The Forward Cabin is an interesting blog I’ve been paying more attention to lately, and one post in particular caught my eye because it discussed a survey for customers with the Amex Platinum Card. I have one myself and am likely to cancel it soon, while this card was looking to see what benefits might encourage cardholders to keep it.
Unfortunately all of the benefits discussed are just a variation on a theme: making Membership Rewards points worth 20% more when you choose to pay with points. This is something Amex used to offer its Business Platinum Card customers and recently took away. It’s also generally a bad idea to take advantage of it — both then and now.
When you pay with points, you get a penny per point. “Great!” you say. You could never find award space anyway, so getting 20% more makes it easier to redeem them and at a higher value. My opinion is you’re just not trying hard enough. Great award redemptions are out there if you learn how to look for them.
If you’re still happy with a penny per point you can find much better credit cards. Amex has an Everyday Rewards card with no annual fee. Barclays has its Arrival Plus card that earns two points for every dollar spent — that’s two pennies instead of one.
The fact is, no one with any sense got the Amex Platinum Card so they could use it for actual purchases. It’s a benefits card. Either you find the annual airline fee credit, the lounge access, and a few other perks worth $450 a year or you don’t. But if you need to earn Membership Rewards — or any kind of travel rewards — there are better credit cards out there for you to choose from.
In this case Amex was asking if any of the following scenarios would be worth getting 20% more value from your Membership Rewards points when you choose to redeem them for a cash equivalent:
- Buying business or first class tickets.
- Buying international tickets.
- Buying tickets over $1,000.
- Buying any airline tickets.
And then there’s a slightly different offer to get 30% of your points back to use again, but this is still roughly equivalent to 20% more value when you consider that you need more points to start with for your initial redemption, you’re still stuck with points you have to redeem for a second redemption, and there is probably some breakage along the way from wasted points that you can’t use.
One thing I’ll say to contradict Jamie: He was concerned that one question about the value of the Centurion Lounge suggested American Express might be removing this as a benefit. I’d argue just the opposite. Amex has lost quite a few lounge partners and is looking to find new ways to reward its cardmembers. In the past that might have meant free travelers checks and such, but no one uses travelers checks anymore.
Building its own lounge network is a unique approach and one that few companies other than a deep-pocketed bank like Amex could achieve. They’ve even spoken about their plans to continue opening new locations wherever they find an abundance of cardmembers likely to make use of them. (I wish I could provide a direct quote, but I have more bookmarks than I know what to do with.) So I wouldn’t worry about a loss of access. This seems to be more about pacing the rate of expanding the Centurion Lounge network.
But back to the original purpose of this post: Friends don’t let friends pay with points.