Q: I've been asked many times to upgrade my American Express card to platinum. I am especially interested in their companion ticket perk.
Q: I've been asked many times to upgrade my American Express card to platinum. I am especially interested in their companion ticket perk. Are companion tickets only available on a full fare basis? Are they available only for flights originated from the United States? Are they available on short notice?
A: When American Express revamped their Platinum Card's travel benefits, they added so many new perks and privileges that the "International Airline Program" often got lost in the shuffle.
Here's how the Platinum Card's International Airline Program works:
- Start by booking your travel exclusively through American Express Platinum Travel Service, or PTS. They'll match the airfare you see on the most popular travel booking websites, plus they've got access to special resources that can get you seats when other services can't.
- About two dozen international airlines participate in the IAP, giving you plenty of flexibility when booking flights out of the United States. You must start and finish your trip from the United States or from a handful of participating airports in Canada.
- Purchase a "qualifying" first class or business class ticket on a participating airline, and you won't have to pay for the base fare on your companion ticket. Qualifying fares aren't always full price, and a PTS agent can walk you through the best pricing options for your itinerary.
- There's no deadline for purchasing qualifying airfare. You're just at the mercy of the market, with fares getting typically more expensive as your travel date draws closer.
- Even though your companion ticket is "free," you're still responsible for paying airport access fees, fuel surcharges and local taxes on the face value of the airfare. These extra fees can run between $50 and $1,300 per trip, depending on where you're flying and how many connections you'll make.
- You don't have to pay all of your airfare in cash, either. Your PTS agent can arrange to redeem points from your Membership Rewards balance for all or part of your trip's final cost.
Giving up the flexibility of booking cheap web fares may seem counterintuitive, but with the price of many long haul international flights rising, this perk can save lots of money for the right kind of traveler. If you'd like an American Express PTS agent to help you compare some sample itineraries, just call them at 1-800-443-7672.