Why I’m keeping my Amex Platinum even though I’m traveling less
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When it comes to premium travel credit cards with perks galore, The Platinum Card® from American Express is at or near the top of almost every list.
Unfortunately, with travel much more difficult than in years past, many of our favorite travel cards are being thrown into the sock drawer. With the $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) on my Amex Platinum due earlier this year during the pandemic, I had to make a decision: keep, cancel or downgrade.
Let’s walk through the options that I had — and why I ultimately decided to keep my Amex Platinum card.
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The decision: Keep, cancel or downgrade
If you’re in a similar position to the situation that I was in earlier this year, here are your options when your Amex Platinum annual fee hits:
- Keep the card (be sure to see if you qualify for a retention offer)
- Cancel the card
- Downgrade to another Amex card: American Express® Gold Card or American Express® Green Card
- Downgrading to any other Amex credit cards is not permitted
- Downgrading must be within the same card family (i.e., you can’t change from the Amex Platinum to a Delta Amex cobranded card)
- Amex doesn’t officially require you to hold a card for a certain period before downgrading it — but you should probably wait at least one full year
The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
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There are unique Platinum perks in 2020
The limited-time credits on the Platinum card are worth up to $320 during the course of 2020. These are temporary benefits intended to lure cardholders into using their cards for non-travel reasons. For Amex, it also will help slow the stream of people who would otherwise cancel or downgrade their travel-perks-heavy Platinum card. Those perks include:
- Up to $20 per month from May through December 2020
- Up to $20 per month from May through December 2020
The annual fee is still worth it
There are a ton of benefits — both travel and nontravel — that are offered on this card. Anyone with a Platinum card prioritizes these perks differently, but the bottom line is that if you’re not traveling (or not traveling much), you’re not able to fully optimize this card. Although American Express is adamant about not offering widespread annual fee assistance, it is providing several new perks as mentioned above.
If you include the up to $320 credits above plus existing perks like the up to $200 Uber credit (which can be used towards Uber Eats), you’re very close to recouping the majority of the Amex Platinum card’s $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
Retention offers can soften the blow
Additionally, retention offers and “appreciation credits” are being offered to those with upcoming renewals. Amex is generously doling out these credits and extra Membership Rewards points to keep cardholders interested who might otherwise cancel. However, these offers are limited to individuals who are being targeted by Amex’s retention department.
With that said, it is definitely worthwhile to give Amex a call to see if you’re targeted for any of these offers. Ask to be transferred to the Amex retention line and speak with someone from that department.
My attempt at a retention offer
I’ve had an Amex Platinum card for four years, and it’s served me well from the get-go. In March 2019, I was offered 30,000 Membership Rewards points to keep my account open and spend $3,000 in three months. I eagerly accepted that retention offer last year. But because I did, I no longer qualified for any statement credit, points or annual fee deductions in 2020.
In my calls (and a live chat) to Amex, I had no luck securing any retention bonuses for keeping the card. Amex typically restricts the frequency of retention offers.
How I weighed my options
Here is how I weighed my options and what I decided to do:
Option 1: Downgrading
Via a downgrade, you can quickly reduce your annual fee without totally losing your account and its history. While you might consider downgrading to a no-annual-fee card such as the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, and then eventually upgrading back to the Amex Platinum when the time is right, that isn’t possible.
That’s because downgrading to a credit card isn’t allowed by Amex, so your only options are the Amex Gold and Amex Green, with annual fees of $250 and $150, respectively, (see Amex Gold rates and fees, and Amex Green rates and fees).
The information for the Amex Green Card and The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Option 2: Canceling
Although I considered canceling the card, I put a lot of value in the Platinum card and am confident that I’ll be able to fully make use of it again in the coming months when I’m traveling more again. Access to Amex Centurion Lounges (and others) is one of the most valuable perks of the card and thankfully, many actually have reopened.
Now with the new perks (valued at up to $320) that I took advantage of in 2020 for streaming and wireless, it makes even less sense to cancel.
Option 3: Keeping
After carefully weighing my options, I ultimately decided to keep my Amex Platinum account open and pay the annual fee. Even with travel more limited, there are still so many perks that I can use.
I still use many benefits on my Platinum
In previous years, I have been able to reduce my effective annual fee through the various credits and premium travel perks. I still use the following perks that help offset the $550.
- Up to $200 in annual Uber credits — I order Uber Eats for food delivery in New York City and easily use this benefit.
- Up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits — I have used this to purchase some travel accessories and easily use this benefit.
- New: Up to $120 in streaming credit — I’ll use this toward my Netflix and Spotify bills each month.
- New: Up to $120 in wireless credit
The tough part here for me is the $200 airline incidental fee credit. Amex hasn’t made this the easiest to use. It is no longer possible to purchase airline gift cards to trigger the credit, so it’s not only more difficult to use when you’re not traveling, it’s difficult to use period. However, I’m confident I’ll be able to use the airline credit through a few methods that still trigger the benefit.
I’ve been able to take advantage of many Amex offers on my Platinum card which have helped to slightly offset the annual fee. These include discounts on merchants I would be shopping with anyway such as grocery stores and Amazon.
Related: Your ultimate guide to Amex Offers
Although I can’t use some of my Amex Platinum perks currently, I decided to keep the card earlier this year even though I won’t be traveling as much as in years past. This isn’t a strategy that makes sense for everyone, but this is the decision that works for me.
If you don’t have the Amex Platinum yet, the card is offering a huge 75,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in your first six months of card membership. But the truly unique element of the offer is a bonus multiplier on non-travel items.
New cardholders will now be able to earn 10x points on up to $15,000 in combined purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets during the same first sixmonths of card membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.
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