The American Express Travel portal is an online booking platform exclusive to American Express credit card holders. It is similar to other platforms in that it helps travellers narrow down their options to find exactly what they're looking for, with the only difference being that the American Express Travel portal gives users the opportunity to collect bonus points just for using it. In other words, the Amex Travel portal is to American Express card holders what Expedia for TD is for TD credit card holders.

Candian credit cards and American Express travel

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Even though it’s an American company, American Express has partnerships with Air Canada as well as Canadian financial institutions like Scotiabank. It is easier than ever for Canadians to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for things like flights, car rentals, cruises and hotel stays. You do this through the American Express Travel portal where you'll also find exclusive offers.  

It’s a good thing, too, because the travel rewards offered by American Express are among some of the best and most flexible in the world. You can transfer Membership Reward points to any partnering airline or hotel chain for direct booking. It can save you hundreds of dollars. 

American Express Travel portal advantages

However, the American Express Travel portal offers a set of advantages of its own. There are point rebates and generous bonus rewards when you make prepaid reservations with participating properties in the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program and the Hotel Collection. However, you have to book through American Express Travel. 

What’s more, travellers who hold American Express credit cards and who book through American Express Travel can take advantage of many perks: reserved seats, exclusive getaway offers, and upgrades on flights and hotel stays. You also benefit from annual travel credits, and comprehensive travel insurance plans, and access to airport lounges. 

Using the American Express Travel portal

The American Express Travel portal is an online booking site similar to Google Flights and online travel agencies like Expedia. Travellers can search for and book travel arrangements by selecting the number of passengers travelling, entering their destination, and inputting their departure and arrival dates into the portal. 

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If you want to compare the cost of arrivals at different airports, you can enter cities rather than airport codes into the destination box. That is a timesaver for cities that have more than one airport, like Toronto. 

Like most online booking sites, American Express Travel includes several filters you can use to find your perfect flight. You can filter your search to include only a set number of stops, find flights based on their arrival and departure times, and can limit your search to only show you what is available through specific airlines. 

Members can pay using their credit cards or by redeeming reward points. American Express Travel allows cardholders to find Membership points redeemable flights, accommodations, cruises, and vacation packages. Many points systems exclude taxes and fees from their redemption, but American Express Travel does not. You can use your points to cover the added cost of taxes and airport fees.

Logging into the portal will show you how many points you need along with the flight price. You can calculate your point value to determine whether or not you want to redeem your points or pay cash. If you use your Membership Reward points to book your flight, the full cost appears as a charge to your card at first. However, your statement credit will arrive within 10 business days. 

Learn more about rewards credit cards

Paying with cash

If the flight isn’t too expensive, why not pay cash? The reason is that you can earn additional Membership Rewards by booking through the American Express Travel portal. If you do decide to pay cash, you can use your points to upgrade your flight.

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Alternatively, you can pay for your flight using a combination of cash and points. If you hold one of the American Express travel cards that offer a points rebate, you can increase the value of your points. You’ll get quite a few of those points back at the end of the year. 

Booking more than flights

Booking flights isn't the only option available through the American Express Travel portal. Travellers can also look for hotels, cruises, and available car rentals using American Express Travel. 

american travel hotel search

Keep in mind that while you can use your points to reserve your hotel room and pay for a cruise, you can’t use Rewards points to reserve car rentals. However, you can earn points by using your American Express to reserve your car. Remember that American Express credit cards come with comprehensive car rental insurance.

american travel hotel search

Travellers seeking the full array of travel arrangements can bundle their bookings with American Express Travel so they can search for, book, and pay for everything at once. You can bundle airfare and car rentals, airfare and hotel accommodations, or search for airfare, hotel stays and car rentals. You can book it all in one easy transaction and earning you plenty of Membership Rewards. 

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American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts Program

Reserving your accommodation through American Express travel lets you earn up to 5x the points if you are part of The American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts Program. 

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The program is for American Express Platinum cardholders. It gives them special access to benefits like room upgrades if available, a 4:00 pm late check-out, free breakfast daily, and another special benefit valued at $100. Some properties also offer a complimentary night depending on the length of your stay. You can use your Membership Rewards to book stays in the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program at 1 cent per point. 

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You can earn Membership Rewards points with any American Express card, however, the Platinum Card offers the best bang for your buck. It gives you access to airport lounges, 5x Membership Rewards points for reservations booked online through American Express Travel, and offers an annual credit to spend towards hotel stays.

On top of that, you get comprehensive insurance and access to Experience Privileges. You can add up to 9 cardholders to your Platinum account, making it easier to accumulate reward points more quickly. 

American Express Travel exclusivity

However, the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program benefits require you to book through American Express Travel. Whether or not the program is worth it depends entirely on the traveller. One of the things that customers appreciate most about the American Express Membership Rewards program is its flexibility. Members can transfer their reward points to partnering airline and hotel chains, often saving money by booking directly. 

If saving money is your highest priority, then you’re probably better off transferring your points so that you can book directly, but you will miss out on the features of the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program. 

What if you are an elite member of hotel rewards programs?

This is also the case if you are an elite member of any participating hotels. Is earning hotel rewards is important to you? While some hotels honour their hotel points or elite credits offer if you reserve through American Express Travel, not all will. That’s something you will need to keep in mind, as well. 

Even if you are not an elite member, you may find the idea of staying at a high-end luxury hotel, and enjoying its perks, more appealing than saving money. If that’s the case, then the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program is worth checking out. Travellers who are looking for a short stay or want to stay at a smaller property that isn't part of a chain will especially benefit from the service.

American Express Hotel Collection

The American Express Hotel Collection works similarly to the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program. One of the biggest differences here is the status of the participating properties. Hotels available through the Fine Hotels and Rewards Program tend to be more high-end and expensive than those included in the Hotel Collection. 

However, there are some major benefits to the Hotel Collection. For one thing, there are a greater number of properties available in the Hotel Collection, which is a major benefit when it comes to international travel. 

american express hotel

Secondly, the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program is only available to American Express Platinum cardholders. The Hotel Collection benefits are available to American Express Gold cardholders and Platinum Holders. Other than that, there aren’t many differences: free breakfast, experience credit, early check-in and late check-out still apply. 

Read more about the top ten American Express credit cards

There is a lot to like about the Hotel Collection

There is a lot to like about the Hotel Collection for business travellers, especially the $100 experience credit that comes with each bookin. Employers already pay for meals and rooms. The credit is applicable to drinks, spa services and other expenses not typically reimbursed for business travel. 

Of course, you can only take advantage of these benefits if you book through the American Express Travel portal, and it pays to do so. Any prepaid reservations made with a Platinum card earn you 5x the points if booked through American Express Travel. Gold cardholders will earn 2x the points on prepaid bookings made through American Express Travel. 

Again, hotels view American Express Travel as a third-party booking. Therefore, the hotels won't offer elite points. Instead, you need to reserve directly with the hotel.

Pay with points 

American Express has a very generous points system, with some cards even offering 5x the points if you make your reservation using the American Express Travel portal. However, you might find that you’re able to save more money by transferring your points and booking directly with a specific airline or hotel chain. 

For example, are you looking for flights through American Express Travel? Just remember that partner or feature airlines display first.They are not necessarily the cheapest option. If you’re looking for the best deal, you might need to do a little digging.

international program

If what you’re seeing on American Express travel is too costly and you think you can get a better deal by booking directly, you can search directly on eligible airline or hotel websites and transfer your points. Generally speaking, most customers get a better value for their points by booking through American Express Travel.

However, Canadian American Express cardholders aren’t able to take full advantage of American Express’ International Airline Program. Don't worry. American Express credit card holders can transfer points directly through Canadian points systems and airlines.

American Express and Aeroplan

aircanada aeroplane

The American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card lets Canadians earn Aeroplan points for qualifying purchases directly from Air Canada as well as restaurants, coffee shops and food deliveries. It comes with its fair share of enticing rewards and travel perks that are similar to what you would get if you claimed your American Express Membership Rewards through American Express Travel. For example, if you’re flying on an Air Canada flight, your first checked bag is free.  

Cardholders can also enjoy access to Maple Leaf Lounges for any Star Alliance flight. You will also be able to take advantage of priority check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage handling. If you spend $25,000 in a year you can receive a Worldwide Companion Pass which entitles you to a second economy class ticket at a fixed base fare. 

What’s more, you can roll over any remaining accumulated Aeroplan Elite Status Qualifying Miles and Upgrade Credits into the next year. Plus, you can earn twice the points by presenting your Aeroplan number along with your American Express Aeroplan Card.

Some of these benefits outweigh those available through American Express travel. However, Aeroplan points redeemable on the Air Canada website, not through American Express Travel.

However, there is a way around this: you can put your American Express Membership Rewards to good use by selecting the Pay with Points option on the Air Canada website to pay for qualifying purchases. This includes flights, but that might not be the best use of your points given that the current exchange rate is 1000 Membership Reward points for $10.00 at Air Canada. 

American Express and SCENE+ points

Scotia Bank American Express credit cards earn SCENE+ points. The program has a comprehensive selection of rewards. Points earned are redeemable for any kind of travel, no matter where you book. 

SCENE+ points do not limit you to the American Express Travel portal. SCENE+ points apply to train tickets and Airbnb rentals, something you can’t do with American Express Travel. 

What’s more, the Scotiabank Gold American Express is one of the very few that don’t charge their customers foreign transaction fees, a priceless perk for frequent international travellers. As you travel, you can continue to collect points by using your card to pay for things like dining, groceries, gas and entertainment without having to worry about those fees piling up. Keep in mind, however, that American Express is not as widely accepted around the world as other travel credit cards

The Scotiabank Gold American Express credit card comes with plenty of perks, but there are some drawbacks. You cannot use your points to book travel through American Express Travel. That means that those generous bonus offers you get from booking through the portal are not available to you. However, Scotiabank American Express credit cards offer you more opportunities to earn rewards through everyday purchases.

Plus, Scotiabank has outstanding travel insurance coverage. It offers emergency medical insurance, trip cancellation, interruption, and flight delay, along with collision and damage insurance to any car rental. 

Do you absolutely need the American Express Travel portal?

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Booking outside of the American Express Travel portal means you won’t be eligible for the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program or the Hotel Collection offered by American Express Travel. If taking advantage of perks like free meals and experience credits is important to you, then you’re better off booking through American Express Travel.

However, if you are a member with elite status, collect hotel points, or belong to some other reward program, you already get most of these benefits. Members of American Express' Membership Reward program can choose from a variety of enticing rewards, but keep in mind that there are also a few limitations for Canadian customers as well as fewer partnerships with Canadian airlines.