The Amex Platinum is the Best Card for Booking Flights
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The Amex Platinum is the Best Card for Booking Flights

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Just because you’re not traveling now doesn’t mean you can’t book future travel. And for the first time in many months, it feels like there’s hope for 2021 travel.

When it comes time to book that flight for a trip next summer, fall, or winter, you want to make sure you earn as many points and miles as possible. And there’s one undisputed champion: the Platinum Card from American Express.
 

 

Other cards come close, but none can compete with the 5x Membership Rewards Points you get for every $1 you spend on airfare booked directly with airlines or through Amex’s travel portal, AmexTravel.com, on the Platinum card.

Not to mention, the Platinum card now offers some of the best travel insurance offered from any card. If you pay for your round-trip flight with the Platinum card – or put the taxes and fees on a round-trip award flight on it – you will be eligible for:

  • Trip Cancellation Insurance: You can get reimbursed for up to $10,000 of nonrefundable expenses – and up to $20,000 a year total – if your flight is canceled due to weather, an injury or illness, and other “covered reasons.”
  • Trip Delay Insurance: If your flight is delayed by more than six hours, you are eligible for up to $500 in reimbursement for lodging, food, personal use items, and other associated expenses.

That won’t get you a refund if you decide to cancel your flight due to coronavirus – you need a special travel insurance policy for that. But seeing as all major airlines are allowing free change or cancellations for a voucher for future travel, that’s largely unnecessary.

 

Amex Platinum Card e1574868163286

 

How Amex Platinum’s 5x Stacks Up

The American Express Platinum Card is one of several premier travel rewards credit cards on the market. And in general, these top-of-the-line credit cards are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes time to book flights.

But even among other top-tier credit cards, the Amex Platinum stands out. Take a look.

 

Let’s break this down a bit.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve will get you 3x points on any travel purchase you make, whether you’re getting in an Uber, buying a flight through an online travel agency, paying for a parking garage, or booking a hotel. So while it’s got a broader benefit, 3x simply can’t compete with the 5x you get by booking flights with the Platinum Card from American Express.

And while the Citi Prestige gets you 5x points on flights booked directly or through travel agencies, Citi has one major shortcoming. Namely, the airlines to which you can transfer Citi ThankYou Points simply aren’t as strong as American Express’s stable of transfer partners. Outside of jetBlue, they lack a mainline domestic transfer partner like Delta, United or American Airlines.

 

American Express Transfer Partners

ProgramTypeTransfer RatioTransfer Time
Aer LingusAirline1:1N/A
AeroMexicoAirline1:1.62-12 days
Air Canada AeroplanAirline1:1Instant
Air France/KLMAirline1:1Instant
AlitaliaAirline1:1Instant
ANAAirline1:11-2 days
AviancaAirline1:1Instant
British AirwaysAirline1:1Instant
Cathay PacificAirline1:11-7 days
DeltaAirline1:1Instant
El AlAirline50:1Instant
EmiratesAirline1:1Instant
EtihadAirline1:1Instant
HawaiianAirline1:1Instant
IberiaAirline1:11-3 days
JetBlueAirline1.25:1Instant
QantasAirline1:1Instant
SingaporeAirline1:112-48 hours
Virgin AtlanticAirline1:1Instant
Choice PrivilegesHotel1:1Instant
Hilton HonorsHotel1:2Instant
Marriott BonvoyHotel1:1Instant

 

The Amex Platinum Card Puts Co-Branded Airline Cards to Shame

Co-branded airline cards are popular for a reason. It’s an easy way to rack up more miles to fuel your travels. And, generally speaking, they offer free checked luggage, priority boarding, and large welcome offer milage bonuses from time to time. Keeping one of these cards in your wallet for your preferred airline is almost always worth it.

But here’s the thing: While it may seem smart to keep adding to your balance of SkyMiles or United miles, you can do much better. More often than not, you’ll be better served by a flexible points credit card like the Platinum card. When you focus on one co-branded airline credit card, you are locked into redeeming the miles it earns on one specific airline. It’s the main reason we urge readers to quit putting all of their spending on an airline-specific card. 

But let’s illustrate why the Amex Platinum may be an even better choice when it comes time to pay for your flight.

We’re big fans of Delta SkyMiles and the co-branded Delta American Express credit cards. But no matter which of those cards you have, you’ll only earn 3x SkyMiles at most on Delta purchases. So if you buy a $300 Delta ticket and put it on your Delta co-branded credit card, you’d get a total of 900 SkyMiles if you have the Delta Platinum or Delta Reserve card, and only 600 miles with the Delta Gold card – plus what you earn from taking the flight itself.
 

delta credit card offers 

Booking this same $300 Delta flight with the Amex Platinum Card would net you 1,500 Membership Rewards points with the 5x multiplier. And you could turn around and transfer those points right back to your Delta SkyMiles account because Membership Rewards points transfer to Delta SkyMiles at a ratio of one point equals one Delta mile.

It makes this an easy choice, and part of the reason why we consider the Amex Platinum the best credit card for frequent Delta flyers.

Related: The best credit cards for Delta flyers in 2021

 

Amex Addresses a Major Shortcoming

For years, flyers had to weigh the bonus points when booking a flight against a major flaw with the Amex Platinum: It didn’t offer any travel insurance for flights booked with the card.

That made for an interesting debate between the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which has long offered some of the best travel insurance of any premium card.

But times have changed. Starting in 2020, American Express added some robust trip coverage policies to the Amex Platinum and some of its other top-tier cards. While you could argue that the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s coverage is stronger, it’s a moot point.

With bigger bonus earnings when booking flights (5x on the Platinum card vs. 3x on the Reserve) and nearly equal trip protection policies, we think the American Express Platinum card is the clear winner when it comes time to pay for your flights.

In short: Amex has put the debate to rest.

 

All About the Platinum Card from American Express

That sweet 5x points bonus you’ll get for every dollar you spend buying flights won’t come cheap. But with that perk and an unbeatable set of other benefits, the value from the Amex Platinum card can easily outweigh its $550 annual fee for many travelers.

And that all begins with the biggest bonus we’ve ever seen on the card, allowing you to earn up to 275,000 points.

It starts with at least 75,000 American Express points after spending $5,000 within the first six months. That’s up from the standard offer of 60,000 points – plus you’ve got twice the usual three-month period to earn them. But you may be able to get an even bigger 100,000-point welcome bonus by searching for the Amex Platinum in an incognito browser – or even 125,000 points via a targeted CardMatch offer!

But it gets even better. In addition to that bigger welcome bonus, you’ll also earn 10x points for every dollar you spend at both gas stations and at supermarkets in the U.S. on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the first six months of card membership! That’s the most lucrative bonus you’ll find for spending at supermarkets or gas stations.

Add that up, and you can earn a total of 225,000 to 275,000 points on this credit card. That’s one of the biggest offers on any travel credit card. Add in the card’s unbeatable suite of travel perks, and it’s more than enough for many to justify the card’s $550 annual fee.
 

Best Card Booking Flights
 

Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express.
 

Let’s get to the perks. For starters, there are $200 in airline fee credits that cover things like seat selection, baggage fees, etc. You also get up to $200 in Uber rides, doled out in $15 monthly installments (plus $35 in December). Throw in another $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application once every four years, and $100 in credits to Saks Fifth Avenue in two, $50 sums.

But perhaps best of all is the lounge access you get with the Amex Platinum. The Platinum card opens up more airport lounge doors than any card on the market. For starters, you can get into American Express’s incredible Centurion lounges. You’ll also get a membership with Priority Pass, the global network with more than 1,200 outposts. You can get into Delta SkyClubs so long as you’re flying Delta that day. And finally, you can use Escape Lounges – including our favorite lounge at our home Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) airport.

 

Bottom Line

The Amex Platinum has earned a permanent spot in many travelers’ wallets, and the 5x points you get for every dollar you spend when paying for flights is a big part of the reason why. It’s simply the best card for booking flights, getting extra points, and accelerating your travels.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

2 Responses

  • Nice article Nick. Please correct me where wrong, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 5% cashback for “Travel” which “airfare” counts as travel through the chase ultimate rewards portal. This is on the chase freedom unlimited no annual fee card. So flights can be bought on the unlimited card through the chase UR portal then converted to the sapphire reserve for essentially 5x points. And you get the airline miles too if a frequent flyer of that airline. I’ve seen articles on recommending not using the portal for hotel bookings because of the lack of hotel points issue. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with using the chase portal for airfare buys. So isnt the reserve/unlimited combo as strong as the AMEX platinum for EARNING airfare points potentially?

    • Thanks, Clarence.

      The shortfall here is it has to be booked through the 3rd party Chase portal (powered by Expedia) to get the 5% back (5x URs). So while it is a good option, it doesn’t allow you to book direct. The 5x per dollar you earn with Amex Platinum will work directly with the airline or through their travel portal (amextravel.com). Both are good options, but personally, I think the Platinum is better for the reasons I laid out in the post.

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