American Express Co. is sweetening the perks it offers travelers with its new Blue Sky Preferred credit card introduced Nov. 1.

The $75-a-year card is the first to offer a $100 annual credit cardholders may apply to cover travel costs such as baggage fees, in-flight meals, entertainment or Internet access on any airline, according to AmEx.

Cardholders also may earn double points on all hotel, car-rental and dining purchases and one point on all other types of spending.

The catch: To redeem the $100 travel allowance, cardholders must book the flight using the Blue Sky Preferred card and request reimbursement within 60 days of charging the travel fee to their card.

AmEx claims the $100 travel-reimbursement perk is “33% greater than most rewards cards.”

Moreover, the new card also “helps build business for our merchant partners,” E-Bai Koo, an AmEx vice president, noted in a statement.

The Blue Sky Preferred Card sounds like a “relatively competitive” addition to the travel-rewards card sector, which is becoming “increasingly saturated,” Brian Riley, senior research director at TowerGroup, tells PaymentsSource

“Clearly AmEx still has a lot of flexibility with its merchant discounts, and it is reinvesting that back into their customer base with more perks such as these,” Riley says.

Cardholders of other AmEx travel-rewards programs already are reaping baggage-waiver benefits.

Delta Air Lines Inc. in May announced it would waive baggage-handling fees for holders of the consumer and small-business versions of the Delta SkyMiles American Express credit cards. Those cards, which also provide other benefits, carry annual fees of $95 to $150 (see story).

Continental Airlines also offers a baggage-fee waiver, among other benefits, for holders of the Continental Airlines OnePass Plus MasterCard from JPMorgan Chase & Co. That card carries an annual fee of $85.

And U.S. Bancorp earlier this year began awarding its FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature cardholders $25 to use toward baggage fees, in-flight food or beverages, or other fees when they redeem FlexPerks points for airline tickets (see story). 

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