While jet setting across the globe on points is doable, it isn’t always straightforward. Since there are so many options, booking travel with Amex points can be confusing. Between covering charges, transfers, and booking travel through the Amex Travel portal, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. While it may seem confusing at first, learning how to use your Amex card and all its perks will pay off. Whether you already have an American Express credit card that earns Membership Rewards, are curious about how booking travel through the portal works, or wondering if Amex travel benefits are right for you, we’ve got you covered. This guide breaks down how to book travel with American Express points — how the loyalty program works, the cards that earn membership points, and redeemable travel expenses.
What Are American Express Membership Rewards Points?
Membership Rewards is Amex’s flexible points currency.
Regarded as one of the most valuable credit card currencies, transfer Membership Rewards points to airline and hotel partners. Get cash back, redeem for gift cards, or book a trip through American Express Travel.
Do Amex points expire? No, Amex points do not expire. There are also no limits to how many you can earn.
If you own several Amex cards, your account balance combines all your points (applies to business and personal cards).
Credit Cards That Earn American Express Membership Rewards
American Express has several personal and business credit cards offering Membership Rewards points.
Ranging from no annual fee to $695 per year, earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards when you open a new personal credit card.
Personal credit cards enrolled in the Membership Rewards program include:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- American Express® Gold Card
- Amex Everyday® Preferred Credit Card
- Blue from American Express® Card
- American Express® Green Card
Eligible business credit cards include:
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- American Express® Business Gold Card
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
- Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
What You Can Use Membership Rewards Points On
Like other online booking sites such as Expedia, American Express has a travel booking portal. While anyone can book through American Express Travel, Amex credit card holders have the added benefit of paying with their Membership Rewards points.
Use Membership Rewards to pay for:
- Hotels (prepaid)
- Car Rental (prepaid)
- Cruises (prepaid)
- Vacation Packages (prepaid)
Note: As for prepaid travel –– hotels, car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages –– redeeming Amex points through American Express Travel is only eligible for reservations where the payment is made at the time of booking, not on arrival or departure.
Booking Travel With American Express Points
Cash vs. Amex Membership Rewards
When booking travel, should you use cash or your Amex Membership Rewards?
As a rule of thumb, redeeming at least 1 cent per point (CPP) is a good starting point for assessing whether to use cash or points.
As a refresher, here’s how to calculate a cent per point valuation:
Cent per point = Cash Price / Total Points
The American Express Points Value Calculator is another resource to compare cash vs. points. Select a card from the drop-down menu, pick how many points you have and see how much they are worth.
Generally, domestic flights have a value of 1 CPP and 2 CPP for international flights.
Hotels, cars, cruises, and vacation packages are at 0.7, slightly less than our desired target.
Another con, since booking with Amex is considered a third-party site, you forfeit earning hotel loyalty points and receiving other status-related perks during your stay.
Hotel Transfer Partners
Instead of booking hotels through American Express Travel, it may be more beneficial to transfer your points to one of Amex’s hotel partners: Radisson Rewards, Hilton Honors, or Marriott Bonvoy.
Transfer Membership Rewards and earn 3-to-1 Radisson Rewards points, 2-to-1 Hilton Honors points, or 2 Membership Rewards points for 3 Marriott points. Plan accordingly; transfers can take up to ten business days.
In a nutshell, to optimize your Amex redemptions, consider booking international and domestic flights through the travel portal and transfer points to Amex’s hotel partners. Nevertheless, since valuations vary and can change at any time, be sure to run the numbers and do what makes sense for your situation.
Using Amex Points to Book Travel
Making it easy to search and compare options, through American Express Travel, Amex points cover flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, vacation packages, and upgrades — either partially or fully.
There are no blackout dates, seat restrictions, and you can still earn airline frequent flyer miles. Also, there are no fees, but there is a service charge for plane tickets.
To pay with points, first, log into your American Express account.
Step 1: Log Into the Amex Travel Portal
Begin planning your trip by logging into your American Express account or visiting www.amextravel.com. By logging in, you’ll be able to see your Membership Rewards balance and pay with points.
Step 2: Search for Travel Options
Choose between booking flights, hotels, a flight + hotel package, rental cars, or cruises.
Enter your travel details and preferences, like non-stop flights and drop-off locations.
Step 3: Choose How to Pay
When using Amex Travel, there are a variety of payment options.
Pay with a credit card, a combination of points and a credit card, or redeem points. A balance of 5,000 points is required for redemptions.
After booking, the total amount will appear on your credit card statement. Allow 48 hours for the points to credit your balance.
Note: For partial payments made with an eligible Amex credit card, earn 2x Amex Membership Rewards points or more. Earning points is not possible when redeeming Membership Rewards.
Using Amex Points For Travel Pros and Cons
Advantages of booking travel with American Express Membership Points
- Pay partially or fully with points
- No blackout dates
- No seat restrictions
- Earn airline frequent flyer miles
- Best redemptions for flights (domestic and international)
Disadvantages of booking travel with American Express Membership Points
- Cannot earn hotel loyalty points or receive other status-related perks during stay
- Amex points for hotels, cars, cruises, and vacation packages are less valuable than airline redemptions
- Transfer to hotel partners takes up to 10 business days
- Service charge applied for plane tickets
- Valuations vary and can change at any time
While there are pros and cons to booking travel with American Express points, having the option to pay for flights, hotels, car rentals, and cruises with cash, points, or a combination, makes American Express attractive to travelers looking for flexibility.
Alternatively, no blackout dates and seat restrictions mean a hassle-free booking experience.
For those who want the most value from their points, booking flights through the portal and transferring points to hotel partners are some of the best ways to use American Express points for travel.
In summary, optimize your Amex redemptions by booking international and domestic flights through the travel portal and transfer points to Amex’s hotel partners.
Did you know that you can earn cash back with Rakuten and receive your payout in the form of American Express Membership points?
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Danielle Desir Corbett paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27, and has traveled to 27 countries, including her favorites, Iceland, China, and Bermuda. Go here to learn Danielle’s incredible story, from struggling financially and in debt to finding creative ways to earn more and live on her terms. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast, where Danielle shares how you can creatively travel more and build wealth regardless of your current financial situation. Reach out to Danielle by contacting: thethoughtcard (at) gmail (dot) com.