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American Express has a very robust travel portal. Not only can you book different types of travel, but you can also take advantage of a lot of additional perks and benefits depending on the type of cards you have.
But you need to know the ins and outs of how everything works in order to squeeze out all the value you can.
In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about Amex Travel.
I’ll start by explaining the bonus points you can earn and how to use your points to book travel. I’ll then cover some of the special perks you can get through the program like 5X earnings.
And I’ll show you the results from my research I did to see if Amex Travel is cheaper or more expensive than booking directly (the results are a little surprising).
Finally, I’ll show you how to efficiently use Amex Travel to book your travels.
What is Amex Travel?
Amex Travel is an online travel portal that allows you to book various forms of travel including:
- Rental cars
- Vacation Packages
Amex Travel overview
Membership Rewards-earning cards will earn one extra Membership Rewards point for every dollar spent on certain purchases like:
- Pre-paid hotels
- Vacation packages (flight + hotel packages)
- Cruise reservations
Eligible travel purchases do NOT include car reservations, non-prepaid hotels, ticketing service or other fees
These Membership Rewards-earning cards that earn an extra point include favorites like the:
- Amex Gold Card
- Amex EveryDay
- Amex EveryDay Preferred
- The Centurion Card
- Blue Business Plus Credit Card
- Business Gold Card
- Business Green Rewards Card
Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!
Platinum and Business Platinum Cardmembers are only eligible for 1 additional point on cruise reservations. However, they earn 5X on prepaid hotels and airfare.
If you value Membership Rewards at 1.75 cents per point then it’s like earning 8.75% back on airline purchases!
The Platinum Card earns some pretty impressive rates across the board when it comes to Amex Travel.
Take a look at all of the 5X categories:
|Amex Travel Category or Program||Earning Rate|
|Find Hotels and Resorts (pre-paid)||5X|
|The Hotel Collection (pre-paid)||5X|
|The International Airline program||5X|
Amex Green Card
The Amex Green Card earns a very respectable 3X on a wide range of travel purchases which include amextravel.com. Therefore, you can earn 3X on airfare, hotel bookings, cruises, etc.
Lowest price guarantee
When it comes to booking hotels, you can get the lowest price guarantee with Amex Travel.
Like other similar guarantees, the terms are very strict about when this can be honored.
You will need to find the exact same room in the same hotel for the exact same dates and number of children and adults.
The price will need to be found online before taxes and fees and you must submit your claim prior to your stay before the date of check-in. This perk is only valid for American Express cardmembers.
Certain types of rates not available to the public will be excluded including:
- Rates or discounts that are not available to the general public (e.g., corporate, AAA, government, etc.)
- Hotel rooms booked with loyalty points, coupon promotions, etc.
- Rooms booked on websites that do not allow you to see the name of the hotel until your reservation is complete
- Promotional packages, deals, all-inclusive packages
- Bundles that include additional amenities such as parking, meals, etc.
- Rates booked through the Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection programs.
If you book through Amex Travel, you will likely lose out on the ability to earn elite credits and also you might even lose out on receiving elite benefits.
For example, if you are a Hilton Honors Gold member, typically you would earn 18 points per dollar spent at a Hilton property.
In addition, you would be eligible for benefits like a free breakfast, upgrades, and late check out.
But if you use Amex Travel to book a stay at a Hilton property, you would not earn 18 points per dollar and you may not receive things like a free breakfast.
You won’t always miss out on receiving your elite perks as I recently received an upgrade as a Hyatt Discoverist on a stay I booked through Amex Travel.
However, it will be on you to contact the property and add your loyalty number to your accounts. In addition, you likely will need to be proactive about requesting benefits like upgrades.
Tip: You can still get elite benefits with the Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection programs.
Access to Amex Travel
Initially I thought that only American Express cardmembers could use Amex Travel to book travel. But I inquired with an American Express agent and they informed me that anybody can use the travel portal.
Is Amex Travel cheaper?
The most important question you are probably wondering is whether or not it is cheaper to book your travel through Amex Travel or directly through the airlines, hotels, etc.
To answer this question, I did a handful of sample bookings for flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises.
Below are the results.
For flights, all five sample bookings were a little bit cheaper when I chose to book directly. In many cases the price was about $7 cheaper which isn’t a huge gap but is still cheaper nonetheless.
Here are the prices that I compared:
|Route||Amex Travel||Direct Booking|
|United SEA to IAD||$200.09||$198.10|
|AA JFK to LHR||$859.99||$853.00|
|AA MIA to CHI||$138.09||$131.10|
|Delta LAX to HNL||$256.09||$249.10|
|Delta IAH to ATL||$290.09||$283.10|
It’s worth noting that American Express imposes small fees for certain airline bookings.
For example, they will charge a non-refundable fee of $6.99 per domestic ticket and $10.99 per international ticket for each ticket for an airline that pays them a standard fee or commission.
So the price differences above likely were affected by these fees.
Tip: Logged in Platinum cardmembers and Centurion members will not be charged this fee.
For hotels, the opposite was true.
Amex Travel was cheaper on more occasions although in some cases the price was virtually identical.
Also, you can earn 5X Membership Rewards on pre-paid hotel stays with your Platinum Card. That’s a lot of points and in some cases it could make up for the lost value of elite benefits.
|Hotel||Amex Travel||Direct Booking|
|Hilton San Diego Bayfront||$365.22||$405.60|
|Las Vegas Marriott||$361.68||$361.68|
|JW Marriott Chicago||$397.98||$397.99|
The rental car prices were almost completely identical.
|Rental cars||Amex Travel||Direct Booking|
|Avis – JFK||$178.22||$178.22|
|Avis – AKL||$129.67||$129.85|
|National – LAX||$109.76||$109.76|
|National – MCO||$84.78||$84.78|
|Hertz – ORD||$119.99||$119.99|
The cruises were generally cheaper with direct booking. This was partially the result of flash sales that were happening with some of the cruise lines. These flash sales were not showing up on Amex Travel.
|Cruises||Amex Travel||Direct Booking|
|Royal Caribbean – Caribbean||$1,538.30||$1,438.30|
|Norwegian – Hawaii||$3,623.42||$3,237.62|
|Royal Caribbean – Asia||$2,182.86||$2,082.86|
|Norwegian – Bahamas||$1,986.68||$1,745.64|
|Princess – Panama Canal||$2,578.32||$2,578.32|
Overall, my data points showed that booking flights is slightly more expensive through Amex Travel (likely due to Amex fees) but that booking hotels and rental cars can be virtually identical.
Cruises may also be identical in pricing but you may not have access to flash deals which can cause significant discrepancies in price.
Tip: The Platinum Card receives special perks on some cruise packages such as credits.
Using Membership Rewards to book Amex Travel
One of the cool things about Amex Travel is that you can use your Membership Rewards points to book travel.
Your redemptions must involve a minimum of 5,000 Membership Rewards.
Something important to know is that the value of your points will differ based on the type of travel that you book.
Here is a breakdown of the value your points get for different types of travel.
|Type of travel||Value in cents per point|
|Flights (includes upgrades)||1.0|
Tip: You can also use the points calculator to check out the value of your Membership Rewards.
As you can see, flights and hotels through the FHR get the most value for your points. Other types of redemptions like hotels are not great.
When you consider that a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred can get you 1.25 cents per point in the Chase Travel Portal on all different types of travel, all of a sudden redeeming Membership Rewards for .7 cents per point seems very poor.
If you have a small business card like the Business Platinum Card or the Business Gold Card, you can actually get more value for your points.
The Business Gold Card has a 25% bonus which comes out to 1.33 cents per point. Meanwhile, the Business Platinum Card has a 35% bonus which comes out to 1.54 cents per point.
You can only get the bonus/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 might be able to choose:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Spirit Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
Note: There is a limitation on your rebate as you will only be able to receive up to 250,000 bonus points per calendar year for the Business Gold Card and up to 500,000 points per calendar year for the Business Platinum Card.
Alternative to using points for Amex Travel
Instead of using your points on travel, you could redeem them in other forms such as cash back, gift cards, or on Amazon.
The values for cashback and Amazon are not very good as you can see below but sometimes gift cards can be a decent option when you can cash out at one cent per point.
|Redemption type||Value in cents/point|
Should you use your Membership Rewards?
Even though your Membership Rewards can be transferred out to valuable travel partners for optimal value, sometimes it could make sense to use a travel portal.
One of the biggest reasons is that using something like Amex Travel is simpler.
You don’t have to deal with black out dates, award inventory, or figuring out how to do transfers and booking with partners.
However, if you do decide to transfer your points to American Express travel partners, here is a breakdown of the partners you can transfer to:
|Travel Partner||Ratio (MR to airline)||Transfer wait time|
|Cathay Pacific||1:1||48 Hours|
|Iberia||1:1||24 to 72 hours|
|Singapore Airlines||1:1||24 to 72 hours|
Related travel programs
There are three programs that are related to Amex Travel but are also different and stand out in different ways.
These include the:
- The Hotel Collection
- Fine Hotels and Resorts
- International Airline Program
These programs are mostly focused on premium and luxury travel so if you are in those markets, you will get the most value out of these related programs.
The Hotel Collection
The Hotel Collection is a special hotel portal that allows you to receive up to $100 in property credits and upgrades when you book hotels of two nights or longer.
The Hotel Collection is only available to the following U.S. American Express Card Members:
- Consumer and Business Gold Card Members
- Business Gold Rewards Card Members
- Consumer and Business Platinum Card Members
- Consumer and Business Centurion Members
The hotel credit will equal the amount spent on the hotel at checkout up to $100 and it will be credited at check out based on qualifying charges made excluding charges for taxes, gratuities, fees and cost of room.
You must make your payment in full with an American Express Card in the Eligible Card Member’s name.
Also, the cardholder must travel on the itinerary booked. There is a limit of one credit per room per stay and a three room limit per card member per stay.
Room upgrade is based on availability and eligibility at check-in.
For bookings made on amextravel.com, you will earn 2X Membership Rewards on each The Hotel Collection booking and you can also use Pay with Points.
Fine Hotels and Resorts
Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts, also known as “FHR,” is a luxury hotel program that offers special elite-like perks at over 975 world-class properties all around the world.
There are also special hotels within this program known as Preferred Hotels & Resorts which “represents one of the world’s finest and most diverse portfolios of independent hotels.”
These hotel networks are only available to cardmembers of Platinum Cards and Centurion Cards.
Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts offers an entire suite of benefits which include:
- Noon check-in, when available
- Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
- Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
- Daily breakfast for two people
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- Special amenity unique to each property
As mentioned above, you can earn 5X with the Platinum Card on prepaid bookings through FHR. Something else that stands out is that you can still receive your elite benefits and elite credits when going through this portal.
International Airline Program
The Amex International Airline Program (IAP) is a special program available to Platinum cardholders and Centurion cardholders that allows you to receive special discounts on up to eight first class, business class, and premium economy fares when booking through Amex.
The discounts can range from saving a couple of hundred bucks to saving a few thousand bucks so the International Airline Program can be arguably the most valuable benefit offered by any American Express card.
Not every airline participates in the program. Currently, here is the list of airlines that participate:
- Air China
- Air France
- Air New Zealand
- Asiana Airlines
- British Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- China Airlines
- Etihad Airways
- Japan Airlines
- South African Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
You’ll notice that notably absent are domestic carriers United and American.
How to use Amex Travel
- Head to the Amex Travel website
- Choose the type of travel you want to book and input your destinations, travel dates, etc.
- Utilize filters to find the type of booking best suited for you
- Complete your booking!
The main menu
If you hover over “Book” you will then be able to select the type of travel you want to book.
(The default menu already displays flights, hotels, and vacations so you can easily start the booking process for those.)
For flights, simply enter in your departure and arrival locations along with your dates and other details such as cabin preference.
You’ll then see results populated and you can use filters to narrow down the results. You can sort by things like price, duration, and departure time. You can also filter the results down by airline.
The search results allow you to quickly view details like baggage fees and in some cases you’ll also be able to view the seat map which is very convenient.
The hotel search results also provide you with robust filters and sort features to make your searching efficient.
I like to use the map feature and to filter by stars to narrow down my potential properties.
You can also filter by price and if you are interested in the luxury hotel collection or find hotels and resorts you can filter by those programs.
If you do come across a hotel that is part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts, you will see that clearly indicated on the search result.
The same applies for The Hotel Collection.
Make sure that you pay attention to the cancellation policy for that specific hotel.
As you view the search results, you can see if there is flexible cancellation which would allow you to cancel up to a certain window prior to booking.
If there is a flexible cancellation policy, you will be able to view the exact terms to see the deadline to get a refund. When you click on “cancellation policy” you will see a message like this:
There is no charge for cancellations made before 18:00 (property local time) on March 16, 2021. Cancellations or changes made after 18:00 (property local time) on March 16, 2021 or no-shows are subject to a property fee equal to 100% of the total amount paid for the reservation.
Other hotels will be completely nonrefundable.
Again, you can always click on a hotel and then click on view cancellation policy to get the specific terms for that booking.
For rental cars, you have a lot of filters that you could use for things like the size of the rental car, the rental car company, price, etc. You will be able to easily view if the booking has free cancellation or not.
If you have an account, you should take a short amount of time to fill in your profile.
You will be able to input your personal details like your name and birthdate to make a booking quicker in the future. You can also input your known traveler number and your redress number if you have one.
In addition to your personal information, you can also easily add loyalty numbers to your frequent flyer program and hotel loyalty programs.
Next you can select things like your travel preferences. So for example, for flights you can select if you want a window or aisle seat. Or perhaps you have a meal preference such as gluten free meals.
Finally, you can also add companions.
Amex Travel also has a section where you can view all of your booked trips.
This is really convenient when you need to change or cancel the booking since you have a quick way to find them.
You can also view past trips.
Amex Travel FAQ
Based on my 20 data points, Amex Travel is slightly more expensive for airfare (likely due to Amex fees) but prices are virtually identical for other types of travel such as hotels and car rentals. In some cases, Amex Travel had cheaper prices.
The Platinum Card is the best Amex card to use because you can take advantage of special 5X earnings on flights and hotels and also receive solid travel protections.
You may not receive your elite status benefits when booking hotels through Amex Travel because it is considered an OTA.
However, you can still contact the hotel ahead of time and ask them to add your loyalty number to your reservation.
After they do that, you may be able to receive some elite benefits depending on the brand and property.
You can still get elite benefits with the Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection programs.
Yes, you can book travel with points on Amex Travel. However, you will have to use a minimum of 5,000 Membership Rewards.
Yes, Membership Rewards earning cards will earn one additional point when booking on Amex Travel for certain types of purchases. However, some cards like the Platinum Card and the Green Card will earn additional points.
Yes, but you may be subject to a non-refundable telephone air transaction service fee of $39 per ticket for airline tickets or air + hotel packages.
Also, reservations within 6 hours of departure cannot be made by telephone.
Yes, you can change your airline booking but you may be subject to fees from the airline. In addition, American Express may charge you a $39 change fee per ticket reissue.
For bookings made online you can call Amextravel.com at: 1-800-297-2977.
If you made your booking by phone with a Platinum Travel Counselor, you can call 1-800-443-7672.
No, you will need to use a card that has travel insurance like the Platinum Card or purchase a travel insurance package to get insurance for your bookings.
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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.