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These days, consumers have no lack of choices when it comes to premium credit cards…with equally premium annual fees. In an increasingly crowded field, though, it can be difficult for those new to credit card points as well as old hands to understand which credit card might best suit their needs, and whether such a card is worth the annual fee it charges. Especially when that fee can range up into the hundreds of dollars.
One such credit card is the Platinum Card from American Express. In order to keep up with competition from newer entrants American Express has had to continually revamp the card in an effort both to retain existing cardholders and acquire new ones.
What is the Amex Platinum Fee?
The Amex Platinum comes with a $550 annual fee, a $100 increase from the old annual fee that was in effect until March 2017. The Amex Platinum fee is one of the highest among premium travel cards.
There are strong arguments in its favor, such as a robust roster of travel transfer partners that includes British Airways and Delta, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee waiver, an annual $200 airline fee credit, Uber credits and more.
Here’s how you can look at the card’s benefits and figure out if you are maximizing its value enough to justify that steep annual fee.
First, let’s look at a quick rundown of the current benefits of the card.
- The Amex Platinum currently offers 60,000 bonus points after $5,000 in purchases in the first three months of cardmembership.
- $200 annual airline fee credit on incidental fees charged by the airline you select.
- 5x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5x Membership Rewards points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- $200 Uber credit split into monthly $15 credits for US rides plus a bonus $20 in December.
- $100 fee credit for Global Entry or an $85 fee credit for TSA PreCheck every 4 years.
- Points transfer to 20 airline and hotel partners.
- Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta.
- Complimentary Gold elite status at Hilton and Starwood Hotels (which can also be matched to Marriott Gold status).
- Complimentary memberships in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive.
- Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- $550 annual fee
With all those perks in mind, let’s try to place a valuation on each and see how they stack up compared to the annual fee of $550. I am going to leave the sign-up bonus out of it since it’s a one-time benefit. However, based on TPG’s current valuations, American Express Membership Rewards points are worth approximately 1.9 cents apiece. That would make the 60,000-point sign-up bonus worth $1,140.
1. Airline Fee Credit
This is one of the most basic yet still confusing (to some) benefits of the Platinum Card. This credit is given to cardholders to use over the course of a calendar year (not a cardmember year). First, cardholders must select the single airline on which they would like to use it. Technically, this credit is meant to be used toward incidentals like checked baggage fees, seat assignment fees, airline lounge passes and other expenses like that. Depending on how airlines code certain purchases, though, it is also sometimes possible to purchase airline gift cards to use toward tickets and be reimbursed for those.
2. Uber Credits
This is one of the card’s newer perks. Cardholders receive $200 in ride credits per calendar year and Uber VIP status, which gives them access to better cars and better rated drivers in select locations. To take advantage of this benefit, you must link your Platinum Card to your Uber account. Then you automatically receive $15 in credit each month, except for December, when you get $35 worth of credit. This credit can be used on multiple rides, but if you don’t use it by the end of the month, it doesn’t roll over. Assuming you take one or two rides in a city each month, though, it’s easy to max out this perk. The discount only applies to rides within the US, and there’s no requirement to pay the balance with your Amex card.
3. Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Credit
This is another great benefit targeted toward frequent travelers. When you pay for the $100 Global Entry application fee or the $85 TSA PreCheck fee using your card, it will be refunded to you as a statement credit. Cardholders are eligible for this statement credit every four years since you have to renew your Global Entry membership every five years. Because Global Entry also qualifies you for TSA PreCheck, let’s rate the full value of this benefit at $100, but amortize it over the four years.
4. International Airline Program
This used to be a pretty lackluster perk since it was basically 2-for-1 companion deals on full-fare premium tickets, but Amex improved it dramatically in 2017 by changing it into a discount on premium economy, business- and first-class tickets. You can even use Pay With Points to purchase them. The cardholder must be traveling, but they can purchase up to eight tickets on the same reservation with participating airlines including Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates and LATAM among others. The one downside is that you cannot book these online, but instead have to call in to Amex’s customer service desk. The dollar amount you save can vary, but we found it to be about 12% in many test cases. Let’s say you spend just $2,000 a year on premium tickets for this valuation.
5. Airline and Hotel Bonus Categories
Cardholders earn 5x points per dollar on airfare when booked directly with the airline or when booked through amextravel.com. They are also eligible to earn 5x points per dollar on hotels booked through Amex Travel. This second benefit only applies to prepaid rates and does not include bookings through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, so its value is more limited. This benefit is somewhat harder to place a value on, since it’s more about earning and specific travel habits. Conservatively, let’s say you’re putting about $5,000 worth of spend on airfare and eligible hotel bookings each year — so you’re not quite a road warrior, but you are taking advantage of this perk. You would earn 25,000 points, or about $475 worth of points given our current valuation.
6. Lounge Access
Here we come to another of the card’s major perks, especially if you fly a lot. The Platinum Card has some of the best lounge access benefits of any credit card out there thanks to partnerships with Delta, Priority Pass and its own network of Centurion Lounges. Let’s break it down.
The card’s Priority Pass Select membership gets the cardholder and two guests into over 1,000 lounges worldwide for free. This is even better than Priority Pass’s own Prestige membership, which costs $399 per year and includes free visits for the member but costs $27 per person per visit for guests. Let’s say you travel with companions and access a lounge about five times a year. That puts the value of this particular lounge benefit at $669.
The Platinum Card also gets cardholders into Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta. Guests are $29 each. This is the equivalent of Delta’s Individual Memberships, which cost $495 per year. Cardholders are also able to enter Airspace Lounges at New York JFK, Cleveland (CLE) and San Diego (SAN).
Platinum cardholders are also among the newly rarified crowd granted entry into Amex’s Centurion Lounge network, which includes lounges in multiple US cities as well as an international location with the new lounge in Hong Kong (HKG). There’s no exact way to value this benefit, but cardholders who wish to bring guests in have to pay $50 per guest, so let’s value entrance at that amount and say you use these lounges 10 times per year for a total value of $500.
7. Fine Hotels & Resorts
Platinum cardholders can book stays through the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Benefits include noon check-in (based on availability), room upgrades (when available), daily breakfast for two people, complimentary Wi-Fi, guaranteed 4pm late checkout and, at some properties, a third or fourth night for free and on-property credits for things like dining or spa treatments. Amex estimates the average value of this benefit to be $550 per stay based on bookings made in 2016 for two nights. That seems a bit high for a simple two night stay — after all, how much does breakfast cost? But taking advantage of a third or fourth night free benefit and free breakfast alone can be worth hundreds of dollars if you find a good deal. Let’s say you use this benefit to book three short stays per year and save an average of $500 per stay thanks to a free night and the other perks mentioned like an upgrade and on-property credits.
8. Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton Honors Elite Status
Some cardholders tend to forget about these benefits since they do not come automatically along with your shiny new metallic card and you have to remember to renew them each year. However, cardholders are entitled to Starwood Preferred Guest Gold and Hilton Honors Gold status. You must enroll here for the SPG status and here for Honors status. We value SPG Gold status at $685 and Hilton Honors Gold status at $980 based on certain stay and spending habits. Remember that SPG Gold status also matches to Marriott Gold status, which we estimate to be worth about $1,985. All these figures were based on earning status the regular way — through nights and stays and leveraging those benefits on those nights and stays. But let’s cut them all down by about 75% to approximate a traveler who is spreading their loyalty around to a few brands. You get a value of just about…
9. Cruise Privileges Program
I realize that there might not be too many cruisers out there and that even if you are an avid seafarer, you might not be likely to take more than one cruise every year or two. However, this benefit is still worth mentioning. Cardmembers receive $100 USD shipboard credit for inside and outside staterooms; $200 USD shipboard credit for balcony, verandah and mini-suite staterooms; and $300 USD shipboard credit for suites on Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. There’s a limit of one benefit package per stateroom and a three-stateroom limit per cardmember per sailing.
10. Car Rental Elite Status
In addition to hotel elite status, cardholders can also enroll for status with several car rental programs including Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status. Though rental car perks are hard to quantify, conveniences, varying discounts and time-saving benefits like guaranteed availability and return grace periods can be invaluable.
11. Boingo Wi-Fi
It’s easier than ever to stay connected while traveling these days, and one of the reasons is the preponderance of Wi-Fi hotspots, including the million or so locations operated by Boingo. Being an Amex Platinum cardmember gets you complimentary access to the Boingo Preferred Plan, which includes unlimited access to Wi-Fi hotspots on up to four devices. The benefit most resembles the Boingo Global plan, which normally costs $39 per month. To get this benefit, you’ll need to register on the Amex website.
12. ShopRunner Shipping
ShopRunner gives Amex Platinum cardholders free two-day shipping and free return shipping on eligible items at participating online stores. This is a simple but nice benefit to save on expedited shipping. To be eligible, you make your purchase using your Platinum card.
Bonus: Authorized Users
I’ll leave this out of the total valuation since whether you add authorized users, how many you add, and what benefits they take advantage can vary, but it is still worth mentioning. Amex Platinum cardholders can add up to three authorized users to their account for a total of $175 per year, and those users are eligible for some of the same benefits as the main account holder including lounge access, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement, hotel elite status, Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits, Boingo Wi-Fi and Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits. Not to mention, Amex sometimes offers cardholders bonus points for adding authorized users.
Total Value Each Year: $6,151
|Benefit||Value Per Year|
|Airline Fee Credit||$200|
|Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Credit||$25|
|International Airline Program||$240|
|Airline and Hotel Bonus Categories||$475|
|Fine Hotels & Resorts||$1,500|
|Starwood and Hilton Elite Status||$900|
|Cruise Privileges Program||$200|
|Car Rental Elite Status||$200|
That figure might seem high, but these numbers are based on someone who travels consistently yet conservatively, without no or low-level elite status with airlines or a hotel chain and without spending an extraordinary amount of money on travel each year. Even just using the airline and Uber credits gets you $400 in value each year, which knocks off a good portion of the card’s $550 annual fee.
That said, if you only travel occasionally and you don’t maximize perks like lounge access, the International Airline Program and Fine Hotels & Resorts, you’ll be getting dramatically less value from your Platinum Card. As with all premium travel credit cards, the Platinum Card is only worth the annual fee if you’re actually traveling and leveraging the perks on a regular basis. If you do, though, you can reap many times the amount of value from its benefits as the annual fee costs you.
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.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can 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®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees