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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 needed to continually revamp the card in an effort both to retain existing card holders and acquire new ones.
What is the Amex Platinum Fee?
The Amex Platinum comes with a $550 annual fee. This annual 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, medical evacuation travel protection 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 the $550 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 card membership.
- $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 points on prepaid hotels booked on AmexTravel.com
- Up to $200 Uber credit split into monthly $15 credits for US rides plus a bonus $20 in December.
- Up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry or an $85 fee credit for TSA PreCheck every four years.
- Points transfer to 21 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 elite status with Hilton and Marriott.
- Complimentary memberships in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Emerald Club Executive.
- Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts.
- Up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue statement credits
- 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 welcome 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 2 cents apiece. This makes the 60,000-point welcome bonus worth about $1,200.
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 card holders to use over the course of a calendar year (not a card member year). First, card holders 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 that started in 2017. Card holders receive up to $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. But, remember to specifically request to use your credit by opting to pay with Uber Cash. 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. Card holders 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.
4. 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 card holder 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 only downsides are that you have to call in to Amex’s customer service desk to book the tickets and you’ll need to pay a $39 service fee per ticket. 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
Card holders 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. 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 prepaid 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 $500 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 card holder and two guests into over 1,200 lounges worldwide for free. This is even better than Priority Pass’s own Prestige membership, which costs $429 per year and includes free visits for the member but costs $32 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 $749.
The Platinum Card also gets card holders into Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta. Card holders can bring up to two guests, but must pay $29 per guest — and starting in 2019 these guests will also need to be flying Delta. This is the equivalent of Delta’s Individual Memberships, which cost $495 per year. Card holders and up to two guests are also able to enter Airspace Lounges at Cleveland (CLE) and San Diego (SAN).
Platinum card holders and up to two guests are also granted entry into Amex’s Centurion Lounge network, which includes lounges in multiple US cities as well as a lounge in Hong Kong (HKG). There’s no exact way to value this benefit, but card holders who wish to bring more than two 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 card holders 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 2017 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. Plus, you’ll earn 5x points on stays booked online through FHR and you’ll even get elite benefits and hotel loyalty points during your stay. Let’s say you use this benefit to book three stays per year and get an average value of $500 per stay thanks to the elite-like benefits offered and free nights.
8. Marriott Rewards and Hilton Honors Elite Status
Some card holders tend to forget about these benefits since they do not come automatically along with your shiny new metallic card. As a card holder you can enroll here for Hilton Honors Gold status. You’re also eligible for Gold Elite status in the new Marriott loyalty program. TPG values Hilton Honors Gold status at $1,040 and Gold Elite status in the new Marriott loyalty program at $725 based on certain stay and spending habits. 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, veranda 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 card member per sailing.
10. Car Rental Elite Status
In addition to hotel elite status, card holders 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 hot spots, including the more than one million locations operated by Boingo. Being an Amex Platinum card member gets you complimentary access to the Boingo American Express Preferred Plan, which includes unlimited access to land-based Wi-Fi services on up to four devices per month. 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. 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. You’ll need to enroll your Amex Platinum Card for this benefit to take effect, but there’s no minimum purchase required.
13. ShopRunner Membership
ShopRunner gives Amex card holders 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 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 take advantage can vary, but it is still worth mentioning. Amex Platinum card holders 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, Boingo Wi-Fi and Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits. Not to mention, Amex sometimes offers card holders bonus points for adding authorized users.
Total Value Each Year: $5,896
|Benefit||Value Per Year|
|Airline Fee Credit||$200|
|Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Credit||$25|
|International Airline Program||$240|
|Airline and Hotel Bonus Categories||$500|
|Fine Hotels & Resorts||$1,500|
|Marriott and Hilton Elite Status||$440|
|Cruise Privileges Program||$200|
|Car Rental Elite Status||$200|
|Saks Fifth Avenue Credit||$100|
That figure might seem high, but these numbers are based on someone who travels consistently yet conservatively, has little or no elite status and doesn’t spend an extraordinary amount of money on travel each year. Even just using the airline and Uber credits will get 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, hotel status, 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 Amex 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.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter.
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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WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually
- 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