American Express expands vacation rental platform to new destinations

It appears American Express’ pilot program of a luxury vacation home rental platform is doing well enough to expand to new destinations and invite more members into the mix.

American Express first piloted Select Homes + Retreats in August, according to Travel Weekly. The vacation home rental platform was initially only offered to a small group of consumer and Business Platinum Card members and limited to a small number of locations: beaches near San Diego; the Gulf Coast of Florida and Alabama; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Vail in Colorado; Maui, Hawaii; and Park City, Utah.

Destinations like Palm Springs, California, and Charleston, South Carolina, are now also on the luxe home rental platform, according to the Select Homes + Retreats website. Additionally, more of Amex’s Platinum Card members report getting emails and invitations signaling their eligibility into the program. It is unclear what exactly the eligibility requirements may be.

Those who book through Select Homes + Retreats earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on each getaway made using the Platinum Card. Further, you can pay with points for all or part of your rental. There does appear to be a two-night minimum for booking a stay, according to sample bookings made on the website.

“As we develop and learn from the initial roll out, we will look to continue enhancing the program, including adding additional properties and locations in the coming months,” notes a pop-up notification on the Select Homes + Retreats” website.

Another hat in the ring of glitzy vacation rentals

If this kind of offering sounds familiar, you’re not wrong.

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Marriott, Accor, Hyatt and Mandarin Oriental all have some form of high-end vacation home rental platform. But don’t call these Airbnb copycats.

Similar to how Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonvoy or Homes & Hideaways by World of Hyatt works, Amex Select Homes + Retreats only works with homes operated by professional vacation management companies like Vacasa or Island Escapes rather than individual homeowners, which is where Airbnb gets many of its listings.

The trend is indicative of how travel companies increasingly see a need to provide travelers with a variety of options to book a trip. While it’s unlikely any of these companies or American Express will ever appeal to the couch-surfing crowd, it is important they have something like a luxury vacation home rental platform to appeal to existing customers who want a different kind of accommodation when they travel — and still want to be able to earn and redeem points.

It’s highly unlikely Airbnb leaders are losing too much sleep over this: American Express has a small number of listings compared to the more than 6 million found on Airbnb. Further, the short-term rental giant has a wide mix of clientele, from those who rent a bedroom in someone’s home (while the owner is still there) up to those wanting an entire waterfront mansion for a weekend.

“There is overlap. I’m not going to pretend there isn’t, but I do want to say there’s less overlap than anyone realizes,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said earlier this year at the Skift Global Forum. “Airbnb allowed a whole bunch of people to travel that weren’t traveling.”

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