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Official Application Link: The Platinum Card from American Express (60,000-point bonus offer)
When I signed up for a new Platinum Card from American Express last year, I thought I knew the benefits I’d take advantage of. As a prior cardholder of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, I was familiar with the lounge access, airline fee reimbursement and of course the bonus points I’d earn for my Membership Rewards account.
Still, I was delighted and surprised when I received an alert on my phone one January morning that American Express was offering exclusive access to certain cardholders for a few performances of the musical theater juggernaut Hamilton in Chicago. That alert came from TPG’s own @TPG_Alerts account, which I had set to send push notifications to my phone whenever a new post appeared. The link in the alert was an update on an earlier post from December about the offer. New dates for tickets were now available, but I had to act fast. I did. Even though I live in Los Angeles and even though I already saw Hamilton in New York, my obsession with this show would not let me miss this opportunity.
I called the number on the back of my card and asked for the concierge. After just a couple of minutes on hold, I was speaking to a representative who quickly found me four tickets in the Orchestra. Though they weren’t cheap ($180 each), they were sold at face value with absolutely no fees — even for overnight shipping. Checking on StubHub, I found the cheapest Orchestra seats on similar dates going for $350. A savings of $170 per ticket totaled $680, well over my $450 (at the time) annual fee for the card.
More important: I was going to see Hamilton! And in my hometown of Chicago! And without going broke!
Once the tickets were secured, I set out to book a trip that would get good value from my various points and banking products. Here’s how I did it.
Having received the bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I was flush with points to use to offset the cost of this trip. I booked a cheap one-way to Chicago on American using my points, which I then had to cancel when I had to change my date of departure.
The change came pretty close to my departure date, which unfortunately eliminated most of the great airfares I had found earlier. The best remaining flight was a one-way on Virgin America, which I booked using 13,080 UR points.
For the return, I found another one-way on Virgin America, and I had enough points in my Elevate account to book for just 4,835 points.
The flights were mostly uneventful, though we were stuck on the tarmac at O’Hare for a while, and on the return, the satellite TV wasn’t working. For my troubles, Virgin America credited my account $25 for each incident, earning me $50 on my free flights!
Prior to departure from LAX, I got some free coffee and sweet runway views at the Virgin America Loft lounge. Access came thanks to the Amex Platinum’s Priority Pass membership.
Arriving at rush hour, I took the subway in from O’Hare airport, which took about as long as a taxi would have for a fraction of the price. Oh, did I mention that going from L.A. to Chicago cost about 60 degrees on the thermometer? It was COLD.
My travel companion and I each booked a night at the Whitehall Hotel. The location was perfect and the price wasn’t bad either — free.
I had a free night to use from hotels.com (after booking 10 nights on the site last year) and my companion used 10,274 UR points (she also got the 100,000 UR offer on the Chase Sapphire Reserve). The hotel was able to combine our reservations so we kept the same room both nights.
The room was lovely. The award-winning king bed provided a great night’s sleep, and thankfully the heat worked well throughout the night. I’d stay there again for sure.
Chicago has so much to offer, and one of my favorites is the art. In addition to so much public art on display in parks and buildings, its Art Institute has one of the most astounding collections in the world.
Just as astounding, the $25 admission price was waived because of another perk: The Chase Private Client Arts & Culture card. I’d used it before in the L.A. area and was happy to see that the card was valid in any city where the program is offered. It also gave us a few dollars off my companion’s ticket.
But of course, the big piece of art I came to town for was Hamilton! Playing at the PrivateBank Theatre downtown, the venue shares the Majestic Building with a Hampton Inn. Every seat had been bought out by American Express, whose reps sadly didn’t make it in from New York due to the snowstorms.
Though our seats were marked “Limited View,” it was hard to complain being only six rows from the stage.
Even before the show started, we were treated to some real beauty. The theater dates to 1906, and the architectural details delight.
And then, the show! While not as good as the New York production I’d seen, the show still astounds. Laughs, tears, chills… even though I know the cast album backwards and forwards, I still found myself surprised. Most things that are wildly popular don’t deserve to be. Hamilton deserves more.
From start to finish, this was a wonderful trip, made all the more wonderful by the opportunities I’ve come across as a reader of TPG. (I had no special access to anything for this trip. You could have booked the same thing!)
Signing up for TPG Alerts on Twitter has paid off big time for me. In addition to this Hamilton adventure, I’ve been among the first to know about free Uber rides, mileage bonuses and, of course, amazing flight deals. Setting Twitter to alert me when a new deal pops up has provided great benefits, especially when a deal is time-sensitive. (I also use this feature for other feeds of fight deals — and maybe for a celebrity crush or two).
American Express recently announced an increase in the annual fee for the Platinum Card to $550. It’ll be a tough call for me when my renewal date comes around, but I’ll certainly give a lot of weight to the unexpected surprises that this card can offer. After all, Hamilton will soon have two touring companies making their way across the country. Will American Express have more exclusive nights available? I can’t confirm, but I have heard rumors.
Would I take the opportunity to see it again at face value? I am not throwing away my shot.
All photos by the author.
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