Yeah! And it feels liberating!

American Express charges INR 50,000 per annum + taxes to provide you their Platinum Charge Card. They promise the world with it, including a luxurious do anything concierge service and access to the Platinum Travel Desk. However, unlike their home market, the USA, the fees is more than double that market, and the privileges are 1/2 or so of that market. There are no mileage or Membership Rewards points to get you started as well, unlike the 100K MR offer in the USA last year. With this insight, this card was never a competitor in my pocket since it was not worthy of the fee in my opinion.

Now, earlier this year, American Express India brought out an amazing offer, where they offered INR 40,000 worth of Taj Vouchers for signing up for the card. I thought it was a great time to get on the Amex bandwagon, because I was essentially going to get the card for a fees of about INR 16,000 after adjusting the vouchers, which I believe, get sold to Amex at a much lower price.

I signed up in February 2014, and this set a chain of events which were not very good. American Express took a very long time to start me up with the benefits. In spite of paying the fee within the stipulated time frame, these vouchers never arrived for more than 3 months after subscription to the card. Also, adding up add-on cards took a much longer timeframe in spite of initial confirmations coming in quickly.

The American Express concierge & lifestyle services, and the travel services, turned out to be plain dumb. They could also not extend the Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits to me on a properties I wanted. When I wanted certain tickets, they sent me quotations from third party vendors and not from the source.

If a customer of a high-end product such as this one does not like it within a few weeks, I thought it was unfair for me to carry on with the product and avail the vouchers, which were ready after I escalated a complaint to the Amex Executive Office in India. So, I reached out to Amex to cancel the card. They asked me to keep it on for a little longer and see if I liked their services. Unfortunately, this did not work out. I got long and wrong emails from the services division. For instance, I asked to be sent a pricing on a British Airways premium economy itinerary, but I got one back for Economy.

Heck, there is a whole thread on FlyerTalk which is full of such experiences which I wished I’d read up on before. Trouble is, American Express did not think the provision of sub-par services were problems from their end, and they did not even take the bait to improve their standards. Every problem I listed, they slammed me a T&C in my face to get out of it. Not just that, their leadership team displayed a similar attitude.

In the end, I decided to cut my losses, and fortunately for me, they decided to refund the full fee for the year to me as well. Like I described it to the Amex reps, “It was an expensive date gone all wrong…” I was paying for Champagne and they tried pouring me cheap local sparkling wine instead!

How has been your experience with the American Express Platinum Card in India? Good or bad? Write it here…

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 15 Comments

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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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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