Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tips and gotchas when using American Express' travel portal

American Express offers 3 points per dollar when you purchase plane tickets with their Premiere Rewards card. They offer an additional bonus point when you purchase through their online travel portal. 

As I've previously advised, make sure you comparison shop on Kayak.com and make sure that their prices are competitive before you book. I've found that they're usually more expensive by a few dollars, but I do the math to make sure I'm not overpaying for my extra bonus point.

Their site has improved in recent years, but buying through their travel portal is almost always slower and less convenient than booking directly through the airline's own site. For example:

  • It doesn't remember your passport number
  • It doesn't remember any frequent companion information, only yours. 
  • It doesn't have a way to enter Known Traveler numbers for Global Entry/TSAPre, so you have to call the airline to add it after you book
  • It doesn't let you enter a partner airline frequent flier number (e.g., if you book a flight on American Airlines, you can't put in a British Airways FF number)
  • If you book a hotel through the portal, it shows as being booked through Travelocity and you don't get any hotel points

If you're willing to deal with all of that to get your extra points, remember that the final checkout price will show up as two charges on your Amex statement – the ticket cost, and an Amex booking fee. Those two charges together add up to the amount shown during the web checkout process.

I love all of the transfer partners for Amex points and how flexible they are, but the Premier Rewards Gold card is getting long in the tooth, if you ask me. It seems downright silly to tell people that they have to upgrade to a $495 a year platinum card to get a chip card and no foreign transaction fees.

Charge as shown during checkout


Charge on Amex statement

Amex Premier Rewards transfer parners







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