How to use the Amex Travel Portal to book flights, hotels, rental cars and more — and make the most of your Membership Rewards points

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  • The American Express Travel Portal works much like an online travel agency, and Amex cardholders can use Membership Rewards points, cash, or combine both to book flights, hotels, cars, and more.
  • Some cardholders get exclusive deals and discounts, including Fine Hotels and Resorts access and discounted premium-cabin flights with the International Airline program if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.
  • You can also book Flight + Hotel packages to save money on vacations, or put your points toward a cruise when you're ready to travel again.
  • Read Business Insider's guide to the best American Express cards.

The American Express Travel Portal is a third-party booking site where you can book flights, hotel stays, rental cars, cruises, and vacation packages. If you have an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card, or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you can redeem your points for travel through the site. 

American Express Membership Rewards is one of the most flexible and valuable credit card programs. You can use your points in a variety of ways, including toward statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, food delivery, and more, in addition to booking travel through the Amex Travel Portal.

You can also transfer Membership Rewards points over 20 Amex airline and hotel partners, including Delta, British Airways, and Hilton. Even if you're staying close to home right now, flexible Amex points are a great currency to focus on, whether you want to use points for everyday purchases or stockpile rewards for travel once the pandemic is over.

Here's what you need to know about booking airfare, hotels, and more through the Amex Travel Portal — and how to make the most of your Amex points.

What is American Express Travel?

Amex Travel functions much the same way as Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), and allows you to search for and book flights, hotels, rental cars, vacation packages, and cruises. Anyone can use Amex Travel, but the best deals and benefits are reserved for American Express cardholders.

When you have a card that earns Amex Membership Rewards points, you'll have to option to pay for your booking with points (if it's prepaid), your Amex card, or a combination of both. Additionally, you'll earn bonus points when you pay for travel with a Membership Rewards card. 

The Amex Travel portal is also where Platinum Card, Amex Business Platinum Card, Amex Gold Card, and American Express® Business Gold Card members can access The Hotel Collection to receive room upgrades and an onsite credit to use at participating hotels. And if you have a Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card, you'll have access to the International Airline Program, which offers lower fares for international premium-class travel on over 20 airlines, and the Fine Hotels & Resorts collection for hotel stays. 

Benefits of using the Amex Travel Portal

Like any online travel agency, there are pros and cons to using Amex Travel. One of the biggest benefits is being able to redeem your points for travel without having to worry about award charts, blackout dates, or transfer partners. Amex Travel makes it simple to use your points, even with independent hotels and smaller airlines without a popular loyalty program.

One major downside is using points for hotel stays. Because hotels consider Amex Travel a third-party booking site, reservations made this way will not earn loyalty program points or elite credits, and you may not have your hotel elite status benefits recognized during your stay. This won't matter as much at smaller chains or boutique hotels, but if these perks are important to you it's something to be aware of.

There are a few other key benefits to know:

  • You'll still earn airline miles and elite-qualifying miles: Even though you won't earn points or elite night credits when you book a hotel with Amex travel, you can earn airline and work toward elite qualifcation on flights,  as long as your frequent flyer number on the reservation. 
  • When you pay with certain Amex cards, you'll earn bonus points: When you have an Amex card that earns Membership Rewards points, you can earn bonus points for booking travel through the site. For example, the Platinum Card earns 5x points per dollar spent on airfare booked with Amex Travel or directly with airlines (on up to $500,000 in spending per year), and the Amex Gold Card earns 3x points in the same categories with no cap. The Platinum Card has an annual fee of $550 (See Rates), and the Gold Card has an annual fee of $250 (See Rates)
  • Platinum cardholders get discounts on premium airfare: Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card members can access discounts on international premium-class flights through the International Airline Program, and sometimes save hundreds of dollars per ticket.
  • Book luxury hotels and get extra perks with Fine Hotels and Resorts and The Hotel Collection: Platinum cardholders can book through Fine Hotels and Resorts, which gets you upgrades, free breakfast, and elite-like benefits at participating properties. Gold and Platinum cardholders can also book through The Hotel Collection to get extras including onsite credits and other perks.

New Amex Travel benefits

American Express has also launched new benefits, including the ability to use points toward prepaid rental car bookings made through Amex Travel or 2x points if you pay with an eligible card. The minimum redemption amount is 5,000 points, and you can combine points and cash on the booking if you wish.

Some other benefits are even more lucrative, but only available to certain cardholders for a limited time.

Flight discounts through Amex Travel

Starting January 10, eligible Platinum Card, Amex Business Platinum Card, and Centurion cardholders will have access to discounts of up to 20% on select flights booked through the Amex Travel portal. The routes, flights, and available seats vary, and the offer is valid for bookings made between January 10 and March 31, 2021, for travel through May 31.

American Express will also waive the Amex Travel fee for US customers on flight modifications or new bookings now through March 31, in addition to continuing to honor travel provider policies for changes or cancellations.

Fine Hotels and Resorts — complimentary night or property credit

Platinum Card, Amex Business Platinum Card, and Centurion cardholders will have access to special offers for new bookings made with Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts from January 5 to March 31, 2021, with stay dates through April 30, 2021.

Cardholders can receive a complimentary night or property credit of $250 or more after booking an eligible stay through American Express Travel at more than 200 participating properties. The booking dates and restrictions vary by location, and there's a minimum stay requirement depending on the property. 

The Hotel Collection — complimentary night or property credit

American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Business Gold Card, Platinum Card, Amex Business Platinum Card, and Centurion cardholders are eligible for a complimentary night or property credit of $150 or more on eligible Hotel Collection stays booked through Amex Travel.

A two-night minimum stay is required, and available booking and travel dates vary by property. Similar to the Fine Hotels and Resorts offer, only bookings made from January 5 to March 31, 2021, with stay dates through April 30, are eligible for the deal. 

American Express Membership Rewards cards

To get the most from the Amex Travel Portal, you'll need a card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points. There are a number of options, including premium cards, small-business cards, and cards with a low or no annual fee.

Personal cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards points include:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express (read our Amex Platinum card review)
  • American Express® Gold Card (read our Amex Gold card review)
  • American Express® Green Card (read our Amex Green card review)
  • Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express (read our Amex EveryDay Preferred card review)
  • Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express (read our Amex EveryDay card review)

Small-business Amex Membership Rewards cards include:

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (read our Amex Business Platinum card review)
  • American Express® Business Gold Card (read our Amex Business Gold card review)
  • The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (read our Amex Blue Business Plus card review)

Now let's take a look at each part of the Amex Travel portal. 

How to use the American Express Travel Portal

Book flights through Amex Travel 

To get started, navigate to American Express Travel and click the "Flights" tab on the homepage, then enter your departure airport, destination, travel dates, and the number of passengers. You'll also select whether you want a round-trip or one-way flight, class of service, and if you prefer non-stop flights.

On the next page, you'll see a list of flight options with a set of filters on the left side of the page. You can filter based on the number of stops, departure and arrival time, airline, fare type, and any available benefits from your cards. 

American Express has a preferred relationship with Delta, so you'll see Delta flights listed first when they're available. Further down the list, flights are arranged by price, starting with the lowest. Next to each option, you'll see how many bonus points you'll earn as well as any other perks you'll receive.

For example, I have the Platinum Card and see a note that says I can enter the Delta Sky Club or Centurion Lounge when I fly out of LaGuardia in New York. The search results also remind me that Delta is a featured airline and I'll earn 5x points on my booking. 

The fares you'll see are often the same as what you'll find on other websites, including booking directly with the airline. Sometimes they're an extra few dollars so it's worth double-checking, but for the most part, they're similar. 

Note that Amex normally charges a fee of $6.99 per domestic ticket and $10.99 per international ticket you book through the website (waived for US customer bookings made through March 31, 2021). This fee is waived if you have a Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card. You can purchase a maximum of nine tickets per transaction. 

When you book flights through any third-party site, including this one, you'll still earn miles and have your airline elite status recognized when you fly as long as your frequent flyer number is attached to your reservation. If you forget, you can always add it through the airline later on.

Also, keep in mind you will not see budget airlines listed on amextravel.com. That includes popular options like Norwegian, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, and others. Because of this, there may be cheaper options available that aren't displayed, so it's worth double-checking directly if you have a low-cost airline you like to fly.

Book with cash, points, or a combination of both

If you have a Membership Rewards-earning card, you can use your points to partially or completely pay for travel on the Amex Travel portal, including flights, hotels, cruises, and car rentals. 

You'll see each option on the final payment screen: select to use all points, all cash, or a combination of both. 

Note that when you use points and cash, you have to redeem a minimum of 5,000 points. Each point is worth 1 cent toward airfare, so this comes to at least $50 toward your trip. 

No matter how you pay, you'll be able to earn miles and credit toward elite status when you fly because they're all treated as cash bookings by the airlines. 

If you have the Amex Business Platinum Card and choose to use points to pay for your flights, you'll receive 35% of your points back as a rebate for economy fares on your selected airline, up to 500,000 points per calendar year. You'll get this same rebate on business or first-class flights on any airline as well. 

And if you have the American Express® Business Gold Card, the rebate you'll get is 25% of your points, up to 250,000 points per calendar year. 

About Insider Fares displayed on the Amex Travel Portal

The exception to the rules above is flights with Insider Fares. 

For those flights, your points are worth a little more than 1 cent each, and the exact value varies based on the flight. These fares are only available with points bookings, and you must use your Membership Rewards points to cover the entire fare cost. Because of that, if you don't have enough points to cover the flights, you won't see these fares as an option. 

Don't forget the International Airline Program if you have a Platinum Card

If you have the Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card, you also have access to the International Airline Program, which offers lower fares on premium-class international travel. So far, over 20 airlines participate in the program and the savings can be substantial compared to published fares. 

You can get savings for premium economy, business, or first-class flights through this program. The exact savings you'll get varies based on the airline and route, but can often be several hundreds of dollars. That's a great deal if you're someone who books paid travel to fly overseas. 

Through my Platinum Card, I ran a test search from Dallas to Madrid in business class, and found round-trip fares for $2,968 and $2,971. Below the prices, Amex tells me the retail cost for these tickets is $3,128 and $3,131, respectively. 

However, when I looked them up on Google Flights, the prices showed up as $3,496 and $3,499  — over $500 more per ticket! This is just one example, but values like these are common when booking through the International Airline Program. You stand to cover much of the card's annual fee with one well-priced booking. There's also no limit to how much you can take advantage of the lower fares offered here. 

Book hotels through Amex Travel

Booking a hotel stay functions much the same as the flight booking process. Make sure the "Hotels" tab is selected, then enter your trip details.

On the landing page, select "Hotels" and enter your destination and travel dates.American Express Travel

Again, you have the opportunity to use cash, points, or a combination of both to pay for your stay. Prices are usually similar to booking directly, but some of the big-chain hotels cost a few dollars more, presumably because Amex is adding their commission to the cost. 

An important reminder: There is one major caveat to booking hotels through American Express Travel, or any third-party booking site for that matter. You will not earn hotel points or elite status credit and likely will not have your elite status recognized when you book through the portal. If you care about earning points and elite status, you should avoid booking through third-party sites like this one.

However, if you're booking an independent or boutique hotel that isn't part of any rewards programs or like the simplicity of booking this way, this isn't an issue. And sometimes the hotel you choose is based on location or other personal preferences. 

About Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts 

Those with the Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card have access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which is a collection of over 1,000 hotels worldwide that offer special perks when booking through Amex, including:  

  • Noon check-in when available
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout when available
  • Daily breakfast for two
  • Room upgrade upon arrival when available
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Experience credits, like property credits to use at a spa, dining credits, or another unique amenity (often worth $100 or more)

Exact benefits vary by property and can add serious value to your booking. 

I've used this benefit a couple of times and was pleased by how seriously the hotels considered their part in the program. Having late checkout at 4 p.m. can essentially add an extra day to your stay and comes in handy when you have a late flight. And early check-in can help you get settled sooner if you have a morning arrival. 

Again, you likely won't earn points and elite status if the hotel has its own rewards program. Some people report earning hotel points despite booking through Amex, but it's not guaranteed and I wouldn't count on it. 

That said, the perks you get can be substantial, so it's worth considering on a case-by-case basis whether you want to earn hotel points or use Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts. You can use your benefits to book up to three rooms at a time, and you'll be able to use your perks on all of them. 

There's also The Hotel Collection to consider

If you have the Platinum Card, Amex Business Platinum Card, Amex Gold Card, or American Express® Business Gold Card, you can also access the Hotel Collection, which also offers room upgrades and a $100 onsite credit for dining, spa, or resort activities at 600+ hotels.

The Hotel Collection is entirely separate from Fine Hotels and Resorts, and has different hotels that participate with minimal overlap. When you book through Amex, Platinum cardmembers will earn 5x points per dollar on prepaid bookings, and Gold cardmembers will earn 2x points. 

You can pay with cash at the time of booking or at hotel checkout after your stay. Or you can pay with points, or a combination of points and cash on prepaid bookings only. And there's the same guidance about earning hotel points here, too. You might decide you'd rather have the $100 hotel credit rather than points, depending on the hotel. 

To use this benefit, you must book a minimum stay of two nights, and can't book consecutive stays within 24 hours of each other. This benefit is available for up to three rooms per stay. So if you book three rooms at the same time, you can get a total onsite credit of $300 between three rooms maximum. 

Book Flight + Hotel packages through American Express Travel

The point of booking a vacation package is usually to save money, take advantage of a promotion, simplify the booking process, or all of these. You can search for a flight and hotel, then pay one price for everything. 

Amex doesn't give you a breakdown of how much the flights and rooms cost, and only shows savings on selected hotels. However, when you search for flights and hotels individually and compare the prices, you'll find the savings are often hundreds of dollars, especially on longer trips. 

To book, select the "Flight + Hotel" tab and enter where you want to go, along with the number of travelers and how many rooms you want to reserve. 

You'll see a list of hotels, along with the price per person, total price, and cost if you want to pay for the trip with your Membership Rewards points. Select the hotel you want to stay at, then you'll see a list of flight options. The cheapest flights are already included in the price, but you can select alternate flights for an upcharge. 

Likewise, the cheapest room options are displayed in the base price, but you can pay more for a different room, like a mountain or beach view, a double or king room, or a suite, depending on what's available at the hotel you select. 

I priced out a couple of packages. For the first, I didn't find any notable differences. Booking flights and hotel separately cost nearly the same. But for another, the savings were substantial even though they weren't explicitly stated on the Amex Travel portal. It's worthwhile to compare, especially if you're interested in earning points if the hotel participates in a loyalty program. Otherwise, prices are comparable or better in most cases. 

Similar to booking airfare separately, for each airline ticket you purchase as part of a package, you'll pay $6.99 per domestic ticket and $10.99 per international ticket (currently waived for US customer bookings made through March 31, 2021). This fee is waived if you have a Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card. You can purchase a maximum of nine tickets per transaction.

Personal and business Platinum cardholders will earn 5x points on their package, and other Membership Rewards cards earn 2x points. 

Book car rentals through the Amex Travel Portal

You can also rent cars through American Express Travel. Just type in the city or airport where you want to pick up a car and the dates and times you'll need it under the "Cars" tab. 

You'll see a list of your options starting with the lowest price. At a glance, you can see the price per day, total price, and what's included with the car. On the left side, you can add filters for the car type, price, rental car company, and any special features you're looking for (like an automatic transmission and four-wheel drive). 

Prices are usually the same or comparable to other booking sites or booking directly. However, I always check a couple of different places to make sure I'm getting the best deal. It's worth comparing, especially if you're looking to add a second driver to the reservation, or need to drop the car off later in the day. I've found different sites can vary a lot in pricing, so recommend shopping around. 

You can use cash, points, or a combination to pay for prepaid rentals, or use cash to pay at the counter. 

When you use your Membership Rewards card to pay for your rental, you'll earn 2x points.

Book cruises with American Express Travel

You're able to book a cruise on most of the popular cruise lines around the world through American Express Travel under the "Cruises" tab on the homepage. I found the prices were similar to other booking sites with the main difference being the specific promotions, like onboard credits or prepaid gratuities. Certain websites also run sales, so it's worth shopping around if you're not committed to a particular route or ship. 

After you enter where you want to go and how many nights you'd like to spend on the water, you're taken to a list of results, along with a prominent section for special offers, which are mostly onboard credits. This is worth exploring to get some ideas if you're open. 

And if you have a Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card, you can also take advantage of the Cruise Privileges program, which partners with several big-name cruise lines. When you book through Amex Travel, you'll receive an onboard stateroom credit worth up to $100 to $300, and another exclusive amenity that varies by cruise line like premium wine or extra food options. 

If you have the Amex Green Card, you'll earn 3x points per dollar spent booking your cruise through Amex Travel. All other Membership Rewards-earning cards earn 2x points. 

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