Will I Get Hotel Points and Elite Benefits When Booking at Amex Travel?
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“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
American Express Travel has gotten more useful lately, so TPG reader Nicole sent us a Facebook message to ask what hotel benefits she can get when booking with it…
With the new 5x Amex points on hotels booked through Amex Travel, is it still possible to earn hotel loyalty points when booking that way?TPG Reader Nicole
Thanks to recent enhancements rolled out by Amex, cardmembers with either The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express can now earn 5 points per dollar when booking not just airfare, but also prepaid hotels through Amex Travel. While this is great for earning extra Membership Rewards points, are you giving up anything by booking your hotel reservation this way versus doing it directly with the hotel?
Amex Travel is essentially an online travel agency just like Expedia or Orbitz, and when it comes to online travel agencies, there are very different rules for airline bookings versus hotel bookings. With the airlines, it usually doesn’t matter where you book a flight — you’ll earn miles and get your elite benefits just as if you’d booked directly with the airline (with a few possible exceptions if you find yourself with a “special fares” ticket). So there’s not much downside to booking airline tickets with Amex Travel, and with the personal Platinum, you can even book directly with an airline and still get the 5x anyway.
But hotels are a different animal. Most major hotel chains — including Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and IHG — won’t award points or honor elite benefits when you’ve booked your stay with an online travel agency or booking portal. Up until recently Hyatt was a partial exception to this rule — you wouldn’t earn points for a stay booked with a third party, but you could still get your elite benefits honored. But when the chain introduced its new “World of Hyatt” loyalty program in March, it added the following restriction into its new terms and conditions:
And just to clarify, the definition of “Ineligible Rates” is…
So Hyatt’s out as well. In the old days hotel chains were more lenient about this restriction, but they’ve mostly tightened up their systems and rules now. Of course, after booking your stay with Amex Travel or another travel portal, you can always call the hotel and ask for your loyalty number to be added to your reservation and see if you get credit or elite benefits anyway. But you definitely shouldn’t expect them — if they show up, it’s a bonus.
One other note: Amex Travel is separate from Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, which is an exception to the third-party booking rule. In most cases, reservations made at Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts are in fact qualifying-rate rooms and will earn both hotel points as well as get elite benefits honored. But don’t confuse these two very different American Express programs.
So when booking a prepaid hotel at Amex Travel, you’ll have to decide if the extra Membership Rewards points are worth more to you than the hotel points and elite benefits. Thanks for the question, Nicole, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.