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- American Express frequently offers cardholders access to exclusive events, travel packages, and restaurant reservations.
- Recently, AmEx offered card members early access to a travel package to San Juan, Puerto Rico, that included tickets to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in “Hamilton.”
- From luxury accommodations, to cocktails and dinners with award-winning chefs, and an exclusive meet and greet with Lin-Manuel Miranda, it was an unforgettable experience.
- Below, take a look at what the event was like in Puerto Rico, so you can get a good sense of what AmEx travel packages can be like.
- For more, check out our guide to the best American Express cards. Our top pick is the Platinum Card® from American Express.
Of the various perks that credit card companies offer to cardholders, one of the easier to forget, but most expansive, is exclusive access to events.
All of the major card issuers offer a version of an events program, whether it’s backstage tours at concerts offered by Citi, or behind-the-scenes access at film festivals with Chase.
There’s a case to be made, though, that American Express is the standard bearer in this area. From its exclusive By Invitation Only events, to perks like air conditioned lounges for cardholders at events like the US Open, events can range in cost from free, complimentary access to thousands of dollars, and in size from intimate groups of one or two dozen, to massive and open to anyone with an AmEx card.
Because it has so many hands in different areas, AmEx is occasionally able to offer full-service, all-inclusive travel events, with itineraries, activities, hotels, transportation, and meals all arranged.
In January, AmEx hosted an extremely limited, three-day event in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for about 100 cardholders — anyone with any AmEx card was eligible. This contrasted with By Invitation Only events, which are exclusive to AmEx Platinum cardholders. However, it sold out within just a few hours.
The cornerstone of the event was attending an opening weekend performance of “Hamilton,” which was produced for a three-week run by creator Lin-Manuel Miranda as a way to raise funds for and awareness of the island’s continued recovery from 2017’s Hurricane Maria.
For cardholders who managed to snag the coveted spots on the trip, the event wasn’t cheap — the full package was $6,800 for two people — but it included everything, and made for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for “Hamilton” fans.
The event, which was a collaboration among several AmEx divisions and initiatives, ultimately centered around its “Shop Small” campaign promoting spending at small businesses.
Attendees had the chance to stay at an AmEx Fine Hotels and Resorts property — the Condado Vanderbilt — take self-guided tours of small businesses in the historic Old San Juan shopping district, enjoy dinner hosted by chefs who are part of AmEx’s Global Dining Collection, and, of course, see the show.
“We’re big ‘Hamilton’ fans, and we’ve seen it before, but never with Lin,” said Marianne Guschwan, who took advantage of the travel package with her daughter Winnie Thompson, a super fan who sang a song from the show during her sixth grade play audition. “When we heard about the Puerto Rico production, I started to keep an eye out, and when I saw the AmEx event it seemed like a perfect way to get tickets and take a trip.”
AmEx chartered a plane for the event to bring all the card members down from New York’s JFK airport. There were a few extra seats available on the plane in each direction — some card members I spoke with had decided to extend their trips before or after the event, and arranged their own alternate travel — and AmEx invited several members of the media, myself included, along to cover the show’s opening weekend.
While I was there, I had the opportunity to experience most of the cardholder’s event. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but for cardholders, everything from cocktails and dinner with internationally renowned chefs, to a chance to meet Lin-Manuel Miranda, seemed like a perfect way to make a special trip.
For the right event, and price, I’d definitely consider taking advantage of a future travel package offered to cardholders.
Here’s what the whole weekend was like:
After going through security — the operating airline had representatives escorting attendees of the AmEx event to the front of the line — and stopping very briefly in the lounge, we were taken to gate B23 in JFK’s terminal 4. From there, we boarded buses, which drove us to the remote stand where the chartered Boeing 767 was parked.
One of the benefits of a chartered aircraft is that it can be configured for exactly what the client needs.
Of course, there’s also the convenience, air of exclusivity, and possibly even cost savings for a group event or team journey. In this case, that meant a low-density configuration of about 100 business-class seats arranged in a 2-2-2 layout. Check out this video walkthrough of the exact plane (tail N767MW) in a similar configuration in 2012.
Each seat — which could recline far back and had foot and leg rests — had a large pillow, warm blanket, and custom in-flight menu waiting on it.