Who should (and who shouldn’t) get the American Express Platinum?
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Jul 11, 2019
The Platinum Card® from American Express packs a lot of punch into its metal shell. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that it’s among the heaviest and most expensive of the publicly-available premium credit cards.
While the welcome bonus alone is worth more than $1,000 (based on TPG valuations) and the luxury perks — including travel credits, elite status and lounge access — can add several hundred dollars a year to its long-term value, most people considering the Amex Platinum will fixate on one number: the $550 annual fee. (See rates & fees.)
It’s easy to make the case that the Amex Platinum can pay for itself over time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you. So let’s take a look at who should — and who shouldn’t — get the Amex Platinum.
Right now, the public welcome offer on the Amex Platinum is 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, making that bonus worth $1,200, which is an excellent return in and of itself.
However, many readers are being targeted for an Amex Platinum 100k points bonus offer by using the CardMatch tool. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll be able to earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after completing the same $5,000 spend in the first three months. This brings the value of your welcome offer up to a massive $2,000, making this card a no-brainer in my opinion. (Note: This offer is subject to change at any time.)
No matter which bonus offer you get, all Platinum cardholders enjoy the same valuable perks. To offset the annual fee, Amex offers three different statement credits:
- Up to $200 annual credit for airline incidental charges, such as seat assignment, lounge access and checked bag fees.
- Up to $200 in annual Uber credits in increments of $15 per month, plus a $20 bonus in December.
- Up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits. You’ll receive $50 for purchases made between January and June, and another $50 for purchases between July and December. Registration is required.
The Amex Platinum also offers one of the single largest bonus categories: 5x points (or a 10% return based on TPG valuations) on airfare booked directly with the airline, as well as on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel (including prepaid Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts). That’s the best return you’ll get anywhere on buying airline tickets.
Frequent travelers will also appreciate that the Platinum offers the most comprehensive lounge access of any credit card, including a (now ubiquitous) Priority Pass Select membership, Amex’s growing global collection of Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, and Airspace and Escapes lounges.
Rounding out the list of benefits are Gold elite status with Hilton and Marriott, access to a premium concierge service, recently-added travel protections (for flights booked on or after Jan. 1, 2020), car rental insurance, baggage insurance, SoulCycle benefits and a host of other lesser known perks.
Is The Amex Platinum worth The annual fee?
Given the hefty price tag that comes with the Platinum card, you’ll have to carefully look at your own spending habits and make sure you can get at least $550 of value out of the card each year. The first year is a no brainer — with a welcome bonus valued at $1,200 (or $2,000 if you’re targeted for the 100,000 point offer), the annual fee is much easier to swallow.
In subsequent years, it’s still possible to get $550 or more in value from the card, but it takes a bit more work. The $200 airline incidental credit and $200 in Uber credits are the biggest benefits and the easiest ones to value. They drop the out-of-pocket cost to only $150 if you can max them both out each year, but given the restrictions on what triggers the airline credit you’ll have to be careful.
In exchange for that remaining $150, you get the single most comprehensive airport lounge access out there, and the rest of the benefits, including hotel elite status, further sweeten the deal.
I personally save over $150 a year on airport food alone just by having access to the Centurion Lounge in Hong Kong (my favorite one in the network), but spending $550 just for the right to use a single credit card is a very personal decision. As you read through the rest of this post, make sure to think about how these scenarios apply to you and your usage of the Platinum benefits.
Who should Get the Amex Platinum?
1. People who are targeted for the 100,000-point bonus
While many cards offer 100,000-point credit card bonuses, it’s important to remember that they’re not all created the same. Outside of the short-lived Chase Sapphire Reserve 100,000 point offer back in 2016, the 100,000-point bonus on the Amex Platinum available to targeted individuals via the CardMatch tool is one of the single most valuable welcome offers we’ve ever seen. This haul of points can unlock some pretty sweet redemptions, including round-trip, business-class flights to Japan, Europe or parts of South America, or up to 15 short-haul, one-way flights if you take advantage of British Airways’ distance-based award chart outside of the US.
Not everyone will be targeted for this offer, but you can follow the steps in our guide on using the CardMatch tool to see if you’ve been chosen. If you are, the value of the welcome bonus alone makes up for your first three years of annual fees — before even accounting for the card’s other perks. In addition to the CardMatch offer, Amex will sometimes send out mailers or emails (or even post 100,000-point offers on their website), so be sure to check your mail every now and then.
2. People who are over 5/24
When people come to me looking for starter card recommendations, I’ll almost always suggest either the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are just as valuable as Amex Membership Rewards points — TPG values both currencies at 2 cents each — and Chase’s “5/24 rule” gives me plenty of reason to recommend getting your Chase cards first. If you aren’t familiar with this rule, it means that applicants who’ve opened five or more cards in the last 24 months across all issuers will be automatically rejected for most Chase cards. This is why you should usually make prioritize Chase cards as you start to build up your wallet with top travel rewards credit cards.
However, after you max out your five Chase slots, what comes next? The Amex Platinum is a perfect answer, and it can even help you get more value out of your Chase points. Say you want to fly in EVA’s incredibly-refined business class from the U.S. to Singapore (SIN). You could transfer 90,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards to United (worth $1,800 based on TPG’s valuations), or you could transfer 78,000 Amex Membership Rewards (worth $1,560) to Avianca LifeMiles or Aeroplan and book the exact same award, saving your Chase points for another more valuable use. Gaining access to new transfer partners within the same alliance can help you pick and choose your redemption options and get more value out of all of your points.
The other benefits of the Amex Platinum can also serve as a great compliment to a rewards strategy that started with Chase. Unlike the Platinum, Chase cards don’t offer hotel elite status, Uber credits, or as many different options for airport lounge access.
3. Frequent Delta Flyers and people whose home airport has a centurion lounge
If you can fully utilize the statement credits on the Amex Platinum each year, the out-of-pocket cost for the card goes down to just effectively $50 a year ($550 minus the $200 airline credit, $200 Uber credit and $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit). Instead of thinking about this as an annual fee you pay to Amex for the privilege of spending money on its hunk of metal, think about it as an annual lounge membership fee. As a reminder, the Amex Platinum comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, access to Amex’s global Centurion Lounges and access to Delta Sky Clubs (but only when flying Delta).
Amex currently operates Centurion lounges in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York-LaGuardia (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), Phoenix (PHX) and Hong Kong (HKG). There are also plans to open five more in the year to come:
- New York (JFK): First half of 2020
- London-Heathrow (LHR): First half of 2020
- Denver (DEN): In 2020
- Los Angeles (LAX): In 2020
- Charlotte (CLT): In 2020
Not only is the footprint of the Centurion lounge program growing; they’re often a huge step up from regular airport lounges, including Priority Pass locations. Even some of Delta’s Sky Clubs are surprisingly nice for domestic lounges, especially in airports like Atlanta (ATL) and Minneapolis (MSP) where there aren’t great Priority Pass options. While it can be tough to put a value on an individual lounge visit, if you frequently pass through one of the cities mentioned above, it shouldn’t be hard to get at least $50 a year out of the Amex Platinum’s thorough and diverse lounge benefits.
4. People who stay at Hilton, Marriott or select luxury hotels
The Platinum Card provides Gold elite status with Hilton and Marriott to cardholders, including authorized users. If you don’t have Gold status or higher with these brands through other credit cards or organically through stays, Gold status with these brands provides useful benefits like upgrades and welcome gifts. And at most Hilton brands that don’t provide breakfast for all guests, Gold status will get you and a guest complimentary breakfast.
If you like to stay at luxury hotels, you’ll also have access to the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program as a Platinum cardholder or authorized user. When you book a FHR stay, you’ll get elite-like benefits including guaranteed 4pm late checkout, daily breakfast for two and a unique property amenity valued at $100 or more. Plus, if you book a prepaid FHR stay online, you’ll also earn five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, which is a 10% return based on TPG’s latest valuations.
Who shouldn’t Get the Amex Platinum?
1. People Under 5/24
Many people just starting out in the points world underestimate the stringency of Chase’s 5/24 rule. I remember back when I got my first credit card, I couldn’t imagine opening five or more cards in two years — yet I ended up opening 17 in that timeframe. I estimate that I lost well over $1,000 by never being eligible for an Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
Even if you’re targeted for the 100,000-point Amex Platinum bonus via CardMatch, when you’re just starting out, there’s a case to be made for staying the course and sticking to a Chase strategy. These 100,000-point offers come around several times a year, and while you may not be currently targeted, you could be eventually. However, once you get over 5/24, it may be hard to get back under, and there’s a massive opportunity cost in doing so. Having a plan and sticking to it will serve you well in the long term.
2. People who book airfare through online travel agencies
The Platinum Card provides 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. However, if you prefer to purchase airfare through online travel agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz and Expedia, you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar spent with the Platinum Card. As a result, if you tend to purchase airfare from OTAs, you’ll do better with a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi Prestige® Card that provide bonus earning on air travel purchases with OTAs. The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
3. People who can’t maximize the airline/Uber/Saks credits
One of the main arguments in favor of keeping the Amex Platinum on a long-term basis is the fact that the various credits — airline incidentals, Uber and Saks Fifth Avenue — drastically reduce the out-of-pocket cost you’re really paying. If, for some reason, you can’t take full advantage of all of these credits (or at least the airline and Uber ones), the math gets a little stickier. Uber credits, for example, can only be used within the U.S., so expats like myself end up mostly wasting them. Maybe you have no need for an extra $200 in airline credits — if you have elite status and all your travel is covered by points or your job, that extra money might be wasted on you, especially given the restrictions around the credits.
Carefully consider just how much these credits are actually worth to you, and if they provide little to no value, another Amex card might be a better fit.
4. People who’d be better off with the Business Platinum Card
There are several different versions of the Platinum card, including the personal card, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, the Platinum Card for Schwab and the recently discontinued Mercedes Benz Platinum card, among others. For the most part, they share the same perks and benefits, but it’s the small differences that might lead you to pick one or the other.
For example, the Business Platinum has an annual fee of $595 a year (see rates and fees), but it doesn’t offer the same up to $200 Uber credit that the personal version does. It adds another bonus category though — 1.5x points on purchases of more than $5,000, up to 1 million bonus points a year — and also provides up to $200 of Dell statement credits each year (on U.S. purchases). You can also access the Pay With Points redemption option on the Business Platinum card, which gets you a 35% rebate on many flights booked using your Amex points. This is notably not available on the personal Amex Platinum.
Then there’s the Schwab Platinum card, which lets you cash out Membership Rewards points at a rate of 1.25 cents each into a linked Schwab account. Some travelers even have a corporate Platinum Amex through their companies. Because Amex considers each of these cards to be a different product, you should be eligible for the welcome bonus on each, but it doesn’t make sense to keep more than one long-term because of the high annual fees and overlapping benefits.
The Platinum Card from American Express regularly makes the cut on TPG’s best travel credit card recommendations because of the outsized value it can provide, from the initial welcome bonus to the ongoing luxury perks it offers. However, even when a card is valuable, it might not be the best choice for you. You have to take into account how this application factors into your long-term plans, especially as it relates to other issuers, especially Chase’s 5/24 rule. You also have to make sure you can max out the benefits in your own life, at least enough to recoup the hefty annual fee.
If you’re not worried about Chase’s 5/24 rule, frequently travel through cities with a Centurion Lounge or Delta Sky Club, and can use the monthly Uber credits and annual airline fee credit, the Amex Platinum can easily pay for itself through it’s valuable benefits and redemption options.
Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.
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.
- 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