Why I’m Keeping My American Express Platinum Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express carries the most expensive annual fee of any card in my wallet. While I can easily justify paying $65 to help me with my elite status with SPG or $75 to get a free Category 1-4 night each year with Hyatt, it’s a lot more difficult to stomach a $450+ annual fee for any Amex Platinum Card.

Difficult, but not impossible. And not all my reasons are the same as many of the other bloggers you may hear from.

I got this card well before I decided to switch my business over to American Airlines, and I’ve never made a habit of flying Delta Air Lines, so recent changes to their lounge access policies that take effect on March 22 and May 1, respectively, aren’t serious issues in my mind.

I admit I had looked forward to getting access to American’s Admirals Clubs this year, but since all my trips start from Seattle, I can still get access to at least one lounge: the Alaska Airlines Board Room, via the included Priority Pass Select membership. Even that isn’t a huge priority of mine because Seattle has a pretty good main terminal. I’m also planning on more nonstop and international travel this year, which means either (1) fewer long layovers or (2) complimentary lounge access due to elite status/premium cabin.

No, the reason I got the card in the first place was for the other benefits. Things like the Global Entry fee credit, the $200 annual airline fee credit, access to reservations through the Fine Hotels & Resorts collection, and a variety of rental car benefits.

Airline Fee Credit — $200 Value

Right off the bat the $200 airline fee credit can usually be applied toward small denomination gift cards (I recommend $50 each) even if they are technically ineligible. Worst case scenario you don’t get the statement credit and you still have $200 to use on an airline you would fly anyway. Other (legitimate) uses of the fee credit I might take advantage of are premium drinks at the airport club’s bar, food in those clubs that offer it, and buy-on-board for the times I’m sitting in coach, usually with Megan.

Airport Lounge Access — only $100 Value

Second, I do use the Alaska Airlines Board Room and other clubs a few times a year. I might use the Centurion Lounges this year if I’m traveling more through DFW, but I haven’t yet had that opportunity. Clearly lounge access with this card has never been a necessity for me, but it is pleasant. I’d place the value of this benefit at only $100 for the entire year. Maybe less.

Amex airport club access

Rental Car Benefits — $50 Value

Third, I like that the card automatically gets me elite status with Hertz, National, and Avis along with a small discount. The discount isn’t special — you can find discounts all over the place — but the elite status helps with a slightly better car and faster pick-up. In the case of Hertz, it also provides a 4-hour grace period, which has been very helpful in saving me from extra rental charges a couple times. I might value this benefit at $50 since there is money to be saved, but you have to pay up front and I rarely rent a car.

Fine Hotels & Resorts Benefits — $100 Value

Fourth, I have booked a few rooms through Fine Hotels & Resorts and benefited from a complimentary upgrade, free breakfast, and a random credit like $100 at the restaurant or spa. Megan and I most recently took advantage of this during our honeymoon while staying at the St. Regis Bangkok.

The Platinum Card already got me SPG Gold status (call Amex to request it), and the FH&R benefits were the main reason we stayed there instead of the Grand Hyatt down the street where I had Diamond status. It was an even trade: free breakfast either way, and the spa credit made up for the higher rate. But I did enjoy the stay. I think FH&R makes me more amenable to branching out from my usual brands, but I can’t say this is something I use very often. I value it at about $100.

Amex FHR

Global Entry — $100 Value (First Year)

Fifth, the Global Entry credit is a great value if you don’t already have it. I already had Global Entry access as a Premier 1K member with United Airlines, so I used it for my wife’s application. That was another $100 saved — but only for the first year. If you have the consumer version of this card, then you may add up to three additional cardholders for a flat $175 — and they get nearly all the same benefits as you except the $200 airline fee credit. This is one of the cheapest ways to share Global Entry with your friends and family. It is much more expensive to add additional cardholders to a Business Platinum Card, so I don’t recommend that.

Summary

Add it all up and I’d say my American Express Platinum Card offers me about $450 in annual value right now, but in the first year it offered me $550 in value, so I’m coming out even after paying the $450 annual fee. Still, I tried to be conservative in these estimates even as I find myself using them more and more. You may do even better.

Remember that the Platinum Card is primarily a benefits card. I only ever pay for things with it when the Terms & Conditions require it, like when paying for the rental car. Otherwise it only earns 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar. I would rather use other cards for daily purchases, including my Premier Rewards Gold Card or Sapphire Preferred.

Comparing Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold

I don’t discuss the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card in detail in this post, but contrary to the Platinum Card (a good benefits card), the Premier Rewards Gold offers very good ability to earn Membership Rewards points with less emphasis on benefits.

When I originally applied for these cards, I picked the consumer Premier Rewards Gold Card and the business Platinum Card because both were offering targeted bonuses roughly twice as large as normal. Unfortunately American Express has a rule that it does not award the sign-up bonus to customers who apply for a second consumer or business card that earns Membership Rewards points, so picking different cards is a decent strategy.

But in fact I think it may be more advantageous for some people who apply for both cards to switch it around. Get the consumer Platinum Card because it’s cheaper to add additional cardholders. Get the business Premier Rewards Card (assuming you have a business) for bonus points on flights and computer purchases. If you have a spouse, have him or her get the consumer Premier Rewards Gold card for the grocery bonus. If, like me, you want to switch the type of cards you have, you need to wait at least one year after sign-up. You’ll then receive a pro-rated refund for the annual fees you’ve already paid.

Suggested Links

As always, I greatly appreciate it when you use my links to apply for a credit card, but feel free to chime in through the comments if you know of any links offering a higher bonus.

American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card

Email me for a referral — 25,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. No annual fee the first year, and $175 thereafter.

The Platinum Card® from American Express for Mercedes-Benz®

50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Annual fee of $475.

Disclaimer: Some of these cards may provide me an affiliate fee if you apply and are approved. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Scott created Travel Codex after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • Darth Chocolate

    A quibble on the FHR benefit. Many times they run a special – stay 2 nights, get 3rd free (or something similar). Yes the actual cash benefit is around $100, but you sometimes get to stay at exceptional properties that have only limited (or no) program, like the Peninsula (HK and others) or the Fairmont (like Le Chaeau Frontenac), These are exceptional experiences that may well be worth the price of admission.

    In addition, the concierge program allowed me to get tickets to The Who in 2012 before they went on sale to the general public (we got 25th row and could have gotten closer AND special VIP packages if we wanted to pay more), and I managed to score tickets for my Brother in-law to a “sold out” performance of The Book of Mormon. How do you value that?

    Then, they waive the MR annual fee. Yes, only $40 (last I checked), but it still counts.

    I travel on business and my company pays for booking changes (can reach $450 for discounted International Business Class), and the airline credit goes toward that (into my pocket). Or, it covers the taxes and fees on award tickets.

    But the biggest one you missed is the BOGO International Business Class ticket. This used to be once per year; now it appears unlimited. Use this once and you save $THOUSANDS (and take your new bride with you on a trip for minimal cost).

    I have been a Platinum AMEX member since 1996. And they have not failed me yet.

    • Scottrick

      I agree that FHR is not always a “deal.” But I usually take advantage when it is a Starwood or Hyatt property or when I really want to try something different. In other cases, I’m looking for something new anyway and a FHR rate and benefits at someplace like the Four Seasons is better than trying to book the public rate on the Four Seasons’ own website.

      I’m aware of the BOGO international ticket. But I’m not yet able to start paying for international business class and she has such limited vacation time that miles and award inventory have always been available. Maybe next year ;)

      • Darth Chocolate

        Well, it is a whole lot easier when your employer is paying for the first ticket.

        • Scottrick

          Definitely!

          • gymrat

            Darth – can you please expand on your comment? Thanks!

            “Then, they waive the MR annual fee. Yes, only $40 (last I checked), but it still counts.”

          • Darth Chocolate

            It used to be (a long time ago) that there was a fee ($40) for MR (Membership Rewards) if you had the green card. One of the benefits for the higher annual fee was that the MR fee was waived.

          • gymrat

            Thanks Darth. I have the green corporate card and they charge $100 per year enrollment fee to accrue and keep the Membership Rewards points, pretty steep.

          • Scottrick

            Corporate cards may be a different story. Not all companies want to pay the extra fee for the points — they just want to track expenses. So it’s up to the employee to pay the extra fee.

  • Locke42

    For a primarily United/Star Alliance flyer, would you consider Chase’s United Club card to be a good alternative to switch to, given the removal of AA/US lounges from the Platinum Amex?

    • Scottrick

      It depends. In my argument here, I said I didn’t value the lounge benefits much — and I got this card when I was still a United customer. So removing the US lounges isn’t a big change. I don’t think I ever used one except when on an international ticket and already had access. If you value the lounge benefits more than I do, then you might find some value in the MP Club card.

      The other benefits between the two cards are very different. Amex offers more discounts, account statements, etc. United tends to offer things like better award availability and upgrades.

      • Locke42

        I do like the fact that many of Amex’s benefits are tangible savings.

        How about the side status benefits of United compared to Platinum? Hyatt Platinum vs SPG Gold, or Avis First vs the rental car benefits of Amex Platinum?

        • Scottrick

          Hyatt Platinum is pretty easy to get with the Hyatt Credit Card — which also comes with an annual free night to offset the annual fee. The Amex Platinum Card is the only one I know of that gives you SPG Gold without requiring a minimum spend. So I give Amex the win here.

          As for rental benefits, Amex gives you status with Hertz, National, and Avis compared to United providing Avis only. Though UA gives you higher status with Avis, I personally prefer Hertz and National and also like the Hertz grade period.

  • Amol

    I wish the Business Gold card had a higher bonus.

    • Scottrick

      Targeted offers exist, but usually for 50K. I have rarely seen 75K.

  • disqust101

    Of course you are going to call and ask for retention offer, right?

    I got 25K MR plus $100 for incidentals on AA for personal Platinum and 50K plus $100 for Biz Platinum. $24K spend on personal/$36K on Biz – almost all MS.

    • Scottrick

      Yes, I’ll make an effort. I already have a proactive $200 credit for the loss of lounge access, but some bonus points would be nice.

    • Moreno_JT

      I spent 52K with my AMX Platinum last year. Are there offers that I should be requesting from AMEX?

      • Scottrick

        I’m not sure the Amex Platinum is the best card to spend that much on unless you have to for business reasons. Normally other cards like the Premier Rewards Gold provide more points — though I still keep my Platinum card for the benefits.

        With that kind of spend I recommend you call Amex and tell them you’re disappointed with the loss of AA club access. See what they’ll offer if you agree not to cancel your card. You can probably get $200-400 statement credit and/or some bonus miles.

  • FEV7

    I also like the AE “Offers for You”. By watching them throughout the year, and taking advantage of the offers, I’ve saved money.

    And – don’t forget Small Business Saturday – $10 this past year.

    It all adds up!

  • shay peleg

    You are forgetting how anything you buy with it is covered if it’s lost . For me that’s at least 400$ value.