Published on March 7th, 2017 | by William Charles33
Why The New 5x Points Category On American Express Platinum Is Completely Useless
American Express have announced changes to the Personal & Business versions of their of Platinum card. One of those changes is the ability to earn 5x points on hotel bookings on amextravel.com. Everybody loves a good 5x category bonus, but I’m here to tell you that this new benefit is completely useless and nobody should be using it.
- If you stay at chain hotels booking through amextravel.com is treated the same as any other online travel agency. This means that in the majority of cases:
- You will not earn elite stay/night credits
- You will not earn hotel loyalty points
- You will not have your elite status recognized (e.g free breakfast/late check out)
- If you don’t stay at chain hotels, or don’t care about the benefits booking directly then you have much better options.
I’m going to focus on that second point, as the first point should be fairly self explanatory. Let’s do a completely made up booking and say I want to stay at a hotel for one night and that hotel costs exactly $100.
- With American Express you’ll earn 5x points for a total of 500 points. Let’s be completely absurd and value these points at 2¢ each. Yay, we’ve just saved/made $10.
Now let’s do the same thing, but use my favorite hotel booking website instead (Hotels.com)
- Every ten nights you get one night free (this is the average of your ten nights. So if you completed ten nights and all were $100 each you’d get a free night for $100. If 9 nights were $100 and the last night was $1,000 you’d get a free night worth $190 etc). Let’s be conservative and assign this a value of $8.
- You now have an option, use a gift card or don’t use a gift card.
- Gift cards can be frequently purchased for 15-20% off. Let’s call that $15 in value. In addition to that you’ll also earn rewards on your gift card purchase (should be getting at least 2% cash back). That’s another $1.7 in value
- If you’re not using a gift card, you can go through a shopping portal for another 3% cash back. This gives us another $3 in value. In addition to the rewards you’d earn on your credit card (should be getting at least 2% cash back). That’s another $2 in value.
If you’re using a gift card then you’re getting close to $25 in value and without it’s more like $13. In the above examples I clearly tried to give the new American Express benefit the best possible chance to be competitive and it still isn’t competitive. If I gave a more realistic Membership Rewards points valuation then the discrepancy becomes even greater. I mean even the one free night benefit Hotels.com offers is better than the Platinum points offer.
If the benefit was 5x points on bookings made directly at hotels then this benefit would be amazing for those that do value elite hotel status/benefits/points. Because the benefit is only for amextravel.com it makes is useless. If they want to be competitive with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, they will have to do better than this.
P.S. Yes I’ve done price comparisons and they seem to price out largely the same.