Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.
To help take the sting off paying annual fees, several credit cards from American Express Australia provide a ‘travel credit’ each year – a dollar figure that you can spend on flights, accommodation and car hire when it suits you.
However, it’s not as simple as receiving a ‘statement credit’ after you book your journey (such as you might get when taking up an AMEX Offer): here’s what you need to know to take advantage of this great benefit.
American Express travel credit: the basics
Travel credits are offered on a yearly basis to holders of the following American Express cards:
- American Express Explorer Card: $400 travel credit
- American Express Platinum Edge Card: $200 travel credit
- American Express Platinum Charge Card: $300 travel credit
- American Express Platinum Reserve Card, free with the Platinum Charge Card: a further $400 travel credit
Compare that to annual fees of $395 on the Explorer Card and $195 on the Platinum Edge Card and these products literally pay for themselves, while the travel credits also go a long way to offsetting the Platinum Charge Card’s higher $1,200 annual fee.
Speaking of annual fees, your travel credit will normally arrive within a few days of the annual fee being billed to your account or the first monthly statement being issued on cards without a fee.
You can confirm your own travel credit has landed by logging into your American Express Online account and clicking the ‘your points balance’ link from the main screen:
Regardless of which card you have, each travel credit is valid for 12 months – so either use it or you’ll lose it!
Spending your American Express travel credit
Ready to book your next getaway? Log in to American Express Online as above, click the website’s large ‘travel’ icon at the top, then ‘book travel online’:
If you have more than one American Express card attached to a single online account, first click on the card that provides the travel credit you’re spending, and then click ‘book travel online’.
Next, search for your flight, hotel or hire car – much as you would on any travel website such as Expedia – but note that your travel credit can’t be used to book cruises, so stick with the big three.
Once you’ve found something suitable, proceed through to the payment screen: this is where it can get a little complicated, so follow closely.
Your travel credit can only be applied to one transaction and in the full amount, so a $400 travel credit could be used towards a $420 booking, but couldn’t be used to pay for a $300 booking.
You also can’t pool travel credits together from different cards to spend on the one booking, so if you have both the Explorer Card and the Platinum Edge Card, for example, only one travel credit can be spent per booking.
Assuming your booking costs more than the value of your travel credit, the option to use that credit appears here. Just click on the yellow ‘use travel credit’ button…
… and its value will instantly be deducted from the price of your booking:
The balance of your booking can either be paid in AMEX Membership Rewards points in the amount displayed, by charging your credit card in dollars as normal or a combination of both: just drag the slider in the appropriate direction:
To save your points for another day and pay the remaining amount by credit card, yank the slider to the far left, as above.
American Express travel credit: tips and tricks
Flights booked using travel credits will normally earn frequent flyer points and status credits in line with normal fare and frequent flyer rules, although hotel stays booked via AMEX usually won’t accrue any extra hotel points, ‘nights’ or ‘stays’ in hotel loyalty programs.
That’s because most chains only award these on bookings made direct with that chain: true of Hilton HHonors, Starwood Preferred Guest, IHG Rewards Club, Le Club AccorHotels and many others, so if your options are flexible, consider burning your credit on flights rather than nights.
However, American Express allows your travel credit to be spent on anybody, even if they’re not travelling with you. This can be great as a gift, but be sure to enter their name and details at the ‘traveller information’ screen for a stress-free journey, aside your own address in the billing details section.
In any case, your travel credit is non-refundable and won’t be reactivated if a booking you make with that credit is cancelled, so only use it when your plans are firm.
Don’t have a ‘travel credit’ with your current credit card? Click here to learn more about, and apply for, the American Express Explorer Card, the American Express Platinum Edge Card or the American Express Platinum Charge Card.