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 cards. Although many of these premium cards carry high annual fees, the benefits, credits and earning potential can be worth more than the annual fee for some cardmembers. So, before you sign up for a new card — or when you’re considering whether to keep or cancel an existing card — 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 a robust roster of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners that includes British Airways and Delta, 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 required)
Official application link: The Platinum Card® from American Express — 100,000 Point Offer after you meet the minimum requirements.
Amex has also added more than $900 in potential credits — for an annual fee increase of $145. Enrollment required for select benefits. But the value obtained will vary for each cardmember. This guide considers all the benefits, credits and earning potential of the Platinum Card so you can decide for yourself whether it is worth the annual fee.
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Overview of benefits
First, let’s look at a quick rundown of the current benefits of the card.
- The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 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 bonus offer using the CardMatch tool); new cardholders can also earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first six months of card membership.
- Up to $200 annual airline fee in statement credits on incidental fees charged by the airline you select.
- 5x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel (5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).
- 5x Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- 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.
- 12 months of complimentary access to Eats Pass, valued at $10 per month, when you enroll by Dec. 31, 2021.
- 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.
- 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 the 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).
- $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Add up to three authorized users for a fee of $175 per year (see rates and fees).
Enrollment required for select benefits.
Plus, Amex has added the following:
- Up to $200 hotel fee credit on prepaid bookings at Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties made through Amex Travel.
- Up to $179 statement credit for a Clear membership.
- An up to $240 annual statement credit for digital entertainment applied for Audible, The New York Times, SiriusXM and Peacock.
- An up to $300 annual credit to select Equinox memberships or a digital subscription to Equinox+ fitness app.
Enrollment required for select benefits.
The welcome offer is a valuable benefit for new cardmembers. Based on TPG’s current valuations, American Express Membership Rewards points are worth approximately 2 cents apiece, so the 100,000-point welcome offer is worth about $2,000. But since the welcome offer is a one-time benefit, we won’t consider the welcome bonus when deciding whether the Platinum Card’s annual fee is worth paying.
Credits that reduce your effective annual fee
The Platinum Card offers eight main credits that can reduce your effective annual fee: an annual airline-fee credit, an annual hotel fee credit, annual credits for Equinox, digital entertainment and Clear, monthly Uber cash, a bi-annual Saks credit and every-four-years Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit. If used fully, these credits are worth approximately $525 each year. If you can use these credits to cover expenses you’d already be paying, your effective annual fee drops to just $25. And if you apply before the end of 2020 and use your limited-time streaming, wireless, Dell and Uber Eats Pass credits, the card more than pays for itself.
Let’s look at each credit individually.
Airline fee credit
This is one of the most basic yet still confusing (to some) benefits of the Platinum Card. This up to $200 credit is given to cardholders to use over the course of a calendar year (not a cardmember year) for fees on one airline. Cardholders must go to Amex’s website and select the single airline on which they would like to use the fee credit.
Technically, this credit is meant to be used toward incidentals such as checked baggage fees, seat assignment fees, airline lounge passes and similar expenses. Depending on how airlines code certain purchases, it is also sometimes possible to purchase airline gift cards to use toward tickets and be reimbursed via the credit (but this can change unexpectedly).
Potential annual value: $200
This perk provides cardholders up to $200 in ride credits per calendar year and 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. Then you’ll automatically receive $15 in Uber cash credit each month, except for December, when you get $35 worth of credit. The monthly credits can be used on multiple rides, but it doesn’t roll over if you don’t use the credit by the end of the month. Assuming you take one or two rides in a city each month, it’s easy to max out this perk. The discount only applies to rides within the U.S., and there’s no requirement to pay any remaining balance with your Amex card.
There’s also 12 months of complimentary access to Eats Pass when you enroll by Dec. 31, 2021.
Potential annual value: $320
Saks Fifth Avenue credit
This 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 Jun. 30 and another $50 statement credit for purchases between July 1 and Dec. 31. This credit can be applied at both Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s. 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 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
The hotel credit is among the new benefits that can help you save money on bookings each year. You’ll get up to $200 in annual reimbursements (paid through a statement credit) when you book a prepaid stay at the Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties made through 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
As travelers return to the skies, a terrific new benefit that will save you time and stress at the airport is the annual statement credit for your Clear membership. You’ll receive up to $179 in reimbursement, enough to cover you for Clear for an entire year. Make sure to activate this credit first under the “Benefits” section of your Amex Platinum account, which will launch you to the Clear website to sign up for the membership.
Potential annual value: $179
Digital entertainment credit
In an attempt to move towards lifestyle-focused benefits, Amex has added a digital entertainment credit that will offer reimbursement for the following services: Audible, Peacock, SiriusXM and The New York Times. You can mix and match how you’d like, but you’ll earn up to $240 in annual statement credits (broken down to $20 monthly increments). While you may or may not subscribe to the eligible programs already, it can certainly help offset the cost if you are already using one of the services listed above.
Potential annual value: $240
The final statement credit is perhaps the most targeted towards consumers. 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 itself costs $40 per month and may be useful to those who don’t live near an Equinox location, typically located in major cities. 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, severely limiting those on annual contracts or single club access.
Potential annual value: $300
Other potentially valuable card benefits
The eight credits described in the previous section can help bring your 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 use the Equinox locations since you visit a different gym, 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 — it’s still possible that the card’s benefits and earning potential will provide enough value to justify the annual fee.
Some of the card’s benefits discussed below may provide no value to you but significant value to someone else. So, I won’t assign value to these benefits but instead introduce them so you can estimate their value for yourself.
Airline and hotel bonus categories
Cardholders earn 5x points per dollar on airfare when booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. They are also eligible to earn 5x points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, 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 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 any credit card out there through 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. The Platinum Card also gets cardholders into Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights. Cardholders can bring up to two guests to SkyClubs but must pay $39 per guest and these guests will also need to be flying Delta. (enrollment required)
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 a lounge in Hong Kong (HKG). There are also a couple of International American Express Lounges in Argentina, Australia, India and Mexico.
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 $1,260 and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status at $845, respectively, 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)
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 5x points 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 5x points on prepaid Hotel Collection stays that are booked online.
International airline program
Through Amex’s International Airline Program, you can get discounts on premium economy, business- and first-class tickets on 25 airlines. 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. 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 on 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 status. Though rental car perks are hard to quantify, conveniences, discounts and time-saving benefits like guaranteed availability and return grace periods can be invaluable. You’ll need to register for these elite statuses on the Amex website.
ShopRunner gives Amex cardholders 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. (enrollment required)
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 (see rates and fees), 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 and Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits (not to mention Amex sometimes offers cardholders bonus points for adding authorized users).
The Platinum Card from American Express now comes with a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), but for many travelers, the card’s benefits will more than offset the annual fee. If you can maximize all of the annual statement credits, you’re looking at $1,400+ in value — more than twice the $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). Plus, the various other benefits of the card can be worth even more for most frequent travelers.
If you cannot use 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 — then consider the value of the credits you can use. Next, consider the Platinum Card’s benefits — 5x Membership Rewards earning on select airfare and hotel purchases, lounge access, excellent evacuation protection, elite status with Hilton and Marriott, access to the Hotel Collection and Fine Hotels and Resorts programs 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 — 100,000 Point Offer.
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.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon, Katie Genter and Benét J. Wilson.
Featured photo by The Points Guy.
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