The American Express Platinum card in the UK, is a card under fire. With an increased £575 annual fee for 2020, and few usable travel benefits in a world presently without travel, it’s become increasingly hard to justify for many cardholders.
Worse, Amex isn’t offering thus far offering the same flexibility to UK cardholders as those in the USA, where those wary of renewing the card are being offered extensive point bonuses, sometimes up to 50,000 points, just to keep the card open.
It’s not all bad news though.
In a move sure to help card members justify the card, Amex has increased the value you get when you use your points towards the cost of a purchase, rather than transferring them into airline miles or hotel points, and also doubled the amount of points you earn on any purchase.
The boosted earnings and redemptions are only here until July 20th, 2020, but they’re here, so you might as well use them, if you plan to keep the card.
In a statement to cardmembers, American Express is offering double the points on all transactions, with all merchants, for a limited time. Purchases which would typically only earn 1X point, will now earn 2X, and so forth.
This move definitely helps cardholders in justifying the fee, by giving the card an attractive earning rate. If you’re buying things like mad to stay busy at home, even just delivery, this is a solid move.
Improved Amex Platinum (UK) Cash Back Rate
UK credit cards generally offer terrible rates for converting points into cash, to cover purchases you’ve made. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. In a bold move, American Express dramatically increased the rate Platinum Card members receive, going from just 4.5/10th a cent per point, to 9/10th’s.
Early reports suggest this is exclusive to the personal Platinum Card, and does not apply to Premier Rewards Gold, or business cards. We’ve reached out to Amex for clarification.
In the simplest terms, 10,000 Membership Rewards Points with Amex Platinum would now cover £90, instead of £45. They’ve doubled the value.
To take a peek on your own account, login at AmericanExpress.com, go to “use points for purchases” and then select a transaction. You’ll then see the ability to cover the transaction with points.
This is great news in a world where airline redemptions are difficult and cash is king, particularly as we head into a grim financial period. This move effectively makes Amex Platinum *nearly* a 1% cash back card, which isn’t wildly generous, but for those with heavy spend, it’s a great, flexible new way to use points at a decent rate.
Typical points maximization for Amex Membership Rewards Points involves transfers to an airline program, where 50,000 points can unlock expensive seats up front, or clever upgrades, but this gives a fair value option for using points to take an amount off your balance.
If you saw a £1000 Qatar Airways ticket in business class for cash, which do pop up fairly often, you could buy it, and then use 100,000 points to cover £900 of value. That leaves you effectively with just £100 to pay.
The benefit of doing this, versus transferring points to a loyalty program, is that you’d still be able to earn miles and elite status on the ticket, since it’s treated as a cash ticket to Qatar. If instead, you had redeemed points for the ticket with the airline, it would count as a redemption, which isn’t eligible to earn elite status or frequent flyer miles.
In times where cash fares are dropping and airlines surcharged added even to tickets booked with points remain high, it can be better to use points towards the value of a cash ticket than to lose out on both. Amex hasn’t noted if this is a limited time offer, or a long term value, but it’s attractive while it lasts.
This is a positive move from American Express in the UK, even if it leaves much to be desired in the form of annual fee relief. Pretending that the vast majority of justifiable Platinum Card travel benefits remain in tact is absurd, and with any hope, it’s something that’ll change in the near future. There are plenty of lucrative cards with lower fees, if any at all.
Until then, this is a solid new way to burn through points, while they dig a hole in your pocket. If travel doesn’t return, there’s always wine and virtual gym memberships to spend them on…
HT: Head For Points