I accidentally started a mini-debate at Flyertalk yesterday when I criticised a new American Express promotional offer.
If I take a look at my American Express Platinum account online, two new cashback deals have appeared:
£20 cashback when you spend £100 at Premier Inn (expires 16 December, 5000 cardholders only)
£50 cashback when you spend £100 at Thistle or Guoman Hotels (expires 16 December, 10000 cardholders only)
These offers follow on from the classic:
£10 cashback when you make any transaction with Ryanair (expires 31 October)
Whilst I have these offers on my Platinum card, you may well find them showing under your BA or SPG Amex account. The Thistle / Guoman deal would probably work on a large bar bill or a restaurant meal, depending on how it is processed by the hotel, and for one of their regional hotels represents a pretty decent deal.
The issue I raised at Flyertalk was this – ‘Is Amex diluting the Platinum card brand with offers like these?’
Or, looked at another way, is offering someone a discount at Premier Inn really a good way of convincing them that Amex understands their Platinum customers and that their £450 fee is well spent?
I booked two nights in an upmarket hotel yesterday using the American Express Platinum ‘Fine Hotels & Resorts’ programme. That is the sort of benefit that I expect and appreciate from Platinum – it got me free breakfast and a guaranteed 4pm check-out, which I needed.
Let’s be clear. I don’t have anything against Premier Inn (I stayed in one last year and was very positive about it) or Ryanair, who I flew many times when they used the airport nearest my parents in law. I stayed in enough dingy B&B’s when I was younger to appreciate the revolution in low-cost lodging that Premier Inn, Travelodge, Holiday Inn Express etc have brought about. I also grew up in an era when flying was too expensive for the average family, and I admire Ryanair’s part in changing that.
What I don’t understand is why American Express fails to understand how deals like this distort the Platinum brand. You could argue that ‘the more the merrier’ – Amex should throw out as many deals as it can negotiate and if the majority are irrelevant to your lifestyle then so be it. However, you can also argue that Amex should be presenting me with a carefully curated set of offers.
(Here is another way of looking at it. If Ryanair or Premier Inn attempted to advertise in Vogue or GQ, they would be told to go away. Publications like that understand that their advertisers help the set the tone for the whole package and need to be curated in the same way as the editorial.)
The irony, of course, is that – as a card company – Amex knows exactly where its Platinum cardholders shop and is better placed than any other luxury brand to serve up promotions which hit the spot perfectly. But they don’t ….
(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)