If you’ve been racking up Membership Rewards points using The Platinum Card from American Express over the past year, now is the time to turn your points into post-pandemic travel. Here are some options for booking a trip to the “Land of Smiles.”
Thinking about booking a trip to Thailand as the world opens back up?
There are many different ways to use your credit card rewards and miles to get yourself a free trip to the “Land of Smiles” and also lots of airlines you can use to route yourself to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK).
If you’ve been racking up Membership Rewards points using The Platinum Card® from American Express over the past year – or any other Amex rewards-earning card – now is the time to turn your points into post-pandemic travel.
Since there are a few ways to put these points to work for planning an epic trip, let’s first look at the two methods for planning international travel. Then I’ll share my top option for redeeming my American Express earnings to land myself in the birthplace of pad thai. (Spoiler alert: It’s transferring points for round-trip business class travel on All Nippon Airways [ANA] via Japan.)
See related: How I use my Amex Platinum card
Two ways to redeem Amex points for international travelThere are two distinct ways to use your Membership Rewards points to book an international ticket to Thailand. You can either book directly through the American Express Travel portal, or you can transfer your points to any of the 19 Membership Rewards airline partners and book directly with them.
Which way is better? Both options are fantastic, but you’ll need to factor in where you are going, which airlines will take you there and how much the ticket costs to determine which booking method will give you a better return on the value of your points.
Booking with Amex Travel
When I log in to my American Express account and search the travel page, it’s easy to see that tickets from Los Angeles (LAX) to Thailand (BKK) in late summer 2021 are around $750 round trip in economy class, or 75,000 Membership Rewards points. Not too bad since I got 100,000 points from my Platinum card’s welcome bonus, and the flights are on ANA – a nice Japanese airline.
However, since a trans-Pacific flight to Bangkok is a long plane ride, I prefer to travel premium class whenever possible. If I use Amex Travel to look up the cost of that same round-trip ANA flight from LAX to BKK in business class, it’s $6,377. Paying with Membership Rewards, the equivalent price is 637,655 points. Unfortunately, that’s more points or money than I normally have at any given time to spend on a flight.
See related: Cash back vs. points: Which is better?
Booking through a Membership Rewards travel partner
You can also transfer your Membership Rewards points to one of the program’s travel partners, then use those points to book your trip through that airline’s mileage program.
For the same trip to Thailand from LAX, you could transfer points from Membership Rewards to the ANA mileage program. Once the points arrive in your ANA account (which might take a few days), you can use them to book your tickets. Amex Travel bases the points cost of your flight on the actual ticket price, but ANA charges set rates according to the class of service, fare type, and whether you’re traveling during high, medium or low season.
For example, the same ANA business class fare I would have paid over 600,000 miles for on the travel portal would only cost 100,000 miles during the low season purchased directly through ANA. Guess which ticket I’ll be choosing to fly to Thailand.
See related: Avoid these common travel credit card mistakes
Which option should you choose?
To know which method is best for booking any specific itinerary, you’ll have to check and compare all of your options every time.
The benefit of booking through a mileage program is that sometimes, as in my example, you can squeeze more value out of your points – especially if you purchase more expensive premium tickets. But you’ll have to do the research to know which airline partner programs to check.
On the other hand, if you book through Amex Travel, you may get a better deal on points cost if the fare is already low. And since this type of rewards ticket is considered a “paid” ticket from the airline’s perspective, you’ll still earn miles from the flight in the airline’s loyalty program when you take your trip.
Membership Rewards points earned from the American Express Platinum card are valuable for booking big trips like a post-pandemic visit to Thailand. Because these points provide flexibility when booking tickets, you have many options to get the most redemption value.