Airbnb is a website where you can rent out lodging offered by other hosts in their homes in the form of a room, a bed or a complete apartment by itself. They have recently entered into a tie-up with American Express in India, to offer Amex’s Indian card members a discount of 50% (upto 4000 INR) for one booking per registered member.

airbnbamex

Here is how it works. You select a property on AirBnb, get your price quote in INR, then plug the coupon code which is AMEX#### (the #### are your Amex Card’s first 4 digits). This brings up the discount on your reservation and then you can go ahead and pay the rest of the amount. You can book all the way till June 30, 2014 for stays that are starting by December 31, 2014.

Here are the terms & conditions that are important to note:

  1. An American Express Cardmember for the purpose of this Offer means a person holding a Card issued in India by American Express Banking Corp, except American Express Gift Cards.
  2. Airbnb charges are payable in foreign currency. Foreign Currency Conversion charges of 3.5% plus applicable service tax would be levied on your transactions at Airbnb.com
  3. Coupon code entitles you to a discount for a single booking completed (including host acceptance) using the coupon code “AMEX####” (where “####” represents the first 4 digits of your American Express card) on or before 11.59pm India time on June 30, 2014.
  4. Booking must start on or before Dec 31, 2014 to qualify.
  5. Discount will be 50% off your booking cost (including Airbnb service fees and cleaning fees), up to a maximum discount of Rs.4,000.
  6. Coupon code can be used only once per registered member.
  7. Coupon code is not transferable and not redeemable for cash.

Bottomline: It might be a good idea to try out Airbnb with this promotion.

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 2 Comments

Last year, American Express went about readjusting the cost of transferring MR points into miles with various programs they partner with. While the usual transfer rate used to be 1.6 MR = 1 Mile, after last year’s readjustment everything except JPMiles and Air India Flying Returns Points, everything was 2 MR = 1 Mile.

Now, as per email communication being sent out to members today, this will change as of May 2014 as well:

Effective May 10, 2014, there will be a change in airline miles redemption for Jet Airways and Air India. The existing Membership Rewards redemption rate of 1 JPMile for every 1.6 Membership Rewards Points and 1 Air India Mile for every 1.25 Membership Rewards Points would change to a redemption rate of 1 JPMile/Air India Mile for every 2 Membership Rewards Points on your American Express® Card.

So, there you have it. If you hold any MR earning cards in India and you find use for Air India or Jet Privilege miles, you should effect a transfer before May 10, 2014 to get a better value for those miles. Do remember, there is a INR 250 fee to transfer MR to miles, apart from Platinum Charge Card holders.

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I’ve been working to explore the feature set of my American Express Platinum Charge Card, which I finally acquired a couple of months back after all they threw in INR 40,000 worth of Taj Vouchers along with the other goodies.

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to using is their Travel Services, which is basically a travel agent on the phone. Now, being American Express and all that, you’d expect that the Travel Counsellors, as they are called, would do a thorough job of researching the properties and flights before they’d send you a quote. My expectation of an offline travel agent, at least some of the good ones I work with, is that they don’t just want to get your business and commissions off that business. They come back and tell you where is the best rate available, and have sometimes booked tickets for me off the Internet or advised me to do reservations off the Internet.

In the past week itself, I’ve given 3 assignments to the travel services desk, and not one of them have been to my liking, the way they came back. Let me share these instances:

Firstly, I am heading to one of my favourite resorts in Goa, the Park Hyatt Goa later this year. I already had some rooms booked, and I needed some more after the size of the travel party increased. So I thought I’d ask Amex to take care of this round because of the Fine Hotels & Resorts tie-up. Guess what, they could only see suites at the property. I called the property directly and could get the rooms booked directly. Amex never even picked up the phone to talk to the hotel but just came back to me with the rates they saw.

Next, I’d asked them to figure out flights for 15 people and they got back to me with standard rates. In the meanwhile, I asked them to check on a group rate, however the rate quoted only was higher than the regular rate. Not once did they figure there was a sale in the midst of this request being open. Not once did they indicate prices dropping for a short window which I could use. Even if it was not on the entire size of the travel party.

Just last night, I came up with another request on an upcoming business trip. American Express’s Travel Counsellor had told me the possibility of getting a good discount on my fare was better on an international itinerary because they had a tie-up with Jet Airways amongst other vendors. However, the prices they sent me were worse off than those available on the website of the airline itself. On the same request, I’d asked them to book my hotel as well. Guess what do they do? They send me a rate which is 50$ higher than the lowest rate available on the website, that too ex-taxes!!

I’ve heard the quality of Travel Services has gone bad, but this is plain dumb. If I need a cut-copy-paste from the GDS/Internet guy, I think I’d be way better at this stuff. Why would anyone go to Amex’s Travel Desk then?

What have been your experiences with Amex Platinum Travel in India or abroad?

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