It is now official. American Express will announce a major enhancement to its widely-used Platinum Card this week, allowing card members to earn 5X Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel.
American Express is also announcing changes to its OPEN Business Platinum Card. Business Platinum Card Members can now earn 50% points back when using Membership Rewards Pay with Points through American Express Travel to book a flight with their selected airline. They will also receive this benefit when booking a first or business class ticket with any airline. In addition, Business Platinum Card Members can earn 1.5X Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on any purchase of $5,000 or more.
The changes comes as the credit card giant faces some new entrants into the high-end, luxury credit card space, including JPMorgan Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card launched this summer to great interest, despite its $450 annual fee, which matches Platinum’s fee.
The reward changes will be automatic and apply to all Platinum Card holders starting Thursday, October 6th, 2016.
We were expecting more though. 5x on airfare is obviously great and if you have a Platinum card in your wallet you will definitely use it when booking a flight. But will you you apply for a Platinum card over the CSR just because it now offers 5x on airfare? Considering that Chase UR points are more valuable than Amex MR points, even on airfare Amex doesn’t have a huge advantage. It’s not enough in my opinion and Amex should have offered some other bonus categories besides airfare. I was really hoping that this 5x would be just the highlight of the enhancements, not all of it.
The 50% points back benefit for the Business Platinum card, which wasn’t mentioned in the pre-release rumors, is also a nice addition, but it’s on a separate card and still too little. It also applies on just your selected airline, but any airline if booking a first or business class ticket. That could be of value for some since it give you a straight-forwards 2 cents/point redemption.
There’s one encouraging line in the press release. “You’ll see further enhancements for Platinum and Business Platinum Card Members”. Let’s hope we see them soon.
Update 10/4: There’s new rumors that one of the added benefits of the card will be 5X MR points on airfare when booked directly with airlines, through American Express Platinum travel services or American Express Travel. The new earning option is expected to be added to personal Platinum cards starting from October 6th. The rumors come from ficoforums and also from an Amex tweet this morning. Another rumor is that all Amex charge cards will earn 5x points for airline purchases, as per rep over phone.
The card will also likely earn 1.5 MR points per dollar spent on single purchases of $5,000 or more.
There’s been a lot of buzz about the Chase Sapphire Reserve not only on travel related blogs, but also on major media outlets. The card has been touted as the best travel card out there and most likely it is, even with that $450 annual fee. Demand was so high that Chase could barely keep up with applications. They ran out of boxes and started mailing out their cards in simple envelopes and then they ran out of metal cards and sent out plastic ones instead.
Amex surely has taken notice. They have one of the credit cards that could match up with Chase’s Sapphire Reserve, the Amex Platinum card (and then there’s Citi Prestige as well). It has the same $450 annual fee and lots of travel benefits that are similar to CSR such as lounge access, travel or incidental fees credit, Global Entry etc etc. They also come with similar bonuses of 100K MR (when it is available) or UR. Ultimate Rewards points are more valuable for me but depending on your specific needs you might go after either bonus as your first choice.
But when it comes to putting spend on these two cards, there’s no comparison. The Amex Platinum card has no category bonuses, you’ll just earn a flat MR point for every dollar spent. On the other hand CSR earns 3x on all travel and dining with no cap. Even Citi Prestige will come out way ahead with 3x points on air travel and hotels and 2x points on dining and entertainment.
Credit cards make a good chunk of their revenue by people using their cards and Amex will likely be aiming just that with a new rumored premium card. DoC reports that Amex might launch a new card or upgrade the Amex Platinum card as soon as Q4 of this year. While a few added perks are possible, the most likely upgrade would be to increase earning power on the card. It is just speculation for now, but we’ll definitely hear more about this if it is in fact coming in the following months. Most people will be wishing for a new card instead of an upgraded Platinum card, so we can sign up and get the bonus once more in our lifetime.