$4,000 in value: Why I made the Amex Platinum my first-ever premium card
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Confession: I work at The Points Guy and know almost nothing about points and miles. Sure, I’ve flown with just about every well-known airline and stayed with nearly every mainstream hotel chain you can think of, but until recently, I was a bargain traveler hunting for the lowest price, brand loyalty be darned.
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When it came to credit cards, I had a Visa Platinum affiliated with my small credit union, but I rarely used it because it didn’t earn me any points. Instead, I relied on my trusty Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card for everyday purchases for one simple reason: I hate fees, and it doesn’t have any.
I avoid carrying cash because I don’t want to pay to withdraw my own money from an ATM. I’m on the hunt for a home, but I won’t even consider a condo because I refuse to shell out for HOA fees. And if you had told me a year ago that I’d be the proud owner of a card with an annual fee — let alone, The Platinum Card® from American Express, which has one of the highest fees among consumer cards — I would have called you delusional. I didn’t care that it took me years to earn enough points for a one-way flight on a low-cost carrier. I was avoiding that annual fee.
Then 2020 hit. Fast-forward through a lost job, a year of freelance work and ultimately, an amazing new gig with TPG’s travel team as a cruise writer. Here, I’m surrounded daily by some of the most brilliant minds in the points and miles space, so I’ve taken the opportunity to learn what I can, which led me to rethink what it means for something to have value.
No, this isn’t some sappy pandemic-related revelation that family is important (which it is) or that I need a better work-life balance (which I’ve found). It’s a realization that it made no sense for me to be so stingy with annual fees when I could have been saving money on things I pay for anyway and using the rewards to pay for even more things — the epitome of bargain shopping. That’s why I’m writing this article.
Here, I’ll tell you why I now have a Platinum Card from American Express in my wallet and how I’ve made it work for me in the two months since it showed up at my door in all its overpackaged, metallic splendor.
Buying a new car
I’ll start with the purchase that led to the bulk of the 160,000 points I’ve earned so far: my car. After reading about how another TPG writer bought a minivan using his Amex, the wheels started turning.
My 36-month car lease was due to end in August. I didn’t want to enter into another lease, but with 2021’s car shortage, the cost of used vehicles was particularly high, so it just made sense to buy the car I had. (The buyout price was locked in back in 2018 when I signed my lease contract.)
Given that I was in the market for a premium card anyway, I figured I could capitalize on a welcome bonus with a purchase that large. I was drawn to the Amex Platinum because I travel a lot, and it offers other incentives that appealed to me (more on that below).
Unfortunately, the dealer I was working with isn’t an Amex Auto Purchasing Program partner, but I convinced them to allow me to put a $5,000 down payment on my Amex Platinum. By doing this, I reached 83% of the minimum spend requirement — spend $6,000 in the first six months — towards earning the 100,000-point welcome bonus. Plus, I earned 5,000 Amex Membership Rewards points which alone are valued at a respectable 2 cents apiece per TPG valuations; therefore, it’s like getting a $100 return on my $5,000 down payment.
I paid other bills and purchased some miscellaneous items to meet the remaining spend of $1,000, to unlock the bonus. I then paid off my entire balance once the charges cleared and posted to my Amex account.
It’s worth noting that I could have purchased the car directly through the bank that held my lease. If I had done that, it would have cost me about $1,000 less, but I also wouldn’t have been able to tack on an extended warranty, nor would I have been able to use a card for the payment in order to earn points.
According to TPG’s valuations at the time of my purchase, the 100,000 points I racked up are worth about $2,000. So even though I spent an extra $1,000 by going through the dealership instead of the bank, I still came out $1,000 ahead. That alone was more than enough to offset the $695 annual fee.
Perk total: $1,100
After more than a year of extremely limited travel, the industry has reopened quickly. I’m currently on my fifth cruise in four months for TPG, so with how often I’m on the road, I decided to bite the bullet and pay for Clear.
Again, I’m a bargain traveler, so I couldn’t previously justify the $179 annual cost, especially when the service isn’t available at all airports. But one of the perks of the Amex Platinum is reimbursement via an up to $179 annual statement credit for the Clear subscription fee, which finally gave me the nudge I needed to reactivate my account. I got my reimbursement four days after the charge was posted to my account. Enrollment required.
Perk total: up to $179
Although Global Entry is only $100, lasts for five years and includes TSA PreCheck (making it a better value than Clear), I put off applying, mainly because I just never got around to filling out the form. Since Amex Platinum cardholders receive an up to $100 statement credit for the Global Entry application fee every four years, I decided it was time to apply. I’m still waiting to hear back about my interview, but I did receive my reimbursement within two days of the charge posting to my account. Enrollment required.
Perk total: up to $100
Centurion Lounge access and Priority Pass
I’ll be honest: I don’t enjoy flying or anything that comes immediately before or after it, so the thought of arriving early at the airport just to visit a lounge has never appealed to me. But, if I ever have a significant delay or a long layover, I will definitely take advantage of my lounge access through my Amex Platinum Card.
Amex Platinum cardholders get access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights and various other types of lounges. As a cardholder, I get to bring in two guests into coveted Centurion lounges through 2023, before Amex’s new guest policy kicks in. Enrollment required.
I don’t expect to use Centurion lounges frequently. Still, estimating two significant layovers or delays per year, I could easily come out with a $200 value since the lounge has extensive food and drink offerings, complimentary to Amex Platinum cardholders.
Additionally, I signed up for Priority Pass to activate my complimentary membership, which is also provided as a card benefit. The least expensive Priority Pass membership is $118 a year, plus $27 per visit after the first three visits. If I use this perk just five times a year with two guests joining me, the additional two visits (after the first three) will save me $162.
Perk total: $362
It frustrates me to think how many times I’ve booked hotels based on price instead of staying with one or two brands consistently enough to see a return on my investment. With the Amex Platinum, cardholders can register for mid-tier hotel elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors (enrollment required).
While it’s difficult to attach a value to hotel elite status, TPG pegs Marriott Gold Elite and Hilton Gold statuses at $840 and $1,225, respectively, but that’s assuming I’d stay enough times to meet the standard requirements of a non-cardholder, which, to be frank, I’d never do. Additional perks include extra points earned on bookings, room discounts and upgrades, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary meals and snacks, all of which can really add up.
Realistically, I’ll probably move some of my hotel stays to these two hotel goliaths moving forward and stay enough nights to justify half the value of what TPG values each respective hotel elite status at.
Perk total: $1,032
One of the new offerings under the Amex Platinum in 2021 is a digital entertainment statement credit of $20 per month ($240 per calendar year) in reimbursements for Peacock, Audible, The New York Times or SiriusXM satellite radio. None of these appeal to me, but my parents have a SiriusXM subscription, so I’ve added my card as the payment method on their account to earn more points and avoid wasting the perk. I’ll be maxing it out for them each month and therefore will be using the entire $240 in “digital entertainment” statement credits annually. Enrollment required.
Perk total: up to $240
I can’t claim that I’ve fully used the Uber Cash benefit yet, as I’ve only had my card for about two months. But I’m on track to use the full value. Cardholders of The Platinum Card® from American Express earn up to $200 annual Uber Cash (for use in the U.S.). The Cash is split into monthly up to $15 increments, except for December, when you receive up to $35 in Uber Cash. It also applies to Puerto Rico, as I discovered when I used my first month’s credit for a ride through San Juan for piña coladas after a torrential downpour ruined our outdoor plans. Enrollment required.
Perk total: up to $200
With the Amex Platinum, I’ll earn 5x on airfare purchased directly with the airlines or through the Amex Travel portal (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). Plus, I can earn 5x on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel. These 5x categories are an excellent way to earn lots of Membership Rewards points. Based on TPG valuations, 5x provides a 10% return.
And new cardmembers (like me) can earn even more points. After all, part of the current welcome offer is 10 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and when you shop small in the U.S. (on up to $25,000 in combined eligible purchases) during the first six months of card membership. In just the first two months, I managed to rack up an additional 60,000 points, worth $1,200, according to TPG valuations. Plus, as I make more purchases, my ongoing earnings will only increase even further.
Not counting any 5x on airfare purchases I’ll likely make, the 10x categories of restaurants and shop small in the U.S. result in a net value of $1,200.
Perk total: $1,200+
So, is the Amex Platinum worth having? For me, this year, yes. So far, the initial investment of $695 has given me back a grand total (to date) of $2,619 in value ($4,000 if I use all above-mentioned Uber and SiriusXM credits as planned) — and I’ve only had the card for two months.
There are also other card-related offers and perks (an up to $200 annual airline fee statement credit, concierge services, new phone protection, a Saks Fifth Avenue twice-a-year credit, elevated car rental status and $25 off any HBO Max subscription) that I haven’t used yet but plan to. Enrollment required for select benefits.
The card is a total no-brainer for someone who’s in the market for a large purchase or who, like me, travels a lot or is looking to make up for lost time in the points, miles and loyalty game. Next year, when I’ll no longer be eligible for a welcome bonus and (hopefully) won’t need to apply for Global Entry, it could be a different story entirely.
Official application link: The Platinum Card from American Express
Check the CardMatch tool to see if you’re targeted for a 125,000 or 150,000-point Platinum card offer (after meeting minimum spending requirements). These offers are subject to change at any time.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
Featured photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy.
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Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
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