August 10, 2014

Is the American Express Platinum Card Worth It?

In the last couple of weeks, several people have asked me if they should apply for the American Express Platinum Card.  I think the answer depends on your travel patterns and goals but here are my thoughts.

First, it's important to note that there are three versions of the card:

  • American Express Platinum
  • American Express Mercedes-Benz Platinum
  • American Express OPEN (Small Business) Platinum
The annual fee for the card (not waived for the first year) is $450 or 475 thus the debate over whether the card is "worth it."  I have actually had all three versions of the card over the last few years (rotating through sign-up bonuses) but don't currently have one.  Emily does have one open as we can justify one $450 annual fee but not two.  The cards offer a ton of value but here are the features that we get the most value from:

$200 annual (calendar year) airline incidental credit.  You pick an airline and American Express will reimburse $200 of your annual expenses.  We pick United and purchase low dollar amount (i.e. $50) gift cards which have always been reimbursed with no issues.  If you apply for the card right now, you'll actually get your credits now and in January of 2015.  So you're essentially getting $400 worth of airline certs for free.  That almost offsets the annual fee.

$100 Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check reimbursement.  Both Emily and I have Global Entry which has saved us a number of times returning to the US.  It is possibly the greatest international travel tool out there.

American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Access.  Something we use probably once a year.  We stayed on a FHR rate in Bali recently and received several hundred dollars worth of value (free breakfast, an upgraded room, and massages) for booking the rate that was identical to the lowest rate on the Four Seasons website.

Complimentary Priority Pass.  We use our Priority Pass a few times a year (most recently in Toronto and Cancun) where there isn't another lounge we get access to.  There are hundreds of lounges around the world in their network.

Centurion Club Access.  The only way to get into these lounges for free (otherwise they are $50) is to hold an Amex Black or Platinum Card.  We have spent time in the Las Vegas and DFW lounges and are very much looking forward to the opening of the La Guardia and San Francisco locations.

There are dozens of other benefits to the card but these are the five benefits that I think provide the most value.  The sign-up bonuses for these cards are also strong.  The typical bonus is 40,000 - 50,000 points upon reaching a spend threshold but the OPEN card is currently targeting card members with a 150,000 point bonus!  I value those points at ~$3,000 so if you get that offer, jump on it!

In terms of everyday use, I wouldn't recommend actually putting any spend on the card once you've received the initial bonus.  Instead, keep it in your wallet and leverage all of the benefits noted above.  The card certainly isn't for everyone but can be extremely valuable if you travel often.

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