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Two of the best business credit cards have to be the Amex Business Gold and Amex Business Platinum. These cards have a lot of perks and benefits but one of the perks that stands out is the airline bonus (25% and 35% rebate).
But what exactly is this perk and how does it work?
In this article, I will give you a full breakdown of how to use this perk and what to expect in terms of value.
What is the Amex Business Platinum & Gold airline bonus?
The airline bonus perk allows Amex Business Platinum and Gold card holders receive a 25% or 35% rebate when using Membership Rewards to book flights with certain airlines via Amex Travel.
If you have the Amex Business Gold, you will receive a 25% rebate on your points. If you have the Amex Business Platinum, you will receive a 35% rebate on your points.
You can only get the 25% rebate for either a First or Business class flight on any airline, or for flights with your selected qualifying airline.
Here some of the airlines you can choose:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Spirit Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
For the Amex Business Gold you will only be able to receive up to 250,000 bonus points per calendar year and for the Amex Business Platinum, you will only be able to receive up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
That means that after you redeem 1 million points for the Amex Business Gold you will no longer have the bonus (for the year) and for the Amex Business Platinum, you will lose out on the bonus after redeeming 1,428,571 points.
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Is the bonus worth it?
The standard redemption rate for airfare with Amex Travel is 1 cent per point.
For the the Amex Business Gold, the airline bonus allows you to effectively redeem your points at a rate of 1.33 cents per point and for the Amex Business Platinum you can redeem your points at an effective rate of 1.54 cents per point.
So that is the type of value we were talking about with his benefit. To determine if it is worth it or not, we first have to look at the best alternative.
The best way to get the maximum value for your American Express Membership Rewards is to transfer them to travel partners and use your points to book business class or first class flights.
I have redeemed tons of flights this way over the past six years and in some cases I’ve gotten close to 20 cents per point. This type of redemption results in ridiculous aspirational value.
For example, 100,000 Membership Rewards redeemed at that rate comes out to $20,000 in value. That is just insane.
The problem is it takes a bit of work to understand the different transfer programs and to confidently execute many high value redemptions.
There is a learning curve involved and if you act before you know what you are doing you could end up screwing up big time by stranding points.
And that is sort of the beauty of the airline bonus with these cards.
It allows you to use your points to book flights without having to worry about learning award charts, booking procedures, and trying to find open award seats.
So from a value perspective, there is a lot of intangible value found in the simplicity and convenience.
But while that is true there is still some decent value in the actual cents per point redemption as these bonuses allow you to redeem your points at pretty respectable levels.
The 1.33 cents per point is a little bit less impressive but still better than some options out there.
For example, the Sapphire Preferred allows you to redeem your Ultimate Rewards in the Chase Travel Portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point.
1.33 cents is also pretty close to the value of many airline miles so this essentially allows you to get the same or similar value you would get if your points were already airline miles.
The 1.54 cents per point rate of the Business Platinum is much more impressive.
It’s slightly better than the 1.5 cents per point redemption rate you get in the Chase Travel Portal with the Sapphire Reserve so this is one of the most lucrative ways to use your points to book flights through a portal.
But once again you have to remember the limitations with his benefit.
If you are using your points to fly business class or first class you can use your points on any airline.
Obviously, those tickets are going to be much more expensive so you may have to use a lot of points for those redemptions.
Let’s say you have the Amex Business Gold. If you redeem points for a $5,000 flight you would spend 500,000 points and then receive a rebate of 125,000 points.
That easily offsets the annual fee but it means you have already used 50% of your allowed rebate potential. For people racking up a lot of points and doing a ton of flying, they could potentially max this benefit out pretty quickly with the Amex Business Gold.
Personally, I like the idea of using this benefit for domestic first class and business class flights because the prices are still reasonable and pretty obtainable.
Remember, you can only redeem at these increased rates on your selected airline for other tickets such as economy tickets.
So if you are somebody that often switches up your airline, this benefit could be much more difficult to use than you would like.
How to use the airline bonus
Choose your airline
The first step you may need to do is select your airline. You can do this anytime by logging into your account and then clicking on the benefits tab at the top of the screen. Then search for the tile with “Airline Bonus” in the title. You will then be able to select from a number of different airlines.
Note: Only the Basic Card Member or Authorized Account Manager on the Card Account can select the qualifying airline.
If you have already selected your qualifying airline you will be allowed to change your choice one time each year in January by calling the number on the back of your card. If you do not call to change your airline, the airline selected from the prior year will become your current airline.
In some cases, American Express has allowed cardholders to change the airline more than one time in a year but this tends to be a case by case scenario so my suggestion would be to not push it.
Find your flight
You will proceed through the normal booking process on Amex Travel and all you have to do is select to use your Membership Rewards as your form of payment.
If points redeemed do not cover the entire amount, the balance of the purchase price will be charge to your card.
Note: A flight booked as part of a travel package or booked with the American Express U.S. Representative Travel Network is not eligible for the 25% Airline Bonus.
To book flights with Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, or AirTran Airways, to receive your 25% Airline Bonus you must call American Express Travel at 1-800-428-0253.
Pay with Points requires a minimum redemption of 5,000 points.
One of the biggest things to remember is that you will not see discounted flight prices because this perk is a rebate.
This is one of the drawbacks to the program. You have to have enough points to book the flight at the standard redemption rate of one cent per point in order to trigger your rebate.
After your booking it may take up to 6-10 weeks after charges appear on your billing statement to receive your points back.
Is the Amex International Airline Program Worth It?
Platinum vs Gold
I would not get too hung up on using just this benefit to decide between the Amex Business Gold and the Amex Business Platinum.
These two cards are very different and it can make sense to hold onto both of them.
The Gold Card is more about earning points for your spend and it has the ability to earn 4X on the two categories that you spend the most on. These categories include:
- Airfare purchased directly from airlines
- U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV, radio)
- U.S. purchases made directly from select technology providers of computer hardware, software, and cloud solutions
- U.S. purchases at gas stations
- U.S. purchases at restaurants
- U.S. purchases for shipping
The 4X points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. After you max out that limit, you will only be earning one point per dollar spent.
The Platinum on the other hand is all about the benefits. You can enjoy things like lounge access, FHR, and the $200 annual Dell credits.
If you think you will be maxing out the rebate for the Gold Card then it could make sense to apply for the Business Platinum solely on the basis of using the airline bonus perk.
If you used 1 million points you would receive 350,000 points back with the Amex Business Platinum. That is 100,000 points more than what the Amex Business Gold would offer. 100,000 Membership Rewards could easily come out to over $1,500 in value.
So yes you would be paying the $595 annual fee for the Business Platinum but you would be getting almost $1,000 more value with the addition of the Amex Business Platinum than you would by just sticking with the Amex Business Gold.
Airline Bonus FAQ
You are allowed to change your airline once per year in January although sometimes exceptions are made to this rule and multiple changes are allowed.
It might take up to 6 to 10 weeks after your charge posts for you to receive your rebate.
For the the Amex Business Gold, the rebate is 25% and for the Amex Business Platinum the rebate is 35%.
For the the Amex Business Gold, the rebate allows you to redeem your points at a rate of 1.33 cents per point and for the Amex Business Platinum it is a rate of 1.54 cents per point.
The rebate limit for the Amex Business Gold is up to 250,000 bonus points per calendar year and the rebate limit for the Amex Business Platinum is up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
The airline bonus is a great perk because it allows you to redeem your points at very competitive levels without losing a lot of flexibility.
The drawback is that this perk can be a bit restrictive. For economy tickets you can only use it on your selected airline, the rebate is applied after the fact, and you can only receive a certain amount of points back each year.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.