American Express is known for travel-oriented products. The company boasts a great Membership Rewards® program and a bevy of travel credit cards — some of which offer elite status at hotels, airport lounge access, and hotel statement credits. One card offers all three.
But there’s one bonus category I’m genuinely surprised Amex doesn’t feature.
Can you guess what it is?
American Express desperately lacks a “general travel” spending bonus category across its personal and business card portfolios.
I’m talking about purchases made with any airline, hotel, motel, vacation rental company, taxi, train, subway, rideshare, parking, travel agency, etc.
Something along the lines of what the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card® offer. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards®® points on other travel worldwide (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually). The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card® earns 2X on general travel purchases.
Unless I’m chasing some minimum spending requirement for an Amex card (i.e., a new card, a retention offer, the Delta SkyMiles cards’ bonus MQM or the MQD spending waiver), or maybe an Amex Offer, I generally don’t use American Express cards for general travel purchases.
Best as I can tell, only one Amex card offers a bonus for most travel purchases: the American Express® Green Card, which earns 3X per dollar spent on travel (including airfare, hotels, cruises, tours, car rentals, and more) and transit (including trains, buses, ferries, subway, and more). (All information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by Eye of the Flyer.)
Yes, many of their Membership Rewards® and co-branded cards (think Delta, Marriott, and Hilton) offer points for some types of travel purchases.
For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5X American Express® Membership Rewards® for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 of these purchases per calendar year). Plus, it earns 5X on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. (Terms apply.)
Both the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card earn 2X SkyMiles for each dollar spent on eligible hotel purchases.
Yet, American Express doesn’t give me much incentive to use the cards for other travel purchases.
For example, I generally use my Chase Sapphire Reserve® card at hotels. (That assumes I’m not trying to reach some kind of welcome offer for a new credit card or something or have the hotel’s co-branded brand) I can earn 3X Ultimate Rewards in the Travel category. That’s better than the lowly 1X Membership Reward or SkyMile I’d score with some of my other cards. Or when I pay for parking anywhere or purchase subway tickets.
Heck, even the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card earns 5X points on travel. I could use my IHG Premier Card at a Marriott and still earn 5X IHG points. (Just an example. I probably wouldn’t do that.)
Does Amex Assume Most People Don’t Care — or Know What They’re Doing?
Look, if this were that big of a deal to me, I’d just get the Amex Green Card.
But if Amex wants to shed the “coupon book” reputation it’s earning for platinum cards, why not add general travel categories? Make The Platinum Card the travel card? Keep the airline purchase features at 5X and make other travel purchases 4X. I’ve written how easy it is to recoup the card’s $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). Or make the Amex Gold Card’s 4X on airline purchases 4X on all travel?
Keep in mind not everyone is like you and me: people mindful of trying to earn the most amount of points possible. I know folks who are blissfully unaware of the difference between Membership Rewards points and SkyMiles. (Yes, really.) Or know nothing of a card’s statement credit opportunities. They stick to one or maybe two cards.
And in the case of Amex Platinum Card holders, a bunch of them probably just don’t care. Why do I say that? The average Amex Platinum card member apparently carries a net worth of $4.3 million and a household income of $474,000.
So, many wealthy people probably aren’t whining that their hotel purchases aren’t earning more than one Membership Rewards point per buck.
Amex probably doesn’t want to be dishing out more points than they have to. I get that. But don’t you want people using your card? There’s a chance some of the wealthy credit card holders don’t even know how to redeem their points — or how many they even have. There must be some breakage.
The Platinum Card is a status symbol. American Express knows this. And that’s what counts for some people — points be darned.
That could be why Amex hasn’t made points earnings improvements on most of their cards.
American Express offers a range of credit cards that feature a bunch of travel perks and benefits. And several offer great points earnings on certain travel purchases. But for a card company that seems so travel-oriented, I’m surprised they don’t offer a catch-all “general travel” category of some sort. It only encourages savvy credit card users and travelers to take their business elsewhere.
To see rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please visit this link. Terms apply.
To see rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, please visit this link. Terms apply.
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