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Whenever a friend or family member expresses an interest in the points and miles hobby, the first thing I always suggest is to choose a solid travel rewards credit card. If you aren’t racking up huge account balances through travel, your everyday spending habits play a massive role in earning and redeeming points and miles. If you focus on a single card, this can be incredibly lucrative, especially in the first year.

I’ve looked at this very thing — how much the average consumer can earn and redeem in their first year — with various cards including the Chase Sapphire Reserve (here), the American Express® Gold Card (here), the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card (here) and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (here). Today I’ll add another popular card to this list as I evaluate how rewarding the Platinum Card® from American Express can be in just your first year of card membership.

Welcome Bonus and Benefits

The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. This bonus is worth $1,200 based on TPG’s most recent valuations thanks to the array of valuable ways to redeem Membership Rewards points, especially through transfers to hotel partners Hilton, Marriott and Choice as well as airline partners like British Airways and Etihad.

You’ll earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, and 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. This means you’ll earn a 10% return on these purchases based on TPG’s valuation of Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each.

Even though the card carries a $550 annual fee (see rates & fees), there are many other benefits that can add significant value:

For details on all the card’s perks, be sure to check out the following posts:

So if you open the Amex Platinum, earn the welcome bonus and use the card exclusively for the first year, where does that leave you? Obviously, the answer depends on your spending patterns, so for this analysis I used consumer-expenditure data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the most recent year available (2017) to estimate what an “average” household would spend (and thus earn) on the Platinum Card in one year.

In doing so, I made the following assumptions:

  • Only the “Other lodging” category under “Shelter” can easily be paid with a credit card (since you’ll pay a fee for paying most mortgage and rent payments with credit cards).
  • The “Vehicle purchases” category under “Transportation” can’t be paid with a credit card (although you may be able to pay for some of the purchase using an Amex card), but all other transportation expenses can.
  • All “Personal insurance and pensions” expenditures can’t be paid with a credit card.
  • All other expenses (including “Entertainment” and “Education”) can be paid with a credit card.

Again, your situation may differ substantially, so feel free to adjust these assumptions in order to calculate your own earning potential.

Here’s a quick table that shows how these spending patterns in the first year of cardmembership translate to Membership Rewards points:

Category Spending Earning Rate Points
Welcome bonus N/A N/A 60,000
Food at home $4,363 1 point/$ 4,049
Food away from home $3,365 1 point/$ 3,154
Alcoholic beverages $558 1 point/$ 484
Housing (other lodging) $782 1 point/$ 798
Utilities, fuels and public services $3,836 1 point/$ 3,884
Household operations $1,412 1 point/$ 1,384
Housekeeping supplies $755 1 point/$ 660
Household furnishings and equipment $1,987 1 point/$ 1,829
Apparel and services $1,833 1 point/$ 1,803
Transportation (gasoline) $1,968 1 point/$ 1,909
Other vehicle expenses $2,842 1 point/$ 2,884
Public and other transportation $712 1 point/$ 623
Healthcare $4,928 1 point/$ 4,612
All other expenses $6,907 1 point/$ 6,363
TOTALS $36,248 N/A 94,430

As you can see, the “average” American consumer would earn over 96,000 Membership Rewards points in the first year of using the Amex Platinum. Although most of this earning is due to the welcome bonus since the 5x earning categories are limited to select flights and hotels, it’s still not bad for one year.

What does this get you?

Of course, earning points is one thing, but knowing how to redeem them for maximum value is a completely different story. Fortunately, the Membership Rewards program has a variety of valuable redemptions, most of which involve transferring to the program’s partners.

Here’s a sample of what you can get from the 96,000 Membership Rewards points that the “average” American consumer would earn in the first year with the Amex Platinum:

1. Up to 15 Nights at Marriott Hotels

Photo courtesy of Marriott.
The Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge in Zambia is an attractive Category 1 option. Photo courtesy of Marriott.

Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio. Since Marriott Category 1 properties cost just 7,500 points per nights, and you can get a fifth night free on award stays, you can transfer 90,000 Membership Rewards points to Marriott and get up to 15 nights when you stay at Category 1 properties in 5-night increments.

There are some appealing Marriott Category 1 properties in both the US and abroad, including the family-friendly SpringHill Suites Vernal near Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and the Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge in Zambia.

2. Round-Trip Business-Class Ticket from the West Coast to Tokyo

A transfer bonus could provide you with enough points for an ANA first class round-trip ticket. (Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Another terrific redemption opportunity comes via transferring your Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club and then redeeming those miles on ANA flights. 90,000 points will get you round-trip business class from any of ANA’s West Coast gateways to Tokyo. And, you only need slightly more points (95,000 points) to go from ANA’s Central and Eastern US gateways. Plus, if you can take advantage of a transfer bonus, you may even have enough points to book a first class award.

ANA has some very luxurious premium-class cabins along with some quirkier options in its fleet. Regardless of the type of plane you fly, being able to book a round-trip first or business-class ticket from the US to Tokyo with a single year’s worth of credit card points is a phenomenal deal.

3. One-Way Business-Class Ticket from Europe or the US to Singapore

Singapore Airlines business class on the A350-900ULR. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Singapore Airlines rightly has one of the best reputations in the world when it comes to premium classes, so if you’re looking to ride to Asia in style, consider transferring your Membership Rewards points to the carrier’s KrisFlyer program. One-way business-class award tickets from Europe and the West Coast to Singapore fit within the numbers above, while an award ticket from Houston and the East Coast requires a few additional miles.

Here’s what you’ll pay for an one-way saver award ticket from these gateways:

  • Europe: 92,000 KrisFlyer miles
  • West Coast (Los Angeles and San Francisco): 95,000 miles
  • Houston: 99,000 miles
  • East Coast (New York-JFK): 99,000 miles

Note that these same award prices apply if you connect in Singapore to several other Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia. Keep in mind that Singapore generally only releases premium-class award inventory to its own members, so using KrisFlyer miles is usually your only award option if you want to fly in a Singapore Airlines premium cabin.

Bottom Line

The Membership Rewards program carries a ton of value, so it’s no surprise that it regularly earns a high spot on TPG’s monthly valuations. Granted, other American Express cards have more lucrative earning rates, but The Platinum Card from American Express has a valuable collection of benefits for card holders. Even though earning isn’t the Amex Platinum’s strong point for most cardholders, you can still unlock a wide variety of redemption opportunities if you open the card and use it exclusively for one year.

Keep in mind too that the above calculation may be even a bit too conservative:

  • The calculation assumes that you’re the average consumer. If you typically spend more in a year, then your earnings will be even higher.
  • The calculation assumes that you don’t take advantage of any Amex Offers during the year. I (personally) have earned over 40,000 extra points in the last year alone on the card, so your earning potential can be even higher.
  • The calculation assumes that you only open the Platinum Card. There are many other cards that will earn you bonus Membership Rewards points in certain categories, including the American Express® Gold Card and The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express. These cards (and others like them) can be used right alongside the Amex Platinum to boost your balances even higher.

Regardless of where you fall on these three items, I hope you can see how a single travel rewards credit card can be incredibly rewarding, especially in the first year.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

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

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • 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
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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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