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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 both the heaviest and most expensive of the publicly available premium credit cards. While the sign-up bonus alone is worth well over $1,000 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 spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 1.9 cents each, making that bonus worth $1,140, which is an excellent return in and of itself.
However, many readers are being targeted for an even better bonus 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 3 months. This brings the value of your welcome offer up to a massive $1,900, and makes this card a no-brainer in my opinion. Note: This offer is subject to change at anytime.
But no matter which bonus offer you get, all Platinum cardholders will enjoy the same valuable perks. To offset the annual fee, Amex offers three different statement credits:
- $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.
The Amex Platinum also offers one of the single largest bonus categories — 5x (or 9.5% back based on TPG valuations) on airfare booked directly with the airline, or airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. That’s the best return you’ll get anywhere on buying airline tickets.
Frequent travelers will also enjoy that the Platinum offers the most comprehensive lounge access of any credit card, including a (now ubiquitous) Priority Pass Select membership, access to Amex’s global collection of Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta.
Rounding out the list of benefits are Gold elite status with both Hilton and Marriott, access to a premium concierge service, car rental insurance, baggage insurance, SoulCycle benefits and a host of other lesser known perks.
Who Should Get the Amex Platinum?
1. People Who Are Targeted For The 100,000 Point Bonus
While 2018 has seen a lot of 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. One hundred thousand points can unlock some pretty sweet redemptions, including round-trip business class to Japan, Europe or parts of South America, or up to 25 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 how to “Use the CardMatch Tool to Apply for the Best Credit Card Offers” 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 a little bit more valuable than Amex Membership Rewards points — TPG values Chase points at 2 cents each versus 1.9 cents for Amex — 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 5 or more cards in the last 24 months will be automatically rejected for most Chase cards, which is why you should usually make Chase cards your five first credit cards.
But after you max out your five Chase slots, what comes next? The Amex Platinum is a perfect answer, and 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 US 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 ~$1,500) to 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 (Centurion Lounges and Delta SkyClubs).
3. Frequent Delta Flyers and People Whose Home Airport Has a Centurion Lounge
If you can fully utilize the airline and Uber credits each year, the out-of-pocket cost for the Amex Platinum goes down to just $150 a year ($550 minus the $200 airline credit and the $200 Uber 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 nine global Centurion Lounges (with three more on the way) and access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta.
Centurion lounges, which are currently located in Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO) and Hong Kong (HKG), are often a huge step up from regular airport lounges and even from Priority Pass lounges. 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 $150 out of the Amex Platinum’s thorough and diverse lounge benefits.
4. People Who Frequently Pay For Airfare
I often find myself reflexively whipping out my Chase Sapphire Reserve without too much thought, given how useful and broadly defined its 3x travel and dining bonus categories are. The Amex Platinum’s sole bonus category — 5x points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airline, and on airfare and pre-paid hotels booked through Amex Travel — is much more rewarding, though it’s also more restrictive.
The Amex Platinum is great for people who tend to pay cash for a lot of airfare, and most importantly, book directly with the airline. This might manifest in a few different ways. Maybe you’re a business traveler booking reimbursable tickets with your own credit card, or maybe you’re a points junky who prefers to redeem for hotels or cash back and pay out of pocket for your flights. If this sounds like you, the Amex Platinum is by far the most rewarding card on the market for your flight purchases.
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 possibly opening five or more cards in two years. Yet I ended up opening 17 in that time frame. 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. But once you get over 5/24, it’s very 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
Even if you pay cash for your airfare, the Amex Platinum might not be the best card for you. While many cards count online travel agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz and Expedia in their travel bonus category, Amex does not — these purchases will earn you a measly 1 point per dollar, the same as if you’re buying gum at a convenience store. Instead, you should consider a different card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige that will offer you bonus points on airfare booked through an OTA.
3. People Who Can’t Maximize the Airline/Uber/Saks Credits
The linchpin of the argument 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 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 US, so expats like myself end up mostly wasting them. And 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.
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 & Fees), but it doesn’t offer the same $200 Uber credit that the personal version does. It adds another bonus category though: 1.5x points on purchases of over $5,000, up to 1 million bonus points a year. 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. 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.
The Platinum Card from American Express regularly makes the cut on TPG’s top card recommendations because of the outsized value it can provide, from the initial welcome bonus to the ongoing luxury perks it offers. But 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 (*cough cough* 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.
But if you’ve moved on from Chase, frequently travel through cities with a Centurion Lounge or Delta Sky Club, or often purchase airfare directly with airlines, the Amex Platinum can pay for itself and then some, giving you valuable benefits and redemption options.
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The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), up to a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at Marriott and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,200 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the annual fee makes sense for you.
- 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