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One of the biggest reasons people hesitate to get the Amex Platinum, Business Platinum and Mercedes-Benz Platinum cards is the hefty $450 annual fee…which is generally not waived the first year. However, if you plan to take advantage of many of the perks the card has to offer, you can reap much more from the card than the annual fee- especially if you get the card now and can max out the $200 airline credit, which runs on a calendar year, which means you’ll get an additional $200 starting January 1, 2013.
You can read my full card review post but here are the various ways that having this card can actually be worth much more than the value of its annual fee.
$200 Airline Rebate: Last year Amex introduced this new benefit to help blunt the loss of Continental leaving Membership Rewards, which was a huge blow. As a cardholder, you get the $200 airline rebate once per calendar year, meaning you could use the card to get a $200 rebate on your designated airline now before the end of the year, and then you’ll have another $200 to spend on January 1. That means you’ve already made $400 back on your $450 fee. The credit can be applied toward baggage fees, seat assignment fees, in-flight food and drink, flight change fees and lounge day passes, full lounge membership and award ticket fees. The problem is that many elite travelers already get most of those fees waived, so people have credit leftover at the end of the year. The great thing is that airline gift cards are often reimbursed, even though they technically don’t qualify. Read through the 70+ comments on my post last year to read examples of TPG readers who have had success. Please also share your experience getting refunded in the comments section to help people think about different ways they can maximize the value of this benefit.
Update: Beginning March 22, 2014, American Express Card Members will no longer have access to American Airlines Admiral Club and US Airways Club airport lounges through Airport Club Access / Airport Lounge Program. This means that Card Members will no longer be able to gain complimentary access to the American Airlines airport lounges (known as Admirals Club lounges) or the US Airways Club airport lounges as a benefit of their Platinum Card Membership. Cardmembers will continue to receive access to participating Delta Sky Club lounges, Priority Pass Select (enrollment is required), and Airspace lounges in JFK, CLE and BWI airports.
Airport Lounge Access: When you have a valid ticket for same-day travel, the Platinum card will also gain you access to Delta, American and US Airways lounges – potentially saving you membership fees of up to around $500 each per year if you were to join each separately – and you can even bring two guests or your spouse and any children under 21. US Airways even allows entry if you are flying on a different carrier. The Card also confers Priority Pass Select access to over 600 airport lounges in 100 countries (guests can also enter for a $27 per person fee).
Free Global Entry $100 Value: If you’ve been thinking of getting Global Entry (which will also qualify you for TSA PreCheck, and which I personally love) to get you out of lengthy customs and immigration lines when you return from traveling abroad, when you charge the $100 application fee to your Platinum card, you get a $100 statement credit, so it’s free, adding another $100 to your value.
25% Bonus on Pay With Points: When you have a Platinum card, you can redeem your Membership Rewards First points at a rate of 1.25 cents each rather than 1 cent each when using Amex Travel’s Pay With Points option. So a $500 flight that would normally cost you 50,000 points would only require 40,000 points if you have the Platinum card. While I don’t usually use my Membership Rewards points in this way, it could be a good redemption option for those who want to save a little money on airfare while still earning miles and elite status on those flights. This option is going away on all cards on February 1, 2013, except the Business Platinum.
Automatic Starwood Gold Status: Once you have a Platinum card, just call Starwood at 1-888-625-4990 and tell them you have an Amex Platinum card and want SPG Gold Status. Then you have to fax in proof that you have the card, but once you send it, they’ll upgrade your Starwood account to Gold status. Starwood Gold (normally attained after 25 nights or 10 stays) gets you a 50% bonus on Starpoints (so you earn 3 points per $1 spent at Starwood properties), room upgrades, 4pm late checkout and overall better customer service.
Fine Hotels & Resorts Program: I covered this in yesterday’s post, but to summarize, the Fine Hotels and Resorts program for American Express Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders is a hotel booking site that includes a bunch of added perks and benefits when you book a hotel stay through it. Benefits include availability-based room upgrades, free night offers, complimentary breakfast, early check-ins and guaranteed 4pm check-outs, resort credits for expenses like restaurants or spa treatments, and sometimes even free WiFi. Room rates are typically about the same as those being offered on the hotel’s website, but these perks can add up to thousands of dollars of extra value per stay. What’s even better is that though you normally have to book a room directly through a hotel or loyalty program’s website in order to earn points and elite credit from your stay, TPG readers have commented that in almost all cases when they have booked through FHR, they’ve earned points, elite credit, gotten their elite status benefits and still enjoyed value-added FHR perks like on-property credits. It’s like having the best of both worlds and getting the most value possible out of your stay.
Purchase Protection: Since it’s holiday shopping season, this could be an important feature for your gift purchases this year. Amex’s purchase protection program offers coverage for up to 90 days after the date of purchase if your merchandise is lost, stolen or damaged, and includes purchases made all over the world for you or someone else up to the cost charged to your card up to $10,000 per purchase and $50,000 per card per year. Amex also has return protection where, if you change your mind and want to return an item, they’ll refund the charge even if the merchant won’t take it back, up to $300 per purchase and $1,000 annually. Amex also offers extended warranties for up to 1 year on purchases where the manufacturer’s warranty is 5 years or less. So using your Amex Platinum card could end up saving you a lot of money if your purchases don’t work out as well as you’d like, or if they are lost, stolen or damaged (and we’ve all heard horror stories about how that’s happened to gifts in suitcases).
Those are just some of the many, many benefits the Platinum card includes, but they are a quick snapshot into how much value the card has, and how, if you are savvy about taking advantage of them, you can more than make up the value of that $450 annual fee.