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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.

If it hadn’t been for this tweet from @TPG_Alerts, I would never have known about this offer for Hamilton tickets.

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.

We’re going to see “Hamilton!”

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.

This Virgin America jet flew me from Los Angeles to Chicago. (The view is courtesy of the Virgin Loft lounge at LAX.)

Flights

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.

I used 13,080 UR points to book a one-way from LAX to ORD on Virgin America.

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.

At just 4835 Elevate points, I had enough in my account to get a free flight home.

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!

The Virgin America Loft at LAX is free to enter with Priority Pass.

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.

The Whitehall Hotel is perfectly located in the shadow of the John Hancock Center.

Hotel

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.

Those 100,000 points from the Chase Reserve card signup bonus came in handy.

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 at the Whitehall was lovely.

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.

The famous “bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park is a great example of the city’s public art.

Chicago

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.

The Arts & Culture Card from Chase Private Client got me free admission.

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.

The marquee at the PrivateBank Theatre shares a building with the Hampton Inn.

The Show!

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.

The view of the set from our seats was pretty great.

Though our seats were marked “Limited View,” it was hard to complain being only six rows from the stage.

Our seats compared well to the rest of the theater.

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.

Even the parking in Chicago has “Hamilton” fever.

Bottom Line

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.

I still can’t believe I got to see “Hamilton,” or as my camera’s exposure calls it, “Milt.”

All photos by the author.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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