|by Jason Steele|
Companion Airfare, Use It Or Loose It!
I was thinking about the subject of companion airfare deals lately. I had received so many offers for free companion airfare that I finally had to take advantage of one. It was an offer in which I ordered a subscription to Travel and Leisure magazine, and then received a “companion travel certificate”. To make a long story short, the price I was quoted for a single ticket on my next trip with “free companion airfare” just happened to be exactly the same price as book two tickets on the same flight if purchased directly from theairline. What a coincidence! It also turns out I am not the first to discover that these particular certificates are nearly worthless.
On the other hand, American Express themselves offers companion tickets to it’s Platinum Card holders. Apparently, these certificates do have value, however, I just discovered two interesting facts. One, these certificates are only given to non-business card holders. My Amex Simply Cash Business Platinum doesn’t count. Two, they are discontinuing the program. According to their web site,
“For those Card members with current reservations, your tickets will be honored by the airline on which you are ticketed. Card members can also request new reservations through the Domestic Companion Airfare Program until November 15, 2008. Please keep in mind that ticket availability is limited by inventory, program conditions and blackout dates.”
So find someplace to take someone soon!
Speaking Of Things That Are Cancelled
I found a great camcorder recently, but after I purchased it, I kept seeing the same model advertised for extremely low prices from other businesses. Then I remembered that Amex offered a “Best Value Guarantee” program. Just to be sure, I checked their website, and sure enough, the program appeared to be worthwhile. I thoroughly read through their program brochure to ensure that my purchase qualified. With a print ad in hand from a retailer offering the same camera for a substantially lower price, I called to take advantage of their program.
Unfortunately, recording at the number currently given at their website informs callers that the program was discontinued in 2006. I can only imagine that I must have received some notice of the program’s cancellation, buried in the fine print of a 10 page card holder agreement. Shame on Amex for not updating their website to indicate the program no longer exists!
Amex still offers many great features and rewards, but the trend is now clear; expect Amex features to be disappearing like pillows and blankets in an airline.
Check Your Credit Limit
According to several threads at FlyerTalk, American Express has started to restrict people’s credit. By some accounts these restrictions are arbitrary, and are affecting people who carry high balances, yet pay off their accounts in full every month. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to conclude that this has something to do with the global credit crunch. My advice is to call Amex and double check on your current credit limit, especially if you are planning extensive travel or large purchases. During these times, you should always have at least one backup card if you are traveling.
Even worse, there are multiple stories of Amex asking it’s customers to undergo a “Financial Review” It seems as if they want all sorts of documentation of your income as well as past tax records. It is this request that has gotten many loyal Amex customers quite offended. Aside from privacy concerns, many users are afraid that their accounts will be closed and their Membership Rewards points will be forfeited.
While I am thankful I have not been selected for such a Financial Review, I am a little concerned about my credit card company potentially auditing me as if they were the IRS (at least the IRS already has my tax returns!) The situation seems to affect people who are spending tens of thousands of dollars a month, which unfortunately does not include me. If you do find yourself in that situation, the best advice would be to redeem you Membership Reward points for frequent flier miles with your preferred carrier. I guess it was only a matter of time until the global credit crunch started trickling down to cardholders like you and I.