Big Amex Platinum Changes: Metal Card, 5x on Hotels, $200 in Uber Credits, Higher Fee
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Official Application Link: The Platinum Card from American Express (60,000-point bonus offer)
Update 3/2/17 11:37am: As a VFTW reader points out, Amex has quietly improved the Priority Pass benefit via its terms and conditions, permitting two free guests in addition to the cardholder: “At any visit to a Priority Pass Select lounge, you may bring in two guests for no charge. You will be charged $27 for any additional guests.”
Update 3/2/17 10:06am: We just managed to get a look at the new metal card (above and below). It definitely has some weight to it — the exact weight hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s heavier than the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and a bit lighter than the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card.
Update 3/2/17 6:09am: Amex has clarified that Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings will not be eligible for 5x points earning, unfortunately.
American Express and Citi clearly had their work cut out for them following the launch of the phenomenal Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which offers 3x on travel and dining spend, an incredibly flexible $300 annual travel credit, excellent transfer partners and an option to redeem points at 1.5 cents each toward flights, hotel stays and other travel-related activities directly through Ultimate Rewards.
Fortunately, in early October, Amex responded by adding 5x earning on airfare purchased directly from an airline or through Amex Travel, but there was still more to be done. Today, it’s clear that the message has been received — big new perks are coming to the Amex Platinum Card later this month. However, this isn’t all good news — as part of these changes, the fee will be increasing from $450 to $550 per year.
New Platinum Benefits
Below is the full list of improvements, which kick in on March 30 for new and existing cardmembers. Note that all of these benefits currently only apply to the consumer version of the card.
- Uber — $200 in annual ride credits and Uber VIP status (access to better cars, more experienced drivers in select locations). Members with a Platinum card linked to their Uber account will receive $15 in credit automatically each month, and $35 in December. You can use the credit on multiple rides, but the balance will expire at the end of the month it’s issued. This benefit alone will offset the increased annual fee, assuming you regularly ride with Uber. The discount will only apply to rides within the US, and there’s no requirement to pay the balance with an Amex card. (Note that the first credit will be added on March 30, so you’ll only have until 11:59pm on March 31 to use your first $15.)
- 5x on hotels — In addition to 5 points per dollar spent on flights, you’ll soon earn unlimited 5x points on eligible hotels booked through amextravel.com. This only applies to prepaid rates, and it does not include hotels booked through Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Hopefully Amex will add more bonus categories in the future, or the ability to “erase” travel purchases with a statement credit at a decent rate, as you can do with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
- New metal card — even the Capital One Venture card is metal now, so this change is a bit overdue (assuming a metal card is something you’re after). The design has evolved slightly as well, and the account number is now on the back of the card. New cardmembers approved as of March 30 will receive the metal card within the standard delivery timeframe (typically 2-3 business days). Existing members can request a metal card as of March 30 as well, or they’ll automatically receive a metal version within 60 days of their current card’s expiration date.
- Complimentary Gold cards — while it’s been possible to add up to 5 Gold cards to your Platinum account for a total of $45, you’ll soon be able to order Gold cards for up to 99 authorized users with no additional fee. Gold card AUs will be able to earn 5x points on airfare and hotels (credited to the master account), and can access the master account’s airline fee and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credits, but other benefits (an additional $200 airline fee credit, Uber rides, lounge access, etc.) are not included.
These benefits (including the metal card) will also apply to co-branded versions of the Platinum card, including:
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Morgan Stanley
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Goldman Sachs
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Ameriprise
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Mercedes-Benz
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Charles Schwab
Additionally, in a call with Amex, an executive reinforced that the card will retain its other benefits, some of which will receive a boost. For example, new Centurion Lounges are on the way to Philadelphia (PHL) and Hong Kong (HKG) — both are on track to open by this fall — and we’ll hopefully see more Amex-branded lounges in the not-too-distant future. Cardmembers will also continue to get access to Airspace and Plaza Premium Lounges, more than 1,000 Priority Pass lounges and Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta) — once Citi Prestige drops Admirals Club access in July, Platinum will be the only transferrable-points card to offer access to a major US airline’s network of lounges. Amex is also expanding its By Invitation Only program by adding new opportunities there, including this Hamptons popup over the summer, with more events on the way.
Amex is adding some great benefits to the Platinum Card, but there’s no question that the increased annual fee will be a deterrent to some, even though Amex points out that it hasn’t raised the card’s fee in 10 years. Do note that the $550 fee doesn’t kick in until March 30 — if you apply now you’ll be eligible for the current $450 fee, even if your account isn’t approved until after the deadline. Then, when your fee becomes due in 2018, you’ll be billed the full $550. Similarly, current cardholders will be billed $550 if their renewal date is on or after September 1. So if your fee hits before that date, you’ll get all of these benefits at $450 for one more year.
Assuming the card is still within reach despite Amex now pricing the Platinum above all other cards in its class, you’ll be able to take advantage of these improved perks — especially if you already regularly use Uber, in which case this is a clear win. Ideally, Amex will eventually make it easier to use the annual airline fee credit — Citi Prestige gives you $250 a year toward airfare and Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $300 credit covers everything (travel-related) under the sun. And considering how generous Citi’s 4th Night Free benefit is, American Express should really extend the 5x points earning to all hotel bookings, not just prepaid stays reserved through Amex Travel.
As for redemptions, there’s much room to improve here as well. The ability to redeem points for 2 cents each toward airfare with the Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN is a fantastic perk that should also be extended to the consumer card, and Amex should match Chase’s 1.5-cent redemption on other travel bookings, rather than offering just 0.7 cents in value when you use your Membership Rewards points to book hotels.
An increased sign-up bonus could also go a long way toward making this offering even more attractive, so hopefully Amex will surprise us with a limited-time offer at the end of the month. For now, if you want the card for a full year at the current $450 rate, be sure to sign up by March 29.
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