Here’s how to ensure you’ll earn 5x points on airfare with the Amex Platinum cards
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information.
Airfare may not be one of your top purchases right now, but as travel hopefully picks back up this year, knowing which card to maximize your flights will be key.
The American Express Platinum cards — The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express — provide excellent travel benefits as well as strong earnings on airfare. Airfare is one of the spending categories where you can earn 5x Membership Rewards points, which equates to a return of 10% based on TPG’s latest valuations.
However, what’s sometimes overlooked is exactly when you’ll earn those 5x points on airfare (booked direct) with each card. So today I’m walking through how you can make sure you’re earning those bonus points on your purchases.
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What counts as eligible airfare?
Here’s how the 5x bonus category on airfare purchases breaks down for each of the two Platinum cards:
Personal Amex Platinum
The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 5x points on purchases of scheduled flights made directly with a passenger airline or through American Express Travel (either online at AmexTravel.com or by calling 1-800-525-3355). Your 5x earnings are limited to up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. ($550 annual fee; see rates and fees)
That means, whether you decide to book directly through the airline’s website or through Amex Travel, you’ll earn the full 5x Membership Rewards points. Booking direct may sometimes have its perks when it comes to ease of processing upgrades, refunds, etc.
When using AmexTravel.com, make sure you’re logged in to your Platinum account and you’ll notice the call out for 5x points when you select a flight from the search results.
Business Amex Platinum
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 5x points on purchases of scheduled flights only when booking through American Express Travel online (AmexTravel.com). ($595 annual fee; see rates and fees)
Amex Travel is really just like any other online travel site, with the ability to select flights from the major U.S. and international carriers. During the booking process, you’ll see the dollar amount and the option to use Amex Membership Rewards points on the right-hand side.
For the Business Platinum, should you decide to use points to pay for economy airfare with your selected airline, you’ll receive 35% of those points back, up to 500,000 points per calendar year. Additionally, any business or first-class airfare booked through amextravel.com will also receive the rebate.
However, using points for the full price of airfare will mean you won’t receive the 5x points bonus.
When you won’t earn 5x
With these restrictions, it’s important to know other exceptions where you won’t earn 5x Membership Rewards points.
Another important exception I learned the hard way is that you won’t earn 5x points when paying the fare difference if you try and change a ticket booked through Amex Travel.
Prior to the pandemic, I booked a Cathay Pacific business class flight from Malé (MLE) to Shanghai (PVG), but I decided to re-route my trip to Taipei (TPE) instead.
The change fee was waived, but I was on the hook for the ~$260 fare difference. I paid for it with my Business Platinum card, assuming it would earn 5x points. But when I checked my statement, I’d only earned 1x. I called Amex Travel, and they explained this niche exception and agreed to make a one-time adjustment on my behalf.
Remember that you can’t earn those valuable 5x Membership Rewards points with the Business Platinum Card if you book directly with the airline. However, if you have the personal Platinum card, you have more flexibility with your airfare purchases and when you’ll earn the 5x points since you can book directly with your airline of choice.
Keep in mind the difference when thinking about which card to apply for and which better fits your (or your company’s) spending patterns. If you have both cards in your wallet, pay attention when booking airfare. Be sure to use the personal card if you’re purchasing directly with the airline — there are some slight differences between what each card earns on different types of airfare purchases.
In addition to these strong bonus categories, the Platinum card family got a serious boost in 2020 when they added a long-overdue set of travel insurance benefits and protections. You can read the sample benefits guides for the full terms, but some of the highlights include:
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance (up to $10,000 per trip)
- Trip delay insurance (up to $500 per trip, after a six-hour delay for a covered reason)
- Extended warranty and purchase protection
Featured photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 75,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,500
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber savings annually (only for use in the U.S.) (Enrollment required for select benefits)
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
- Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
- Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees