Booking Travel With Your AmEx Card is Getting Way Better in 2020

Pop quiz: what’s the all-around best credit card to use to book your travel? (HINT: After January of 2020, that answer will change).
Last updated Jan 6, 2020 | By Brandon Neth
Booking Travel With Your AmEx Card

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Let’s be real. If we’re talking about changes to credit card benefits, it’s usually bad news. Earlier this year we got hit with huge devaluations on several Citibank cards, the Uber Visa Card, and the cult classic City National Bank Crystal Infinite Credit Card, to name a few

But this time, we’re talking about good news.

Okay, there’s a little bad mixed in (more on that in a minute), but for the most part we’re talking about good changes for many premium American Express cards. Starting soon, these new perks could definitely be a game-changer, and you’ll want to take another look at which card you pull out of your wallet before you pull the trigger on any big trips.

Here are four big changes to many American Express cards starting in January 2020 that you need to know about.

Jump To

New Amex trip cancellation and interruption insurance

Traveling through Denver in February and worried about a blizzard? Come down with a wicked ear infection right before your trip? If you’re booking your travel after January 1, 2020, just pay with one of your premium American Express cards and have no fear.

That’s because if you book a flight entirely on your American Express, or if you book a flight with rewards and just pay taxes with your card, you’re covered. If your flight is canceled because of sudden illness, inclement weather, jury duty, or even terrorist activities, you’ll now be entitled to up to $10,000 of reimbursement from the card’s trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

If you’re booking travel after January 1, just use one of these American Express cards to get this new coverage automatically:

Here’s how it works. Say you’ve booked a roundtrip United flight and a non-refundable prepaid Marriott hotel room, but you catch the flu the day before. You visit the doctor, and you call United to cancel your flight and get hit with the standard $200 cancellation fee. And, of course, you can’t get your non-refundable hotel room refunded.

But when you’re feeling better, you just send the paperwork from United, from Marriott, and from your doctor to American Express and file a trip cancellation claim. They’ll pay you back for the cancellation fees United hit you with, plus the non-refundable hotel charges.

This even works if you’ve booked a trip for your spouse or other immediate family member on your card. The limits on this coverage are up to $10,000 per trip, or up to $20,000 per eligible account per year. But even if you get the curse of terrible travel luck one year and use up all the coverage benefits on your American Express Platinum card, you could book your next flights on your Delta Reserve card instead and still be covered.

One important note is that you’re only covered if you have a return flight booked. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a round-trip ticket. You can have two one-way trips booked to be.

New Amex trip delay insurance

Okay, so what if your flights are delayed but not cancelled? If you’d booked a trip on an American Express card before January 1, 2020, you’d be out of luck for any help in this scenario. But not anymore.

After January 1, 2020, here’s how it would play out. Imagine you’re at the airport waiting for the last flight out of the night. All of a sudden that flight gets delayed until the next morning. You’re stranded at the airport for the next nine hours and you’re understandably annoyed. But American Express has your back.

Thanks to the new changes, if your flight is delayed you’ll be eligible for reimbursement for unexpected expenses you have no choice but to pony up for. So instead of sleeping on the airport floor, you can go ahead and grab a room at the airport hotel. You can even enjoy a meal and a glass of wine at the bar because American Express is picking up the tab. (Just make sure you put these charges on one of these cards that cover your trip!)

If your flight is delayed more than 6 hours, these cards will reimburse you up to $500 per trip:

Coverage kicks in after a 12-hour delay, up to $300 per trip, if you purchased your ticket on one of these cards:

Changes to Amex purchase protection, return protection, and extended warranty

Here’s where we start to get into the not-so-great news. But while we’re definitely getting a decrease in coverage here, it could be worse.

I’m talking about purchase protection. Some people don’t realize this exists, but if you make a purchase on a credit card, that item can be covered if it is damaged, stolen or lost. Each card issuer has its own set of rules about what is covered and how long it’s covered for.

Starting in January 2020, purchases made on an American Express card will be protected for 90 days, instead of 120 days. It stinks to lose 30 extra days of peace of mind that comes with purchase protection, especially on large purchases. But many other cards (Visa Signature cards, for example) also only offer 90-day protection so Amex is in line with many of its peers.

Another little-known fun fact about credit cards is that many of them offer an extended warranty for things you charge on the card. So if you splurge for that 75-inch TV and it comes with a one-year manufacturer warranty, your credit card may give you extra protection even beyond that time frame.

American Express will now offer an extended warranty of 1 year, down from the current 2 years of extra protection. And many no annual-fee cards, including Blue from American Express and the Amex EveryDay Credit Card, will not have any extended warranty coverage at all starting in 2020. Again, not a great change, but not too terrible.

Similarly, many credit cards offer return protection. If you buy something and the merchant won’t take it back, you could be eligible for reimbursement for the return. Moving forward, return protection will only kick in for things that you purchase on premium American Express cards, like The Platinum Card.

No more Amex Roadside Assistance and Travel Accident Insurance

Unfortunately there’s not much positive spin on this one. American Express is completely eliminating travel accident insurance and roadside assistance starting January 1, 2020. According to American Express though, very few cardholders ever take advantage of these benefits. So even though it’s bad news to lose perks and benefits, it sounds like this will be a non-issue for the vast majority.

I have to admit I’m a little bummed about this one personally, though. I have actually taken advantage of the roadside assistance program to help me out with a flat tire on the side of a busy highway. I’ll still be covered by my Chase Sapphire Reserve card for this help, so I’ll just have to remember to call them for help after January 1.

Bottom line

So, the question is: does new change which is the best credit card to book your travel on?

The best answer to that question up until now has been the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. Even though it isn’t the highest earning card for flights — it earns 3X, compared to 5X on the American Express Platinum Card — it’s been the smartest way to book flights.

That’s because the Chase Sapphire Reserve had benefits that outweighed the extra rewards you’d earn if you booked on your Amex. Trip delay, interruption, and cancellation protection can save you hundreds — even thousands — of dollars when your trip doesn’t go as planned. Not to mention the peace of mind insurance brings.

But now, the American Express Platinum Card is the clear frontrunner for your go-to travel booking card. It will still earn you 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare and hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases, but now it also covers your trip against delays and cancellations too. Remember, even if you book with points and only pay the taxes and fees on your American Express card, you’re still covered.

In a sea of negative changes and devaluations, it’s nice to find a bright spot with exciting new benefits added to these popular cards.

Best Luxury Travel Benefits

Benefits

  • 60,000 Membership Rewards point welcome offer
  • 5X points on eligible flights and hotels
  • $15 in free U.S. Uber rides each month ($20 in December)
  • $200 airline fee credit each year
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Terms apply