From the outset, let me note that I don’t earn any affiliate income from this or any other credit card. These are just my thoughts as the travel world changes in the era of COVID-19. You guys know I don’t talk a ton about the nitty gritty of credit cards here, but work with me for just a few minutes.
I’ve had the American Express Business Platinum in my wallet for a bit over a year now. I made a mistake when I applied for the card. I mixed up what benefits came with the personal versus business version of this card and ended up with a card I didn’t really want to use for travel. As time has passed, I think we’ve entered a time period where this card is a really good choice for certain types of travelers. First, let’s cover why I thought this was a bad card for me (and why I still really dislike some features of the card).
Five Points Per Dollar On Travel, With A Catch
The American Express Business Platinum, at first blush, seems to have the same 5X category as the personal version of the card. That is, at least if you’re not paying attention. The personal version of the card offers five points per dollar on all flights booked directly with an airline or via amextravel.com. As well, the card offers five points per dollar on prepaid hotel bookings via amextravel.com.
Here’s the rub. Booking through amextravel.com for business travelers has drawbacks. Significant ones, in my opinion. Sure, there’s the general cumbersome nature of booking travel through a portal and making sure all your details are right. I prefer booking directly with the airline because I’m used to their websites. But, those details can be overcome. However, certain airlines make booking through a travel agent more cumbersome.
We book quite a few United Airlines tickets for various employees through the course of the year. Booking these through Amex Travel posed two problems for us. First, in certain situations, United would impose a surcharge for changing a ticket that was above and beyond what they would normally charge for direct bookings. I never dug deeply into this, it was mostly just annoying. However, where things sort of fell off the rails for me was when we had a handful of instances where United made changes to flights for an employee and never notified the employee directly. When we dug into it, they said they called American Express. American Express never notified us.
Separately from that, my travel patterns don’t really work well with prepaid hotel reservations. They don’t work well for many business travelers. When I applied for the AMEX Biz Plat, I knew I wouldn’t use that category a ton. Given these two details, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t end up keeping the card long-term. So, why the change in heart?
35% Rebate Plus Cheap Business Class Fares
One of the most useful features of the American Express Business Platinum card is the 35% rebate on select flights when you use Membership Rewards Pay With Points. You can earn the 35% rebate on first and business class flights on any airline, or any class flight on your selected qualifying airline. The benefit maxes out at 500,000 points in rebate per calendar year.
I’ve been surprised by the relative lack of saver award inventory over the past handful of months. That condition got me thinking about the 35% rebate more and more. For small business owners and folks with school-aged kids are going to have a really tough time finding saver inventory with a constrained school calendar. Being able to select your own flights regardless of inventory is appealing, except for the relative cost of business class fares. Combine a potential prolonged low fare environment for business class travel with a 35% bonus and you might have a winning formula. One of the biggest complaints I hear from business travelers is that they can’t find saver inventory when they need it to travel with their family.
The Final Two Pennies
The only downside to the AMEX Biz Plat that I see for me is the lack of bonus categories if I’m not putting all my travel expenses on it. The card does offer 1.5 points per dollar spent for transactions larger than $5,000. Small business owners can really increase their earning on large expenses that don’t generally earn bonuses with this. And, the card does have other useful benefits that don’t provide lots of bonus points, like $200 in Dell credits.
The $595 annual fee gives me some amount of pause in making this a strong recommendation for every business traveler. But, if you think you could use the 35% rebate on business class award flights even once a year, it would easily cover that $595.
For now, I’m definitely not canceling my American Express Business Platinum card. And, if business class fares stay low, I think it’ll be hanging around for quite a while.
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