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. ($695 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: 100,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $2,000
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber Cash 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 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
- $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
- $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
- New! American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Now there are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- $200 Uber Cash: 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 available to Basic Card Member only.
- $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on select Equinox memberships. Enrollment required.
- $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
- $695 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees