With COVID-19 putting an indefinite halt on international travel, the question many AMEX Platinum Charge cardholders are struggling with is: how on earth do I spend my S$800 travel credits?
Up till now, American Express has been periodically extending expiring credits, each time pushing the deadline forward by 3-6 months in the hope that things would blow over.
But it’s become increasingly clear that a quick resolution to COVID-19 is wishful thinking, and American Express has rolled out alternative ways of spending the S$400 hotel and S$400 airline credit within Singapore.
The problem? These options are terrible value.
S$400 hotel credit
Back in October, Platinum Charge members received an eDM informing them they could spend their S$400 hotel credit on selected staycation packages at The Fullerton Hotel, Fullerton Bay Hotel, and Ritz-Carlton Millennia Singapore. These must be booked by 31 December 2020, with stays completed by 31 October 2021 (blackout dates apply).
But these packages represent inferior value compared to publicly-available rates, and you’re paying over the odds in most cases. Add the fact that they can’t be changed or refunded, and there’s little reason to get excited.
|AMEX Rate||Public Rate|
|Straits Club Heritage Room||S$668||From S$499|
|Straits Club Marina Bay Room||S$728||From S$534|
|Premier Collyer Suite||S$1,295||From S$1,095|
|Palladian Suite||S$1,415||From S$1,212|
|All rates shown are nett and include breakfast for 2 adults. Both AMEX and Public rates are non-refundable|
For The Fullerton Hotel, the math is straightforward: their Straits Club Indulgence rate is considerably cheaper than the American Express rates, and spending your S$400 hotel credit here is a waste.
Fullerton Bay Hotel
|AMEX Rate||Public Rate|
|Indulgence by the Bay
|Club Privileges by the Bay
(Bay View Room)
|Suite Indulgence by the Bay
|All rates shown are nett and include breakfast for 2 adults.
*Rate shown is for 2 nights under Suite Stay in Style package
Fullerton Bay Hotel rates are a bit harder to compare because I can’t find the exact same package on the official site, but…
- Indulgence by the Bay: You could find an advance purchase rate from S$640 nett for a Premier Room with breakfast included. This won’t include the evening cocktails that the AMEX package has, but are those really worth paying S$328 more for?
- Club Privileges by the Bay: The AMEX rate is slightly higher, and the public rate is fully refundable up to 72 hours before arrival
- Suite Indulgence by the Bay: For S$1,780 nett, you can buy a Suite Stay in Style voucher that gives you 1 night in a Fullerton Suite at the Fullerton Hotel, and 1 night in a Theme Suite at The Fullerton Bay Hotel. That’s much better value than paying S$1,515 for just 1 night
|AMEX Rate||Public Rate|
|Deluxe Kallang||S$675||From S$636|
|Deluxe Marina||S$750||From S$753|
|Deluxe Suite||S$975||From S$989|
|Club Deluxe Kallang||S$925||From S$730|
|Club Deluxe Marina||S$1,000||From S$830|
|Club Deluxe Suite||S$1,175||From S$970|
|All rates shown are nett and include breakfast for 2 adults. Public Rate is fully-refundable|
Not only are public rates at the Ritz-Carlton cheaper than the American Express ones, they’re also fully refundable. In particular, note how club rooms are significantly cheaper under Ritz-Carlton’s Club Escape promotion.
$400 air travel credit
American Express has sent out a separate eDM regarding alternative uses for the S$400 air credit. Customers can either spend it at Harvey Norman, or at Grand Cru for “exclusively curated packages”.
Neither is a great idea.
Customers who opt for the Harvey Norman option will receive a S$400 voucher valid with a minimum spend of S$3,000 on selected categories. This voucher must be used by 31 January 2021.
If you thought that minimum spend requirement was bad, wait till you see the rest of the terms and conditions:
- The voucher can only be used for electrical, computers, furniture and bedding; it expressly cannot be used for cameras.
- The minimum spend must be accumulated within one department category (in other words, you can’t spend S$1,500 on computers and a further S$1,500 on furniture)
- Voucher cannot be used in conjunction with other promotions, privileges, offer, clearance, limited quantity models or display sets
The full T&C can be found here.
In other words, American Express is asking you to trade your airline credit for a highly restricted discount voucher with a hefty minimum spend that can’t be used on promotional items or display sets. I mean, it’d be a fair deal if they gave you a S$400 Harvey Norman voucher instead, with no restrictions, but all the terms and conditions they’ve slapped on it verge on insulting.
Grand Cru Wines
|Package||AMEX Price||Individual Price||Savings|
|Pink and Sparkling||S$800||–||?|
|Bordeaux & Burgundy Classics||S$1,000||–||?|
|Le Sparking Collection||S$1,000||S$1,191||S$91|
|Rare and Sparkles Bundle||S$1,800||S$1,810||S$10|
The full T&C can be found here.
You’ll notice I’ve added a column called “individual price”- this refers to how much you’d pay if you bought the wines individually from the Grand Cru website (thanks to @vjsmits for helping with the legwork). This figure is not available for all packages because some of the wines aren’t listed for sale on the Grand Cru website, and using their overseas retail prices complicates the figure with shipping and taxes.
While the good news is that these AMEX bundles don’t cost more than the sum of the individual wines (that’d be outrageous), I’m still lukewarm about this option. If you love your wines then sure, go for it, but just like Harvey Norman, you’re basically getting a discount voucher with a S$800 minimum spend.
So what do I do with my travel credits then?
If these alternative offers don’t represent a good use of your travel credits, what can you do then?
Where hotel credits are concerned, it’s actually possible to spend them on Singapore properties outside the proffered staycation packages (despite what the official T&Cs say). If you visit the AMEX Travel Portal and search for hotels in Singapore (remember to login to your AMEX account first), you’ll see Travel Credit appear as a payment option:
This will then be deducted from your total payment at check-out.
|❓ Why don’t I see travel credits as a payment option?|
If you don’t see travel credits as a payment option, there could be two possible reasons.
First, the rate may under the Fine Hotels & Resorts or The Hotels Collection programs. Neither of these are eligible for travel credit usage (it used to be, but they devalued it). Second, your total cost may be below S$400. In the example below, Travel Credits don’t appear as a payment option when for 1 night at PARKROYAL Beach Road (S$231.51), but appear when I switch to 2 nights (S$463.01).
But it’s important to note that this isn’t an officially sanctioned way of spending your credits; I was on the phone with AMEX customer service dealing with an unrelated issue when the CSO prompted me that my hotel credits were expiring and asked if I wanted to book the AMEX staycation package. I declined, and she said (rather aggressively if you ask me) “You know you can’t spend them on the travel portal right? You’re not allowed to do that.”
Make of that what you will, but this option could disappear at any time leaving you with no recourse. I’d recommend you try to book something sooner rather than later.
For airline credits, all you can do at this point is make a speculative booking for the future and hope for the best. The AMEX travel portal lets you book air tickets up to 331 days in advance, and you can take a punt on a destination you think may have opened up by then (Hong Kong?).
I’d definitely advise you to book a fare class that allows for changes, however, and should travel to that destination still not be possible come November 2021, I don’t know what will happen to your credit.
It’d be one thing if these alternative options were, well, optional. I don’t fancy blowing my travel credits on premium wine, but hey, if someone else wants to, more power to him. However, American Express customer service has been very clear that further extensions should not be expected, and cardholders are expected to choose from one of these. “Use it or lose it” is the new order of the day.
It’d be another thing if these alternative options actually represented good value. But they don’t, and I’m particularly annoyed by the way the Harvey Norman alternative is being implemented. One of the things I’ve always liked about American Express it that they “give with two hands”, i.e when they give you something, it comes with few to no conditions attached. This Harvey Norman option is a marked change from that approach (but as noted in my year-in-review article, the latest renewal package features some similar changes too).
The AMEX Platinum Charge doesn’t come cheap at S$1,712, but the marketing spiel all along was “yes, but if you travel at least once a year the S$800 travel credits are as good as cash.” It’s no one’s fault that travel is now impossible, but why are customers penalized by being forced to burn their credits on poor value options like this?
Let’s hope they come to their senses.