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Everything you need to know about Amex Travel

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The American Express Travel Portal allows you to book travel and redeem American Express Membership Rewards points directly for travel reservations and activities rather than transfer your rewards to airline or hotel partners like Delta SkyMiles or Marriott Bonvoy.

You also can book discounted premium tickets, use benefits like a 35% points rebate on certain bookings and even book premium hotels with additional perks that come from booking through Amex Travel.

So how do you get all of these benefits? And are there any disadvantages to booking your trips with Amex Travel? Let’s take a look at this booking portal.

How to book flights with the Amex Travel Portal

It’s possible to book flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises with Amex Travel. You can pay with points, cash or a combination of the two. Let’s look at flights first.

Searching for flights

To search for flights, head to this link. The Amex Travel flight portal is structured similarly to other online booking sites like Kayak or Orbitz. You’ll see a box where you can enter departure and destination cities. If you’re not picky about your departure airport, you can select an entire city (such as New York, which has three airports). You also can adjust your booking class, and number of travelers, and choose from one-way or round-trip flights.

a travel booking website showing input fields for flight searches

During the booking process, you’ll see the price listed in dollars and number of Amex Membership Rewards points.

details of a flight and pricing

You can also use the options on the left-hand side to filter flights by number of stops, departure and arrival times, flight duration and airline.

flight search results page from Amex Travel showing options for filters

Note that Delta Air Lines is a featured airline in the Amex Travel Portal. Sometimes, Delta flights appear at the top of your results, listed as “recommended,” but this doesn’t mean those flights are always cheapest.

Additionally, if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and are flying from an airport with a Centurion Lounge, you’ll see an indicator that a lounge is available.

flight search results showing indicator that lounge access is available

Points vs. cash

When paying for your flights on Amex Travel, several cards offer elevated earning rates, such as these:

Card name Points earned with Amex Travel Points earned booking directly with airlines Points earned booking on other travel portals
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express 5 points per dollar. 1 point per dollar. 1 point per dollar.
The Platinum Card® from American Express 5 points per dollar (limited to $500,000 of flight purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar). 5 points per dollar (limited to $500,000 of flight purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar). 1 point per dollar.
American Express® Gold Card 3 points per dollar. 3 points per dollar. 1 point per dollar.

It’s also possible to pay with Amex Membership rewards points to cover the cost of your flight.

You’ll see the number of points required next to the cash price of a flight. You can expect a value of 1 cent per point when using Pay with Points. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, meaning this isn’t the best value overall.

Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

details of a flight and pricing

It’s worth comparing the number of points required here versus the number of points required when transferring points to an airline program for an award booking. If it’s not possible to book a flight through transfer partners and you want to use your points, then this remains a viable option.

We should also point out a benefit for Amex Business Platinum cardmembers: getting 35% of your points back. When paying with points through Amex Travel, you can get 35% of your points back (up to 1 million points per year) on the following flights:

  • First-class flights on any airline.
  • Business-class flights on any airline.
  • Tickets in any class on your preferred airline (the same airline used for your airline incidental credits).

Getting a value of 1.54 cents per point with this Business Platinum benefit could change your decision on paying cash or points.

Similarly, the American Express® Business Gold Card offers a 25% Pay with Points rebate on eligible flights (up to 250,000 million points back per calendar year). The Business Centurion® Card from American Express offers a 50% Pay with Points rebate on eligible flights. Note that Centurion cards are available by invitation only.

The information for the Centurion Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Why I love the Amex Business Platinum’s Pay With Points perk

Insider Fares

Depending on your flight search, you may see an option for Insider Fares. These can be available at a discounted price, but you must use points to cover the entire fare to receive the discounted price.

In this example, there is a discount of 5.6% on the number of points required:

A red box indicates where to select the option for insider fares, which may be cheaper

Upgrading flights using points

You can also upgrade your flights in the Amex Travel portal using cash or points. This Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) to Baltimore (BWI) provides three upgrade options, all using points at a rate of 1 cent each.

pricing options for upgrading a flight using cash or points with

You can book using your Amex card, use points, or a combination of the two (more on that below). Remember, you have 24 hours to change or cancel most trips, so if your plans change, you’re not locked into the itinerary.

Booking with points + cash

On the payment page, you can select options to use only points, only your credit card, or a mix of the two. The minimum number of points you can use is 5,000. Points will be applied at a value of 1 cent apiece.

payment options on Amex Travel, showing the ability to use credit card, points or a mix of the two

International Airline Program

Here’s yet another benefit: Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum cardmembers can book discounted premium tickets using Amex Travel’s International Airline Program (IAP). IAP offers discounts on first-class, business-class and premium economy tickets. Over 20 airlines participate in the program. If you want to book your next premium ticket using IAP, here’s how:

Related: How to save hundreds on airfare with Amex’s International Airline Program

airline logos for the airlines participating in the Amex International Airline Program
Participating airlines in the International Airline Program. AMERICANEXPRESS.COM

You can book these tickets directly on the Amex Travel Portal, paying with cash or points — including the Business Platinum card’s 35% airline rebate benefit.

However, not all flights are eligible. You’ll need to mind these rules:

  • The cardmember must be traveling on the itinerary.
  • You can book a maximum of eight tickets per itinerary.
  • Travel must originate from and return to the U.S. or international airports in Canada.
  • Tickets are nonrefundable unless otherwise indicated.
  • Name changes for any passengers in the itinerary are not permitted.

Searching for flights from Chicago (ORD) to Istanbul (IST) on Qatar’s signature QSuite business class shows a discount of $417.

flight pricing showing a discounted for the Amex International Airline Program for this business-class reservation with Qatar Airways

However, it’s worth comparing this to pricing elsewhere to see what discount you’re actually getting. The same itinerary is available for $3,299 on Google Flights:

flight itinerary from Chicago to Istanbul via Doha with Qatar Airways

That makes the effective discount from the Amex IAP just $170 — not $417.

If you can combine the discounts offered through the International Airline Program with any eligible Amex Offers (such as this one), you could achieve additional discounts.

Amex offer to save $300 on IAP

How to book hotels with the Amex Travel Portal

You can book hotels through American Express Travel if you have a Gold, Platinum or Centurion card. As with other travel portals, you can input your destination, dates, number of rooms and number of guests (with separate input fields for adults and children).

input fields for hotel search on Amex Travel

Platinum and Business Platinum cardmembers earn 5 points per dollar on these reservations.

hotel option in Athens, Greece with indicator of earning 5 points per dollar

After selecting your hotel, you’ll choose your preferred room and pay with points or cash. If you pay with points, you’ll only get a value of 0.7 cents per point (compared to 1 cent per point when you book flights).

room options at a hotel in Athens, shown on the Amex Travel portal

Note that these are considered third-party bookings, so you likely won’t earn hotel points or elite credits for your stay. There are examples of people receiving stay credits with Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors, for example, on rooms booked through Amex Travel. However, it’s not guaranteed that the hotel will recognize your elite status in these programs or provide status-qualifying stay credits in your loyalty account.

Related: 9 things to consider when choosing to book via a portal vs. booking directly

Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts

You may not be familiar with the Fine Hotels + Resorts (FHR) program available through Platinum and Centurion American Express cards. Still, it can add some great benefits to your hotel stays — and may not cost much more than booking directly with the hotel.

Here are the perks you’ll receive with every FHR booking, regardless of the length of your stay:

  • Room upgrade upon arrival (when available): Some room types may be excluded, but you could receive an upgrade to preferred rooms with better views or a better location in the hotel.
  • Daily breakfast for two people: The provided breakfast must be, at a minimum, a continental breakfast.
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout.
  • Noon check-in (when available).
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi: When a property includes Wi-Fi in a mandatory resort fee, you’ll receive a daily credit from the property for that amount.
  • Unique property amenity: The amenity should be valued at $100 or more and usually consists of a property credit, dining credit, spa credit, private airport transfer or similar amenity.

The property amenity will vary by hotel and could cover free meals or may include nice fringe perks — though not something you would pay for otherwise.

Related: Get free breakfast, upgrades and more with the Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts program

You’ll need to book these stays through Amex Travel, but note that FHR is considered a separate program from Amex Travel.

garden villa with outside seating area
An upgraded two-bedroom villa at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, thanks to booking through Fine Hotels + Resorts. RYAN SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

The Hotel Collection

A lesser-known American Express benefit is The Hotel Collection (THC), which you can book in cash or with points. Cardholders of Gold, Platinum and Centurion cards have access to this program, which offers the following benefits:

  • A room upgrade at check-in (if available).
  • $100 on-property credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities.

Note that THC bookings require a minimum stay of two nights.

Related: How to use Amex’s The Hotel Collection to snag extra perks on hotel stays

How to rent cars and book cruises with the Amex Travel Portal

Reserving a car in the Amex Portal is relatively simple. You’ll input your pick-up and drop-off times and location — including whether you’re returning the car to a different drop-off location.

input fields for a rental car search with Amex Travel

You’ll see rental car prices listed in cash and points. If using Pay with Points, your points are worth 0.7 cents apiece — less than half of TPG’s valuation of Amex Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each.

Sixt rental car option in Athens where a customer can pay with cash or Amex points

You can also search for cruises on Amex Travel, although the format differs.

Rather than typing specific dates and numbers of passengers, you’ll see three drop-down menus. These allow you to choose a destination (by region), filter by cruise lines and choose a month of travel — though not specific dates on this first page.

3 drop-down menus for cruise search options on a booking portal

From here, you can filter by cruise duration, departure port, the ship and how to sort your results — by sailing date, price or ship rating.

cruise search results and filter options from Amex Travel

On the payment page, you’ll have the choice to pay with your credit card or to use points — from as little as 1 point to covering the full cost of your cruise with points.

cruise booking final page for payment with Amex Travel

Unfortunately, you’ll achieve the same, poor valuation of 0.7 cents per point when using Pay with Points for a cruise.

Related: How to book a cruise using points and miles

pay with points for Amex Travel cruise booking

However, avoiding spending cash out of pocket may make sense if you have the points and want to save money for other expenses.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter!

There’s another benefit available if you’re a Platinum or Centurion cardholder (including personal and business versions of these cards): the Cruise Privileges Program.

Available on cruises of five nights or more with select cruise lines, the Platinum cardmember must be one of the travelers to enjoy these benefits on your sailing:

  • $100-$500 in onboard ship credit (note that this cannot be used for casino or gratuity charges).
  • Additional onboard amenities that vary by line, such as spa vouchers, a bottle of champagne, shore excursion credits or a private tour of the ship.

Related: Enjoy shipboard credit, cruise perks with Amex Platinum and Amex’s Cruise Privileges Program

Positives and negatives of booking with Amex Travel

How you book your travel is just as important as where you’re traveling. Before you book through the Amex Travel portal, it’s worth considering a few things.

First, booking here won’t provide the best value for using your Amex Membership Rewards points. This is typically done by transferring your points to an airline or hotel loyalty program and making an award redemption. The Pay with Points feature on Amex Travel yields a value of 0.7-1.0 cents per point — far below TPG’s valuation of 2 cents per point for Membership Rewards points.

Related: Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

Second, the price you see on Amex Travel may not be the best price. Consider this Royal Air Maroc itinerary that Amex Travel has for $477:

flight pricing with Royal Air Maroc from New York to Casablanca and on to Paris, found on Amex Travel website

The same itinerary is available at a cheaper price by booking elsewhere, such as through Google Flights:

flight pricing with Royal Air Maroc from New York to Casablanca and on to Paris, found on Google Flights website

Additionally, if you have (or are working toward) elite status with a hotel program, booking a room directly with the hotel is your best bet to ensure you receive credit for your stay or receive the perks associated with your status. Booking through Amex Travel could mean forfeiting your status-related benefits.

Related: Why you don’t earn hotel points when booking through an OTA

On the flip side, there are positives. You’ll get 24 hours to cancel your Amex Travel reservation without penalty on most bookings. And, unlike hotels, there can be advantages to booking your flights here. You can pay with points to cover the cost of your airfare, but the airline should still treat this as a paid ticket — meaning you will earn miles and status-qualifying flights in your preferred loyalty program.

Related: When you will (and won’t) earn miles on your flight

Bottom line

While you can use your points to book hotels, flights, rental cars and cruises in the Amex Travel portal, you’ll typically get more value from your American Express Membership Rewards points by transferring them to airline and hotel partners instead. There are exceptions to this, such as the case of last-minute travel when there is no award availability available.

Having said that, Amex Travel has several amazing perks, including discounted fares on premium flights, value-added benefits with Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts and a user-friendly interface.

Additional reporting by Ryan Patterson.