Premium credit cards and Tauck travel; business class seats in general

Just throwing this out there, and I know it is a lot, so if no one answers I absolutely understand :) .... Completely confused about which premium credit card to get (Amex Platinum versus Chase Safire Reserve), predominantly to use on travel (and get points to use on travel) . I have read the online articles (Travel guy and Nerd Wallet), as well as the Tauck forum discussion regarding whether or not it was worth keeping the cards in 2021 (reduced travel due to Covid). My conclusions are that people seem attached to whichever card they have; customer service for Chase is bad, and customer service for Amex is good. The cost appears to be a wash for us. Some specific questions:
1. Given the costs of Tauck trips, does anyone have experience using their Platinum or Safire reserve cards for booking or paying for Tauck trips? (I am specifically referring to the tour operator Tauck, not the airfare for the trips.) If so, how are the points earned? If you use the card to charge the trip by calling Tauck directly, do you get the bonus points or does the tour need to be booked through the credit card website/phone travel service to get the bonus points?
2. Do you actually get decent prices for international business class seats booking your seats through the Amex Platinum or Chase Safire websites?
3. Is it easy to redeem points to get business class tickets? Are there only certain carriers that you can do this with?

Beautiful karma to anyone who answers. My brain hurts trying to tease this all out. The other benefits are nice, but for us this is mainly for travel.


  • I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. My understanding is that you have to use the Chase phone number to book your travel to get the bonus on your points.

    I haven't done that. Chase has a program called "pay yourself back" (if I remember correctly) and I can go and use points to get credit for certain things that I've already paid for, and with a bonus in points. For example, points are worth some value but with the program I use less points to get the credit. An example, which is not correct as far as points: They ran a bonus program for dining out. So if I would normally need 1,000 points to pay for that charge, I might only need 600 or 700 points for that charge. I then get a credit of the full amount of the charge to my credit card statement.

    A different program was to get bonus points for credit for gas purchases. Another one was for grocery shopping. It's always something.

    I do that rather than book through them because I use my travel agent to do all my bookings and she knows what we want. If I have a problem, I can call her and she gets on it right away. I just don't want to change who I book through.

  • edited February 27

    A few years ago we upgraded to the Delta Skymiles/AMEX Platinum when the annual fee was reasonable. We only use it to pay for Tauck trips and airfare. We book our own air. The Delta branded AMEX card doesn't include the AMEX travel service, like the standard AMEX Platinum card. Even though we were doing 2 to 3 international trips per year we never earned enough miles, even at the Platinum award level, to pay for a single r/t international flight. We were only able to use miles for domestic feeder flights. That required we book the feeder flights on a separate PNR which was not a problem if on Delta because we could still check our bags through. On international flights on another carrier we had to collect and recheck bags- so far we have been lucky, but there is a danger if the layover is too short. Only once were we able to use the free Companion ticket benefit because the flights must be r/t (not open jaw which can be difficult with Tauck trips which often start and end in different cities) and seating is in main cabin (we usually fly domestic 1st or international Business.)

    We never used any of the other so called Platinum 'benefits' (rental car, hotel, etc. discounts.) Delta and AMEX must know they would get blowback from raising the fee. Delta and AMEX must be worried or else they wouldn't have sent us two letters trying to convince us that the new, mostly useless (to us) benefits are worth the higher fee. Now that the annual fee has increased twice, first to $250 now to $350 per year and we almost never use any of the other benefits (our favorite is Delta lounge access which is included in Business tickets anyway), we are considering dropping back to a cheaper, lower tier of card. The last time I called AMEX to do that, they gave me a discount (with conditions) for the following year if we kept the same tier. I've got until May to decide.

  • I love my airline points! Although I have a platinum AMEX card, I rarely use it for travel. The costs in dollars or points is rather high. And it had been an issue if you must cancel or change. You don’t get a refund from AMEX but rather airline credit.

    I have a Chase Club Card (visa) that earns points on United Airlines and its partners. I use this card for everything - including TAUCK trips.

    I am strategic in using the points. I study my options in advance to know what I want. I will add an extra day to get a best deal on the flight. I usually get the tickets as soon as the dates appear - approximately 1 year in advance. If I do need to make a change, I can cancel/change without a penalty (the points are refunded immediately) and rebook (if available). I always try for business class - at least on the long leg of the trip. Usually I get the one way business tickets for 88,000 points. I live near multiple airports so I do have great options. However, I rarely get direct flights with the points.

    FWIW: have had only good experiences with Chase customer service.

  • MotherOfPoodles > 2. Do you actually get decent prices for international business class seats booking your seats through the Amex Platinum or Chase Safire websites?

    I can speak for American Express Platinum: Once you log into the American Express travel website you will see the discounted prices for International Airfare. These prices are indeed less expensive - the price difference on my last flight on Qatar Airlines was over $1000 compared to the same flights listed on the Qatar website.

    I can't respond to your other questions as I usually use my points for either domestic tickets for myself or family members or to upgrade to a 1st class seat. Another bonus with the Amex Platinum card is you have Delta lounge access tif you book your travel with Amex and are traveling on Delta. You do not have to be traveling business class. This is a bonus for me as my domestic business trips do not qualify for business class travel; however, I can still use the Delta, Centurion or Priority Pass lounges.

    Like AlanS mentioned-the costs continue to increase; however, I still find value in the Amex Platinum as they offer $15 Uber/month ($20 in December); $20 monthly credit to my NYT subscription; Clear and Global Entry credits; the boutique hotel extra day and special treatments (spa, breakfast); free checked bags on your preferred airline - when I'm traveling economy and other stuff which actually has value to me.

    Hope this helps in your decision making process ---1st world problems :)

  • Great job of research, MoP!

    I have the Chase Sapphire card. Never had the Amex Plat. As MikeH stated, you can Pay Yourself Back with the Chase points. They are currently worth 1.25 cents per point. Prior to last year, they were worth 1.5 cents.

    When I book Tauck trips, I use a TA and the Chase card. You get 3x points per dollar because it's travel. Booking directly, you don't get the 1.25 per point bonus, however, my strategy is to save up the Chase points to transfer to airline FF programs, when I have enough points and find a decent booking using FFF points. It used to be a wash when the points were worth 1.5, as the "experts" like TPG say airline points are generally worth 1.5 cents. But now, in theory, the points are worth more when transferred to an airline.

    Re airlines, not all airlines participate in the Chase point transfer. I know for a fact that UA does and AA doesn't. If you google the question for specific airlines and credit card programs, you'll find what you need.

    Re booking airlines, I typically use the airline's web site for bookings. I find it easier when changes are necessary. In my limited experience of booking airlines on the Chase site, I haven't noted any significant price differences. I have booked hotels directly through the Chase UR site to take advantage of the 1.25 purchase price multiplier and similarly, base prices were the same as booking directly on the hotel site.

  • I use my Amex Platinum card for almost everything. I use Platinum Travel to book all my trips, dealing with the same agent (unless it's an emergency and she's not available). I got great service from them when I was trying to get home from Jordan at the start of Covid in March 2020. However, I don't get any bonus points for booking Tauck trips using the Amex Platinum agent. The Amex Platinum will give 5x points for booking airfare either with them on line or directly with the airline. (I don't think I get the extra points when I book through my travel agent, which I have done on occasion.) Platinum Travel has some special international airfares, where you can save several hundred dollars on flights, but they are offered on select airlines and select routes. I've used them sometimes; other times, I prefer my own routing. I've also used their concierge service to book theater tickets. I have booked airfare using their "pay with points" program. When I do that, I get my airline frequent flyer miles, because the airline sees cash coming in (which can be a bonus if there's any problem with flights), but Amex doesn't charge me; it just uses my points. When the annual fee went up to $695, I thought about cancelling, but didn't. I do get the $20/mo credit on my New York Times subscription, occasionally use the Uber credit, use the $100 refund of Global Entry fee (every 5 years, so amortized to $20/year) and some other assorted credits. If I use their international airfare prices, I probably break even. I guess I'm willing to pay for the convenience.

  • Also with the AMEX platinum card, you can get a $50 credit twice a year at Saks for any purchase. There is no minimum for the purchase.

  • We have Amex platinum and use it for all the benefits already mentioned by others. We usually call Amex to book flights rather than use the website so we can discuss different routes etc. And if you don’t have enough air miles for a flight, you can use part points, part cash. We were reimbursed with cash instead of getting our points back after a cancelled flight during the early part of the Pandemic. We would rather have the cash than points even if maybe it was ‘worth less’ than getting points back.
    New York Times, Uber, lots of fantastic hotels….we once got an amazing deal on the Savoy in London. Amex has gotten us hard to find tickets for concerts, theatre in New York. Last year we wanted to go to the restaurant Daniel in NY for our anniversary, you have to call as soon as bookings open, they did that for us at the correct time.. Worth every penny for our uses.
    Oh and no, you don’t get extra travel points booking with Tauck.
    Years ago, you could use Amex points to get $500 and $1000 vouchers off Tauck tours, a big part of the price when tours were much cheaper than they are now, we used quite a few back then.

  • We normally fly Premium Coach now, but that is relatively new. We use Aadvantage miles to fly international trips on a regular basis. We have even gone to Africa using miles and one time got first class on BA. We have the Aadvantage Executive card that also gets Admiral’s Club access. The perk that I really like is the Flagship Lounge access when flying Premium Coach (Aadvantage Platinum and above) on a sequence that includes an international leg other than the Caribbean. We recently were checking into the Admirals Club, and they chased us off to the Flagship Lounge. We did not know we had that benefit. We just qualified for Aadvantage Platinum Pro, so we will see what that produces. The Flagship Lounges are really pretty spectacular for food and drinks. We are doing Paris this year but that Flagship is currently closed.

  • edited February 28

    Sealord - congrats on making Platinum Pro!! I'm going to fall ~25000 points shy of that this year working on only 3/4 of a year of having the AA card. The biggest perks of your Aadvantage Platinum Pro/Oneworld Emerald status will be better mileage multipliers, the improved odds of upgrades (domestic), and more access to business and first class lounges worldwide. I thought about making the push to Platinum Pro from Platinum - but the perks for us at least for the 2024 calendar year weren't going to make that much of a difference. As a newcomer to using a travel or airline branded card - I am excited for perks that we'll get on AA for future domestic trips (ie. complimentary main cabin extra seats) and to check out the lounges as we leave go from BOS->DOH->JRO this summer!

    We carry the Aadvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard.

  • We have had Platinum Amex cards for almost 30 years and use them for everything. The cost for us is worth it, as my hubby has heart disease, and we love the ability to be medi-vac out of anywhere if he falls ill. Also, if you book travel using Amex Platinum, you automatically get $10,000 worth of travel insurance on that trip! That is available twice in a calendar year. We just buy the rest and it saves us money. We gather our points and use them for free hotel nights in five star hotels. End of May, on our way to a Danube cruise with Tauck we are stopping in Paris for two nights and booked a $1500 per night room with points both nights. Also we have found that the business class airfare with Amex travel is significantly lower than booking direct with an airline, plus we get five times the points.

  • $10,000 does not cover much of a Tauck tour, do you still take out cancelation insurance and extra health insurance. Is there a limit on the coverage of the evacuation insurance because we have an annual income for evacuation.

  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers $10,000 per traveler per trip, limit $20,000 per trip and $40,000 a year (if I remember correctly and they haven't changed it). There are restrictions as to why you can cancel but they aren't unreasonable. You do not get "cancel for any reason", however. You must have some covered event.

    While $10,000 may not cover all of the cost of one person's trip (tour and airfare) it covers a lot of it. You can either purchase supplemental insurance or self-insure for the remainder.

    If you do a lot of travel and you and your partner are in good health, you will do better to not take the extra insurance. The insurance is fairly expensive so if you go a few trips without using it, you're financially ahead.

    You still must take out the medical insurance but that's usually less than $100 per person per trip - or take an annual policy.

  • I have both.

    For Chase Sapphire, whether you get the same 3X points if you pay them directly, or through a non-Chase TA.

    Bear in mind that for Sapphire the travel service is contracted out, I believe to Expedia. And some parts of AMEX travel as well. There are legions of reports of problems when using them, especially when things go wrong. And there are times when they book, but don't ticket, so be sure to garden your reservation if you go this route. For an important trip, I would not depend upon them.

    Yes, you can use point balances and convert them to cash, but you loose the leverage of buying business or first class direct or upgrades at good value, so it depends upon how much you want to maximize your benefit.

    Given the way travel is these days, I have for now held back on using considerable points to purchase business class seats, since they are not fully dependable. If a flight gets canceled, you may get rebooked, but if you still want your business class accomodation, it may be days away, in a terrible way to get to your destination, or not available at all. Or getting there may be via a nonbusiness class seat, without compensation. You could use it in tandem with a fully refundable seat, and cancel the ticket you purchased if the rewards flight is a go, and that is easier done if you don't have checked bags and need to make a last minute decision.

    As for evacuation benefits, the card benefits definitely have their limits. They will take you to a nearby locale, but not back to your home hospital of choice. If you travel enough, and for what Tauck trips cost, MedJet to me is the way to go. For about $500 a year for a couple, you get evacuation back home to your hospital of choice. And they will even cover you domestic if more than 150 miles from home. If you are away skiing out West and need transport or evacuation with an orthopedic ski injury, they will help you.

  • SevenSeas: I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis. You hit the nail on the head for every scenario using credit card points. I take advantage of the platinum card as much as I can and it does pay for itself. You can Google American Express Platinum benefits.

  • This is from Chase's web site re medical:

    Emergency Evacuation and Transportation
    If you or a member of your immediate family are injured or become sick during a trip far from home that results in an emergency evacuation, you can be covered for medical services and transportation up to $100,000.

    Emergency Medical and Dental Benefit
    If you're 100 miles or more from home on a trip, you can be reimbursed up to $2,500 for medical expenses if you or your immediate family member become sick or injured.

    In addition, if you have traditional Medicare with a secondary (medigap) insurance, many of the plans, based on the letter (Plan G, etc.) cover international medical expenses up to $50,000 lifetime benefit. If you have a Medicare (dis)Advantage plan, you need to check your plan and expect to jump through all the hoops you agreed to when you signed your life away to a private carrier.

  • Don't let Sealord fake you out!!! He gets onboard, asks to speak to the captain, tells him about his 30 years as a captain, they invite him up and he has lots of room and sharing of war stories in the jump seat!!!!! :):)

  • What sevenseas said…I have CSP and would never again use them to book airline tickets. They use Expedia, can’t view all the flight options you can see on the airline websites, when there’s a change it’s a nightmare. I only did it once, when the schedule changed and it had to be rebooked I was on the phone for over 3 hours and then they got it wrong, didn’t book my premium economy. I use the points to “pay myself back”.

  • While SeaLord is mentioned as a captain….SeaLord, recently watched a TV show series called Extreme Airport AFRICA. It is one of those shows which is a pain became it goes to commercial and then when it comes back on, it repeats what was said before the break. But….this week you might have found particularly interesting……the airport is OR Tambo In Johannesburg …apparently, it has the only flight that goes to the island of St. Helena in the world and only once a week. It has only been since 2017 because it is one of the most difficult airports to land on. There has to be two pilots on the plane rather than pilot and first officer. It showed the landing strip which ends in a sheer drop over a cliff , cross winds are treacherous. The flight is 2300 miles and they stop off at WALVIS Bay airport in Namibia for final extra fueling incase of problems. They featured the plane with a first attempt of landing which was aborted. If you can find the show, you might find it interesting.

  • It is one of those shows which is a pain became it goes to commercial and then when it comes back on, it repeats what was said before the break.

    I've never heard of this show, but have watched others with this annoying habit. That's why I rarely watch anything live, but record stuff and FF through the ads and repetition.

  • (mfrancis) What sevenseas said…I have CSP and would never again use them to book airline tickets. They use Expedia, can’t view all the flight options you can see on the airline websites, when there’s a change it’s a nightmare. I only did it once, when the schedule changed and it had to be rebooked I was on the phone for over 3 hours and then they got it wrong, didn’t book my premium economy. I use the points to “pay myself back”.

    I always book directly through the airline (through my travel agent) so that if anything happens, they will make the changes necessary. If you book through some other site, they tell you to go to that site.

    I also use my points to "pay myself back."

  • Thank you all so much for your detailed and thoughtful answers! Your insights and experiences are much appreciated!

  • I very recently revisited the idea of adding AmEx Platinum to my other 3 cards... A Master Card & Chase Sapphire & Citi Visa. My Citi Visa gets me 3% back on travel/restaurants/gas charges. I do not receive points. I apply the 3% reward to my card's balance. I have used it for my 4 Tauck trips and I have had Tauck arrange my airfare. I purchase Tauck's insurance and/or additional medical emergency coverage, most often through Seven Corners. I want to be assured that, if needed/prescribed by a doctor, medical transport with a qualified nurse's assistance will be arranged and covered. My latest policy states transport to "my residence to a US hospital" as prescribed. Relatives that I occasionally travel with to Europe, Mexico and Canada use AmEx and continue to rely soley on that card for any possible insurance claims. We are all seniors. Here is what I copied from the AmEx benefits page: "Premium Global Assist Hotline may provide emergency medical transportation assistance at no cost if approved and coordinated by Premium Global Assist Hotline." I also read somewhere that the service provider must be willing to accept payment from AmEx for services rendered. My concern is that Master Card and Visa seem more widely accepted. My relatives have often been told in Europe that the restaurant/shop does not accept AmEx. I would appreciate any input from travelers who have used AmEx outside the US for payment of medical services or anyone who has experience using AmEx's Premium Global Assist to arrange and pay for medical services while outside the US.

  • The word ‘May’ is always a red flag. You want to see the word ‘will’. Never had to use it in about thirty years.

  • I agree with British. If the Premium Global Assist Hotline does not approve your medical transportation you'll be in a fix. And I expect they will not agree readily. I'd prefer something that says "If ordered by a licensed doctor".

    A lot of places will not take an AmEx card because AmEx charges a high fee to the merchant - much higher than Visa or MasterCard. I gave up my AmEx card some years ago because of that.

  • Thank you so much. I'll continue to charge travel-related hotel/airfare/tour expenses to my Citi Visa and purchase travel medical insurance policies as additional to what my Citi Visa covers.

  • @British…..yes in addition to the $10k Amex insurance, we purchase the gap amount.

  • We had the Platinum Amex and I always compared booking flights with Amex vs Airlines and several times I had booked with Amex and saved several thousand on business seats. We have had the Centurion card for many years now and it definitely helps in pricing and benefits.

Sign In or Register to comment.