Maximizing the American Express Concierge
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Premium credit cards may come along with high annual fees, but if you can take advantage of everything a program offers, you can often get far more in value than the amount you’ll pay each year. Today, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr digs into a key feature of perhaps the best-known premium card: Amex Platinum.
Holders of The Platinum Card from American Express recently got some good news, as they can now get automatic Hilton Gold Elite status by simply opting in to the new offer. This update got me thinking about the other benefits of being a Platinum cardholder and what makes the $550 annual fee worth paying every year. I remembered a great Reddit thread I came across a while back about a former American Express Concierge, and I loved re-reading his entertaining stories about member requests that came in to his office. Today, I’ll cover my own personal experiences in conjunction with other data to show you how to maximize the capabilities of the Platinum Card Concierge.
– The Concierge is available to anyone who holds one of the Platinum variety of cards from American Express, including The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, The Platinum Card from American Express, The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, as well as holders of the “black card” known as the Centurion Card. Reports suggest Centurion cardholders will have a concierge assigned to them whereas Platinum cardholders can receive a different concierge for each request.
– There are three ways to contact the concierge:
- Call 1-800-525-3355 and select option 2. For international collect calls dial 617-622-6756.
- Email Platinumrequests@concierge.americanexpress.com. You’ll get an auto response back that your request was received and another email shortly thereafter usually asking for a bit more information. I use this if I’m not in a hurry for an answer or know it will take some time for the concierge to find what I’m requesting.
- In 2013, a few members were invited to join a beta texting program for the concierge. The effort seemed to be revived earlier this year, in addition to a Platinum Concierge App being rolled out for testing, but both are only open to those invited to participate. I’ve asked to join the texting and app program, but was politely told I was not invited and currently there’s no waitlist to join.
– There’s no service charge to use the concierge, however any charges related to your request will be placed on your Platinum Card. In my experience, the concierge usually asks for a not-to-exceed amount based on what you’re trying to get done.
– I’ve had most usual requests handled in a matter of hours, but some have taken 2-4 days depending on business hours and the amount of research required.
– I don’t recommend calling the concierge to arrange any type of travel or vacation, as they’ll pass you off to an American Express Travel Services representative who will begin a very long, drawn-out process of trying to book standard travel over the phone.
– Your requests will not be shared with anyone, including authorized users, except yourself. If you’re having flowers delivered to someone other than (cough) your spouse, they cannot find out. Apparently many angry spouses have called the service demanding answers for charges on the statement.
Most requests coming into the Platinum Concierge fall into one of the following categories: flowers, concert/show tickets or restaurant reservations. Here are some tips on how to proceed with each:
Flowers — Have the concierge contact local florists instead of online services like 1-800-Flowers or FTD. Because my last two online confirmed flower orders weren’t delivered on time, I now opt for the concierge working directly with a local shop that can confirm details like delivery time, price range and the particular arrangement I request. I usually email the concierge a week prior to delivery with the address, price cap and flowers desired and I’m done.
Concert/Show Tickets — Perhaps an undersold value of this service is that it can grab tickets the second they go on sale for your desired concert. This means you don’t have to step out of a meeting at an awkward time or continually hit the refresh button only to miss out on the tickets anyway. Give the concierge an adequate heads-up prior to tickets going on sale, with as much or little direction about the location and costs of the tickets as you desire. Tickets the concierge purchases through TicketMaster don’t have the online convenience fee.
Restaurant Reservations — American Express Platinum Dining Reservations allows you to search a database of restaurants that are familiar with taking reservations from the Amex team. Some of the concierges who routinely work the dining reservations are rumored to be on a first-name basis with the host and maitre d’ of some of the best restaurants in New York City, Paris and London. You should still plan as far in advance as possible in order to ensure you’ll get a table.
I’ve found the concierge helpful for dining situations where I say “I’d like a romantic Italian dinner in Chicago near the Navy pier. Can you provide three or four options for me that have reservations for tonight?” I once got a last-minute table at the classic Parisian restaurant A la Biche au Bois — and it was fantastic.
The sky is the limit here, but you must give your request a common-sense check before submitting something so outlandish that no one could accomplish it. My own requests have included:
- Having a baby sun hat waiting at the Hyatt Regency Guam as I was flying in from cold Japan with my four-month-old on a last-minute business trip. There were a few hats waiting at the check-in desk when we arrived — unfortunately none that fit.
- Just this week, the concierge located a two-foot-tall balloon in the shape of the number one for my son’s first birthday party and had it delivered to the house.
Some of my favorite (successful!) requests I’ve read about include:
- A gentlemen asking the concierge to have his children picked up from school as he was with his mistress. The concierge arranged a limo service to pick them up.
- A gentlemen in a hotel bathroom requested a new wardrobe as he had an accident during a business meeting. The concierge contacted the hotel concierge who delivered new slacks, underwear and socks to the man in the stall.
- A woman saw a pair of earrings in an obscure foreign film. She called the concierge, told them the film and scene with the earrings. The concierge was able to locate a store that sold them.
Success with unusual requests can come down to the individual concierge that receives your communication and how much effort they’re willing to put into getting you what you want. As with all customer service, not all concierges are created equal. It’s obvious many times they did a quick Google search or a single phone call and found out a reservation or ticket was not available. However, most have tried to go the extra mile for me and provide an alternative if my number-one choice isn’t attainable.
Other Amex Platinum Benefits
$200 Airline Rebate: As a cardholder, you get a $200 airline rebate once per calendar year, meaning every January 1st you get $200 to spend on an airline that you designate.
Airport Lounge Access: This was one of the cornerstones of the Platinum Card, though the benefit experienced major changes in the past year. Only cardholders get complimentary access to Delta SkyClubs when holding a valid ticket for same-day travel; guests must now pay $29 per person. Amex has ramped up access to its own Centurion Lounges, with locations in Dallas (DFW), Las Vegas (LAS), New York (LGA), San Francisco (SFO), Miami (MIA) and Seattle (SEA). Cardholders get complimentary access, along with immediate family or up to two guests. You’ll also receive Priority Pass Select membership.
Global Entry or TSA Precheck Application Reimbursement: Platinum cardholders can receive a statement credit for the $85 TSA Precheck application fee or the $100 Global Entry application fee once every five years. Global Entry (which also qualifies you for TSA Precheck, and which I personally love) will get you out of lengthy customs and immigration lines when you return from traveling abroad.
Automatic Starwood Gold Status: With the Platinum Card, you can get automatic Gold status with Starwood, which gets you a 50% bonus on Starpoints, free internet, room upgrades, 4pm late checkout and overall better customer service.
Fine Hotels & Resorts Program: 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 use it to book stays. Benefits include availability-based room upgrades, free night offers, complimentary breakfast, early check-in and guaranteed 4pm check-out, resort credits for expenses like restaurants or spa treatments and free Wi-Fi at select properties.
Is Concierge Service Worth The Call?
The concierge service available with The Platinum Card from American Express is most valuable to people too busy to complete time-sensitive tasks like making reservations, buying tickets and doing a little bit of research. Relying on the good people on the other side of the phone or email for these errands can simplify things and help you get the results you want. Plus, if you’re polite and gracious to a concierge who has been particularly helpful, they do have the option of giving your their extension so you can work with them routinely.
If you’re counting on the concierge to come up with last-minute heroics, my experience suggests success would not be the norm, but it still is a possibility. For routine requests, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences. There are equal stories of success and failure from the Amex concierge over at FlyerTalk, which may get your creative juices flowing for how you could best utilize the service. Personally, I’m grateful to American Express, as I receive the concierge service and other Platinum Card benefits completely free since the annual fee is waived for active-duty military cardholders.
What’s been your experience with the Amex Platinum Concierge service?