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These days, consumers have no lack of choices when it comes to premium credit cards. Although many of these premium credit cards carry high annual fees, the benefits, credits and earning potential can be worth more than the annual fee for some cardmembers. So, before you sign up for a new card — or when you’re considering whether to keep or cancel an existing card — it’s important to ask yourself whether the card is worth the annual fee.
Today we’ll consider the Platinum Card® from American Express, which has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). There are strong arguments in favor of the card, such as a robust roster of travel transfer partners that includes British Airways and Delta, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee waiver every four years, an annual airline fee credit, Uber credits, medical evacuation travel protection, newly added travel insurance and more. Plus, Amex is offering limited-time, pandemic-related perks, including: up to $320 in statement credits on select U.S. streaming and wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $20 per month) through December 2020; select Amex Platinum cardholders will receive an up to $100 Dell statement credit (to be used by Jan. 31, 2021); and a complimentary Uber Eats Pass Membership for up to 12 months (must enroll by Dec. 31, 2021).
But the value obtained will vary for each card member. This guide considers the benefits, credits and earning potential of the Platinum Card so you can decide for yourself whether the Platinum Card is worth the annual fee.
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Overview of Benefits
First, let’s look at a quick rundown of the current benefits of the card.
- The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 75,000 bonus points after you make $5,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership (you may be eligible for an Amex Platinum 125k points bonus offer using the CardMatch tool); new cardholders can also earn 10x points per dollar spent on U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations on up to $15,000 in combined purchases during your first six months of membership.
- Up to $200 annual airline fee in statement credits on incidental fees charged by the airline you select.
- 5x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year; starting Jan. 1, 2021).
- 5x Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Uber VIP status and up to $200 Uber credit split into monthly $15 credits for U.S. rides plus a bonus $20 in December.
- 12 months of complimentary access to Eats Pass, valued at $10 per month, when you enroll by Dec. 31, 2021.
- Up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry or an $85 fee credit for TSA PreCheck every four years.
- Up to $100 Saks credit split into two up to $50 statement credits for January-June and July-December.
- Points transfer to 21 airline and hotel partners.
- Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights and the Airspace and Escape lounges.
- Complimentary Gold status at Hilton and Gold Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program.
- Complimentary memberships in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive.
- Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts.
- No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
- $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Add up to three authorized users for a fee of $175 per year (see rates and fees).
The welcome offer is a valuable benefit for new card members. Based on TPG’s current valuations, American Express Membership Rewards points are worth approximately 2 cents apiece, so the 75,000-point welcome offer is worth about $1,500. But since the welcome offer is a one-time benefits, we won’t consider the welcome bonus when deciding whether the Platinum Card’s annual fee is worth paying.
Credits that reduce your effective annual fee
The Platinum Card offers four main credits that can reduce your effective annual fee: an annual airline fee credit, monthly Uber credits, a bi-annual Saks credit and every-four-years Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit. If used fully, these credits are worth approximately $525 each year. If you can use these credits to cover expenses you’d already be paying, your effective annual fee drops to just $25. And if you apply before the end of 2020 and use your limited-time streaming, wireless, Dell and Uber Eats Pass credits, the card more than pays for itself.
Let’s look at each credit individually.
Airline fee credit
This is one of the most basic yet still confusing (to some) benefits of the Platinum Card. This up to $200 credit is given to cardholders to use over the course of a calendar year (not a card member year) for fees on one airline. Cardholders must go to Amex’s website and select the single airline on which they would like to use the fee credit.
Technically, this credit is meant to be used toward incidentals such as checked baggage fees, seat assignment fees, airline lounge passes and similar expenses. Depending on how airlines code certain purchases, though, it is also sometimes possible to purchase airline gift cards to use toward tickets and be reimbursed via the credit (but this can change unexpectedly).
Potential Annual Value: $200
This perk provides cardholders up to $200 in ride credits per calendar year and Uber VIP status, which gives access to better cars and better rated drivers in select locations. To take advantage of this benefit, you must link your Platinum Card to your Uber account. Then you’ll automatically receive $15 in Uber cash credit each month, except for December, when you get $35 worth of credit. The monthly credits can be used on multiple rides, but if you don’t use the credit by the end of the month, it doesn’t roll over. Assuming you take one or two rides in a city each month, it’s easy to max out this perk. The discount only applies to rides within the U.S., and there’s no requirement to pay any remaining balance with your Amex card.
There’s also the new 12 months of complimentary access to Eats Pass, valued at $10 per month — for up to $120 a year — when you enroll by Dec. 31, 2021.
Potential Annual Value: $320
Saks Fifth Avenue credit
This Saks Fifth Avenue credit is available in the form of two $50 statement credits per year. Each year you can get one $50 statement credit for Saks purchases between Jan. 1 and Jun. 30 and another $50 statement credit for purchases between July 1 and Dec. 31. This credit can be applied at both Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s. You’ll need to enroll your Amex Platinum Card for this benefit to take effect, but there’s no minimum purchase required. If you don’t shop at Saks yourself, there are still lots of gifts you can buy for others.
Potential Annual Value: $100
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
This is another great benefit targeted toward frequent travelers. When you pay for the $100 Global Entry application fee or the $85 TSA PreCheck fee using your card, it will be refunded to you as a statement credit. Cardholders are eligible for this statement credit every four years since you have to renew your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership every five years. Because Global Entry also qualifies you for TSA PreCheck, let’s rate the full value of this benefit at $100, but amortize it over the four years.
Potential Annual Value: $25
Other potentially valuable card benefits
The four credits described in the previous section can effectively bring your annual fee down from the published $550 per year to $0 per year if you include limited-time benefits that end on Dec. 31, 2020). However, even if you can’t use all of the credits — perhaps because you can’t use your Uber credits while you’re overseas for a few months, you don’t like shopping at Saks or you can’t find anyone to use the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit that seemingly comes with every premium credit card — it’s still possible that the card’s benefits and earning potential will provide enough value to justify the annual fee.
Some of the card’s benefits discussed below may provide no value to you, but significant value to someone else. So, I won’t assign value to these benefits but instead introduce them so you can estimate their value for yourself.
Airline and hotel bonus categories
Cardholders earn 5x points per dollar on airfare when booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. They are also eligible to earn 5x points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, including prepaid Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings made online. The Platinum card now has trip cancellation, interruption and delay insurance. However, it still does not include baggage delay reimbursement.
The value of this benefit depends on how frequently you’d use the Platinum Card to book eligible airfare and prepaid hotels. For example, if you spend $500 each year on eligible Fine Hotels & Resorts stays, you’ll earn 2,500 points on these stays which are worth about $50 given our current valuations. But, if you spend $5,000 each year on eligible airfare and prepaid hotel bookings you’ll earn 25,000 points on these purchases, which is worth about $500.
The Platinum Card has the best lounge access benefits of any credit card out there through The American Express Global Lounge Collection. The Lounge Collection includes Priority Pass Select membership and access to Delta SkyClubs, Escape lounges, Plaza Premium lounges, Air Space lounges, Centurion Lounges and International American Express Lounges.
The card’s Priority Pass Select membership gets the cardholder and two guests into more than 1,200 Priority Pass lounges worldwide for free, although you’ll need to request your membership card. The Platinum Card also gets card holders into Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights. Cardholders can bring up to two guests to SkyClubs, but must pay $39 per guest and these guests will also need to be flying Delta.
Platinum card holders and up to two guests are also granted entry into Amex’s Centurion Lounges, including lounges in multiple U.S. cities as well as a lounge in Hong Kong (HKG). There are also a couple of International American Express Lounges in Argentina, Australia, India and Mexico.
Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors elite status
Some cardholders tend to forget about the hotel elite status that comes with The Platinum Card. As a cardholder you can enroll here for Hilton Honors Gold status and enroll here for Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. TPG values Hilton Honors Gold status at $1,260 and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status at $845, respectively, based on certain stay and spending habits. However, note that these figures are based on earning status the regular way through nights and stays and leveraging those benefits on those nights and stays. So, if you stay fewer nights, you’ll likely get less value from the status.
Fine Hotels & Resorts
Platinum card holders can book stays through the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program. By doing so, you’ll get elite-like benefits including noon check-in (based on availability), room upgrades (when available), daily breakfast for two people, complimentary Wi-Fi, guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout and a unique property amenity valued at $100 or more. Plus, you’ll earn 5x points on prepaid stays booked online through FHR. Read more in TPG’s full guide on the Fine Hotels & Resorts Program.
The Hotel Collection
When you book a two-night or longer stay through the Hotel Collection with American Express Travel, you’ll get a $100 hotel credit for use on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities and a room upgrade upon arrival (when available). You can book up to three rooms, and receive these benefits on each room. Plus, you’ll earn 5x points on prepaid Hotel Collection stays that are booked online.
International airline program
Through Amex’s International Airline Program you can get discounts on premium economy, business- and first-class tickets on 25 airlines. You can even use Pay With Points to purchase them. The cardholder must be traveling, but he or she can purchase up to eight tickets on the same reservation with participating airlines. The only downside is that you’ll need to pay a $39 service fee per ticket, even if you book using the new online chat service. The dollar amount you save can vary, but we found it to be about 12% in many test cases.
Cruise Privileges Program
Whether you’re an avid cruiser or only take one cruise every year or two, this benefit is worth mentioning. Cardmembers receive a $100 shipboard credit for inside and outside staterooms; a $200 shipboard credit for balcony, veranda and mini-suite staterooms; and a $300 shipboard credit for suites and other select staterooms on select cruise lines. There’s a limit of one benefit package per stateroom and a three-stateroom limit per cardmember per sailing. You’ll also get an additional amenity like a bottle of wine on select cruise lines. Read more in TPG’s full guide on the Cruise Privileges Program.
Car rental elite status
In addition to hotel elite status, cardholders can enroll for status with several car rental programs including Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status. Though rental car perks are hard to quantify, conveniences, discounts and time-saving benefits like guaranteed availability and return grace periods can be invaluable. You’ll need to register for these elite statuses on the Amex website.
ShopRunner gives Amex card holders free two-day shipping and free return shipping on eligible items at participating online stores. This is a simple, but nice benefit. To be eligible, you must enroll in ShopRunner and use your Amex card for purchases through ShopRunner.
Bonus: Authorized users
I’ll leave this out of the total valuation since whether you add authorized users, how many you add, and what benefits they use can vary, but it is still worth mentioning. Amex Platinum cardholders can add up to three authorized users to their account for a total of $175 per year (see rates and fees), and those users are eligible for some of the same benefits as the main account holder, including lounge access, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement, hotel elite status and Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits (not to mention Amex sometimes offers card holders bonus points for adding authorized users).
The Platinum Card from American Express has a $550 annual fee, but for many travelers the card’s benefits will more than offset the annual fee. The $200 annual airline fee credit, monthly Uber credits that total $200 per year, a bi-annual $50 Saks credit and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit (available once every four years) can provide about $525 of value each year. If you can use these credits to cover expenses you’d already be paying, your effective annual fee drops to just $25 — and the various other benefits of the card are worth least $25 for most travelers.
If you aren’t able to use all of the card’s credits each year — perhaps because you live overseas and can’t use the monthly Uber credits or struggle to use the airline fee credits —- then consider the value of the credits you can use. Next, consider the Platinum Card’s benefits — 5x Membership Rewards earning on select airfare and hotel purchases, lounge access, excellent evacuation protection, elite status with Hilton and Marriott, access to the Hotel Collection and Fine Hotels and Resorts programs and more — and decide how much value these benefits can provide to you. Then you can determine whether the annual fee is worth it for you based on your spending and travel habits.
If you’ve decided that the card is worth its annual fee, get all of the information and apply right here: The Platinum Card® from American Express – 75,000 Point Offer
Additional reporting by Katie Genter and Benét J. Wilson.
Featured photo by The Points Guy.