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If you carry The Platinum Card® from American Express
or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
, you may not know about the Amex International Airline Program benefit available through your account.
The program offers both special points redemption rates and discounted fares when you book premium-cabin seats on specific airlines. The devil, of course, is in the details, so let’s dive in.
We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.
The Amex International Airline Program gets you access to lower airfare with more than 25 participating airlines when you book in first, business, or premium economy class.
You need to book directly through the Amex International Airline Program landing page — which is separate from Amex Travel — to get these discounts.
Fares that qualify for discounts
Amex International Airline Program special rates only apply to premium-cabin fares, including premium economy, first, and business class. Be sure to select the correct class of service in order to see qualifying fares for this program — for instance, you won’t see these discounts if you select economy class.
Read more: The best credit card rewards sweet spots that get you the most from your hard-earned points and miles
You can purchase Amex International Airline Program fares for yourself and up to seven people traveling with you on the same itinerary. However, you cannot purchase these fares for other people when you aren’t traveling with them. The discounts apply to both refundable and nonrefundable tickets.
As mentioned above, you need to be a Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card cardholder to access the Amex International Airline Program and its benefits.
See Pay Over Time APR
75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of card membership
14.24 – 22.24 Variable
Good to Excellent
100,000 Membership Rewards® factors after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases inside your first three months of card membership
Bonus Amex factors
Beyond reductions on eligible flights, you may additionally earn 5 Amex factors per greenback while you guide via this system while you pay together with your Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card (Note: Starting January 1, 2021, the 5x points will apply up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).
Paying with points
You can spend your Membership Rewards points at a rate of 1 cent per point toward travel purchases with Amex Travel, and this includes special fares purchased through the Amex International Airline Program.
Read more: How to use the Amex Travel Portal to book flights, hotels, rental cars and more — and make the most of your Membership Rewards points
Amex Business Platinum Card members will also get a 35% points rebate when using points on first and business class fares, as well as premium economy fares on the airline they selected for the annual airline incidental fee credit**.
This rebate makes using points for flights a reasonable option to consider; for personal Platinum Card members, however, you’ll generally get much better value by transferring your points to a partner airline loyalty program and booking premium-cabin award seats.
American Express Membership Rewards points are worth, on average, 1.8 cents apiece according to Insider’s points and miles valuations. That’s because you can often get outsized value by transferring points to partners and booking award travel.
Note that Amex International Airline Program fares may carry restrictions and offer different benefits than regular fares sold directly by the airline. So be sure to read the fine print!
For example, not all special fares are refundable, even in a business-class cabin. Special fares may also be ineligible for ground services such as limousine service or lounge access (as is the case with certain fares on Emirates).
Finally, note that Amex charges a $39 fee to make bookings over the phone, so it’s best to book online whenever possible.
Although flights from most airlines are available through Amex Travel, special Amex International Airline Program rates are only available from participating airlines.
- Air China
- Air France
- Air New Zealand
- Asiana Airlines
- British Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- China Airlines
- Etihad Airways
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
If you’re traveling to a destination that isn’t served by one of the above airlines, you won’t be able to find a special rate with the Amex International Airline Program. However, because Amex Travel is a full-service travel agency, other fare options will be shown.
By default, when you search for flights through Amex, you’ll just get normal rates. To use the Amex International Airline Program, you need to go to the specific program link. Make sure to log in to your American Express account before you search.
If you search for premium-cabin flights, itineraries that are eligible for the International Airline Program discount will be highlighted in the search results. You’ll see the original price crossed out and the discounted price shown in its place.
The “original price” for this itinerary shown on the Amex Travel website matches what Delta is charging on its own website — in this case, the International Airline Program fare is more than a $400 discount compared to what Delta is charging for direct bookings.
However, just because it’s discounted doesn’t mean it’s the best fare – for these dates, American Airlines flights without the International Airline Program discount are still $135 cheaper than the discounted Delta/Virgin Atlantic flights.
If you need to book a cash ticket in premium economy, business, or first class and you have a Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card, checking IAP for discounts is a no-brainer.
But the International Airline Program can also be a great way to use points to book discounted premium fares for less than you’d pay for an award ticket, particularly if you have the Amex Business Platinum Card. Let’s look at a business-class flight from Atlanta to Paris as an example.
One way to book this ticket is to transfer your Membership Rewards points to Delta and book an award ticket, which would cost 320,000 Membership Rewards points plus about $6 in taxes and fees.
A cash ticket on the same dates costs $3,919 — and with the International Airline Program, you’ll save another $478, making it $3,441 round-trip, or 344,120 Membership Rewards points.
If you have the Platinum Card, you’ll pay about 24,000 fewer points if you transfer to Delta to book an award flight. However, if you have an Amex Business Platinum Card, you can pay 344,120 Membership Rewards points, and you’ll get a 35% rebate of 120,442 points, making your net cost just under 224,000 points.
On top of that, you can earn miles for the ticket with the frequent flyer program of your choice. For example, if you credited these flights to Delta, you would earn 19,450 Delta miles, 6,591 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), and 3,890 Medallion Qualification Dollars.
The Amex International Airline Program sometimes offers highly attractive fares for premium-cabin travel compared to the rates that are available to the general public. On top of that, you’ll earn 5x Membership Rewards points for your flight purchases. And if you have an Amex Business Platinum Card, you can use Membership Rewards points to pay for the flight and get a 35% points rebate for business and first class (or premium economy on your selected airline).
Will you want to regularly use this program? That depends on your travel patterns, but probably not. That being said, if you’re stuck buying a ticket, the International Airline Program is always an option worth checking, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the savings.