Sure, credit limits are being slashed all over the country, but that hasn’t hit me yet. What has hit me are cuts to the travel benefits that AmEx offers for their Platinum and Centurion (“Black Card”) members. The travel benefits were always of questionable value to begin with, depending on travel patterns and whatnot, but I’m pretty confident that they are truly losing most of their appeal, and doing so rather quickly.
The first benefit to go this year was one that was only recently introduced – a domestic 2-4-1 ticket deal for both Platinum and Centurion programs. The program was limited, with blackout dates, only 6 carriers participating (the major legacy companies) and ridiculous ticketing fees on both the “free” and the paid ticket. Still, I managed to use the program a couple times and saved $1-200 each time on flights I’d have taken anyways. Not a bad benefit to have. Sadly this one died about 5 weeks ago.
Next up were changes to the Mandarin Oriental benefit for the Centurion program. I’ve only ever once stayed in an Oriental property. We did so in Bangkok as part of our honeymoon. It was phenomenal. I’m not sure that I can really justify spending that much for hotel rooms on a regular basis (says the guy booking in to hostels for the next few vacation nights to save beer money) but it really was an impressive hotel. The Centurion program offers a BOGO deal at each participating property. Pay for one night and get a second night free, with a few minor limitations. That’s a phenomenal deal. The number of hotels participating continues to drop, however, and the substitute benefit is pretty miserable. You now get a $200 food/spa credit instead of a free night. Ouch.
And finally there is the fabled International Airline Program, AmEx’s 2-4-1 international premium airfare deal. This one is so fraught with caveats that it is almost never a good deal. You have to pay pretty much the highest fare available but inventory for cheaper fares needs to be available, and those discount fares can often be half of the top fare. The carriers and destinations are limited. And the free ticket collects no points. Still, every now and then there were deals to be found. Those diamonds in the rough are going to be harder to find if the rumors of airlines departing the program are true. It seems that Continental, Delta and Emirates are all departing the program.
There are a few new hotels joining the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, but that really only benefits folks spending a lot of money on hotel rooms, of which I am not one. I might be getting rid of the card when it comes up for renewal this year after carrying it for about 5 years. The value is disappearing pretty rapidly for me.
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