Know Your Benefits: Amex Platinum Medical Evacuation Claim on Award Ticket Saves $275,000

Reader Arthur‘s parents were in Singapore on an award trip he helped to book using Membership Rewards points transferred to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer. Taxes were paid with his father’s American Express Platinum card.

They flew Atlanta – New York JFK on a Delta economy award and then New York JFK – Frankfurt – Singapore in Singapore Suites.

During the trip Arthur’s father had a heart attack. They were on a 3 day stopover before continuing to Bali but they never made that portion of the trip. While doing a food tour with friends he had a heart attack. Fortunately one of the friends was an OB/GYN who performed CPR on him within one minute. Arthur relays, “[w]ith Singapore traffic it took 15 minutes to get to the emergency room where they defibrillated him and restarted his heart.” His father’s brain was injured from lack of oxygen during the time enroute to Raffles Hospital.

It was a stressful time for Arthur’s family already with a new baby in the house just days old. But he was on top of his benefits, and medical evac coverage made a huge difference for his family.

He verified that his father’s American Express Platinum card had medical evacuation coverage that applied even on an award ticket since the taxes and fees for the award were paid with the card.
(AIG asked for confirmation that the positioning flights to and from New York were also paid for with the Platinum American Express card — $5.60 security taxes — though it’s not clear this would have been required to honor the claim.)

His father was flown from Singapore to Atlanta on a specially outfitted Gulfstream 100 which made the journey in 25 hours after 4 refuel and crew change stops. He had a doctor, paramedic, respiratory technician, and his wife on-board.


Gulfstream Business Jet, Copyright nort / 123RF Stock Photo

Arthur shares the following:

The American Express Platinum evacuation benefit was incredible. His flight home would have cost $275,000 otherwise.

He had a medically outfitted Gulfstream 100 come from Toronto with a Doctor, Paramedic, and Respiratory Technician. They had a hard time getting landing rights in Singapore so for a while it looked like they were going to take him by ambulance to Johor Bahru Malaysia to fly out. At the last minute they got the landing rights.

So they flew him home Singapore – Taipei – Sapporo – Anchorage – Calgary – Atlanta Peachtree Dekalb (PDK). The pilots changed a couple times but it was the same medical crew for the entire 25 hour flight + ambulance time.

My mom got to ride with him too although the Gulfstream G100 was at capacity so it was an uncomfortable journey. They sedated dad and gave him morphine for the trip home so he was zonked out the whole time.

I came to Atlanta for his arrival and found the Ambulance driver waiting on the lane at PDK. He allowed me to get in the back of the ambulance with my sister and drive out on the tarmac to pick him up. We had to wait for 2 drive-up customs guys to clear the plane (they didn’t use the US customs border people in Calgary I guess) and then they transferred him to the ambulance to the hospital.

It was great to see him in one piece and to see my mom after what has been a traumatic experience for her.

I notice Chase has the same benefit capped at $100k on the Sapphire Reserve. Amex Plat had no cap thankfully!!!

The benefit was provided through AIG, which has a 24/7 command center to coordinate emergency logistics. Arthur explains,

During each shift an AIG case worker had the case and was the point person until hand-off to the next person on the next shift. So we had a specific person to speak to at the contact center whenever we called which was nice.


Arthur’s Father Being Transferred from Gulfstream to Ambulance at Atlanta Peachtree-Dekalb Airport

Arthur’s father is now receiving specialized care at the Shepard Brain Injury Center in Atlanta where he receives “Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Memory Therapy, and “Hobby” Therapy each day” and anticipates being released to home recovery in a month. The prognosis over the next six months is extremely good.

I’m always torn over what card to use to pay for trips, is it better to earn 5 points per dollar on the American Express Platinum but without trip or baggage delay coverage, or earn 3 points per dollar with those benefits? But those benefits are small and over the course of a year I value the extra 2 points more.

It’s incredibly rare to need medical transport — from the other side of the world — but when you do this is huge. It’s a great benefit, and most people wouldn’t even realize they had it, especially at such a stressful time.

If something goes medically wrong on a trip, it’s a good idea to reach out to the American Express Premium Global Assist line right away to get the ball rolling, just in case.

Meanwhile, Delta waived the award redeposit for the New York JFK – Atlanta return award ticket. And Aeroplan eventually refunded miles and taxes for the Asiana first class Bali – Bangkok – Seoul – New York JFK return although this took “some back and forth” emphasizing that a mere waived fee for a date change may not help if Arthur’s father had died. The Grand Hyatt Bali provided full refund for the 7 night stay they weren’t able to take despite being inside the hotel’s cancellation window as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Is this medical evacuation offered to all American Express Platinum members? From what I remember it was only part of their old offering where you could purchase Travel Medical Insurance that included this. I’m grandfathered in and pay $13.00 a month for $500,000 in coverage for myself and family. They also used to have a more elevated travel delay protection that I’m grandfathered in to that has great trip and baggage delay that costs $27 per trip.

  2. Incredible story Gary.
    Now I know what credit card to charge for my award tickets.

  3. It’s a wonderful story when the services work as they should, when the service people are thoughtful and caring, and when even the airline goes “above and beyond”.

    Also, for a modest sum ($325.00/year), I carry medical evacuation coverage from The Florida Bar through Medjet. I hope I never have to use it, the coverage is similar to what is described in the story. It is a small price for peace of mind, given some of the places my wife and I go.

  4. That sure takes the sting out of the annual fee. For those of us who travel a lot and need trip insurance out of the country, it’s cheaper than an annual travel insurance policy. PLUS it has other perks!

  5. I thought evacuation was usually from places where there wasn’t adequate medical care. Singapore has a solid medical system, in the region at least. Could AIG have argued that the initial medical care in Singapore was sufficient before a cheaper relocation?

  6. Do the new Amex Platinum cards carry the same medical evacuation benefits? How does Amex Platinum benefits for medical evacuation compare to Citi Prestige, City Crystal and Chase Sapphire Reserve?

  7. You said Chase has the same benefit capped at $100k on the Sapphire Reserve. What about Citi prestige? or any other card that comes close

  8. Sounds like Amex are not GOP. They don’t know what fun it is to tell people to just die quietly.

  9. According to the terms and conditions that came with my Platinum Card, it doesn’t appear to actually be a requirement to pay for the trip with your Platinum Card in order to get medical evacuation coverage.

    Terms say emergency services are provided to Card Members where “(a) such Card is on an Account that has not been suspended or canceled, (b) Premium Global Assist Hotline was an existing benefit of the Card Account at the beginning of the trip, (c) the Card Member is traveling on a trip of 90 days or less, and (d) the Card Member is 100 miles or more from the Card Member’s American Express U.S. billing address.”

    Gary…if you email me, I can send you photos of the full terms.

  10. @Jamie – premium global assist is definitely available to cardmembers regardless of whether they pay for their trip with the card, however I’m not certain medical evac coverage is (I’ve read on blogs that it isn’t but i do not know for certain that’s true and they asked arthur for itinerary receipts)

  11. @Gary – The terms I have don’t place any additional conditions (besides not covering pre-existing conditions and stuff like that) on medical evacuation coverage. Definitely see your point that they asked for proof of charge in your real life case, but I would think based off terms as written, you would have a good case to get around any potential charge requirement.

    I have a hard time charging flights to my AMEX Plat, even with the new 5x points due to their lack of trip delay coverage.

  12. Did the award ticket have to also be booked using Membership Rewards to receive this benefit? Or was using the AmEx Platinum to pay the taxes and fees enough?

    I seem to remember either Chase or Citi requires, in addition to using the card to pay taxes and fees, the award to have been booked using Ultimate Rewards or Thank You points respectively to be eligible for travel protections. Hopefully I’m wrong though.

  13. @grant it is common to provide coverage for trips booked with points via travel portal but Citi Prestige and CSR cover split tender payments for trip delay up to the amount charged to the card. I haven’t investigated the medical evac.

    No need to redeem poiints transferred from Membership Rewards for this benefit as far as I can tell.

  14. I’m pretty sure Singapore has excellent hospitals and people fly to Singapore for surgeries. Anyway, glad he made it back.

  15. Nice article!

    Is CSR more restrictive than CSP? I thought CSP didn’t limited the trip delay to amounts actually paid (Citi does for sure). I once read the T&Cs but not recently.

    Also, membership in Divers Alert Network gives worldwide evacuation insurance, doesn’t have to be a diving accident, nor do you have to be a diver . And at $35 individual or $55 family membership, is a screaming deal.

  16. I live 3 miles from Peachtree DeKalb Airport – they probably flew over my house. Very glad I have a Platinum Card. Will keep this in mind when booking international trips.

  17. I just called the Global Assist number to ask about this. They said that if their medical team decided that transportation was necessary they would transport you to a hospital that can treat you properly, so long as you are more than 100 miles from home on a trip lasting less than 90 days. You don’t have to have put the trip on the Amex Platinum card; you just have to have that card. The benefit applies to the cardholder, his or her spouse, and any children under 23 (26 if in full-time college).

  18. I can speak to this personally. I recently was on a vacation in the Carribean and suffered a concussion while in the water (don’t ask). The trip was NOT purchased on the Platinum Card. All that matters is that you are a cardholder. The triage through AIG was absolutely top notch – an ER doctor was in communication at all times with my wife (who was in a state of panic) and he and his team handled the situation with care, compassion, and efficiency. Amex paid to have me on the next commercial flight out (I did not need a medevac) to Fort Lauderdale where car service was waiting and was treated with great care by the ER doctors there. I happened to luck out because I guess there is a shortage of docs in Florida, and the ER doctor who triaged me and followed me for the rest of the evening was on loan from Las Vegas where he treats prize fighters for brain injuries.

    Amex has a loyal customer for life based on this experience.

  19. Actually Americans seeking medical assistance overseas is not very rare. The most frequent injury is motor vehicle accidents. With “struck by a motor vehicle” as the #1 injury for Americans abroad.

    Now others here are stating that Singapore has good medical care. That isn’t the point, this man has to be transported back to the States. This is where the cost becomes outrageous. Any one who travels overseas and does not have some kind of medical evacuation coverage….you are just being very foolish. Even if you don’t have the Platinum card, purchasing trip insurance is not expensive. Our next trip I insured for $225, for 3 weeks. The plan has $1 million of medical and evacuation coverage. I don’t even think twice about purchasing it. And my spouse has the Platinum Card.

  20. I’ll definitely read my coverage benefits again!

    Is this benefit both for personal platinum and business platinum?

  21. Have Chase Sapphire Reserve. Nice to know award tickets will be covered when fees are paid for via card. I’m dropping my airline specific cards and using the Reserve for all travel charges. I’ll pay the baggage fees which would be waived on an airline card.

    I was on the QE2 on a transatlalantic when someone had a heart attack, several hours from Nova Scotia. A helicopter, followed by a refueling tanker performed the evacuation. Hate not have evacuation coverage on that one.

  22. Added. Just checked. Amex medical coverage capped at $ 20,000.

    Chase Sapphire Reserve only $ 2500. Advantage Amex.

  23. Amex Platinum medical evacuation benefits are clear: Look under “premium global assist hotline”
    https://web.aexp-static.com/us/content/pdf/card-benefits/PlatinumCardfromAmericanExpress/Premium_Global_Assist.pdf

    1. They cover the card holder/ spouse/domestic partner/dependent children age 23-26 for 100 miles from home.

    2. You do not need to charge the trip (e.g., airfare) to a Platinum card.

    3. A medical evacuation may be provided at no cost to the Card Member or covered family
    member from point of illness or injury to a more appropriate medical facility or to a hospital near the person’s home as determined by the Premium Global Assist Hotline designated physician.

    4. Illness cannot be a pre-existing condition (being treated within the past 60 days) and HIPAA release should be signed.

    4. No preset limits.

  24. @JohnB, which company did you get the traveler’s insurance through? My husband and I are traveling to Europe this year and after experiencing this madness with my father (I am the sister mentioned in this blog), we will either get traveler’s insurance or open up this AMEX card.

  25. I spoke with a Amex Global Assist representative a few months ago about an upcoming trip to Antarctica. He said I would be covered for medical evacuation (not medical care though) regardless of the location as long as they could get a plane there. Many other travel insurance policies do not cover medical evacuation in remote areas. He said the trip did not need to purchased with the Platinum card. The medical evacuation coverage comes with card membership not card use. A good reason for keeping a Platinum card.

  26. So glad to read the prognosis is good! Way to go AmEx!!!
    With my health insurance premium tripling over the past 2 years (with a deductible that has grown by a factor of 5) and insurance companies pulling out of the marketplace, it is great to hear a story with a good outcome and happy – and now I bet – very loyal customers.

  27. Gary, really nice story. I still do advise people who are undertaking potentially dangerous or extremely remote travel (high-altitude trekking, Antarctica, off-the-beaten-track jungle treks) to invest in a good travel policy. Why? Because you wouldn’t want to be refused any potential credit-card benefits based on a technicality or mistaken review of credit-card benefits that you thought you would qualify for but don’t. The expense of a $100k+ medevac is something nobody should ever go through … not least as many decent short-term policies don’t cost much more than $100.

  28. I also have medical evacuation coverage and security evacuation coverage through the Veteran’s Advantage card but it is limited to $50K. Glad I have an Amex Platinum card

  29. Wow. This is an amazing story. Wishing the best to the family and sending a few claps in Amex’s direction. Sounds like AIG was top notch as well.

  30. @credit thanks for injecting politics into a travel forum story with a happy ending. I know its hard to believe but there’s more to life than politics.

  31. Really good story but usually (at least in Europe) its cheaper to just buy insurance seperately.
    I pay 9.90 EUR / year: https://www.dkv.com/gesundheit-ausland-auslandsreise-krankenversicherung-dkv-16190.html
    and get full medican insurance worldwide with full reimbursement for any medical treatment as well as free transport back home when medical needed.
    So AmEx has some great benefits but the cost of the card, well, I don’t know, rather pay 10€ / year for the seperate insurance with the same (or even better) benefits.

  32. @Leon – life IS politics. maybe you have to be less fortunate to understand that.

  33. @AnnaG I purhased insurance for 3 weeks in Italy from TravelInsured.com. There are many options for coverage but what we got cost $72 for 2 of us and covered $1m emergency medical evacuation, $100,000 accident & sickness medical, $1000 baggage ins, $300 baggage delay, $1000 travel delay, $250 reimbursement of miles or reward points, $250 change fee, $500 missed connection, $500 itinerary change. In order to keep the cost down and since we used miles and our hotels were all refundable, we set our trip cost at $0 so we wouldn’t get any trip cancellation or interruption insurance. I mainly was interested in the medical insurance and evacuation.

  34. I’m not seeing this on the AmEx page. They don’t even really mention it here https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/benefits/view-all/platinum except under the fine price where it says “To be covered, you must pay the Entire Fare** for travel on a Common Carrier (e.g. plane, train, ship, or bus) with your eligible Card. Entire Fare** means the cost of the full fare for a Covered Trip on a Common Carrier. You can use your Basic or Additional Card Member’s American Express Card, American Express Membership Rewards® Points or a combination of both for the entire fare. But if you use another form of payment or frequent flyer miles or points from another program to pay for all or part of the fare, you will not be covered, except for New Hampshire residents.”

    Can someone help clarify this? Do different people have different terms?

  35. Great travel article. I would like to see follow up of what credit cards offer the most comprehensive coverage for the annual fee of “what’s in your wallet?”

  36. POINT OF INFORMATION: You do not need to charge your ticket (or anything for that matter) on the American Express Platinum card to access this service. This service (American Express Premium Global Assist) is available TO ANYONE WHO HOLDS THE CARD, PERIOD. I just called them to confirm. In this case, “Membership really does have its privileges.” (Peter, above, is correct.)

  37. I get a travel insurance plan for each out of the country trip the wife and I take now. It is the one recommended but Nomadic Matt. It’s only about $100 for a week for the wife and I and includes $300k for evac and $100k for emer. medical for accidents & sickness. We don’t have the Plat. AMEX but find the cost of the insurance for the few trips we take reasonable given the alternative should something bad happen.

  38. Cindi, I read the same paragraph in the terms and conditions, I believe you are correct. Don, verbal confirmation is worthless when a written contract states the requirements. I wouldn’t take the chance flying on award tickets.

  39. Nice benefit, but as a doctor I can say that this was extremely poor clinical judgment.

    The health care available in Singapore is significantly superior to anything available in the USA.

    I would not consider moving a patient who has just had a myocardial infarction and hypoxic brain injury from top quality care onto a small air ambulance.

    It’s absolutely foolhardy.

  40. As much crap as we give to clueless news media when they use a 747 picture when talking about an ATR, I gotta give you the same crap – the Gulfstream you have pictured is way different from the G100 (which was never even made by Gulfstream, but that’s a long story). The one you have pictures would probably be capable of making a non-stop journey.

    Otherwise, great story with as happy of an ending as someone could hope for in this situation. Thanks for sharing!

  41. Davidf is spot on. Some of the best medical care in the world and they fly him out of Singapore on a charter company that wasn’t approved to operate in the country’s? Something fishy going on here and I have to wonder who was advising the family on this. I can’t imagine the doctors in Singapore were supportive of this decision. Glad it worked out regardless.

  42. It is fishy. I’m following the comments and starting to think it sounds more like an Amex ad. Similar to the casinos that publicize the big slot winner.

    I don’t believe this is their routine handling of these cases.

  43. To Anna G. What nightmare?

    Were you a party to the original Singapore post, or did you gave a bad review experience elesewhere? Several Paul’s commenting. I’m not the Antarctica Paul.

    We did have a Singapore stopover on our way to Sydney. The 19 hour nonstop flight from Newark. An absolute first class experience in a first class city.

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