Amex refreshes its card benefits: Here’s what you lose — and what you gain

Posted: 31 December 2019 7:26 pm

Reexamine your purchase and travel perks in 2020.

American Express rings in the new year with significant updates to its card membership benefits. If you’re a frequent traveler who’s in the past enjoyed the extra security offered by your Amex, these changes in effect January 1, 2020, could very well affect your travel strategy.

As of November 2019, the most significant change is the elimination of two major travel benefits that affects all cards in the Amex suite: travel accident insurance and roadside assistance. Travel accident insurance offered compensation for injury or death over eligible travel periods, while roadside assistance delivered quick help with breakdowns, towing and flats through a toll-free hotline.

While not many cardholders appeared to use these features, this update nonetheless represents a significant blow to the potential travel value of these cards, with travel accident insurance alone worth up to $500,000 in compensation.

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card is also set to lose its baggage insurance plan, which offers reimbursement for luggage that’s damaged or lost in transit. But several popular cards — including The Platinum Card® from American Express and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card — will pick up new travel insurance benefits in exchange: five cards receive trip delay reimbursement, which compensates expenses that result from a delay, and two cards get trip cancellation insurance that covers nonrefundable travel fees on canceled flights.

Other changes weaken existing purchase benefits across all cards — for instance, reducing purchase protection to 90 days from 120 and the term of extended warranties to 1 year from 2. Finally, a majority of the cards also lose return protection, a perk seen as a hallmark of membership with American Express.

Breakdown of changing Amex benefits as of November 2019

CardTrip cancellationRoadside assistanceReturn protectionExtended warrantyTrip delay reimbursementBaggage insurance planPurchase protectionTravel accident insurance
The Platinum Card® from American Expresstransparent-green-tickcross-iconstransparent-green-tick1 year (was 2)Newtransparent-green-tick90 days (was 120)cross-icons
American Express® Gold Cardcross-iconscross-iconscross-icons1 year (was 2)Newtransparent-green-tick90 days (was 120)cross-icons
American Express® Green Cardcross-iconscross-iconscross-icons1 year (was 2)Newtransparent-green-tick90 days (was 120)cross-icons
American Express Cash Magnet® Cardcross-iconscross-iconscross-iconscross-iconscross-iconscross-icons90 days (was 120)cross-icons
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Expresscross-iconscross-iconscross-iconscross-iconscross-iconscross-icons90 days (was 120)cross-icons
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Expresscross-iconscross-iconstransparent-green-tick1 year (was 2)cross-iconscross-icons90 days (was 120)cross-icons
Amex EveryDay® Credit Cardcross-iconscross-iconscross-iconscross-iconscross-iconscross-icons90 days (was 120)cross-icons
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Cardcross-iconscross-iconstransparent-green-tick1 year (was 2)cross-iconscross-icons90 days (was 120)cross-icons
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Cardcross-iconscross-iconscross-icons1 year (was 2)cross-iconscross-icons90 days (was 120)cross-icons
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Cardcross-iconscross-iconscross-icons1 year (was 2)cross-iconstransparent-green-tick90 days (was 120)cross-icons
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Cardcross-iconscross-iconscross-icons1 year (was 2)Newtransparent-green-tick90 days (was 120)cross-icons
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Cardtransparent-green-tickcross-iconstransparent-green-tick1 year (was 2)Newtransparent-green-tick90 days (was 120)cross-icons

How Amex changes affect cardholders

Even if you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, it’s tough to argue these changes as anything but a wide-scale reduction in the value of American Express. And for a company that presents its product as an important asset for consumers (“Don’t Live Life Without It”), these changes take the Swiss Army out of the knife.

Your cards now have a lower inherent value

All Amex cards are affected by this recent update, but cards with annual fees are under a more intense spotlight: You’re getting less for your money. Arguably, the value of high-end cards outweigh the annual fee you pay, but it’s become more clear that issuers aren’t afraid to level out the scales of cost.

You’ll need to re-examine your travel insurance

If you’re a frequent traveler, the loss of roadside assistance and travel accident insurance can cast a shadow over your vacation plans. It’s not clear how widely cardmembers used these safety net features, but given the safety of airlines — 2017 saw no deaths and few injuries aboard commercial passenger planes, according to the Aviation Safety Network — they likely weren’t used often. For a similar sense of security, you’ll now need to supplement or replace these benefits on your own.

Purchase go wrong? You have less time to get it fixed

American Express has slashed the terms of purchase protection and extended warranties — or even removed them entirely for select cards. That means if your shiny new computer breaks after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired, you have just one year (rather than two) to make good on Amex’s warranty.

High-end cards now edge out others for travel perks

A handful of higher-tier Amex cards gain benefits in these updates, perhaps as penance for the loss of the old ones. The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card all get the addition of trip delay reimbursement, while Reserve and Platinum cards also score trip cancellation. Given these five cards are positioned as travel essentials among other Amex cards, now each card’s role across the suite is more accurately represented by its features.

Why would Amex eliminate these features?

Amex isn’t alone in its cutting of card perks — in fact, the company appears to follow a trend of benefit downsizing set in motion earlier this year by Citi. Citi eliminated several card benefits in September, including travel accident insurance, roadside assistance, extended warranty and return protection. Chase had already trimmed or removed these perks in late 2018.

Why the trend? It comes down to benefit popularity and cold, hard cash. Cardholders don’t appear to use travel accident insurance and roadside assistance terribly often. But issuers still foot the bill for these perks, whether needed or not. If you don’t regularly lose life or limb during a flight, well, that benefit might not prove the best financial investment for the issuer.

Consumer knowledge is another factor in these recent trimmings: Many cardholders don’t know just how many benefits their cards offer, or even how they work. Issuers are trying to better highlight these features on cardholder account pages, but using these perks takes work on the part of the cardholder. “Invisible” perks like return protection become candidates for removal come time to tighten the company budget.

Which cards still offer these benefits?

Though such perks are becoming increasingly rare, some issuers still provide travel benefits for their cardmembers. For example, you’ll still find travel accident protection on Chase Sapphire cards. Other benefits, such as roadside assistance, depend on your credit card network and the type of card you end up qualifying for, such as a Mastercard World Elite or Visa Signature.

When it comes to these changing card perks, compare credit cards with travel insurance to find a brand that offers the best combination of coverage and spending power for your needs. In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted on future changes to your credit card benefits.

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