How you could get more than $7,000 in value during your first year with the Amex Platinum
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An average consumer may find the new $695 price tag (see rates and fees) on The Platinum Card® from American Express to be outrageous. But as we know at TPG, the higher the annual fees, the better the benefits tend to be — but are they good enough?
There’s an extensive list of new (and existing) perks with the refreshed Amex Platinum, which has been redesigned into a lifestyle-focused rather than purely travel-focused card. If you’ve started to travel again, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the existing Amex lounge access and hotel elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors that will surely be useful. Enrollment required for select benefits.
But if you’re unsure how you can outsize the $695 annual fee, you’re not alone. Many TPG readers aren’t happy with these new changes:
Chris Dong, credit cards reporter for TPG, states that, “It’s definitely extreme couponing, but I find that fun and can get a lot of value from it … so to each their own.”
No matter your stance on this controversial fee raise, we’ll explain the math behind how you can get $7,000 in value — 10 times the annual fee — from the Amex Platinum just during the first year of card ownership. Treat the first year like a trial period — afterward, you can decide whether it’s worth paying the annual fee.
How we calculated the $7,000-plus in value
In this post, we take into account all of the other statement credits that come with the Amex Platinum — namely, the more niche lifestyle benefits — to assess just how valuable they’ll be for the average American consumer, using information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer expenditures data.
Related: Amex Platinum review
We wanted to take these data points from the average consumer to illustrate how one can truly maximize the Amex Platinum, as it’s no longer just for the luxury traveler.
Let’s dive in.
Usually, the first thing people notice about a card is its welcome offer. The Amex Platinum’s welcome bonus comes with six digits: Earn 100,000 points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership. According to TPG’s valuations, these points are worth $2,000.
You may be even targeted for a higher 125,000- or 150,000-point bonus by checking the CardMatch tool, although we won’t use these estimates for any of our calculations (though you’d be looking at hundreds of dollars more in value). Note that offers are subject to change at any time.
What’s even more enticing is that you can earn 10 points per dollar on restaurants and when you “Shop Small” in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases in the first six months of card membership. That’s a 20% return on these purchases, and if you’re able to pick up the tab when you’re at restaurants or when you’re shopping local, you’ll score a massive number of points.
In one year, the average American spends $4,643 on food away from home according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While it’s harder to determine how much Americans spent at small businesses, let’s assume that half of what was spent in the “apparel and services” category was spent locally. Therefore, we assume that roughly $941 was spent on local businesses in one year.
|Dollars spent||Points earned||Value|
|Welcome bonus: $6,000||100,000 points from welcome bonus
6,000 points from spending
|Restaurants in first 6 months: $2,321.50||23,215 points||$464.30|
|Shop small in first 6 months: $470.50||4,705 points||$94.10|
Just on this rough estimate alone, you’re looking at almost $2,700 in value from the welcome offer. Imagine if you’re able to maximize that $25,000 spending threshold in the first six months. While that’s not realistic for most people, you’d be looking at an additional 250,000 Membership Rewards points — worth a staggering $5,000, according to TPG valuations — if you decided to go for it.
Regardless, the value the average consumer will find from the welcome offer is more than three times the amount of the $695 annual fee — even before you consider any of the other benefits.
Where the Amex Platinum falls short is its everyday rewards rate. Besides the offer for new cardholders to earn 10x on restaurants worldwide and at small businesses in the U.S. in the first six months of card opening (on a maximum of $25,000), you’ll earn a measly 1x on most other purchases.
We’ll assume that you use a different card — perhaps a no-annual-fee, cash-back card — to maximize your restaurant, grocery, gas and other everyday purchases.
According to Skift data from 2017, the average American household spent $6,630 on travel in one year. Since you’ll earn 5x on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 per calendar year) and 5x on prepaid hotels through Amex Travel, we can assume that you earn 33,150 points on your travel purchases in one year, now that travel has opened back up.
Those points are worth $663 according to TPG valuations, and of course, the more you spend on travel, the more the points will stack up.
As the Amex Platinum is famously known as a premium travel card, it inevitably comes with travel perks worth considering.
Let’s take a conservative estimate of two trips each year — one international and one domestic. While most of our readers travel much more frequently than that, we’ll illustrate the value you can find by owning the Amex Platinum.
First, you’ll enjoy an expedited experience at security and customs with Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and a Clear membership. With the Amex Platinum, you’re reimbursed up to $100 every four years for Global Entry and 4.5 years for PreCheck. The new Clear statement credit reimburses users $189 every year for your membership. These features alone can save you a ton of headache at the airport, especially since air travel demand is picking back up to pre-pandemic levels. Enrollment required.
Next up, get up to $200 in airline fee statement credit when you charge incidental fees (such as checked bags, inflight purchases, lounge day passes, etc.) with one airline of your choice each calendar year (enrollment required). The average cost of checked bags is $30 for the first and $40 for the second. So, say you only take one trip each year and check two bags each way, you’re looking at $140 in fees alone. Spend the remaining $60 on inflight food and beverages or a lounge day pass — the options are endless.
Finally, a new travel credit for 2021 is the up-to-$200 hotel statement credit when booking through Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection with your Platinum card. While the hotels from FHR are luxury options, you can undoubtedly find hotels well under this $200 price tag in The Hotel Collection. Enrollment required.
Consider these family-friendly Orlando hotels that I found through Amex’s Hotel Collection. Maximize your new hotel statement credit, and you’re looking at a $200 discount for your hotel booking each year. Plus, you’ll get all sorts of perks from The Hotel Collection, including a $100 on-site credit, room upgrade (if available) and 5 points per dollar on any paid portion of your booking.
Uber comes in handy when you need a ride to the airport or on vacation, so it should be relatively effortless to maximize your U.S. $15 Uber Cash each month (plus a $20 bonus in December — for a total of $200 each calendar year). If you don’t use Uber, you can order Uber Eats food delivery and treat it as a $15 discount each month. Enrollment required.
Don’t forget about The Global Lounge Collection, which gives you complimentary access to the largest number of airport lounges — with more than 40 Centurion-branded locations planned worldwide — of any card on the market. While it’s hard to put a value on the price of this benefit, let’s estimate that you visit twice per year. We’ll peg this at $50 per visit — for a total of $100 per year — also the cost of an additional guest fee on the Platinum card.
You’ll also get complimentary Gold elite status with both Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. We’ve analyzed the benefits for both programs and pegged Gold status at $840 and $1,255, respectively. You’ll find upgrades, late checkout and other fantastic amenities with both programs. Enrollment required.
An overlooked perk is the car rental elite statuses you’ll enjoy through Avis, Hertz and National, getting you upgrades, discounts and more. While the value of this benefit will depend on how often you use it, let’s estimate that you rent a car for both your two trips and save $100 with these elite status benefits. Enrollment required.
All in all, these travel-centered benefits will lock you in at $3,174 in value for the average traveler during the first year of card membership. The only benefit that isn’t a recurring annual benefit is the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit — otherwise, you’ll have these benefits at your disposal, year after year.
The trickier part of the new Amex Platinum is the new lifestyle statement credits, which may require you to get a bit more creative.
First, let’s discuss the up to $240 in digital entertainment statement credit, broken down to $20 per month on eligible purchases at Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM and The New York Times. You can certainly mix and match any of these credits, but I’d personally get:
- Audible Premium Plus membership: $14.95 per month.
- The New York Times digital subscription: $4 every four weeks.
That puts you at just under $20 per month, and an excellent option for those who want to read more in 2021.
The up-to-$100 Saks Fifth Avenue statement credit has been a standing benefit for some time now, and it’s broken down into a $50 credit from January to June and an additional $50 credit from July to December. There are plenty of items that aren’t designer that are well under $50, such as makeup, accessories and new travel gear. Enrollment required for select benefits.
The final statement credit is the trickiest, with up to a $300 statement credit at Equinox each year. This is broken down into a $25 monthly statement credit, which can be used for an eligible Equinox gym membership or the Equinox+ app. Enrollment required.
While there are more than 300 Equinox gym locations, they’re mostly concentrated in big cities like New York or Los Angeles. The average consumer would have to opt for the Equinox+ app, which gets you access to myriad fitness classes, from SoulCycle to Rumble. At $40 a month, you’d get a nice $25 discount, bringing your effective cost for an all-digital gym experience to $15 monthly.
As you can see, it’s not as terribly difficult as initially imagined to use these lifestyle credits, bringing you in at $640 in value each year.
At first, many existing (and potential) cardholders of the Amex Platinum were dissatisfied with the new changes. While the Clear credit is certainly a huge perk, it appears that the other annual credits are only helpful for those who live in big cities.
However, with this analysis, we’ve disproved that to be true. Even the average consumer who doesn’t travel all the time can find approximately $7,155 of value from the first year of holding this card. While it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth keeping the Amex Platinum after the first year, the annual statement credits can more than offset the annual fee.
Application link: Amex Platinum with 100,000 bonus points.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
Featured photo by The Points Guy.
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