American Express has been hiding some travel deals right under your nose. They’re called American Express Insider Fares, and they open up some additional savings when you book your flights with Membership Rewards Points. American Express has actually been doing this for years, but it’s slid under the radar.
The discounts aren’t otherworldly, but it’s a great way to save a few thousand points on your flight. And booking flight deals directly with points is one of our favorite ways to use points.
How Amex Insider Fares Work
These discounted fares are only available through Amex’s booking portal at Amextravel.com. So head there and get logged into your American Express account. And start searching for your travel.
American Express says that Insider Fares are only available on “select flights.” So far as we can tell, there’s little rhyme or reason for when the discounted rate comes up. There’s one key parameter, though: You must have the entire amount of points required to book the flight in your account to qualify for the discount. And you have to pay for the entire fare with your points.
Once you find such a flight, the savings can be substantial. Check out this deal for $620 from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) – an insane fare that we first sent to our Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers last week.
In this example, you’re getting roughly 1.1 cents per point, rather than the normal 1 cent per point you normally get when booking through Amex’s travel portal. That seems to be the standard when you can find these Insider Fares.
While that falls far short of some competitors, every little bit helps. And the best part about booking this way is that you can still earn miles on the airline when you book with points. Just be sure to put in your frequent flyer information as you finalize the booking.
Getting American Express Membership Rewards Points
First things first: You can’t get these deals without some American Express Membership Rewards points.
Our go-to way to earn Amex points is with the Platinum Card® from American Express. For starters, it’s one of the best premium travel rewards credit cards on the market.
Better yet, you could be eligible for a 125,000-point signup bonus after spending $5,000 in three months. The standard offering is 75,000 points after spending $5,000 in 6 months, so this is one of the best welcome bonuses out there.
Another great option is the revamped American Express® Gold Card. Not only does it offer a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months with the card, but it has one of the best-earning structures in the travel rewards world. You’ll get 4x points at both restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 annually then 1x), as well as 3x points for airfare booked directly with airlines.
This seems to be Amex’s way of trying to compete with Chase Ultimate Rewards, where you can squeeze more out of your points by booking travel directly through their travel portal. And while the additional value from Insider Fares helps, it doesn’t come close to Chase. Cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card get 1.25 cents for every point redeemed toward travel. If you’ve got the Chase Sapphire Reserve, that jumps to 1.5 cents per point.
Check out that same $620 fare to New Zealand, and you’ll notice the difference.
At 42,271 points for the exact same fare, Chase Ultimate Rewards is the clear winner here. Not to mention, Chase allows you to put as many points as you’d like toward the price of your fare. With American Express Insider Fares, you won’t get the discounted rate unless you pay 100% with points.
But if you’re set on using American Express Membership Rewards points or that’s all you’ve got, it’s worth searching through Amextravel.com to see if you can cash in on these Insider Fares.
Amex Insider Fares aren’t earth-shattering. But it’s a great way to save a few thousand points if you can find one of these discounted fares. So keep your eyes peeled.