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One of the many ways to redeem Membership Rewards points is to pay for travel through the American Express Travel portal. Whether it's to book flights, hotels, cars, cruises or vacations, you can use the AmEx Pay With Points option. However, the redemption rate varies depending on the type of travel you book and the AmEx card you use to Pay With Points.
Complicating things further, certain cards are eligible for bonus points when cardmembers use Pay With Points on AmEx Travel — making this an even more attractive redemption option for eligible cardmembers. But this valuable points rebate has important limitations and caps.
As you can see, there's a lot to keep in mind. Let's dive into the details of how you can redeem Membership Rewards points for travel through the AmEx Travel Pay With Points option.
» Learn more: AmEx Membership Rewards: How to earn and use them
Which cards are eligible for Pay With Points
All American Express cards that earn Membership Rewards points are eligible to use Pay With Points to redeem points through AmEx Travel. Eligible Membership Rewards cards include:
What travel purchases are eligible for Pay With Points
American Express cardmembers can use Pay With Points to pay for the following types of travel booked through AmEx Travel:
Prepaid hotels — including Fine Hotels & Resorts on eligible cards.
Prepaid rental cars.
How many AmEx points for a flight?
Much like other dynamic pricing model travel rewards programs, the amount of Membership Rewards points needed for a flight will vary based on your flight preferences and card type.
The AmEx Pay With Points value depends on the type of travel you book using Pay With Points. On almost all Membership Rewards cards — excluding the Blue from American Express® card — you'll get 1 cent per point in value per point redeemed for flights and 0.7 cents per point toward other travel redemptions.
The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express cardmembers also get 1 cent per point toward Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings.
» Learn more: The best AmEx cards
How to Pay With Points
1. Login and input travel details
To use your Membership Rewards points to Pay With Points, start by logging into your AmEx account at American Express Travel. Choose the type of travel you want to book. Enter your travel details and then click the search button.
2. See what trips you can afford with your points stash
AmEx Travel will price the results in both US dollars and points. The points rate won't factor in any bonus points you might qualify for — as this benefit is a points rebate, not a discount. \
So, you'll need to have enough points in your account to pay the full price of the trip. Then, if you booked a qualifying flight, you'll get a points rebate 6-10 weeks after booking the flight.
3. Select your payment plan and book
After selecting your travel plans, enter the traveler(s) information, request seats and consider AmEx's additional insurance products.
Finally, AmEx will present four payment options:
Use Only Points.
Use Points + Card.
Use Only Your Card.
Monthly Installments with Plan It®.
If you want to only use points, AmEx will automatically apply the total number of points needed. As noted in the fine print, your AmEx card will be charged for the full price of the flight. Then, you'll receive a statement credit after the Membership Rewards are redeemed from your account. AmEx notes that this statement credit may take up to 48 hours to process.
If you want to use a mix of Points + Cash, enter the number of points you want to apply to the purchase. You'll need to apply at least 5,000 points. But otherwise, there's no other restriction on the number of points you can use. If you want, you can apply an exact number of points so you'll still have enough points for a future points redemption.
The next step is critical if you have The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or American Express® Business Gold Card. To get the Airline Bonus points rebate, you must charge an eligible flight booking to your eligible card. Make sure to select your eligible card from the credit card dropdown and enter the security code to bill the booking to your eligible card.
If your flight qualifies for the Airline Bonus, AmEx should email you within a day or two to share the good news. However, don't check your Membership Rewards account quite yet. AmEx waits 6-10 weeks after the airfare purchase before providing the points rebate.
» Learn more: Which AmEx card is right for you?
Which cards offer a Pay With Points Airline Bonus
Two publicly available American Express small business cards offer a points rebate when you use Pay With Points to pay for flights through American Express Travel:
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.
American Express® Business Gold Card.
These points rebates — which are referred to as an "Airline Bonus" by AmEx — boost the effective redemption rate you get when redeeming points through Pay With Points.
You'll need to use Pay With Points to book qualifying flights through American Express Travel to get this rebate. To qualify, flights must be either on your "selected qualifying airline" or in first or business class on any other airline.
The "selected qualifying airline" for the Airline Bonus perk will be the same airline you choose for the Airline Fee Credit offered on each of these cards.
That means that if you choose American Airlines as your airline for these benefits, you'd get the Airline Bonus on any American flight booked using Pay With Points through the AmEx Travel portal. However, you'll need to book business or first class to get the rebate on any other airline.
» Learn more: Tips for collecting AmEx Membership Rewards
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - 35% Airline Bonus
Cardholders of the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express receive a 35% Airline Bonus when using Pay With Points to book qualifying flights through AmEx Travel. Cardholders can get up to 1,000,000 bonus points back per calendar year. A 35% rebate may not sound that significant, but it really boosts the effective redemption rate that you'll get from your points.
Say that you redeem 100,000 points to Pay With Points for a qualifying flight costing $1,000. You'll get 35,000 points back on the redemption. That means you're effectively only redeeming 65,000 points for a flight costing $1,000. That's a redemption rate of 1.54 cents per point.
Although AmEx sets an annual cap on this benefit, it's pretty high. To maximize this benefit, you'll need to redeem 1,428,571 points for qualifying flights through Pay With Points in a year.
American Express® Business Gold Card - 25% Airline Bonus
American Express® Business Gold Card members get a 25% Airline Bonus when booking qualifying flights using Pay With Points. This benefit is capped at 250,000 bonus points per calendar year.
At a 25% rebate, American Express® Business Gold Card members effectively get a 1.33 cents per point redemption rate on qualifying Pay With Points redemptions. Cardholders will max out this benefit when redeeming 1,000,000 Membership Rewards points for qualifying redemptions in a calendar year.
American Express Pay With Points, recapped
All Membership Rewards-earning AmEx cards are eligible to redeem points through Pay With Points. However, the redemption rate depends on the card you have and the type of travel for which you're redeeming points.
Cardmembers of most AmEx cards get a redemption rate of 1 cent per point for flights and — on eligible cards — Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings. Even better, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Business Gold Card cardmembers get bonus points when redeeming points for qualifying flights through Pay With Points. This rebate can effectively boost your redemption rate as high as 1.54 cents per point.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card