American Express Travel: Everything you need to know - The Points Guy (2024)

The American Express Travel portal allows you to redeem Membership Rewards points directly for travel reservations and activities rather than transfer your rewards to airline or hotel partners like Delta Air Lines SkyMiles and Marriott Bonvoy.

You also can book discounted premium tickets, use benefits like a 35% points rebate on certain bookings and even book premium hotels with additional perks through Amex Travel.

Let's explore this booking portal to uncover all its benefits and potential disadvantages.

What is the American Express Travel portal?

Amex Travel is the booking portal for most American Express cards. You can book flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises through the site, and you can pay with points, cash or a combination of the two.

How to book flights on the Amex Travel portal

To find flights on American Express Travel, visit this webpage. The flight booking process on the Amex Travel portal is similar to other popular sites like Kayak and Orbitz. You'll find a search box where you can enter your departure and destination cities.

If you're flexible with your departure airport, you can choose an entire city, such as New York, which has multiple airports. Additionally, you can customize your booking by selecting your preferred class and the number of travelers, and choosing between one-way and round-trip flights.

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You'll see the price listed in dollars and the number of Amex Membership Rewards points during the booking process.

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You can also use the options on the left-hand side to filter flights by number of stops, departure and arrival times, flight duration and airline.

Delta Air Lines is a featured airline in the Amex Travel portal. Sometimes, Delta flights appear at the top of your results, listed as "recommended," but this doesn't mean those flights are always the cheapest.

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Additionally, if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and are flying from an airport with a Centurion Lounge, you'll see an indicator that a lounge is available.

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Points vs. cash

When paying for your flights on Amex Travel, several American Express cards offer elevated earning rates:

Card namePoints earned with Amex TravelPoints earned booking directly with airlinesPoints earned booking on other travel portals
The Business Platinum Card from American Express5 points per dollar1 point per dollar1 point per dollar
The Platinum Card from American Express5 points per dollar (limited to $500,000 in flight purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar)5 points per dollar (limited to $500,000 in flight purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar)1 point per dollar
American Express® Gold Card3 points per dollar3 points per dollar1 point per dollar

You can also pay with Amex Membership Rewards points to cover the cost of your flight.

You'll see the number of points required next to the cash price of a flight. You can expect a value of 1 cent per point when using Pay with Points. However, TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece when you maximize Amex's transfer partners.

Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

It's important to compare the number of points required for bookings on Amex Travel with the points you'd need to transfer to an airline program. If you can't book a flight through transfer partners and prefer to use your points, Amex Travel remains an option.

There's an additional benefit for Amex Business Platinum cardmembers: You can get 35% of your points back when paying with points on Amex Travel. This applies to first- and business-class flights on any airline plus tickets in any class on your preferred airline (the same one used for your airline incidental credits; enrollment is required in advance). This 35% points rebate can provide a value of 1.54 cents per point, which may influence your decision to pay with cash or points.

Similarly, the Business Centurion® Card from American Express offers a 50% Pay with Points rebate on eligible flights. Note that Centurion cards are available by invitation only.

The information for the Business Centurion Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

More details about flights through Amex Travel

During the payment process, you can use points, your credit card or a combination of both. The minimum number of points you can use is 5,000, and each point is valued at 1 cent.

You can upgrade your flights using cash or points in the Amex Travel portal. This generally gives you a return of 1 cent each, and you can book using your Amex card, points or a combination of both.

During your flight search, you might come across "Insider Fares" that offer a discounted price. But to benefit from the discount, you must redeem points to cover the full fare amount.

Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum cardmembers have another benefit: discounted premium tickets through Amex Travel's International Airline Program. This program offers discounts on first-class, business-class and premium economy tickets from over 20 participating airlines.

To book a premium ticket using the IAP, go to the Amex Travel portal and pay with cash or points, including the Business Platinum card's 35% airline rebate. Keep in mind that not all flights are eligible and there are restrictions:

  • The cardmember must travel on the itinerary.
  • A maximum of eight tickets can be booked per itinerary; travel must begin and end in the U.S. or Canadian international airports.
  • Tickets are nonrefundable unless stated otherwise.
  • Name changes for passengers are not allowed.

Finally, note that flights booked through Amex Travel are typically treated as normal paid tickets, meaning you're eligible to earn points or miles with participating airline loyalty programs.

Related: Why I love the Amex Business Platinum's Pay with Points perk

How to book hotels on the Amex Travel portal

You can book hotels through American Express Travel with a Gold, Platinum or Centurion card. As with other travel portals, you can input your destination, dates, number of rooms and number of guests (with separate input fields for adults and children).

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Platinum and Business Platinum cardmembers earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotel reservations.

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After selecting your hotel, you'll choose your preferred room and pay with points or cash. If you pay with points, you'll only get a value of 0.7 cents per point (compared to 1 cent when you book flights).

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Note that these are considered third-party bookings, so you likely won't earn hotel points or elite credits for your stay. While there are reports of people receiving stay credits with Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors on rooms booked through Amex Travel, the hotel is not guaranteed to recognize your elite status in these programs or provide status-qualifying stay credits.

Related: 9 things to consider when choosing to book via a portal vs. booking directly

Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts

Platinum and Centurion cardholders also have access to the Fine Hotels + Resorts program through Amex Travel. This can add some great benefits to your hotel stays — and may not cost much more than booking directly with the hotel.

Here are the perks you'll receive with every FHR booking, regardless of the length of your stay:

  • Room upgrade upon arrival (when available): Some room types may be excluded, but you could receive an upgrade to preferred rooms with better views or a better location in the hotel.
  • Daily breakfast for two people: The provided breakfast must be, at a minimum, a continental breakfast.
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Unique property amenity: The amenity varies by hotel but should be valued at $100 or more and usually consists of a property credit, dining credit, spa credit, private airport transfer or similar amenity.

You'll need to book these stays through Amex Travel, but note that FHR is considered a separate program from Amex Travel.

In addition, if you have the personal Amex Platinum, you can also get up to $200 in statement credits every year for prepaid reservations through Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection — which we'll discuss next. Enrollment is required.

Related: A comparison of luxury hotel programs from credit card issuers: Amex, Capital One, Chase and Citi

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The Hotel Collection

A lesser-known American Express benefit is The Hotel Collection, which allows you to book in cash or with points. Those with Amex Gold, Platinum and Centurion cards have access to this program, which offers the following benefits:

  • A room upgrade at check-in (if available)
  • $100 on-property credit for qualifying dining, spa and resort activities

Note that The Hotel Collection bookings require a minimum stay of two nights, though they too are eligible for the $200 hotel credit on the Amex Platinum.

How to book rental cars and cruises on the Amex Travel portal

Reserving a car in the Amex portal is relatively simple. You'll input your pickup and drop-off times and location.

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You'll see rental car prices listed in cash and points. When using Pay with Points, your points are worth 0.7 cents — just over a third of TPG's valuation of Amex Membership Rewards points.

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Although the format differs, you can also search for cruises on Amex Travel.

Rather than typing specific dates and numbers of passengers, you'll see four drop-down menus. These allow you to choose a destination (by region), filter by cruise lines and choose a month for travel — though not specific dates — on this first page. You can also select your desired cruise duration.

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From here, you can filter by cruise duration, departure port and ship. You can sort your results by sailing date, value, price or ship rating.

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On the final payment page, you can use your card or redeem points, ranging from 1 point to enough to cover the entire cost. Using points for a cruise will result in a low valuation of 0.7 cents per point, but it can be a money-saving option if you prefer not to spend cash.

There's another benefit available if you're a Platinum or Centurion cardholder (including personal and business versions of these cards): the Cruise Privileges Program.

This is available on cruises of five nights or more with select cruise lines, and it offers the following perks:

  • $100-$500 in onboard ship credit (note that this cannot be used for casino or gratuity charges)
  • Additional onboard amenities vary by line, such as spa vouchers, a bottle of Champagne, shore excursion credits or a private ship tour

Note that the Platinum cardmember must be one of the travelers on the cruise to enjoy these benefits.

Related: How to book a cruise using points and miles

Further things to consider about Amex Travel

When booking through the Amex Travel portal, there are a few factors to consider.

First, using Amex Membership Rewards points on Amex Travel may not provide the best value compared to transferring points to airline or hotel loyalty programs. The Pay with Points feature typically values points at 0.7 to 1 cent per point, which is far lower than our 2-cent valuation.

Additionally, the prices on Amex Travel may not always be the most competitive, so we recommend checking other platforms like Google Flights before booking your travel. Also, booking directly with hotels is advised for those seeking to utilize elite status benefits.

When you need to change your upcoming trips booked through Amex Travel, it can get complicated. You may encounter change and cancellation fees, often around $75, and making a change requires a phone call. Flight credit vouchers from cancellations can only be used for rebooking through Amex Travel via phone.

On the positive side, Amex Travel allows a 24-hour cancellation window for most reservations, and booking flights through the site generally still qualifies for earning miles and status with airline loyalty programs.

Related: Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

Bottom line

American Express Travel offers an array of booking options, including the ability to earn bonus Membership Rewards points on select purchases. Although you can use your points to book hotels, flights, rental cars and cruises through Amex Travel, you can get more from your points when you transfer them to Amex's airline and hotel partners.

However, there are exceptions, such as when there is no award availability for last-minute travel. In addition, Amex Travel offers perks like discounted premium flights, added benefits with Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts and a user-friendly interface. And with a simple redemption scheme that doesn't involve complicated loyalty programs and transfer partners, many Amex cardholders prefer it when planning their trips.

Additional reporting by Ryan Patterson and Kyle Olsen.

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.

American Express Travel: Everything you need to know - The Points Guy (2024)
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