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The sign-up bonus on the Platinum Card from American Express has been 25,000 points for spending $2,000 in 3 months, but the bonus has just gone up to 40,000 points for spending $3,000 in 3 months, and is the highest public offer we’ve seen in a while on this card.
Before you apply, just remember that the Mercedes-Benz Platinum card, which carries the same benefits as the Platinum Card as well as a couple Mercedes-specific perks and an annual fee of $475 instead of $450 – currently has a 50,000-point sign-up bonus with the same spending requirement, so you might consider that version of the card instead. You should also always check the Card Match Tool to see if you have any targeted American Express offers waiting for you since it sometimes offers higher bonuses than are available to the general public. For more on that and how it works, check out this post. I’m not sure we’ll see it go up to 50,000 or that one-time high of 100,000 points we saw in January 2013 again, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for that level in the near term, but it’s also always worth checking your mail for targeted offers.
With the Platinum Card cutting back on some benefits like American/US Airways lounge access on March 22, 2014, and restricting Delta lounge access to just the cardholder, a lot of readers have been asking whether this card is still worth the $450 annual fee. For me, the answer is yes thanks to all the other benefits the card still has to offer.
Sign-up bonus: Based on the redemptions that I am able to make with them, I personally value Amex Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece thanks to their transferability to various airline and hotel programs (and transfer bonuses), so the 40,000 points that the personal Platinum card comes with right now = ~$800. Then here are my valuations of the other benefits the card confers.
Annual Airline Reimbursement for Qualifying Airlines: $200
Lounge Access: $100 (more if you fly Delta and visit Priority Pass Select lounges)
Global Entry: $100
Starwood Gold Status: $100
Fine Hotels & Resorts: $200 (easily more if you stay at high-end hotels, less if you don’t)
Purchase Protection: $200
Based on my own use of the card and its benefits, I would say that carrying it adds up to about $1,000 in extra value each year (though note the Global Entry $100 is a one time credit, but it works for all additional cardholders as well) – and potentially more if you can really max out the ones like Amex FHR bookings, lounge visits and hotel elite status. So based on my own usage and valuations, I would say you’re getting $1,000 in value minus the $450 annual fee for a final benefits valuation of $550 each year – and then with that sign-up bonus the first year, you are potentially getting even more value out of this card.
Here’s how I came up with those valuations.
$200 Qualifying Airline Rebate: As a cardholder, you get a $200 qualifying airline rebate once per calendar year, meaning every January 1, you get $200 to spend on a qualifying airline that you designate. The rebate is automatic and as reported in this post, many people (myself included) have had airline gift cards reimbursed.
Airport Lounge Access: This was one of the cornerstones of the Platinum cards, though as I mentioned, this benefit is changing in a major way come March. Until then, when you have a valid ticket for same-day travel, the Platinum card gets you access to Delta, American and US Airways lounges. After March 21, though, it will just be Delta lounges that extend this benefit – and then only to the cardholder him/herself. Anyone extra costs $29 per person. To offset the Admirals Club/US Airways Club loss, Amex has been opening its own enturion lounges where Platinum cardholders get free access. They urrently have lounges at Las Vegas and Dallas airports with plans for lounges at San Francisco SFO and LaGuardia in NYC for now.
Global Entry Application Reimbursement: I personally love Global Entry since it gets 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, and it also gets you a Trusted Traveler number that confers TSA PreCheck eligibility.
Automatic Starwood Gold Status: When you have a Platinum card, you can get automatic Gold status with Starwood by calling SPG up at 1-888-625-4990 and telling them you have an Amex Platinum card. You then have the representative call Starwood on your behalf to upgrade your Starwood account to Gold status. Starwood Gold is usually attained after 25 nights or 10 stays, and gets you a 50% bonus on Starpoints (so you earn 3 points per $1 spent at Starwood properties), free internet, room upgrades, 4pm late checkout and overall better customer service. Given that internet can cost $10-$20 per night depending on where you are, plus room upgrades averaging about $10-$50 per night, even if you only have a couple of stays per year, you can still get some value from this benefit.
Fine Hotels & Resorts Program: The Fine Hotels and Resorts program for American Express Platinum cardholders is a hotel booking site that confers a host of added perks and benefits on bookings including room upgrades, free third and fourth nights, complimentary breakfast, early check-ins and guaranteed 4pm check-outs, resort credits for expenses like restaurants or spa treatments, and free WiFi among other possibilities (note, offers vary by hotel and booking). Room rates are typically 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. Hotel programs consider FHR as a travel agent rather than an Online Travel Agency (OTA), so you get points and elite credit and still enjoy elite benefits and these value-added perks.
Purchase Protection: Amex’s purchase protection program offers coverage for 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 up to 90 days after the date of purchase if your merchandise is lost, stolen or damaged. Amex also offers return protection where they’ll refund eligible charges for something you want to take back, even if the merchant won’t take it back, up to $300 per purchase and $1,000 annually. Amex offers extended warranties for up to a year on purchases where the manufacturer’s warranty is 5 years or less. So using your Amex Platinum card could end up saving you money if your purchases don’t work out as well as you’d like, or if they are lost, stolen or damaged.
Those are just some of the many benefits the Platinum card includes (there are more like the Premium Companion Ticket and Premium Car Rental Insurance) but if you can take advantage of them by planning your travel strategically, you can reap a lot of value from the Platinum card, especially considering the current sign-up bonus of 40,000 points.
For more information, see these posts:
Is the Amex Platinum Worth the $450 Annual Fee?
Maximizing the Amex Platinum $200 Annual Airline Rebate
Understanding the Amex Platinum Lounge Access Benefit
The Amex Platinum Fine Hotels & Resorts Program
My Experience Getting Refunded for the Global Entry Application Fee With My Amex Platinum Card
Amex Platinum and Centurion Cards Now Available with SmartChip
The Amex Platinum Card Review