Using your American Express Gold Rewards Card for Holiday Travel

Holiday Travel. Everyone is excited to visit family and friends for the holidays. Drinking hot chocolate, singing Christmas carols, opening presents are just some of what we look forward to. What many people aren’t excited about is the travel part and the booking of it. You can’t get the flights you want because your loyalty program has sold all their seats or they want much higher than usual redemption amounts. Or flights are available but getting from Vancouver to Montreal includes stops in Edmonton and Toronto. Or maybe its the week before Christmas and you decide last minute that
you and your family want to up and go the day after Christmas to somewhere warm and sunny, the likelihood of finding award tickets is not ideal.  So what can you do about it?

You use a card that lets you book any flight at any time and then pay for it with points after the fact. We look at it in our feature Why proprietary credit card reward programs are the best option for most Canadians and one of the mainstays in our wallet and our top recommendation to many of you is the American Express Gold Rewards Card. And when we say any flight any time, its not like a lot of the commercials you see where you have to call the credit card reward’s travel agency. We mean you go to your travel agent, you go online or heck even if you go to the airport and buy the ticket two hours before you fly. That is what we mean by any flight any time.

Going back to the situations discussed in the first paragraph this card will overcome them so long as seats are available for purchase on the flights you want,  or rooms are available at the hotels you want to stay at. 

Here’s an example of how it could work:

Its early December and you decide that you’re going to go visit Grandma for Christmas. You find your ideal flights on You go through the booking and pay for the flights with your American Express Gold Card. Two days later the charges show up on your account.

Let’s say the total cost was $2,000 and you have 55,000 points in your Membership Rewards account.

  • 25,000 Points from getting the card and hitting that $1,500 spend threshold within the first 90 days. 
  • You earned another 10,000 by referring 2 friends to card 
  • Another 15,000 comes from spending only $7,500 on eligible gas, grocery, drug store and travel purchases as the card earns 2 Points per dollar on those categories and 1 point per dollar on all other eligible spending
  • 4,000 of those 15,000 points were just earned on the flights you purchased 
  • The other 5,000 is from other everyday spend that earns 1 point per dollar. 

You can now redeem those 55,000 points right away as a $550 statement credit towards the $2,000 in flights.

Examples of utilizing the Use Points for Purchase on the American Express Website


Its now January. You did tons of Christmas shopping on the card in November and December, you visited Grandma, had a great time and now have another 10,000 points accumulated in your Membership Rewards account from your use of the American Express Gold Rewards card. Well guess what? You can use those 10,000 points against the WestJet flights! That’s right, even though the travel is already complete and you have already redeemed some points against the charges you can keep doing so for up to 12 months after the charge posts! Traditional loyalty programs don’t let you do this. Neither do two of the very well known proprietary credit card reward programs that advertise heavily in Canada. All of them only let you redeem if you have the full amount of points or severely devalue your points if you do a partial redemption.

Yet another bonus for you,

Since the flights were considered revenue tickets by WestJet, all of your family members earned WestJet dollars on those flights and they spend counted towards the spend requirements for reaching elite status in the program. Essentially what you just completed is the famous double dip. You earned Membership Rewards points for the purchase of the tickets on the card and you earned the WestJet dollars for the actual flights. Not bad considering you also redeemed points for the flights!

We love using the Gold Rewards Card to help fund our
vacations since you don’t have to worry about having all the points up
front before you travel. For example, if you’ve budgeted $5,000 for your
vacation and you have $1,500 worth of points saved up in your
Membership Rewards account, you can choose to save and make that
vacation cost only $3,500 or you can still spend your $5,000 and boost
your budget to $6,500 using the points. That $1,500 could get you the
5-star hotel with a private beach, versus the 3-star one down the road
with a shared beach. 
See how the Rewards Canada family has saved money with proprietary programs in our Redemption Stories section! 

Final thoughts 

Many people are limited to travelling during the busy
times of the year, Christmas, Spring Break, Family Day Break, Summer
Break etc. This is also when most of everyone else in Canada is travelling, so of course when
it comes to using traditional reward programs most will find it
difficult to redeem during those “high season” periods. With a flexible
travel card like the Gold Rewards Card, those difficulties are
alleviated. As you’ve seen above, you can book any travel you want with
anyone you want and you are good to go as you can choose to redeem as
many points as you want afterwards.