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Since American Express introduced the traveler’s cheque in 1891, the company has been an invaluable resource to travelers domestically and abroad. One of the best of those resources: AmexTravel.com, a travel booking site for hotels, airline tickets and rental cars. Though the company offers points perks and member pricing to American Express cardholders, anyone can book on the site, not just members.
Many AmEx cards have travel perks, with different levels of points awarded for cards like the entry-level American Express Green and mid-tier Gold. The American Express Platinum, a premium card with a high annual fee of $695, offers the highest level of rewards. For all levels of card, the company offers baggage insurance, rental car insurance, trip delay insurance and a 24-hour global traveler’s assistance line (terms and conditions apply). (In addition to standard AmEx cards, the company also offers partnership cards with Delta, Hilton and Marriott.)
It’s simple to use: navigate to AmexTravel.com and enter search terms like you would on any other airline site or travel aggregator like Orbitz or Expedia. Once there, you’ll find special member pricing, incentives to use points, and easily accessible, customer-first customer service.
Earning Amex Travel points
American Express cardholders earn points through purchases, which can be redeemed for anything from gift cards to premium retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom to cash off your current balance due. (I don’t recommend that—you’ll get much better value for your points redeeming for travel.)
Each level of AmEx earns points on purchases, and the higher tier cards offer progressively more points, especially on travel. In addition, there are rotating deals you can add to your card periodically at specific retailers, managed through the website.
Among other ways to earn points, Green cardholders earn 3x points on transactions involving restaurants, travel and transit. In addition to the traveler insurance offered to all cardholders, Green cardholders receive a $100 credit towards CLEAR, the travel service that expedites TSA screenings, and a $100 credit towards LoungeBuddy purchases. This card is $150 annually. Terms and conditions apply.
Travel-specific points earning for Gold cardholders includes 4x points on restaurants and 3x points on flights booked through AmEx Travel. In addition, Gold cardholders get $120 annually in Uber Cash, $120 in dining credits annually, and access to member pricing of the Hotel Collection, a select group of hotels on the travel site. This card is $250 annually. Terms and conditions apply.
Platinum cards earn 5x points on flights up to $500,000 per calendar year and prepaid hotels through AmEx Travel, among other points earning. Platinum cardholders have a significant increase in travel perks, including a $200 annual airline fee credit, a $200 annual hotel credit, $200 annually in Uber Cash and a dedicated Platinum customer service line. When Platinum cardholders book select hotels from the Fine Hotels Collection, guests have access to room upgrades, early 12pm check in and 4pm late check out when available, in addition to on-site perks like free breakfast for two and a $100 property credit. Terms and conditions apply.
All travel purchases can be made with cash or points on AmEx Travel. Some prices are offered as daily deals to members for even lower cost when purchased with points.
The American Express Travel portal
The user-friendly travel portal works like any other airline or travel aggregator website: choose the thing you want to search for (hotel, airline tickets, flight + hotel packages, rental cars and cruises) then select from options.
There are some downsides, though. When booking airline tickets through AmEx Travel, seat assignments are considered “requests” and not always honored. I’ve recently had American Airlines not honor that request and leave me with an unassigned seat at 24-hour check in, meaning I had to pay $35 to guarantee an assigned seat.
Another downside is the hotel search function. There are usually plenty of options in a given hotel search—but sometimes, when there is a limited selection of participating hotels in a given area, the site will offer hotels 50+ miles away and not make it immediately clear that the options are far away from the desired area. American Express only gets a designated number of rooms, too, so sometimes a hotel site will have options that AmEx doesn’t have.
And of course the biggest downside is that, should something go wrong, you may end up not being able to work with the hotel or airline directly since your flight or hotel was booked with a third party.
Benefits of using Amex Travel to book your trip
Often, prices for plane tickets and for basic hotel accommodations are within a few dollars of each other through AmEx Travel or on the direct booking site—but if you pay with an American Express card and book on Amex Travel, you’ll earn a significantly higher point reward.
One of the major upsides to the Platinum card is that cardholders get status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, which means they can book lower-tier rooms and generally be upgraded at least one room level at check in. (This is not guaranteed, but in more than 50 hotel bookings over the past few years, I’ve never not been offered an upgrade.) (Terms and conditions apply.)
Additionally, you can stack points programs: pay in full with your card to get 3x or 5x points, and earn points through Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. The same goes with rental cars. With Hertz, Platinum cardholders are given status that guarantees an upgraded level of car, allowing you to book a less expensive option and receive a better rental. You can also skip the line at the counter and go directly to your car. (Terms and conditions apply.)
All cardholders get significant traveler perks. Airline baggage insurance will reimburse up to $500 for lost checked luggage and $1250 for lost carry-ons. Rental cars paid in full with American Express cards are entitled to damage and loss insurance—but not liability insurance—that allows you to waive the add-on damage insurance through the car rental service. (Terms and conditions apply.)
The Amex Travel International Airline Program
Platinum and Platinum Business cardholders have access to the International Airline Program. This benefit includes access to lower prices on premium airline tickets such as business and first class seats. According to American Express, cardholders save an average of $600 per first class ticket, $300 per business class ticket and $150 on premium economy fares. While the prices aren't quite as low as what we frequently see on Going (our alerts save members an average of $2,000 per roundtrip in business class, they can be a great deal when deals are scarce).
Twenty-five partner airlines include Delta, KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic. Platinum cardholders earn 5x points on these purchases. When Platinum Business cardholders purchase airfare with points, they can earn a 35% points rebate.
If you see a great deal from Going, it’s worth checking the price on Amex to see if there’s an additional discount.
Booking hotels and resorts on Amex Travel
American Express Travel offers a lowest rate guarantee: if you book on AmEx Travel and see a lower price elsewhere, you can file a claim for a refund of the difference.
Though the Fine Hotels Collection offers higher room rates at nicer hotels, those rooms can sometimes be a better deal than lower-tier hotels, given the extra time at the resort, room upgrade, free breakfast and property credit. This is especially true for last-minute deals.
I recently snagged a Fine Hotels room at the NoMad Las Vegas, normally around $500 per night, for $160. At check-in I was given a suite on one of the highest floors instead of the standard room I booked, and there was a bottle of wine waiting for me in the room. I also got early check in and late check out, free breakfast for two every morning and a $100 property credit good at the entire complex (NoMad is part of Park MGM). When all was said and done, the perks were more valuable than the room, which paid for itself in added value.
Trip cancellation and insurance
Some levels of American Express card come with trip cancellation and interruption insurance, which vary by card, including the Centurion Card, Platinum, and Delta, Hilton and Marriott cards.
American Express will reimburse for certain covered losses, in circumstances including accidental bodily injury, inclement weather, jury duty, major home accidents or physician-imposed quarantine. Claimants must immediately contact American Express to file a claim for the nonrefundable amount of the canceled trip.