Amex wants to improve Platinum, Centurion benefits; here’s our wish list
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As reported by Bloomberg, Amex CEO Steve Squeri told investors that the company plans to add features to these cards in order to retain customers and encourage upgrades. For consumers, this means we could see lucrative new benefits added in the near future. Some of these may be travel related, but others may be more stay-at-home focused as the world continues to move through the coronavirus pandemic.
Unfortunately, Squeri didn’t give specifics on new benefits — but that won’t stop us from dreaming.
While we wait for details, I took the opportunity to chat with TPG staff and readers about which benefits they want to see Amex introduce in 2021. Some of these are totally plausible, while others are less likely to happen. Regardless, it’s an interesting look into what Amex’s most premium cards could look like in a post-coronavirus world.
Let’s dive in!
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Travel benefits we’d like to see Amex improve
The Amex Platinum is a travel card as its core. With travel slowly making a comeback, the card will need to emerge from the pandemic slowdown as an even better high-end card to keep members from moving to a competitor.
Here’s how TPG readers and staffers think Amex can improve the Amex Platinum travel benefits in 2021 and beyond.
Better redemption rate with Amex Travel
One of the most popular requests we saw was for a better redemption rate for paid travel through Amex Travel.
The Amex Platinum’s biggest competitor — the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — lets cardmembers redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal at 1.5 cents per point. This means that a $100 flight or hotel stay costs just 6,667 points, which is a pretty solid deal if there’s no award space available.
On the other hand, Amex cardholders can only redeem Membership Rewards points through Amex Travel at a set rate of 1 cent apiece. This is half TPG’s valuation of Membership Rewards points, so we typically don’t recommend using your points to book paid travel through the portal.
There’s only one exception to this rule. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express — the Amex Platinum’s business equivalent — offers a 35% rebate on flights booked through Amex Travel (up to 500,000 points per calendar year). That said, it only works for all business and first-class flights and economy flights booked with a single airline of your choice. The card has a $595 annual fee (see rates and fees).
The general consensus among TPG readers and staffers is that we’d like to see Amex match Chase by offering a 1.5-cent-per-point redemption rate through Amex Travel. Unlike the Business Platinum, we’d like to see this work for all airlines — as well as hotels, rental cars and other forms of travel bookable through the site.
It would also be interesting to see Amex take a page from Capital One’s book and offer Platinum cardholders a way to use points to cover travel purchases charged to the card. This way, you could simply charge a travel expense — whether a flight, Uber ride or car rental — to your card and pay for it with points. This would be especially appealing for hotels stays, which typically require a direct booking to access your elite status perks and earn points with the hotel loyalty program.
Regardless of how it’s rolled out, letting Platinum cardholders redeem points at a better rate towards travel would make a world of difference to many. And if announced as benefit exclusive to the Amex Platinum, I think this would actually entice current Amex members of lower-tier cards to upgrade to an Amex Platinum to take advantage of this preferred rate.
Improved lounge access
While the Amex Platinum is still the top card for lounge access, it’s been significantly devalued over the years.
The card lost all but one of these lounge networks and now only allows access to Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta) and non-airline lounge networks like Priority Pass, AirSpace and the company’s own Centurion Lounges.
This makes the card hard to justify for American and United loyalists who need to pay for a separate lounge membership. It’s particularly difficult for travelers who live near an airport that’s not a Delta hub and lacks a Centurion Lounge, like Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and Austin (AUS).
So, what’s the solution? Some TPG readers expressed interest in the airline offering more lounge access when travel resumes. Many discussed specific lounges they’d like access to, with American being the most popular. Simply re-partnering with one of these airlines would bring massive value to the card.
On the other hand, one reader noted that he’d like to see some international Amex Platinum benefits come to the U.S. card. In turn, this would bring more international lounge access to the Amex Platinum.
For example, the Australian version of the Amex Platinum has access to Virgin Australia domestic lounges. On the other hand, the Indian version of the Amex Platinum has access to a handful of domestic lounges in India. While not the most useful for U.S. cardmembers, it could be helpful for trips abroad.
Personally, I’d love to see Amex add American and United lounge access to the Platinum Card, but I’m not holding out hope. If it did, I think Amex could actually increase the card’s fee and still retain users due to the sheer number of lounges cardmembers could access.
A more flexible airline credit
TPG staffers and readers alike have expressed their gripes with the Amex Platinum’s $200 annual airline fee credit.
Unlike the $300 travel credit offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can only use the Platinum’s credit toward fees charged by an airline of your choosing. This includes things like baggage fees, seat selection charges and one-time lounge passes. It doesn’t include things like airfare, gift cards and upgrade fees.
This makes the credit extremely tough to use for many travelers — especially as airlines get rid of change fees. Elite travelers have an especially hard time using this credit, as their status levels often include waivers for most major fees. So in the end, the most frequent flyers don’t get value from a perk aimed at, well, frequent flyers.
Many TPG readers would like to see the credit expanded to be a more general travel credit covering airfare, hotels and other eligible purchases. Going a step further, TPG Credit Cards Reporter Chris Dong recently wrote that he thinks Amex should open the credit to restaurants, groceries or Amazon purchases through the pandemic. This would make it easier to use the credits while a cardmember may not be traveling.
Regardless of how this pans out, we’d love to see Amex make the Platinum’s airline fee credit more flexible. This would make the card’s high annual fee easier on the wallet and make customers more apt to charge travel expenses to their Platinum card.
Upgraded hotel and airline elite status
One of the best parts of the Amex Platinum is included hotel elite status.
Cardholders get complimentary Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. This is helpful for occasional stays at hotel chains you might not spend a lot of time with as it makes you eligible for bonus points earning, upgrades and other perks.
The Centurion card takes elite status even further. Cardholders have access to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite, Hilton Honors Diamond, IHG Platinum Elite, Relais & Châteaux 5C and Delta Platinum Medallion status with their card.
While the current benefits are great, TPG readers want to see them expanded in 2021. On the Platinum side, it’d be great to see the card offer an entry-level airline elite status and IHG elite status. This would put the card in-line with the Centurion, albeit with less valuable status.
It’d also be nice to see Amex add Radisson Rewards elite status to the Amex Platinum. The U.K. Amex Platinum already includes Radisson Rewards Gold status and — given the hotel group’s large U.S. presence — it’d be a welcome addition stateside too.
Finally, TPG Founder Brian Kelly said he’d like to see his Centurion card’s Delta status be upgraded from Platinum Medallion to top-tier Diamond Medallion. This is a reasonable request too — remember, the invite-only card has a huge $5,000 annual fee. I think Diamond status would make the card feel truly special.
Clear membership reimbursement
TPG’s Editorial Director, Scott Mayerowitz, recommended that Amex add a Clear airport security reimbursement to premium cards.
And this makes total sense. The card currently offers a $100 credit towards TSA Precheck or Global Entry. This is great to have, but many frequent travelers — the Platinum card’s target audience — may already have a subscription. So, why not let cardmembers use it toward another airport security program?
Clear is a subscription service that lets travelers use their fingerprints and an iris scan in lieu of showing an ID at select airports and stadiums around the U.S. Plus, travelers in this program also have priority access to both standard and PreCheck security lanes. This speeds up airport security, letting you get to the lounge quickly and easily.
Delta and United elites are eligible for a discounted membership, but the general public has to pay $179 per year. We’d love to see Amex either include a Clear membership with the Platinum card or let members use the Global Entry/PreCheck credit toward Clear’s annual fee.
It’s worth noting that the Amex Centurion card already includes Clear memberships to cardholders. This makes me think that a Clear deal on the Amex Platinum is even more likely as the two companies likely have an existing partnership.
Better Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits
Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program — FHR for short — is a little-known Amex Platinum benefit that can bring a ton of value.
You can book hotels through FHR and receive benefits like room upgrades, an on-site credit and late-checkout. In other words, you’re getting elite status benefits without actually having elite status. This is particularly useful at independent and boutique hotels that aren’t a part of a major hotel loyalty program.
TPG Editor at Large Zach Honig noted that he’d like to see the program expanded to mid-tier hotels — currently, most FHR properties are high-end luxury hotels and resorts. He also said that a fourth or fifth night free for all FHR bookings would be a welcome addition.
Further, Clint Henderson — TPG’s Senior News Editor — said he’d love to see Amex offer free parking to FHR bookings. This would make a lot of sense in a time when road-tripping is on the rise.
Any of these additions would make FHR much more valuable as travel demand picks back up.
Better travel insurance
In a post-pandemic world, travel insurance will be more valuable than ever. It can protect your itinerary if you get sick before a trip and even cover a hotel stay when your flight is canceled. TPG staffers have relied on these protections to get out of sticky situations in the past, and many of us won’t travel without it.
The Amex Platinum offers complimentary trip delay and cancellation insurance on all travel and airfare you book with your Amex Platinum. That said, the coverage offered is limited when compared to the Platinum card’s competitors.
For example, you’re only covered by trip delay insurance when you book a round-trip ticket. On the other hand, the Chase Sapphire Reserve only requires that you charge at least a portion of any airfare to be covered by its delay insurance. Likewise, the Amex Platinum doesn’t offer baggage delay insurance that reimburses you for essential items when your bags are delayed.
You’re also not covered by trip cancellation insurance if you used multiple Amex cards to pay for a trip. So if you book your flight with your Amex Platinum and your Hilton hotel with your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card to earn extra Hilton Honors points, your hotel stay isn’t covered by the insurance if you get sick before your trip.
TPG Senior Writer Katie Genter noted that she’d like to see Amex simplify its travel protections. At a minimum, we’d love to see Amex match Chase’s travel protections, which are broader in almost every way. This takes the guesswork out of travel insurance — something important once travel resumes in full-force.
Non-travel benefits we’d like to see added or improved
The Amex Platinum is a great card for at-home and non-travel benefits too. These are especially important as we continue to move through the coronavirus pandemic when most of our travel plans are put on hold.
Here are all the ways TPG readers and staffers would like Amex to improve the Platinum Card’s other benefits — ranging from extending streaming credits to adding more bonus spending categories.
Extended streaming and cell phone credits
Amex was one of the first credit card issuers to offer enhanced benefits at the start of the pandemic. Most notably, it’s offering all Amex Platinum cardmembers two monthly statement credits: a $20 monthly statement credit for U.S. streaming services and another $20 credit toward wireless phone service.
Many TPG readers told us that they want to see these credits continue through 2021, and we agree with them. Travel won’t magically restart in 2021, so the company should continue to offer these benefits until the pandemic subsides and travelers are back on the road.
Some readers offered suggestions for other credits they’d like to see too. TPG reader Allison said she’d like to see a monthly parking credit — and as a New Yorker with a car, I wholeheartedly agree. Other readers mentioned they’d like a monthly dining credit, similar to what’s offered by the American Express® Gold Card.
It’d also be interesting to see Amex increase the Platinum’s annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit in 2021 as it did with the Business Platinum’s Dell credit this year. This would be a great way to quickly improve the card’s value and help customers stock up on travel essentials.
Regardless of the credit, this shows Amex customers that the company cares about their business and wants to keep it after the pandemic is behind us. Making these credits permanent would be even better and again make the card’s $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) significantly easier to justify.
As a side note, it’ll be interesting to see if Amex adds more statement credits to the Centurion card in 2021. At $5,000 a year, it’s tough to make a substantial dent in the fee with statement credits alone. That said, I think we could see Amex boost the Centurion’s $1,000 annual Saks credit and potentially offer some sort of major travel credit too.
More bonus spending categories
By far, the most reader and staffer requested Amex Platinum feature is adding more bonus spending categories.
Right now, the card offers 5x points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with the airline and through Amex Travel (earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases starting Jan. 1, 2021). It also awards 5x points on prepaid hotel bookings with American Express Travel. All other purchases earn 1x point per dollar, so many TPG staffers rarely actually spend money on their Platinum Cards. Instead, we put our purchases on cards that earn bonus points on dining, groceries, and other travel expenses.
TPG Points and Miles Reporter Victoria Walker noted that she’d like to see the card offer 10x points per dollar on grocery purchases for all cardholders. This benefit is currently offered to new cardholders for the first six months of account opening and is limited to $15,000 in combined eligible purchases at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. Regardless of the limits, I think all Platinum cardmembers would be happy with this addition.
On the other hand, other TPG staffers mentioned they’d like to see 5x earning expanded to all travel, including hotels and rideshare. If implemented, this would make the Amex Platinum the best card for travel purchases, as it’d give a massive 10% return on travel purchases.
Finally, some readers also expressed interest in seeing the Amex Gold’s 4x points earning at restaurants and U.S. supermarket (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x) brought to the Platinum Card. Any of these would be a welcome addition to the Amex Platinum and would encourage members to actually use the card for everyday purchases.
Related: The best travel credit cards of 2020
An included coworking membership
One of my favorite perks of the Amex Business Platinum was its included WeWork membership. This benefit has since been discontinued, but it offered members free access to any WeWork location around the world. This was helpful to me when I was traveling pre-pandemic and needed a place to grab a coffee and get work done.
Personally, I’d like to see this benefit make a comeback on the Amex Platinum and Centurion cards once the pandemic is behind us. It would be great for cardmembers working remotely on a permanent basis but want a place where they can work away from home.
This would make the card’s annual fee significantly easier to justify — especially since coworking memberships can be expensive in cities like New York.
In this article, we showed you our wishlist for new Amex Platinum and Centurion benefits. Remember, the company has publicly stated that it plans to add new benefits, so there’s a good chance we’ll see at least one of the above perks added to the card next year.
Personally, I think that increased bonus categories, more flexible travel credit and a better Amex Travel redemption rate are the most likely contenders — but only time will tell what the issuer has in store for cardholders.
Feature photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy
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