American Express took a shot at offering a traveler’s card with a rewards program that doesn’t focus on frequent flier miles with their Blue Sky Preferred Card from American Express. The concept is certainly a noble effort given the sheer difficulty of using frequently flier miles—not to mention the fact that many cards do not offer a direct point-for-mile conversion, so obtaining miles from your points can be costly. The question is: did they succeed?
How does the Blue Sky Preferred from American Express rewards system work?
Each point you earn is worth 1.33 cents towards a credit on your statement, merchandise, or gift cards. You earn one point for every dollar spent on your Blue Sky Preferred Card from American Express in general and two points for every dollar spent at a restaurant, hotel, or car rental.
This is generous considering most points systems generate only one cent per dollar spent. All new card holders who spend $1,000 in the threw months their account is open also receive 15,000 free points (a $200 value).
In addition to the points system, the Blue Sky Preferred card from American Express comes with a perks list typical of American Express cards, many seemingly aimed at making the card more advantageous for travelers.
-Annual airline allowance
Card holders can request up to $100 a year in reimbursement for various travel fees, such has in flight entertainment or beverage charges, from the airline of their choice.
-Blue Points saving program
When shopping with a Blue Sky Preferred card from American Express, you can utilize American Express’s blue points saving program to find exclusive deals to card holders for discounts on hotel stays, car rentals and more. Card holders are also sent regular emails with savings and special offers not open to the public.
-Roadside assistance, 24/7 travel assistance hotline, car rental and travel insurance
The Blue Sky Preferred Card from American Express offers a fair gambit of emergency and accident protection for purchases made on the account including:
-24 hour roadside assistance, however, all services provided are charged to the card holders account—simply at a discounted rate.
– 24/7 travel assistance through Global Assist, which can be used in emergencies, such as lost passports, or for destination details, such as weather. There is no charge for this hot line.
-Car rental insurance that covers loss, damage or theft up to $50,000 for most vehicle models in most countries for the first 30 consecutive rental days.
-Travel insurance covering $100,000 to 250,000 death or disembodiment in both domestic and foreign travel.
-A wealth of shopping benefits:
Outside of the travel-centric variety of perks, the Blue Sky Preferred card from American Express also comes with purchase protection, purchase returns service, dispute resolution, and an extended warranty option. Purchase protection allows card holders to file a claim if a purchased item is broken or stolen within 90 days. Return coverage allows card holders to return goods that are otherwise un-returnable to American Express for an up to $300 refund, and the extended warranty feature doubles the manufactures warranty at no additional cost. If all of the above fails and there is still a problem, American Express also provides dispute resolution services with the original seller to help resolve the situation.
What does the Blue Sky Preferred card from American Express cost?
All in all the benefit package that comes along with a Blue Sky Preferred card from American Express is none too shabby, especially when the, albeit confusing for some, but liberal point system is considered. However, it is certainly not as robust as some of American Express’s other travel card options, such as the Platinum card. Of course, that slightly reduced perk list also comes with a reduced annual fee– $75 a year rather than $450. You can also choose the regular Blue card from American Express for a fee-free version, but the benefits again decrease.
Foreign transactions also come with a 2.7 percent fee, giving international travelers a clear reason to consider another card type.
So, who would use the Blue Sky Preferred card from American Express?
This card is best for those that are looking for a decent benefit package without a lofty annual payment that travel frequently within the US and are sick and tired of messing with frequent flier miles. The double point value for restaurant, hotel and rental car purchases also makes it an acceptable non-Visa or MasterCard option for those who don’t travel often, though more fitting benefit packages may be available as the Blue Sky Preferred Card from American Express does lean towards consumers that travel.
The foreign transaction fee makes the Blue Sky Preferred Card from American Express a poor choice for frequent travelers outside the US, however, American Express does offer cards with higher annual fees, but no foreign transaction fee if you are looking to stick with AmEx.
Coming full circle back to the original point: did American Express create a fuss-free travel card by cutting out frequent flier miles altogether? Sort of. In my humble opinion, this card falls short in the travel card department primarily in its foreign transaction department. In addition, unfortunately, while the points system does eliminate the fuss of converting points to frequent flier miles, it increases upfront costs—something card shoppers who may have chosen the Blue Sky Preferred card for its lower annual fee may not like so much.
“How so?” you may ask. The Blue Sky Preferred card from American Express point system works in regards to travel via statement credits. You must first purchase your ticket, and then request a credit. The credit will arrive in 6 to 8 weeks. Statement credits are also capped at 7,500 points or $100 per credit. With frequent flier miles depending on the card there may be blackout dates and it may cost you a lot more points, but it is possible to get a free ticket—not a $100 rebate weeks later.
This is not to say the Blue Sky Preferred card from American Express isn’t worth the $75 a year for everyone, but that like all legally binding contracts, before you sign up, be sure you know what you’re really getting.