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How my Amex scored me a last-minute dinner reservation on the busiest night of the year

Feb. 15, 2020
9 min read
How my Amex scored me a last-minute dinner reservation on the busiest night of the year
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Like peanut butter and jelly, Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, caviar and first class, some things just make sense together.

As for me? Those two things are credit cards and restaurants — specifically, hard-to-get-into restaurants. I love scoping out the best restaurants in town as much as I love planning my next trip. That's why the Amex Global Dining Collection is one of my favorite perks.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, it's a collection of restaurants around the world that partner with Amex to offer cardholders premium dining experiences at some of the top spots in town. Think: Special menu items, free drinks and, perhaps best of all, prime dining reservations. Yes, even tables at restaurants that are otherwise fully booked online.

Related: Your definitive guide to the Amex Global Dining Collection

Naturally, we decided to put it to the test. And what better way to do so than on Valentine's Day, one of the most popular nights of the year for dining out in New York City? Would Amex really be able to get a table for two at the last minute?

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

Putting the Amex dining collection to the test

To do so, we came up with a strategy. First, we made a spreadsheet of every one of the 43 restaurants in New York City listed in the Global Collection (interestingly, Amex only says there are 25 — but we did the math and found more). Then, we checked availability during prime dining time — between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m on Friday, Valentine's Day evening.

Even on a normal Friday night in New York City, it can be difficult to get a dinner reservation at one of the city's top spots. Booking at the last minute usually means you're stuck with a really inconvenient time, or you're rolling the dice as a walk in.

Two days before Valentine's Day, dinner availability was predictably scarce. Restaurants with some open tables typically only had reservations very early or extremely late in the evening (read: way past my bed time).

Since we really wanted to put the Amex perk to the test, I called and asked if there were any reservations at restaurants that are nearly impossible to get into on a good day — Carbone, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Blue Hill. Carbone, for an example, opens their books at midnight 30 days out, and reservations fill up in seconds. Seriously. By 12:01 a.m. on any given day, reservations are typically fully booked for a month.

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One very helpful and friendly agent, Katie, explained these restaurants would be pretty difficult to get into for Valentine's Day dinner, but she would do her best to help. She also requested that, if I was comfortable, I change my Resy password so Amex could have access to my account and make reservations on my behalf. Amex acquired Resy back in May, so this seems like another step toward integrating the two.

Katie then explained the requested restaurants' cancellation policies. Most of them were pretty reasonable: 24 hours to cancel, otherwise you'd have to pay a $50 per person fee. The most egregious, though, was Eleven Madison Park. The reservation was nonrefundable, and I would have had to forfeit $600 if I canceled. Ouch.

She said she'd look into the handful of restaurants I requested and email back about availability.

Unfortunately, she wasn't able to find any openings on my original lofty list. They did, though, email me a few other venues to look into, although they weren't part of the Global Dining Collection. They also noticed it was my birthday, and included this sweet message:

"Enjoy your Valentine's Day dinner, and please share any feedback with us. It was truly a delight to have spoken with you today. We wish you a very happy birthday!"

I called back the next day (t-minus one day until Valentine's Day!), and a new agent said he would look through the system to see what was available within the 7- 8 p.m. window I'd requested.

Lo and behold, there was a 7:45 p.m. reservation at the Lobster Club, a swanky Japanese spot in Midtown — from the same food group as Carbone, Sadelle's and Parm — that, online, had only shown open tables at 5 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. We happily took the 7:45 p.m. slot.

So, while there are limitations to the magic strings Amex can pull, it might be useful to use this strategy next time you're making dinner reservations — and let the agent work backwards to see what's available on their end. If your plans are flexible, it can really pay off.

Related: The 29 best restaurants in NYC

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

The main event

Overall, the food at the Lobster Club was really tasty, and I liked the decor at the restaurant. But it was definitely on the lavish side; $30 for a toro roll isn't exactly a low-key dinner.

Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.)

We were seated in a separate room aside from the main dining room. It definitely felt more like a more exclusive table due to the added privacy element.

The service was excellent, too. Our waiter was warm and courteous, while drinks were promptly refilled and napkins refreshed.

Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.)

The sushi was pretty fresh, though not the best I've had — or the cheapest. The waiter did mention, though, that it's flown in from Toyosu Market in Tokyo.

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.)
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.)

The highlight of dinner was this pina colada kakigori, a Japanese specialty. It was shaved ice with a light frosting on top; I never had anything like it.

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.)
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.)

While we didn't get a special menu or a free drink, the waiter made it a point to ask if we would like to see the "Lobster Room," a private dining space home to two Picasso paintings.

It seemed not every guest was asked if they would like to see it, so it definitely gave off a VIP feel. In fact, our waiter mentioned that the restaurant boasts other artworks as well, including pieces by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.)
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.)

While getting a sort of behind-the-scenes look at the museum-esque restaurant was a nice touch, we were definitely hoping for some free drinks or a special menu. But Amex really came through since they were able to secure a table at a nearly fully-booked restaurant on one of the busiest nights of the year.

And that's really the beauty of the Global Dining Collection. You never know what the special touch or access will be, but it seems like the odds are high that there will be something.

Bottom line

Of course, no matter where you end up dining — within this collection or otherwise — you’ll want to pay with a card that earns you bonus points on dining. My personal favorite is the American Express® Gold Card, since you’ll earn 4x valuable Membership Rewards points restaurants . The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first six months of account opening. Based on our latest valuations, that bonus is worth $1,200. You'll also earn up to $120 in annual dining statement credits, you'll be pleased to know there are no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).

Access to the Global Dining Collection is a great perk from Amex, and one you should definitely take advantage of if you have a qualifying credit card: The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express Centurion Card, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and the Business Centurion Card from American Express all provide access to the Global Dining Collection.

One of those cards just might save the day if you ever drop the ball on planning an important date night. With the Amex Global Dining Collection, it's like having elite status at a restaurant — does it get much better than that?

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 5X points
5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 150,000 points120,000 points
The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

Recommended Credit

670-850
Good, Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
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TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.