VP of Marketing & Communications Cliff Fleiser from Miami to New York in the next few weeks, when I started looking at flights I noticed that Delta fares for economy were $161 round-trip and fares for first class were $339. To book the ticket with Delta SkyMiles, it would have cost me 37,500 miles in economy or a crazy 90,000 miles in first class for the flight times I wanted — worth $450 and $1,080, respectively, based on my most recent monthly valuations.
A startling 90,000 miles for a domestic first-class flight is a horrific redemption, and I never would have booked first class for my employees at that rate — plus, we generally fly coach for domestic travel. Instead of forking over an absurd amount of 90,000 miles for the seat and looking for a better deal than paying flat out in cash, I chose instead to use my Business Platinum Card to Pay with Points. I paid the $339 fare with my Membership Rewards points through Amex Travel — redeeming points at 2 cents apiece for the revenue flight. So, I ended up paying just 16,950 Membership Rewards points for a ticket that Delta was charging 90,000 miles for! To make this deal even crazier, if I’d chosen to redeem for this ticket in economy, it would have been just 8,050 SkyMiles round-trip — you can’t beat that!
Not only was I able to save the miles, but because it’s a paid fare, Cliff will earn MQMs and redeemable miles for travel — really not a bad deal at all; in fact, a pretty great one. Cliff doesn’t have status with Delta, so he’ll be getting just less than 3,300 miles in return for the round-trip flight. In all, this Pay with Points bonus has really revolutionized how we book business travel.
On your confirmation, it’ll look like the ticket was paid for using cash. It’ll even have the last four digits of your credit card.
However, not long after posting, you’ll receive a credit to your account for the amount of the cash ticket. In addition, the Membership Rewards points will be deducted from your account and you’ll get the 50% difference posted back into your account a few weeks later.
Not only did the Pay with Points option save us valuable Membership Rewards points, but Cliff also got to take advantage of some of the perks that come along with flying in first class. Perks that will make his travel easier but also save the company money — checked bags and ensuring that he gets a comfortable seat and arrives refreshed.
An Added Business Platinum Bonus
We’ve also stumbled upon the ability to lock in even better fares with a new partnership between Amex and American Airlines. As we’ve detailed in this post, you can access these “secret fares” by calling your Amex concierge like you’d get with the Business Platinum and asking for a specific American Airlines itinerary.
For example, we priced out a one-way business-class ticket between New York (JFK) and London (LHR) on the American Airlines website, which came out to a whopping $7,952. However, when we called the Amex concierge, we were quoted just $2,049 for the same ticket — a savings of about 74%! The ability to take advantage of these “secret fares” makes this an even better option for small businesses, as you’ll get access to the Amex concierge.
In addition, you can couple these special fares with the 50% Pay with Points bonus. For example, a one-way ticket in first class between Las Vegas (LAS) and New York (JFK) via Los Angeles (LAX) was $1,891 on the AA site, however, Amex was offering the same ticket for just $672. If you chose to Pay with Points on this fare, you’d pay just 33,600 Membership Rewards points — plus, you’ll also earn redeemable and elite-qualifying miles on the trip. Combining these two benefits makes this card a no-brainer for any business owner.
The Business Platinum Card is a great option if you’re looking to book travel for your business and employees. The card comes up with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months and another 50,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 on qualifying purchases in the first three months — in total, worth about $1,900 based on my most recent valuations.
You’ll earn 2x points on eligible purchases when you book through the Amex Travel site, 1.5x points on qualifying purchases of $5,000 or more (up to one million points per year) and 1x points on all other purchases. Perhaps the best perk of all — and how I saved more than 73,000 points on Cliff’s Delta redemption between Miami and New York — is the 50% airline bonus.
The new ability with the Business Centurion Card and the Amex Business Platinum Card to buy flights with Membership Rewards points and receive 50% back is a really great way to get maximum value out of your points. In fact, I’d say that it’s revolutionized how businesses can buy their travel. Especially with premium-cabin redemptions, the ability to use Pay with Points can lead you to not only saving points, but being able to redeem those points on future award travel as well.
How have you taken advantage of the 50% points back perk on the new Amex Business Platinum Card or Business Centurion Card?
With great transfer partners like United and Hyatt, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards