Do badly chosen Amex promotions cheapen their brand?

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?’

Amex Platinum

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.)

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  1. Heh, I was thinking about this last night. What actually bugs me is the claim that these sorts of promotions are ‘targeted for you, a platinum card holder’ when they are clearly not.

    That said, the MASH promotion earlier this year was pretty good. If they had a few more of those a year (rather than the boring ‘glass of champagne’ which apparently every restaurant has) I’d be pretty happy.

  2. David Butcher says:

    I fall into the “more the merrier” camp. After all, you don’t have to use them.

    I regularly use my Platinum in such upmarket locations as our local CoOp so I have no qualms about making the most of offers from the likes of Primark and Ryanair.

    I am also far more likely to use these offers than the esoteric offerings in the glossy mag that Amex send me regularly, full of stuff I will never be able to afford.

  3. OT sorry, but does anyone know how long it will take from applying for the Amex plat to receiving both supplementary cards (for insurance coverage) and priority pass cards, for lounges?

  4. Do you think if I phoned up they would add the Gouman hotel offer to my card?
    I’m actually staying in one of there London properties next week but am unable to see the offer on my BA Amex premier plus offers!

  5. Seems incredibly snobby to me. You’re a platinum card holder and you’ve stayed in Premier Inn hotels. What makes you think you’re unique in that respect? I’m sure many have stayed in Premier Inn’s and many will in the future.

    Conversely, I can’t imagine many people existing who would be so insulted at the suggestion by Amex that they might stay in a Premier Inn they’d get rid of the card.

    • It isn’t snobby at all. The discussion – as per the headline – is effectively about branding and whether Amex is messing it up. They have, after all, spent huge amounts of money in the past to ‘position’ Platinum through their advertising.

      • There’s certainly a dichotomy between the appearance they like to portay from the magazine that gets sent out to Plat holders, versus some of the offers.

        Actually I think it’s the magazine that’s out of sync rather than the offers.

        Most of the people I’ve known with Amex plats are not wealthy enough to buy £10k watches or second homes in Bermuda. But do stay in premier inns and travel places occasionally on budget carriers.

        • Agreed, they portray it as a luxury brand in the magazine yep have offers that certainly aren’t! They should obtain and advertise decent offers (like the MASH one) that fit with their brand and reward those paying a large annual fee, but allow everyone to register for these more routine offers, perhaps making use of the 4sq setup again.

          I’m still peeved that paying 3x the fee of the PRG card provides you with *less* MR points – 1 per GBP is pretty poor.

        • I agree, it is a strange anomaly. The agents almost seem to value the PRG customers better than the Plat members. I have found better service when calling about the former. Anyway, keep the offers rolling in.

          BTW the comments below are not in the spirit of the blog. Bet you benefit from the advice in this blog. Once again, it is his personal opinion expressed in his blog, keep the snipes to yourselves. Keep on highlighting the offers Raffles, it’s much appreciated by the majority.

        • I don’t really benefit from the blog no, as I’m sufficiently experienced to already know this stuff already, or find out before it’s published here. I do enjoy reading it,(otherwise why would I be here!) but that doesn’t mean I need to bow down to them and agree with everything they say.

          As to the protest against this being snobbery, I simply do not accept that (not that I’m saying it makes you a snob!). Worrying about how you look because of an association with something seemingly down-market is the very definition of snobbery!

          The Premier Inn isn’t some down-market hovel, it’s a basic reasonably priced hotel chain and I’m sure numerous Platinum holders either have, or would consider, a stay in one. You yourself have said you have…

  6. grex9101 says:

    It is snobbery I’m afraid.

    You can argue until you’re blue in the face that it’s just poor targeting for Amex, but you’d be the first to squeal when the platinum card was barred from a half price deal at Poundland when you had been planning to get some oh – so – ironic poor people’s food for your fancy dress party. Heaven forfend the proletariat have a platinum Amex! Don’t they know their place?!

  7. ..and if a plat member was looking to stay in a premier inn, and was aware that he wasn’t eligible for this offer, but “free” amex cards were, you could be sure the plat member would be on the phone asking exactly why he was bothering to pay £450 for a card that wasn’t getting the benefits that free cards were getting.

  8. squills says:

    Comedian? Never heard of him. At 0.67p/ Avios I guess it’s not as shabby as some ways to burn them. Plus I guess you still get the Avios on the (reduced cost) flight…

  9. sandgrounder says:

    Didn’t the Ryanair offer tie in with the new flex tickets? Seems like a good strategy to get business travellers to give it a go. Who pays for these offers anyway? If you want to reach out to Plat holders, you should be free to have a go.

    I don’t think it is particularly exclusive now- 40k between a couple is poverty wages in London. It’s mainly for the savvy who use the travel benefits to the max, and the classy people who love something shiny to flash about. I bet they don’t get the reaction my red card did in the States though! 🙂

  10. squills says:
    • Mr Bridge says:

      there was me worrying about world war 3, and it seems sainsburys will thrust the world into poverty.
      Will tesco follow, or will it go mad and double cc points?

      • squills says:

        Exactly, I posted it with Mr T in mind, Mr B.

        ? Quo vadis?

        Best we can hope for is the fabled Tesco bonus conversion to Avios, is my considered opinion. This time a paltry 750?

  11. Does it really “expire 16 December 5000 “? Do you expect to live that long?!

  12. Money can’t buy taste. Who is to say that the £450/yr subscribers are actually any classier than anyone else – especially with the likes of me using it on your advice!

  13. Although they are in the same group as Thistle and have a niche rewards scheme, I would have thought Guoman properties are very much the stereotypical Platinum Card demographic:- 4 and 5-star hotels like the Royal Horseguards and the Grosvenor.

    • They are a bit nearer the demographic although substantially better options available in those areas. The Guoman brand is about to be dumped (and about time) because it has gained absolutely zero traction with the travelling public.

      The best thing about the launch of Guoman was that you knew which Thistles were rubbish – ie all of them. Because the refurbished ones were ‘promoted’ to Guoman!

  14. SingingDwarf says:

    It is now possible to redeem MR points from a USA issued American Express in McDonald’s. 400pts for a Bacon & Cheese Quarter Pounder.

    Cheapening the brand?

    • grex9101 says:

      I don’t think it cheapens the McDonald’s brand at all. … :’)

    • squills says:

      “We want to be ubiquitous,” says Leslie Berland, executive vice president for digital partnerships and development at American Express. “We want our customers to think about using their American Express card in places they haven’t thought about before.”

      There you go – their marketing strategy isn’t too complicated.

      Ultimately it doesn’t really matter to Amex if SOME people think it cheapens the brand: in the grander scheme of things, those people really don’t matter too much.

      I draw an analogy with BMW. You can now get relatively cheap BMWs in the smaller engine size categories (and the Mini). A few years ago, BMW wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that. It’s been a massive success, financially & strategically. I doubt if they lost any serious money customers @ the other end (luxury) because they were doing the cheap stuff, too. The people buying the luxury stuff are on the whole bright enough to get it.

      Going back to Amex, anybody reasonably savvy is going to understand why Ryanair and Premier Inn exist (and are successful in their own right) – and savvy people aren’t going to see Amex promoting their relationship with Ryanair/ Premier Inn as a bad thing.

      • That is a different point though – justifying why Amex is offering the Nectar card, for example, as well as its expensive charge cards. I assume that purchasers of the most expensive BMW models receive different perks from their dealership.

        • squills says:

          Since you’re there Raffles & anybody ;-)…

          I just renewed my vehicle tax on my decrepit, ancient 4WD lol – £230 gets you 3 litres of turbodiesel power on the road, taxed, if the truck’s old enough!. I could have saved £2.50 by paying with a debit card but I paid with MBNA Visa linked to Amex, in the dim hop I’m going to get 465 Avios out of it.

          Q: did I do good or am I going senile?

        • 0.5p per Avios sounds good to me!

  15. Primark is already here 🙂

  16. Singing Dwarf says:

    No Tracking Stats for that merchant.

  17. Slightly OT but original thread now closed for comments. I registered for the WH Smith offer and then made multiple £3.79 (meal deal) transactions over the course of a few weeks. I’ve now tripped the £30 threshold and within a day or so of doing so found a £10 credit on my a/c, so as per the T&Cs it doesn’t need to be all spend within one transaction – in this case at least, YMMV for other retailer offers, some of them (e.g the Hilton offer) were clear about it needing to be in one transaction.

    • grex9101 says:

      We have now found someone who has survived multiple consumptions of WHS “meal deals” and is still alive. Science may have found its man.

      • Hahah 😀 Yes, sadly working in a hospital this is one of the better offers available food-wise 😮

    • squills says:

      Alan: that’s a really interesting bit of learning for future promos, I guess you’re right it depends on T&Cs.

      • Indeed, I was sure I was going to have to chase the credit up via Amex CS but wasn’t necessary 🙂

  18. JQ “The questoin is do Centurion cardholders also have this offer?”.

    Nope, not been offered these. Infact, there are no offers available for me right now (just checked online). I

    did just take up their offer of a free night at one (of a list of ~20) hotelsfrom the “fine hotels and resorts” group. So not all bad 🙂


  19. thechiefexecutive says:

    I also used the Ryanair deal for my first ever flight with them (Derry) for a wedding this weekend. Used it for 2 x singles in and out so £20 saved across 2 cards. I will probably also use the Premier Inn credit although we’ve already booked Christmas with them to visit the inlaws (at £25 a night in the sale). So yes we like all these ‘downmarket deals’.