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American Express Travel (the AMEX portal where you book travel) is a familiar online travel agency to those in the miles & points world.
Unfortunately, there are a ton of downsides to using third party sites like this and others because (generally) you aren’t able to take advantage of perks through credit cards, elite status levels, and earning points & miles. However, there are possibly some cases where using AMEX Travel is beneficial.
Here is my review of American Express Travel. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive more helpful reviews like this!
What Is American Express Travel?
American Express Travel is the travel booking arm to American Express. It is accessible to everyone, whether or not you currently hold an American Express card.
American Express appears to be mainly a ‘reseller’ of sorts, as when I have checked into hotels using American Express Travel, it appears to the the hotel as though I’ve booked through Orbitz or Expedia. However, if you do have an issue or need assistance with a booking, American Express Travel will be your point of contact. Just like any other 3rd party reseller of travel, their ultimate goal is to have you book through them and they make a profit.
Overall, I am a fan of American Express Travel. But there are some deficiencies.
General Pros And Cons Of Using A Third Party Website to Book Travel
In a very general statement, if you are looking to earn points & miles and use your hard-earned statuses across hotels and airlines, I would steer clear of third party websites, including American Express. When you are booking through a third party, more often than not the provider (i.e. Hilton, Delta, etc.) will not recognize your status.
For example, if you book a Hilton hotel through Hotels.com, they will not care that you have Gold status through your Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card. And you will not earn 12 points per dollar when you use your card to book a Hilton stay, as you did not book directly.
If you are in the business of simply savings money or do not care all that much about status, there are certain use cases where a third party could provide some value.
User Interface/User Experience
Overall, it is a well functioning website and is user friendly. Generally, third party travel websites have very “clunky” and non user friendly websites. I find that American Express Travel has done a good job with their website. Everything is listed out pretty well, and is presented in a minimalist way that isn’t overpowering to the eye.
Also, the website becomes customized to my American Express products once I log-in at the top right corner of the screen. The site tells me the amount of AMEX Membership Rewards points I have, although I would not recommend using them here. I’ll detail that more later.
The site also tells me about the perks that I have with my various American Express cards that I currently hold, including earning 5X per dollar on flights book directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, an up to $200 airline fee credit, and complimentary Hilton Gold Status with The Platinum Card® from American Express. It’s one of my favorite cards for earning American Express Membership Rewards points.
As you scroll further down the page, it continues to customize to your personal American Express experience based on your cards that you currently hold.
However, I do think that American Express can make the actual interface a bit better and interactive. I’ll give it a 8.5/10.
Third party travel sites have one ultimate goal – have the lowest price out of everyone and make their profit. While there isn’t one exact answer to this, here are a couple mock reservations to compare across the board.
The easiest way to do this is through Google Maps. I’ll show you how!
Let’s say you want to stay at the Little America in Downtown Salt Lake City. You simply type the name into Google Maps and this will appear.
As you can see in the center of the screen, it lists “The Little America Hotel – Salt Lake City” in red, and next to it is a “$89” price tag. That is the lowest the hotel is offered at for a one night stay on April 19th, 2019. If you scroll on the left hand side, all of the prices are presented here.
It appears in this case it is best to simply book direct through the hotel. However, checking American Express Travel showed me the following…
At first impression, you would see that the price is immediately higher than going direct. However, take into consideration the upper left hand corner that says “Get 5X points”. With the American Express Platinum Card, you are able to earn 5X points per $1 on the stay. But the $89 or $99 is not your final price. The picture below is the final price.
If you were to book with an American Express Platinum Card, you can earn 560 American Express Membership Rewards. I tend to value AMEX Membership Rewards points at ~2 cents each, so these are worth roughly ~$11 to me.
If you were to book direct on the hotel’s website, you would save $11.36, and you would also earn 101 American Express Membership Rewards (1X per $1), which are worth roughly $2. So it is an extremely close trade off in this case.
However, one rule is clear. Do not use your valuable American Express Membership Rewards points on this website! I would value 16,076 American Express Membership Rewards to be worth ~$320 when I transfer them to valuable airline partners. So redeeming them at this hotel would be a horrible value. This case will be applicable nearly across the board with American Express Travel.
Let’s try the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, California. With Agoda, the price is $847 post-tax. And the price for booking direct with Hilton in this case is $877 post-tax.
A ~$30 different is pretty sizable for the same exact room. However, keep in mind that you can earn a load of Hilton points and a great chance at an upgrade with a card like the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend.
However, with American Express Travel, the price was $1,021.63 post-tax. As an American Express Platinum cardholder, this raised price tag does come with perks because you can book through AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts.
This hotel gives 5X AMEX Membership Rewards points per dollar, so I would earn 5,105 American Express Membership Rewards Points, which I’d value at over ~$100.
While that value doesn’t make up the gap, you also get a $100 property credit, complimentary breakfast, a special amenity, and late check-out.
So in this particular case, I would be booking directly with Hilton, earning bonus Hilton points with my AMEX Hilton card, and hoping my status would get me an upgrade.
When Does It Make Sense to Book Through AMEX Travel?
There certainly are cases where booking with AMEX makes complete sense. Like the Pan Pacific Seattle Hotel in Seattle, Washington, for example.
The prices were the same across the board on Google Maps, so it came down to comparing the hotel directly and American Express Travel. And the prices were pretty close!
With American Express Travel (left), you are paying $241.87. But, only $218.75 is going to be paid through American Express Travel. The other $23.12 will be billed when you checkout, and that will be through the hotel. With booking through American Express Travel in this case, you will earn 1,095 ($219 x 5 points per dollar) American Express Membership Rewards when you book with an American Express Platinum. To me, that’s worth $20+. So in this case, it is worth it booking with AMEX Travel!
While I have minimal interaction with American Express Travel directly, the few times I have called needing assistance have been smooth. However, booking a hotel with cash is always a bit more difficult than booking with points. Typically, if you are able to book with points, you can cancel your room and your points will be refunded immediately.
One portion that I have no experience with is their “Lowest Rates Guarantee”. It is presented that if you are able to find a lower price elsewhere, American Express will refund the difference. Their terms and conditions say:
If you book a qualifying prepaid hotel rate on amextravel.com and then find the same room, in the same hotel, for the same dates, the same number of children and adults, at a lower price online, before taxes and fees, we’ll refund you the difference. Your claim must be submitted prior to your stay, before the date of check-in.
If you have any experience with this, I’d love to hear how it went in the comments!
Booking travel in the most efficient way can take some time and effort. In regards to American Express Travel, I would put it on your list to check if you have an AMEX Platinum Card. However, I have yet to find a case where American Express Travel has a true advantage outside of their generally solid customer service.
If you have any American Express Travel tricks or tips, be sure to leave them in the comments below!
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