This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Chad, who took advantage of one of his credit card benefits to save on a transatlantic business-class flight. Here’s what he had to say:
I’m planning a summer vacation to Europe, and though I haven’t decided everywhere I’ll go or how I’ll get there, I know I need to be home right after Labor Day. With the return date roughly set, I decided to look for flight deals back to Boston from different European cities. I used Google Flights to run a multi-city search for business class seats, and lo and behold, I found a one-way ticket from Oslo to Boston on TAP for $673, including a long stopover in Lisbon (one of my favorite cities)!
I fly TAP regularly between Boston and Lisbon for work, and I’ve enjoyed their business class product before. Paying $673 for that many hours / miles in business class seemed like a great deal (even if some of it is in the lesser intra-Europe configuration), but I remembered reading on TPG about another great payment option. Thanks to my Business Platinum® Card from American Express, I get 35% of my points back on business or first class flights booked on the Amex travel portal. Instead of transferring for an award, I could pay with my points directly.
I searched the Amex portal, and thankfully I found the same price that Google Flights was showing me. I paid 67,321 Membership Rewards points for the flight with no cash outlay, and after a rebate of 23,562 points, my net cost will be only 43,759 points — with no steep taxes and fees out of my pocket. Even better, as far as TAP is concerned this is booked as a paid ticket, so I’ll be earning miles for the flight at a business class rate!
One of the virtues of transferable points is that in addition to transferring to airline and hotel partners, you can also use them to book travel directly. You won’t get top value that way, but you will get a consistent return, which is useful when cash prices are low. A conventional business-class award to Europe would have cost Chad more than what he paid, and he would have also been on the hook for taxes and fees. There’s also no guarantee he would have been able to find availability, so booking through Amex made a lot of sense in his scenario. The 35% rebate is a strong benefit despite its limitations, and I’d love to see something similar offered on the personal Platinum Card® from American Express.
Before you redeem points through a travel portal, make sure the price you’re offered is comparable to what you can find elsewhere. Airfare may be cheaper through an airline’s website, and any premium you pay to book through the portal reduces the return you get on your points. This is especially true during a fare sale, since airlines sometimes withhold discounted fares from third party sites. As always, it’s a good idea to shop around.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Chad for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Feature image by BriYYZ via Flickr.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
- Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms apply.
- See Rates & Fees