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Booking my 1st big points redemption with the Amex Platinum Card

July 08, 2022
8 min read
Booking my 1st big points redemption with the Amex Platinum Card
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Welcome to the fourth installment of a yearlong series where Tarah Chieffi, TPG’s family travel reporter, shares her experience using various points, benefits, credits and access from her first premium rewards credit card, The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Previous installments:


When I signed up for The Platinum Card® from American Express, I knew next to nothing about premium travel rewards cards. The one thing I did know was that a 100,000-point Amex Membership Rewards welcome bonus was on its way to my account after hitting the $6,000 minimum spending requirement during my first six months of card membership.

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To ensure I didn't miss out, I immediately switched all spending to my new Amex Platinum Card and, without going into too much detail about my spending habits, earned the 100,000-point bonus a few months later. (Here's a look at some everyday expenses you can shift to your card to get you there sooner than you may think.)

When you add that bonus to the points I racked up while working toward the bonus, I had built up quite the points balance. On one hand, I felt like the points were burning a hole in my proverbial pocket, but on the other, my time at TPG has taught me that it's much smarter to take my time and find a way to squeeze the most value out of those points than rush to blow them on the first idea I think of.

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At first, the options seemed limitless. I researched all-inclusive resorts, beachfront hotels in Hawaii and points hotels near Disney World that I've yet to stay in and more. These all surely would have been fun for my family of five, but I thought it best to be strategic and use the points instead to maximize an overseas trip my husband and I have been planning for years.

When we got married, we made a decision that every five years, one of us would get to choose an international destination to celebrate our anniversary.

I chose Italy for our fifth anniversary (ladies first!) and my husband then chose Germany.

The Platinum Card from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the card in the first six months.

We did all the touristy things in Venice, including a gondola ride. (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

That trip was delayed a couple of years because of the pandemic, but now that travel restrictions have eased, we have plans to visit this fall during Oktoberfest.

I've flown internationally many times, but I've never quite been able to part with the amount of cash necessary to book business-class seats. Now that I am well into the planning phase of this trip, I began to wonder just what kind of seats those Amex points could get me.

I had no idea where to start, but a perk of working at TPG is that I had an entire team of points and miles experts I could turn to. Points and miles reporter Kyle Olsen graciously devoted some time (and many Zoom calls) to showing me the ropes of points redemption strategies.

We started by walking through how to calculate a points redemption. Luckily, TPG has an up-to-date chart on points and miles valuations and a story from Kyle himself on how to do the math when you are calculating points and miles redemption values.

Related: 9 of our favorite ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points

After I had the basics down, Kyle shared details on Amex transfer partners. I learned you can typically get a better redemption value by transferring your points instead of booking directly through the Amex travel portal. He even went so far as to recommend which airlines to search for and which aircraft have the best business-class products that I could book with my Amex points.

(Screenshot from American Express)

With my newfound knowledge in hand, I got to work.

The timing worked out that Amex was offering a 25% bonus when transferring points to Flying Blue, the reward program for Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. I transferred 281,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue, which earned me 351,250 Flying Blue Miles.

(Screenshot from KLM)

The first lesson I learned was that you have to be flexible with your dates if you want to get the maximum value for your points.

Just looking at dates in late September between John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Munich International Airport (MUC), the cost for two one-way business-class tickets (we will be flying home from a different airport) ranged from the 168,000 miles that I paid to 420,000 miles.

(Screenshot from KLM)

I had to look at multiple dates before securing this price on KLM's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with lie-flat seats, seatback entertainment, a KLM-branded amenity kit, gourmet inflight service and predeparture lounge access. I'm looking forward to having a comfortable place to sleep during our overnight flight, but I will probably be too giddy and too busy playing with all the gadgets at my seat to get much sleep.

(Screenshot from KLM)

Unless the current chaos further disintegrates flight schedules, we will be flying home out of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) after traveling across Germany. Prices were more reasonable flying into Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) than JFK and I booked our seats in an older Delta business-class product via Flying Blue for 169,000 miles.

Although it's not as new and luxurious as our outbound flight, as a travel writer, I'm grateful for the chance to experience two different products and the ability to compare them. And I'll still get that sweet, sweet amenity kit. It doesn't take much more than lip balm and hand lotion in cute packaging to make me happy.

In total, we paid 337,000 miles and, sadly, also $1,044.74 in taxes, fees and fuel surcharges. There are airlines that don't pass on fuel surcharges if you want to give preference to those in your own searches.

Even so, we came out ahead if you do the math. TPG currently values Flying Blue miles at 1.2 cents per mile. We would have paid $16,697 in cash for these same flights and, according to TPG's points and miles calculator, the points and cash we spent total only $4,044 in value, a savings of more than $11,000 over the cash price.

Essentially, we got 4.6 cents in value from each Flying Blue Mile, which is much higher than the current TPG valuation of 1.2 cents per mile. I'm still figuring all this out, but I know I'd rather part with 337,000 miles than $16,697 any day, even though I'd never really spend that much cash on flights so that math gets funny at a certain point.

I'm off to a good start, but I still have a long way to go.

We know how we are getting to Europe and how we are getting home. Up next, there are hotels to book, short hops and train rides between destinations to reserve and activities to plan. And I plan on using my continuing points and miles education to do as much of it as I can.

Finding the best means of booking all of these can be overwhelming, but there's nothing like diving right into the deep end of the points and miles pool to fully immerse yourself and continue on the path from "newbie" to "traveling pro."

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
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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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 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
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

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
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

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases