How I Used Amex Points to Save $850 on a Vacation Car Rental


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  • My family needed a large rental car on vacation for six days, and prices were high.
  • I redeemed Amex Membership Rewards points for a rental minivan and saved $856.
  • Amex points are worth more if you redeem them for flights, but we were happy to save so much money on our trip.
  • Read Insider’s guide to the best travel rewards credit cards.

When my husband and I applied for The Platinum Card® from American Express
, we were most excited about the welcome bonus: 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership. Using credit cards to earn travel rewards points is nothing new to us, and in the past, we’ve mainly used these points for booking flights and hotels.

This strategy has saved our family thousands of dollars in travel over the past few years. As we looked at our vacation plans for 2022, we knew we’d need flights for our family of four, accommodations, and a car rental. With an upcoming trip to Savannah/Hilton Head, we knew these points would come in handy. 

Read more: I had sticker shock over the Amex Platinum card’s annual fee, but 6 lucrative benefits convinced me to open it anyway

After we booked our flights on Southwest Airlines and our accommodations through VRBO, we still needed a car to get around Hilton Head and drive back and forth to Savannah. This vehicle had to have room for our own family, plus accommodate a few extra family members if necessary.

Although we could have paid cash for the car rental, it was a no-brainer for us to use the American Express Membership Rewards points we had recently acquired. We needed a car for six days and it was going to cost us hundreds of dollars to rent a vehicle that long. But by using our points to rent a car we were able to save over $850.

Using Amex points for a car rental saved us hundreds


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Pros

  • Long list of travel benefits, including airport lounge access and complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott (enrollment required)
  • Annual statement credits with Saks and Uber

Cons

  • Bonus categories leave something to be desired
  • One of the highest annual fees among premium travel cards

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More Information

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

First, we searched the Amex Travel portal for a five-passenger SUV that would fit our immediate family, including two car seats for our children. The reservation for a Chevrolet Equinox or similar vehicle through Alamo would cost $432, but we redeemed 61,743 Membership Rewards points for the booking.

Read more: How to use the Amex Travel Portal to book flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and more — and make the most of your Membership Rewards points

After a few days, we realized we were going to need more room for extra family members or luggage, like golf clubs, so we canceled our reservation and rebooked a new one. The refund of our points will take up to 45 days, so when we rebooked a minivan, we used both points and cash. We paid 122,265 in points (worth $856) and $187.28 in cash for the booking. 

Although we’ve typically used credit card reward points for airline tickets or hotel rooms, through American Express’ travel platform you can also redeem them for car rentals and cruises. 10,000 points on the platform translate to $100 worth of flights (1 point = 1 cent) but the same amount of points equates to only $70 in car rentals, hotels, and cruises (1 point = 0.7 cents).

While we would have gotten more value from saving our points and using them toward flights on a different trip, we are still saving $856 on this vacation, and that was enough to justify using the points. 

Read more: How to earn, redeem, and maximize American Express Membership Rewards points

The number of points needed to use to rent a car depends on the type of vehicle chosen, company booked through, length of booking, as well as the time of year. A smaller vehicle typically costs less money, and thus, fewer points.

The flexibility to use the points on different types of travel is great, and one of the many reasons we love using the Platinum Card. Even though we used more points for a car rental than we would have if we’d redeemed for flights, at the end of the day we saved a substantial amount of money. 

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