Last week, American Express US announced a wide range of new perks and benefits across a wide range of their products, designed to offer cardholders additional value at a time when many bonus categories and travel benefits are less useful than before.
As Canadians who play the US credit card game, many of us might be holding onto some high-annual-fee US cards and wondering whether we’d be able to extract any additional value from these benefits.
In this post, let’s take a look at the temporary perks that Amex US has announced and think about how we as Canadians may or may not be able to take advantage of them.
In This Post
- Amex US Platinum Card
- Amex US Business Platinum Card
- Amex US Marriott Bonvoy Cards
- Amex US Hilton Honors Cards
- Amex US Green Card
- Amex US Delta Cards
Amex US Platinum Card
The Amex US Platinum Card will offer statement credits of up to US$20 per month on streaming services and up to US$20 on wireless services, both of which must be purchased from US providers, from May to December 2020. The total amount of credits you can earn is US$320, which would occur if you maximized both sets of credits for all eight months.
As with many of the other credits being offered, the US-only requirement can make it tough for Canadians to extract maximum value here.
Streaming services should be easy enough – if you use Spotify, Netflix, Hulu Plus, or any other streaming service, you should be able to set your billing address as your US address and pay with your US credit card, in which case you’d avail of the US$20 monthly credit.
However, I don’t see an easy way for Canadians to benefit from the credits for US wireless services, unless you do incur cellular charges from a US service provider in the first place. For most of us, I think US$160 in credits from the streaming side is the maximum return that we can expect on the Platinum Card, which doesn’t go a very long way towards justifying the card’s US$550 annual fee.
I had signed up for the Platinum Card last year, but even though I’ll be using it to cover my streaming costs for the rest of the year, I’m not feeling too inclined to keep the card for a second year, as many of its benefits overlap with the other cards I hold. The only redeeming quality is the 5x MR points on airfare, so I’ll have to weigh that against the US$550 annual fee when the card comes up for renewal later this year.
Amex US Business Platinum Card
The Amex US Business Platinum Card will offer statement credits of up to US$20 per month on wireless services and up to US$20 per month on shipping purchases, both of which must be purchased from US providers, from May to December 2020. The total amount of credits you can earn is US$320, which would occur if you maximized both sets of credits for all eight months.
Additionally, the card will offer an additional two US$100 credits for US purchases with Dell; this is on top of the two US$100 Dell credits that are already offered on the card, making it a total of US$400 in Dell credits for the year. These are divided into two periods: a net US$200 credit until June 30, and then another net US$200 credit between July 1 and December 31.
For Canadians, the wireless services category faces the same challenge as above, while the shipping category can ostensibly be useful for some business owners who have shipping needs out of the US, but would probably be lost on you if you had applied for the Business Platinum purely for the signup bonus.
Meanwhile, the Dell credits can of course be used to earn some free electronics from Dell, but it does require shipping to a US address, as purchases made from Dell Canada would not count as a “US purchase”. While the idea purchasing Dell gift cards might have crossed your mind, unfortunately Dell doesn’t sell their own gift cards online, so that won’t work.
The best way to take advantage of these credits would be if you had a friend or family member in the US whom you could ship your items to; they could then ship these items across the border to you, or give them to you when you next see each other.
Some Canadians like to use parcel receiving services right across the border to make US purchases, which could work as well, but retrieving your items may be a challenge with the border closed to non-essential travel until further notice.
Either way, US$400 in free stuff from Dell is pretty hard to pass up, so make sure to register for the first set of US$200 in credits and lock in your purchase before the end of June.
Personally, after using up US$400 in credits on my Amex US Business Platinum, I’ll likely be cancelling the card instead of renewing it for a third year. Between the initial signup bonus of 100,000 MR points, the complimentary WeWork benefit last year, the annual Dell credits, and the airline fee credits, I’m very happy with the value I’ve already gotten out of this card, but I don’t see enough ongoing value to justify keeping it around at US$575/year.
Amex US Marriott Bonvoy Cards
On the Amex US Bonvoy Brilliant Card and most other Marriott-branded cards issued by Amex and Chase (including the now-discontinued Amex US Bonvoy Card, but excluding the Amex US Bonvoy Business Card), you’ll now earn 6x points on up to $7,500 spent at US supermarkets through July 2020.
Meanwhile, through August 2020, purchases at US restaurants will count towards the US$300 Marriott credit on the Bonvoy Brilliant, in light of the fact that most cardholders will be staying at hotels much less often this year and may find it challenging to use up the US$300 Marriott credit.
Among US supermarkets and US restaurants, neither category is particularly easy for Canadian residents to take advantage of at a time when the border is closed to non-essential travel.
Perhaps travel to the US will be possible by July, but even then, it’s questionable whether earning 6 Bonvoy points per US dollar spent at US supermarkets is the best return you could be earning anyway.
Similarly, spending the US$300 Marriott credit at a US restaurant may be possible by August; however, arguably an easier way to take advantage of this credit would be to simply purchase Marriott gift cards, either online or at a Marriott hotel that sells them, of up to US$300 in value.
The terms don’t say anything about gift cards and many data points indicate that it works, so this seems to be fair game, and you can stock up on Marriott gift cards for your future hotel stays even if you don’t plan on travelling for the rest of the year.
On my part, I remain reasonably confident of using up the US$300 credit on my Bonvoy Brilliant along some Marriott hotel stays later in the year; if for some reason I’m not able to, then I’ll use the gift card solution.
Amex US Hilton Honors Cards
Additionally, any annual free weekend night certificates (granted upon signing up for the Aspire, upon spending $60,000 in a calendar year on the Aspire, or upon spending $40,000 in a calendar year on the Surpass) will now be valid for any day of the week, not just weekends, and will be valid for 24 months rather than the usual 12.
Next, the Hilton Aspire comes with a US$250 Hilton resort credit, and just like the Bonvoy Brilliant, that credit will now also cover your spending at US restaurants through August 2020.
Finally, if we consider the no-fee Amex US Hilton Card in addition to the above two cards, the points you earn on all three cards will now count towards your Hilton elite status and lifetime status qualification.
Having the points you earn count towards elite status sounds interesting on the surface, until you consider the fact that you get instant top-tier Diamond status simply by holding the Hilton Aspire Card, so there isn’t really too much to be gained here.
In theory, if you wanted to pursue Lifetime Diamond status (in case you’re worried about the Hilton Aspire dropping its Diamond status benefit at some point), then you could spend US$166,666 at US supermarkets, at the promotional 12x earning rate, to rack up the 2,000,000 Hilton Honors points required for Lifetime Diamond.
The more interesting angles here relate to the Hilton Aspire’s US$250 Hilton resort credit, as well as the free weekend night certificates.
If you don’t see yourself staying at a Hilton resort before 2020 ends, then you’ll want to find another way to unlock the credit. And while mercurial methods may have been recommended in the past, Amex US recently added terms and conditions to safeguard against those who tend to change their minds a lot.
Therefore, the ability to redeem the credit at US restaurants will be essential, but again, that requirement may be tough for Canadians to meet.
The easiest ways to do so may be if you happen to visit the US before the end of August, which I imagine will apply to some, but not many, of us.
Otherwise, the only way I see this working is if a US-based friend or family members of yours was willing to let you place takeout/delivery orders on behalf of them using your Hilton Aspire and then pay you back in cash (perhaps a percentage of the total, so that everyone benefits).
Maybe we can organize some kind of marketplace in Prince of Travel Elites – if there are any enterprising, US-based, and very hungry members in the group, please do speak up.
Then let’s talk about the annual free weekend night certificates. These have now been expanded to be usable on any night of the week, not just Fridays through Sundays, which should be great for combining multiple certificates into a single high-value stay. Remember that you can redeem these certificates at almost all Hilton properties, even the 120,000-points-per-night Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, as long as you can find standard room availability.
I should note that there have been data points in the past of the free weekend night certificate being usable on weekdays anyway (it was simply a matter of hoping that the Hilton phone agent forgets to check the day of the week when making the booking), but this change at least ensures that booking during the weekdays is fully above-board.
Personally, I still have some hope of spending the US$250 resort credit at a Hilton resort before the year is up, but in case it doesn’t happen, I’ll be keeping the US restaurants angle in the back of my mind too. Regardless, I definitely plan to keep my Hilton Aspire around for the long term thanks to its invaluable benefits.
Amex US Green Card
I don’t actually have the Amex US Green Card, so I’ll keep this section brief. The Green Card hasn’t added too much in the way of interesting benefits, either, only a credit of US$10/month on wireless services purchased from US providers for the rest of the year, up to a maximum of US$80.
If you do have US wireless services and hold multiple of these cards, you could strategically split your bill payments across the Platinum Card, the Business Platinum, and the Green Card to cover as much of your wireless bill as possible.
For the rest of us, though, the US wireless credit will have to go by the wayside – unless you can find a trusted contact to cover their wireless bill and then split the credits some way.
The Green Card is a product I’ve never held before, and considering its relatively strong 3x points on travel and transit, I’ll likely be picking it up for a small boost to my US MR balance (in the form of its signup bonus of up to 45,000 US MR points via incognito mode) sometime soon.
Amex US Delta Cards
Similarly, I don’t carry the Amex US Delta cards at the moment, and frankly haven’t given them much attention here on Prince of Travel as someone who rarely flies Delta.
I don’t have to much to say about this, as it seems pretty unlikely that we Canadians will be patronizing US supermarkets in significant numbers by July, and even then, I don’t find great value in Delta Skymiles – unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think I’ve even earned a single SkyMile before.
I’d like to dabble with the program in the near future as a means to try out China Airlines business class, so I’ll probably take a closer look at the Amex US Delta cards’ signup bonuses at that point.
Across the board, I think Amex US’s relief efforts in the form of additional perks and expanded earning categories for 2020 are quite impressive for US-based cardholders, even if we Canadians may find it more difficult to extract value. The credits for streaming services and Dell purchases should be easy enough to cash out, but the remaining benefits may require some assistance from a friend or family member across the border to fulfill the US-based requirement for most of the credits.
Depending on how much value you get out of these benefits, as well as whether you see yourself travelling in the rest of 2020 and using your cards’ other travel perks, there may be a case for downgrading or cancelling your Amex US card this year if you don’t see the ongoing value. Just bear in mind that, with Amex US, you won’t be able to get the signup bonus again after you’ve held the card once.
Meanwhile, here in Canada, we remain on the lookout for whether American Express will introduce similar new benefits for Canadian cardholders. While Double Rewards on the Amex Platinum Card was a great start, I would expect that individuals who hold other travel-oriented products would expect some form of relief measures as well, so let’s wait and see.