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Sunday Reader Question: Maximizing Amex Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold Benefits

by on November 6, 2011 · 56 comments

in American Express, Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions

TPG reader Mike writes in with an interesting scenario that is of particular interest to me and I’m sure many of you as we calculate whether it’s worth it to retain our Amex Platinum cards:

Background: Last May, I took advantage of the Amex Platinum sign-up bonus and the Delta/Membership Rewards transfer promotion.  It left me with a lot more Skymiles, a fair amount of leftover Membership Rewards points, and bumped me up to Delta Platinum Medallion.  The two main benefits I get from the Amex Plat are the lounge access and the $200 airline reimbursement. 

Current offers: Delta is currently running a Skyclub promo which waives the $50 initiation fee for new members and also awards 1500 MQMs or two free months of membership.  Since I’m a Delta Platinum Medallion, SkyClub membership is discounted to $300.  Additionally, Amex is offering a sign-up bonus of 15,000 Membership Rewards points for their Premier Rewards Gold Card, with the annual fee of $175 waived for the first year.  The Premier Rewards Gold card is better at earning points for day-to-day spending.

What I’d (ideally) like to do: 1) Get the Premier Rewards Gold card to take advantage of the sign-on promo and use it for everyday spending to earn more MR points; 2) Buy a Delta SC membership at my discounted price, before Jan 1, to take advantage of the current promo; 3) Cancel my Amex Plat after Jan 1, only after using the $200 airline reimbursement to buy Delta gift cards; 4) Assuming I don’t renew my SC membership, get the Amex Plat back for 2013.  Doing this would save me around $150 next year and allow me continuity with lounge access.

1) I’m assuming that the $200 airline reimbursement for the Amex Plat resets on the calendar year, not the cardholder’s anniversary. Is this true?

2) If I were to call Amex to simply downgrade my Plat card to PR Gold card, instead of applying fresh for the PR Gold card, would I still be eligible for the bonus points and waiving of the annual fee for the first year? (Or, more generally, how generous are CC companies to customers who want to downgrade/upgrade cards to take advantage of offers?)

3) If I were to cancel my Amex Plat early in 2012, how long should I wait to reapply? (Or, more generally, how long should one wait to reapply for the same card, especially if there is/was some sort of sign-on promotion involved?)

Okay, here are my answers to your three main questions:
1) The $200 in yearly airline reimbursements is based on the calendar year. So on January 1 every cardholder gets a new $200 credit. So a brand new Amex Platinum cardholder would get $200 in credit now and then a new $200 in January. That’s $400 in rebates that can be used to buy airline gift cards, lounge membership or pay for baggage fees/food/etc. That benefit alone pretty much pays for the initial $450 annual fee. Plus, if you ever cancel your Platinum card, you will get a prorated refund of your annual fee. For more info, check out my full review of the Platinum Card.

2) When you downgrade/upgrade cards they often do not give you sign-up bonuses, so I always recommend applying for the bonus you want (like the current 15,000 point sign-up, which while it’s not amazing, it’s still worth roughly $300 to me and the $175 annual fee is waived for the first year. There’s also a Business Rewards Gold card that has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus and waived annual fee with $10k spend within 5 months. You can apply for this card with your social security number and as a sole proprietor and then canceling/downgrading your existing card. Note: many targeted bonuses are only good for upgrading your account, so in that scenario I recommend upgrading.

Once you get the Premier Rewards, just cancel your Platinum card. You will still retain your “Cardmember Since” status with American Express because you still kept a charge account with them active – you just changed around the product, which people do all the time.

3) There is no set rule with American Express in terms of when you can get a card bonus again. I know many people who have gotten several Starwood cards over the years and gotten the highest current sign-up bonus each time. Amex may even start sending you targeted offers to go back to the Platinum card, so I’d bet that you could get it again in 2013 with whatever sign-up bonus they are offering at that time. And who knows – by then they may have a newer, better product (or you could get a hybrid product like the Mercedes-Benz Platinum which offers most of the same benefits and has special Mercedes perks and a current sign-up bonus of 50,000)!

So there you have it. In general, getting the Premier Rewards Gold card is a smart move because it has much better earning potential- with 3 points per dollar on airfare, 2 points per dollar on gas and groceries and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Just remember it does have foreign transaction fees, so never use it abroad!

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Emailbrianjohns

    I heard you could buy gift certs with the $200 credit but tried this on AA and it didn’t code right. How about on the other airlines?

  • Anonymous

    It should work on AA. Did you buy in $50 increments?

  • Maury

    So this Jan 1, another $200 airline reimbursement is available for everyone, right?

  • Ellie

    where can you buy delta gift cards ? Are you able to buy them on Delta website ?

  • Anonymous

    All US Platinum cardholders..yes

  • Anonymous

    Does UA have gift cards? Or gift certificates? I couldn’t find them on UA’s site or elsewhere. Do you need to purchase in $50 increments?

  • Ellie

    when buying AA gift cards does it matter if you buy the plastic or Virtual Gift card ?

  • BostonBen

    I find myself in the same position as Mike, so I am glad for the timely question and TPG’s thorough response. Through stumbling upon TPG early this year, and then reading it daily since then, I got my first AMEX Platinum card, 50,000 MMR I transferred to Delta for 75,000 skymiles with 25,000 MQM which helped me reach platinum medallion with Delta. My question is simply, are there Delta gift cards that you can get credit for with AMEX Platinum’s reimbursement? I was able to locate Delta gift certificates that you have to buy at a Delta ticket counter or sales office, but they cannot be redeemed on delta.com. If there is a such thing as a Delta gift card, that may be be even easier to purchase and redeem, please share the details. Thanks.

  • A. S.

    @TPG: There is a business version of the Gold Rewards card that is currently offering 50K. It’s a public offering (i.e., not targeted), so I’m sure you can find the link easily as it is not on me right now. They had a 1-day-only offer for 75K on 11/3, but that’s obviously not an option anymore.

  • PJ

    do i get this right? the new 200 credit come in when the calendar truns into 2012 NOT going by the anniversary date of the card and I can use Platinum to buy GIFT cards up to $200

  • Mike

    As I use up the last of our BA miles, if I use the Amex Gold to pay the taxes and fee for award tickets on a 2for1 will it code
    for air travel ? Do I get 3x points and do I escape the foreign transaction fee?

    Thanks Mike

    P.S. As I near year 2, just got another 12500 Amex points retension offer, posted super fast. Am gone anyway.

  • PJ

    My family still have about 325K left with MR ; those points missed the sep 30 deadline to transfer to CONTINENTAL. I have found it is very ez to book Continental flights EWR to LAX and also to SNA ( orange county airport) with Aeroplan online booking – same 25K RT but one way is 17.5 ; Continenal has non stop service into SNA. I know the tax and fuel surcharge on Aeroplan to Far East is bad how about domestic flights booked on line? anybody can share his/her experience on aeroplan domestic booking in terms of special charge beyond 911 fees ? I dont have any aeroplan points so I did not go al way down to check it out the fees etc.. looking to find it out before I trasnfer points into Aeroplan

  • http://www.spa-mart.com Spa Cover Guy

    What are the major differences between the Gold and the Platinum on the other travel benefits like car rental insurance, etc? If you travel, I don’t think the Gold cards have nearly comparable benefits.

    Buying airline lounge access vs. getting it with Platinum has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, by buying lounge member you are getting access to partner clubs which is huge if you fly *A. But if you fly primarily domestic and rotate between AA, DL and US shopping the best fares you don’t have to buy three lounge memberships.

    Leaving the Platinum loses the Priority Pass Select and rebate on the Global Entry program which are nice when traveling abroad. Also, Platinum gets you the higher tier of Membership Rewards with that rebate in points for paying with points for airfare when you have to go that route. Not to mention the automatic statuses with Starwood, Avis, Hertz, etc.

    I carry both the Plat and the Gold for business and have another Gold for our personal finances. As an e-tailer we spend a small mint on advertising and shipping so the new Gold Biz card is great, but I’ve grown way too accustomed to the benefits of the Platinum card to dump it. Flying out of what remains of a Delta hub, we put some spend on our various Skymiles cards for the MQM’s to achieve at least Silver for the free bags but we value MRs way too much to defer too much away from the standard AMEX cards.

    - Jason

  • http://www.spa-mart.com Spa Cover Guy

    Forgot to ask whether the new Gold cards waive foreign transaction fees like the Platinum card does.

  • PJ

    retension offer? on which card ?

  • PJ

    An Amex Rep read down what can be reimbursed againt the cirline credit $200.. gift card purchase and wifi fees not eligible anybody experienced differently

  • Bill

    This is my question as well. I’m in the exact same situation as Ben and was wondering how best to get the Delta gift cards.

  • Anonymous

    Nope- the Gold cards have foreign transaction fees, so don’t use it for foreign spend (I use Sapphire Preferred for that)

  • Anonymous

    No Aeroplan surcharges on domestic segments. They really only charge high fees when you include segments on Air Canada

  • Anonymous

    You should get the 3x on award ticket fees and it should not post as foreign spend since BA North America is the vendor and they are based in the US

  • Anonymous

    Great point- just added that. FYI the link is http://thepointsguy.com/go/BusinessRewards/

  • Anonymous

    Delta does not have easy to purchase gift cards- you have to do them in person unfortunately (to the best of my knowledge)

  • Anonymous
  • http://www.facebook.com/elipsky Eugene Lipsky

    Can these (continental GCs) be used as Amex Plat $200 reimbursement? I still have about $140 out of $200 left to spend on Continental this year and wasn’t sure that I’d get reimbursed for GCs. So far got credit for on board food purchase and on reward booking fees but no such luck on purchasing continental miles.

  • Anonymous

    I designated United as my “favorite” airline after I received my Amex Platinum. So for purposes of the $200 Amex Platinum statement credit for “incidental air travel fees,” are you 100% certain (1) that purchases of gift certificates from Continental (rather than United) will count and (2) that Amex considers purchases of gift certificates to be “incidental air travel fees”? Thx.

  • PJ

    ah good news; but it was weird tho: since the agent told me they collected tax to pay US goverment when I told him i tried to fly EWR to SNA ( organge county) and did tell him CONTINENTAL does not have anything beyond 911 fees. do you happen to know where I can find out before I really transfer miles into eroplan and test it out? many thanks

  • Newtons

    I bought four AA gift cards, virtual a couple of months ago and they were reimbursed.

  • PJ

    well brian says YES on Continental and AA gift cards so does Newtons on AA. It appears to me if CONTINENTAL and AA code GC purchase as same code with onbard food or beverage then certainly they should get by amex irregarless what we are told by the service rep. i m thiking to pick one to try since I have not definated a favorite ariline yet nothing much to lose and $200 is popping up back in as the new year rolls in

  • Precision123

    the 1st agent goofed me up; confirmed only about 14 dollars airport tax plus 30 if NOT booked on line however Aeroplan has stiff penalty $90 for a change of itenary
    hmm I really miss Continental AmeX MR linkup

  • Emailbrianjohns

    I bought a $200 gift cert – not in $50 increments. Coded as MISC. CHARGE ORDER (MCO)/PREPAID TICKET AUTH with a ticket number on statement. I asked Amex about it and they said it was a non-reimbursable charge so I’ll have to try the $50 GC next!

  • Alohastephen

    Just to confirm……So the Mercedes benz Plat card is considered a different product from the Plat card? Therefore I could get the 50K bonus even though I have already had the normal Plat card?

    Seems like a winner to me.

  • Albertoblack

    I applied for and received the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card in August for my wife and I planning to bumping the bonus to 75,000. Never did since all of the talk about Amex not honoring codes and thought I’d wait. However, when I met the spend requirements my wife and I both received 25,000 points instead of the 15,000. Did this happen to anyone else? I’m not complaining, it was a pleasant surprise.

  • Kakakhel

    Brian

    Do you have to use Amex travel to get 3x points on PRG card?

    I don’t really like using Amex Travel.

    Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Nope! You can book wherever you want. Just be careful buying packages from travel agencies- if the charge isn’t coded as strictly airfare you won’t get the bonus points.

    Booking through Amex travel will give an addition 1 point per dollar (4x total)

  • Anonymous

    Yes :-)

  • http://twitter.com/travelingiraffe Crissy

    This happened to me, but I had requested one of the 75,000 miles codes too, which I didn’t get – just got the 25,000 miles instead of 15,000.

  • Jeffbloom

    I am confused by the skyclub promo. Why do you want to take advantage of that and pay the $300 if you already get free lounge access with the platinum card?

  • Anonymous

    Because he is going to cancel the Platinum card to save $450 a year in fees but he still wants Skyclub access

  • Merc

    you need to keep in mind that AMEX travel is a pre-paid service and you lose normal direct purchase cancellation policies vs. direct to airline, hotel, & auto. luckily, i found this out on a small hotel booking. I also couldn’t get any points from Marriott due to the pre-pay booking code . my $.02

  • Aryehwasserman

    where can you buy delta gift cards? the only thing i was told is you can buy a voucher at an airport will that get you the 200 credit. thanks in advance

  • Michael

    Yes, the Continental gift cards are covered by the AMEX Platinum reimbursement. I used up my $200 this year on gift cards, and they refund showed up in my account 3-4 days later. And United/Continental are considered one airline for the AMEX reimbursement this year.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks!

  • Cabgirl

    Do Centurion card holders get any kind of airline reimbursement yearly?
    Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Yes- the $200 same as Platinum

  • Simon

    TPG – regardless of when one is approved for the AMEX Plat, one still forks out the full $450 annual fee? (my wife was just approved last week). Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Correct- you pay once the card is activated and you renew on that date each year

  • PJ

    my older daughter , her husband , my wife all got it right away on the first statement cut after the spend was met except my younger daughter and my college classmate.. those 5 were all talked into applying. I am not giving up yet; not making sense at all.. I am their(except son in law) account manger they all let me do the talking with amex

  • Lyo1213

    TPG- Does the $200 Airline credit carry over to next year? I have not used this credit yet this calendar year and have no flights planned this year. Is there anyway I can use the credit other than inflight or baggage since I will not be flying? TPG whats the trick?!

  • Lyo1213

    TPG- Does the $200 Airline credit carry over to next year? I have not used this credit yet this calendar year and have no flights planned this year. Is there anyway I can use the credit other than inflight or baggage since I will not be flying? TPG whats the trick?!

  • Lyo1213

    Also it is through United thanks

  • Lyo1213

    Also it is through United thanks

  • Anonymous

    Nope- use it or lose it. Try buying small amounts of gift cards. That works for aa

  • Traveler

    I own a gold card and asked Amex if the 25,000 points deal would apply to me. They said only if I received a solicitation for upgrade. Yet I see on your site a banner with that deal on it. How can I be sure that if I upgrade through your banner that the 25K points deal would be in effect? I don’t immediately see it when I follow the banner link. Thanks in advance.

  • smishra

    TPG- Would you be able to write an enrollment guide for the Amex Plat? I recently upgraded my standard corporate card, and I want to best utilize the benefits. I have found some articles you’ve posted about enrollment (Priority Pass), but I think a “to-do” list with what you need to apply each benefit would be helpful. Thanks!

  • Tdai222

    Does anyone know whether the platinum also have bonus 15k points when you spend 30k in a year? Also, if I recently paid the fee for 2nd year gold membership, what if i upgrade to platinum now, will I have to pay the platinum fee (so total of approx 600 for a year)?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Albert-Wesker/100001692562133 Albert Wesker

    I was told that you can’t own both a Premier Rewards Gold Card and a Platinum Card at the same time. Can anyone verify this? I basically used all of my MR points on the platinum (love that 20% rebate too) and the $200 reimbursement, and need to get my points back up again.

    It’s a shame platinum doesn’t have 3x on airfare and 2x on gas too :/

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