Could a $700 Amex Platinum card be worth it?
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Rumors are always swirling. And while we don’t typically report on hearsay here at TPG, you can sometimes find grains of truth in the stories.
As we begin to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, credit card companies are rethinking their premium products. For years, one of the most popular cards in the category has been The Platinum Card® from American Express.
So, it’s no surprise that reported changes to this card (as first seen on a FlyerTalk thread and widely reported by Doctor of Credit) are likely to stir up some juicy credit card gossip. Before we dive into our thoughts about the future of this premium card, let’s break down the rumors surrounding the Amex Platinum card. Just remember, though that while TPG has reached out to American Express, the company so far has simply told TPG it is looking into these reports. So, for now, these changes are nothing more than rumors.
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Annual fee increase
Sticker shock is real, and the rumored increase of the Amex Platinum’s annual fee from $550 (see rates and fees) to $695 may give many current and prospective cardholders pause.
The card has cost $550 for four years, coming up from $450 in 2017.
People were already questioning whether the card is worth its current $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), especially since it is a travel-heavy card that lost value during the pandemic. Despite that, the card’s numerous credits (including temporary ones during the pandemic), access to airport lounges, elite status and much more, could help cardmembers squeeze value from it.
However, the rumored increase in fees also carries with it an array of new perks that could potentially offset even a rumored $695 fee.
Credits could get a whole new look
Here’s a look at the rumored credits — and whether or not they might make a potential $700 annual fee worth it. In addition to the $200 in annual Uber credits, $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits and $200 in annual airline fee credits, Platinum members could get a slew of new benefits.
|Rumored perk||Annual amount||Notes|
|Entertainment credit||$240||$20 monthly for magazine and news subscriptions and select streaming services. Rumor is this would work for select service providers only.|
|Amex Travel prepaid hotel booking||$200|
|Resy credit||$100||Rumored to be temporary|
|Annual Clear membership||Up to $179||This would be the first card to offer this as a benefit, though a $100 credit towards CLEAR is available now with the Amex Green card.|
Together, these rumored perks are worth north of $1,000 at retail value. However, some potential perks are relatively niche and wouldn’t be useful for all cardholders across the country.
And there are plenty of caveats, too.
For instance, an annual Clear membership is $179 for many people, but it’s actually free or heavily discounted for Delta and United flyers who belong to the Sky Miles and MileagePlus loyalty programs, respectively. American Express® Green Card members already receive a $100 Clear credit as part of its $150 annual fee (see rates and fees).
Then, there’s Equinox. This premium fitness center has more than 300 locations — but they’re only in major cities.
Unlike the invitation-only Amex Centurion Card that comes with an Equinox Destination Access membership valued at more than $3,000, a $300 annual credit would only cover the cost of one or two months of Equinox membership, depending on the location.
Equinox does have a more affordable virtual workout platform called Equinox+, which costs $39.99 a month.
And the very demographic that Amex seems to be targeting with the Platinum card may be fans of other popular home fitness options, such as Peloton.
These are just two real-world examples of barriers to maximizing these rumored benefits.
Of course, you wouldn’t have to make use of every dollar worth of new perks to cancel out an annual fee increase of around $150 if the majority of the existing perks — including trip insurance, shopping protections and much more — remain available.
A shift from travel to lifestyle
Since it was first introduced in the mid-1980s, the Amex Platinum has set the pace for the world of premium travel cards.
We’ve noticed a shift, however, as the card’s perks extend beyond travel.
Some of this could be chalked up to temporary pandemic adjustments, but there’s more to it than just that. Before the pandemic, the card added partner credits from Uber and Saks Fifth Avenue. Now, that lineup could include Equinox, too.
Even if the current rumors turn out to not be entirely accurate, the Amex Platinum card isn’t just about travel anymore. It’s become a lifestyle card — and Amex seems to be going all in with the reported overhaul.
During Amex’s 2020 third-quarter earnings call, Chairman and CEO Steve Squeri said the company planned to “look at other travel and entertainment value proposition enhancements” for its premium cardholders.
How would they do that? Well, new and continued partnerships.
“We’ll work with our partners. A lot of the value we put in is either cofunded or merchant-funded, and we’ll continue to work with our partners to do that,” Squeri added.
The rumored changes, therefore, fall right in line with Amex’s comments from late last year.
When could this kick in?
According to the rumors, many of these Amex Platinum changes should start in July 2021, with existing cardholder fee increases taking effect in January 2022.
Could a higher annual fee be worth it?
The Amex Platinum has never been positioned as a budget-friendly credit card, and it’s unlikely to do so in the future. When it was introduced in 1984 it had a $250 annual fee and far fewer perks.
By today’s dollars, that $250 fee would be about the same as a $645 fee today, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistic’s inflation calculator.
An increase to $695 would take the fee a touch above the rate of inflation, but with enough new perks to offset the cost, it’s possible the card is still worth it for people who make use of the benefits and have the discretionary income to spend.
While we’re still operating in the realm of rumors, it does seem likely that, moving forward, the Platinum card won’t be focused exclusively on travel or travel-adjacent perks.
Still, the card earns 5x points on airfare purchased directly with the airlines or through the Amex Travel portal (on up to $500,000 of airfare purchases per calendar year), provides lounge access (though most guests will no longer be free in Centurion lounges starting in 2023), has built-in travel protections and elite status perks. So it’s unlikely the card will ever fully shed its decades-long roots in travel.
But, it may well be expanding to play a role at the top of your wallet whether you are at home or away. A refreshed card with new lifestyle elements that branch into how you workout, eat and are entertained could be a wise play in an ever-changing world.
Of course, only time — and confirmation from Amex — will tell whether these changes are based in fact or pure speculation.
Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
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