Is the Amex Platinum worth the annual fee?
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These days, consumers have no lack of choices when it comes to premium travel rewards cards. Although many of these premium cards charge high annual fees, the benefits, statement credits and earning potential they provide can make paying for them worthwhile.
However, before you sign up for a new card — or if you’re considering whether to keep or cancel a card you already carry — it’s important to ask yourself whether the card is worth the annual fee.
Today we’ll consider The Platinum Card® from American Express, which has a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). There are strong arguments in favor of the card, such as an impressive roster of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners including British Airways and Delta, extensive airport lounge access perks, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee waiver every four years (up to $100), an annual airline fee credit, Uber credits, medical evacuation travel protection, travel insurance and more. (Enrollment is required for select benefits.)
Official application link: The Platinum Card® from American Express with 100,000 points after you make $6,000 in purchases in the first six months.
The card also offers up to hundreds of dollars in statement credits each year, but the value you can reap from these benefits will vary for each cardmember.
This guide considers all the advantages, earning potential and money-saving features of the card so you can decide for yourself whether it is worth the annual fee.
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Overview of benefits
First, let’s do quick rundown of the current benefits of the card. The Platinum Card from American Express ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees) currently offers:
- 100,000 bonus points after you make $6,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership (you may be eligible for an Amex Platinum 125k points offer using the CardMatch tool).
- Up to $200 annual airline fee statement credits on incidental fees charged by the airline you select.
- Up to $200 hotel fee credit on prepaid bookings at Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties, which requires a minimum two-night stay, made through Amex Travel.
- Up to $189 annual statement credit for a Clear membership.
- Up to $240 annual statement credit for digital entertainment for Audible, The New York Times, SiriusXM and Peacock.
- Up to $300 annual credit for select Equinox memberships or a digital subscription to the Equinox+ fitness app.
- Uber VIP status and up to $200 Uber credit, split into monthly $15 credits for U.S. rides plus a bonus of $20 in December.
- Up to a $155 statement credit that covers the cost of a monthly Walmart+ membership when paying with the Amex Platinum. Plus Ups are excluded.
- Up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry or an $85 fee credit for TSA PreCheck every four years.
- Up to $100 Saks credit, split into two up to $50 statement credits for January-June and July-December.
- Up to $300 statement credit when purchasing one SoulCycle at-home bike — on up to 15 bikes per calendar year.
- Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).
- Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked on American Express Travel
- Points transfer to 20+ airline and hotel partners.
- Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights, and Airspace and Escape lounges.
- Complimentary Gold status at Hilton and Gold Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program.
- 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 (see rates and fees).
- Add up to three authorized users for a fee of $175 per year (see rates and fees).
Enrollment is required for select benefits.
At 100,000 points, the welcome offer alone is worth around $2,000 by our latest estimates thanks to how versatile American Express Membership Rewards points are. But since the welcome offer is a one-time perk, we won’t consider it when deciding whether the Platinum Card’s annual fee is worth paying. Instead, we’ll look at the card’s ongoing benefits.
Statement credits vs. annual fee
The Amex Platinum Card offers eight main statement credits that can reduce the effective cost of the annual fee.
They include an annual airline fee credit, an annual hotel credit, annual credits for Equinox, digital entertainment and Clear, monthly Uber cash, a bi-annual Saks credit and an every-four-years Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit. If used fully, these credits amount to nearly $1,600 in value per year, more than double the card’s annual fee. That said, maximizing each and every one of them requires an “extreme couponing” mindset that many cardmembers might not be able to muster.
Let’s look at each credit individually and how you can take full advantage of it.
Airline fee credit
This is one of the most basic, yet still confusing (to some), benefits of the Amex Platinum Card. Each calendar (not account anniversary) year, cardmembers can get up to $200 back in statement credits toward incidental fees on a single U.S. airline of their choice that they designate.
Technically, this credit is meant to be used toward charges such as checked baggage fees, seat assignment fees, airline lounge passes and similar expenses. Depending on how airlines code certain purchases, however, it is also sometimes possible to purchase airline gift cards to use toward tickets and be reimbursed via the credit (note that this can change unexpectedly).
Potential annual value: $200.
Cardmembers receive up to $200 in Uber Cash per calendar year toward U.S. rides and Uber Eats orders. They can also register for complimentary Uber VIP status, which gives 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. Once that’s done, you’ll automatically receive $15 in Uber cash credit each month, except for December, when you get $35 worth.
The monthly credit can be used on multiple rides, but any portion of it that remains unused doesn’t roll over at the end of the month. Assuming you take one or two rides or place an Uber Eats order in the U.S. each month, it’s easy to max out this perk.
Potential annual value: $200.
Saks Fifth Avenue credit
The card’s Saks Fifth Avenue credit is available in the form of two $50 statement credits per year. Each year you can get one $50 statement credit for Saks purchases between Jan. 1 and June 30 and another $50 statement credit for purchases between July 1 and Dec. 31. You’ll need to enroll your Amex Platinum Card for this benefit to take effect, but there’s no minimum purchase required. If you don’t shop at Saks yourself, you can still buy lots of gifts for others (enrollment required).
Potential annual value: $100.
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 (4.5 for PreCheck) since you have to renew your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck 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.
Potential annual value: $25.
Cardmembers receive up to $200 in statement credits each calendar year when booking a prepaid stay via Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection on Amex Travel. Note that if you’re booking through The Hotel Collection, there’s a minimum stay requirement of two nights.
Potential annual value: $200.
Clear membership credit
One of the card’s other, newer benefits that can help you save time and stress at the airport is the annual statement credit for Clear membership of up to $189, which should cover the whole cost to join this program. Clear lets you use biometric kiosks for identification purposes so you can skip the TSA agent shuffling through other travelers’ identification and head straight to the baggage security line.
Make sure to activate this credit first under the “Benefits” section of your Amex Platinum account, which will then send you to the Clear website to sign up for the membership.
Potential annual value: $189.
Digital entertainment credit
In an attempt to make the Platinum Card more lifestyle-focused, Amex added a digital entertainment credit that offers reimbursement for the following services: Audible, Peacock, SiriusXM and The New York Times. You can mix and match how you’d like to take advantage of this, but you’ll earn up to $240 in annual statement credits (broken down into $20 monthly increments). While you may or may not subscribe to the eligible services, it can certainly help offset the cost if you are already using one of the services listed above.
Potential annual value: $240.
Among this card’s newer perks is up to $155 in annual statement credits toward the cost of a monthly Walmart+ membership. Monthly membership costs $12.95 plus local sales tax, so the statement credits should cover most, if not all, of that.
Sort of like Amazon Prime, Walmart + includes free next-day and two-day shipping on items from Walmart.com, with no minimum required (excluding overweight, freight and Marketplace items), free delivery from your local Walmart store on orders of $35 or more, select prescriptions for as little as $0, savings of up to 85% at thousands of Walmart pharmacies, and discounts of 5 cents per gallon at Walmart and Murphy gas stations along with member pricing at Sam’s Club fuel centers. If you’re a regular Walmart customer, this can save you a ton of money.
Potential annual value: $155.
The card’s main fitness-focused statement credit is probably too targeted to be of use to a wide audience, but if you live in a big city where there are Equinox gyms, it’s still worth mentioning.
When you pay for your eligible monthly Equinox membership or the Equinox+ fitness app, you’ll receive $25 in statement credits each month, for up to $300 in reimbursement each year. The app costs $40 per month and may be useful to those who don’t live near an Equinox physical location. Meanwhile, the membership reimbursement terms seem much more stringent. You’ll only receive reimbursement for month-to-month memberships with all-access, destination or E by Equinox access, seriously limiting those on annual contracts or with single club access.
Note that the card also confers up to $300 in statement credits when purchasing one SoulCycle at-home bike (which retail for $2,500 apiece) on up to 15 bikes per calendar year. Given the byzantine nature of this perk and how much you have to spend to leverage it, though, we’re not really considering it here.
Potential annual value: $300.
Other potentially valuable card benefits
The statement credits described in the previous section can easily help bring your effective annual fee down from the published $695 per year to $0 per year. However, even if you can’t use all of the credits — perhaps because you can’t access the Equinox locations, you don’t like shopping at Saks or you can’t find anyone to use the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit that seemingly comes with every premium credit card these days — it’s still possible that the card’s other perks and earning potential will provide enough value to justify the annual fee.
Some of the Amex Platinum’s benefits discussed below may provide no value to you but significant value to someone else. So, I won’t assign specific values to them, but will outline their scope so you can estimate their value for yourself.
Airline and hotel bonus categories
Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar on airfare when booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. They are also eligible to earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked on Amex Travel, including prepaid Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings made online. The Platinum card also has trip cancellation, interruption and delay insurance. However, it still does not include baggage delay reimbursement.
The value of this benefit depends on how frequently you’d use the Platinum Card to book eligible airfare and prepaid hotels. For example, if you spend $500 each year on eligible Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts stays, you’ll earn 2,500 points on these stays, which are worth about $50 given our current valuations. But, if you spend $5,000 each year on eligible airfare and prepaid hotel bookings, you’ll earn 25,000 points on these purchases, which is worth about $500.
The Platinum Card has the best lounge access benefits of almost any rewards card out there thanks to The American Express Global Lounge Collection. The Lounge Collection includes Priority Pass Select membership and access to Delta SkyClubs, Escape lounges, Plaza Premium lounges, Air Space lounges, Centurion Lounges and International American Express Lounges.
The card’s Priority Pass Select membership gets the cardholder and two guests into more than 1,300 Priority Pass lounges worldwide for free, although you’ll need to request your membership card. In addition, unlike the Priory Pass privileges on other cards, it does not include credits at airport restaurants. (Enrollment is required for Priority Pass.)
The Platinum Card also gets cardholders into Delta Sky Clubs on same-day flights operated by Delta and its partner airlines. Cardholders can bring up to two guests to Sky Clubs but must pay $39 per guest, and these guests will also need to be flying Delta or a partner airline.
Platinum cardholders and up to two guests are also granted entry into Amex’s Centurion Lounges, including lounges in multiple U.S. cities as well as ones at airports in Hong Kong (HKG) and London (LHR). There are a couple of International American Express Lounges in Argentina, Australia, India and Mexico, too.
Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors elite status
Some cardholders tend to forget about the hotel elite status that comes with the Platinum Card. You can enroll here for Hilton Honors Gold status and enroll here for Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status as a cardholder. TPG values Hilton Honors Gold status at $1,255 and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status at $840 based on certain stay and spending habits.
However, note that these figures are based on earning status the regular way through nights and stays and leveraging those benefits on those nights and stays. So, if you stay fewer nights, you’ll likely get less value from the status. (Enrollment required.)
Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts
Platinum cardholders can book stays through the Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts program. By doing so, you’ll get elite-like benefits including noon check-in (based on availability), room upgrades (when available), daily breakfast for two people, complimentary Wi-Fi, guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout and a unique property amenity valued at $100 or more. Plus, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid stays booked online through FHR. Read more in TPG’s full guide on the Fine Hotels + Resorts Program.
The Hotel Collection
When you book a two-night or longer stay through The Hotel Collection with American Express Travel, you’ll get a $100 hotel credit for use on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities and a room upgrade upon arrival (when available). You can book up to three rooms and receive these benefits on each room. Plus, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid Hotel Collection stays that are booked online.
International airline program
Through Amex’s International Airline Program, cardmembers can get discounts on premium economy, business- and first-class tickets on around two dozen airlines. You can even use Pay With Points to purchase your tickets. The cardholder must be traveling, but that traveler can purchase up to eight tickets on the same reservation with participating airlines. The only downside is that you’ll need to pay a $39 service fee per ticket, even if you book using the new online chat service. The dollar amount you save can vary, but we found it to be about 12% in many test cases.
Cruise Privileges Program
Whether you’re an avid cruiser or only take one cruise every year or two, this benefit is worth mentioning. Cardmembers receive a $100 shipboard credit for inside and outside staterooms; a $200 shipboard credit for balcony, veranda and mini-suite staterooms; and a $300 shipboard credit for suites and other select staterooms on select cruise lines.
There’s a limit of one benefit package per stateroom and a three-stateroom limit per cardmember per sailing. You’ll also get an additional amenity like a bottle of wine on select cruise lines. Read more in TPG’s full guide to the Cruise Privileges Program.
Car rental elite status
In addition to hotel elite status, cardholders can enroll for status with several car rental programs, including Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive.
Though rental car perks are hard to quantify, the conveniences, discounts and time-saving benefits like guaranteed availability and return grace periods can be invaluable — especially with recent shortages. You’ll need to register for these elite statuses on the Amex website.
ShopRunner membership includes free two-day shipping and free return shipping on eligible items at participating online stores. This is a simple but nice benefit. To be eligible, you must enroll in ShopRunner and use your Amex card for purchases through ShopRunner.
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 use 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. 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 and Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts benefits (not to mention Amex sometimes offers cardholders bonus points for adding authorized users).
If you can maximize all of its annual statement credits, you’re looking at nearly $1,600 in value. Plus, the various other benefits of the card can be worth even more for most frequent travelers.
If you cannot maximize all of the card’s credits each year — perhaps because you live overseas and can’t use the monthly Uber credits, or struggle to use the new “lifestyle” benefits for streaming services and Equinox — then tally up the value of the credits you can use.
Next, consider the Platinum Card’s benefits, such as earning 5 Membership Rewards per dollar on select airfare and hotel purchases, extensive lounge access, excellent travel protections, elite status with Hilton and Marriott, access to the Hotel Collection and Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts booking perks and more — and decide how much value these benefits can provide to you. Then you can determine whether the annual fee is worth it for you based on your spending and travel habits.
If you’ve decided that the card is worth its annual fee, here’s the official application link: The Platinum Card® from American Express with up to 100,000 points. Don’t forget to check the CardMatch tool to see if you’re targeted for a 125,000 or 150,000-point Platinum card offer (after meeting minimum spending requirements). These offers are subject to change at any time.
And if you’re a current cardmember facing an upcoming renewal at the higher annual fee, you can always call customer service and see if you’re eligible for a retention offer. One TPG writer received 30,000 bonus points in 2021 just for keeping his card open another year. There’s no guarantee that you’ll receive one, but a statement credit or some bonus points may make the difference between keeping the card vs. canceling it.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon, Katie Genter and Benét J. Wilson.
Featured photo by The Points Guy.
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