The best ways to use the Amex Platinum welcome bonus

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The Platinum Card® from American Express is not only one of the best Amex cards, but also one of the best all-around travel rewards cards currently available. Although it carries a steep $550 annual fee (See Rates), it also offers a plethora of perks.

They include up to $200 in annual airline fee credits, access to Amex Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs, and Priority Pass lounges when traveling, up to $200 in Uber Cash credits per year, and statement credits toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.

The Platinum Card also confers automatic elite status with both Marriott and Hilton, plus the ability to make benefit-enhanced bookings through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, among other valuable advantages. There are some limited-time perks, too, such as statement credits for PayPal purchases and other Amex Offers targeted to keep consumers interested during the pandemic.

Right now, The Platinum Card® from American Express is offering a historically high introductory bonus of 75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of account opening. Plus, new cardholders can earn 10x points on eligible purchases at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, on up to $15,000 in combined spending, in the first six months of account opening.

Amex Platinum welcome bonus

Depending on your spending strategy, you could rake in at least 230,000 points between the welcome bonus and 10x points at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations in the first six months. 

You would accrue at least 80,000 points for spending $5,000 to meet the minimum spending requirement (75,000-point bonus plus at least 5,000 points from spending). Then, if you maxed out the 10x earning opportunity at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, you could earn a further 150,000 points ($15,000 spending cap x 10 points per dollar). Those figures break down to spending $20,000 total in six months, or around $3,334 per month, most of which would be on gas or groceries.

However, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey puts average grocery spending at between $300 to $500 per household per month. Given the pandemic-related bump supermarkets have seen throughout COVID, let’s estimate the average household of four spends around $600 per month these days at the grocery store, and about $100 on gas — since there’s not really anywhere to go at the moment.

With those numbers in mind, you’re looking at around $700 in combined monthly spending in the Platinum Card’s 10x bonus categories. But let’s say you purchase other items, like gifts, home and garden supplies, or household staples at the supermarket and up your monthly expenditure to around $1,000 per month. By maxing out everything, you’d be looking at a total welcome bonus of around 140,000 Amex Membership Rewards points.

Here are some of the best ways to put 140,000 points to use, including both travel and other redemptions in case you’re reluctant to hit the road anytime soon.

The best uses for Amex Platinum bonus points

You might not be traveling much for the moment — or the foreseeable future. However, the best uses for Amex Membership Rewards points tend to be for travel redemptions, either through Amex Travel itself, or transferred to one of the program’s 20+ airline and hotel partners.

Here are the best of those options — assuming you earn 140,000 points between the welcome bonus and 10x categories — as well as several for folks who want to stick closer to home.

$1,400 for flights through Amex Travel

One of the easiest ways to redeem Amex points that also net you a good value is simply to use them to book flights through the Amex Travel Portal. It’s basically just like purchasing tickets, only you’re using points instead of cash.

The rate you get is an even 1 cent per point, so you’re looking at around $1,400 in airfare based on earning 140,000 points as we calculated above. 

Around $1,000 booking other travel through Amex

Though easy, it’s probably best to avoid this avenue since other Amex Travel reservations, including hotel bookings, only get you 0.7 cents in value per point. At that rate, 140,000 points are only worth $980 — enough for a couple of nights in a luxury hotel.

$2,000 or more through airline and hotel transfer partners

American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to 21 airline and hotel partner loyalty programs. They include:

Airline partners

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1.6)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Airways Guest Program
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue True Blue (1:0.8)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Hotels

That means there are some truly excellent ways to put your points to use if travel is high on your wishlist. That might not be the case at this exact moment, but there are some usually impossible-to-book awards available right now that might well be worth reserving, even if you do end up having to cancel later. Here are some of the ones you may want to consider.

Cheap flights with Delta

Though Delta continues to make unannounced changes to its award chart, it seems to be shifting its SkyMiles award model to a system where each mile is worth about 1 cent (Insider values Delta miles at 1.1 cents apiece, on average). That’s not a bad value in and of itself if you’re just looking to book inexpensive economy tickets. It equates your bonus with The Platinum Card® from American Express to about $1,540 in tickets (140,000 miles x 1.1 cents per mile)

However, Delta continues to post limited-time domestic award sales with coach tickets typically starting at 5,000 miles each way. At that rate, 140,000 Amex bonus points transferred to Delta would get you 28 one-way tickets – enough for a family of four to take a few vacations together. While that might just be on regional routes, this could be one interesting way to maximize your bonus.

Short hops using British Airways Avios

British Airways Executive Club prices out award flights based on distance rather than regions. That leads to high prices on long-haul routes, especially in premium cabins. However, it can also present outstanding opportunities to book short yet expensive flights with a paltry number of the program’s Avios.

For instance, you could book Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines flights within Asia, British Airways and Iberia flights within Europe, or Qantas flights within Australia — all of which tend to be expensive — for a relatively small number of Avios. Hong Kong to Bangkok on Cathay, or Los Angeles to Cabo on American or Alaska Airlines? Just 9,000 Avios. Melbourne to Adelaide? You would only require 6,000 Avios.

Transfer to Virgin Atlantic for Delta One Suites

With no notice whatsoever, Virgin Atlantic just dramatically devalued its award pricing for tickets on partner Delta. The one saving grace is that some Delta awards did not change.

You can still fly from the US to Europe (excluding the UK) in Delta One for 50,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points each way — less than half of what Delta would charge you — or 30,000 miles in economy. Some routes feature Delta’s suites with closing doors in business class, making this an even better bargain.

Use ANA miles for Star Alliance awards

Although All Nippon Airways’ Mileage Club might not be the frequent flyer program of choice for travelers who aren’t based in Japan, its extraordinarily low award prices might just have you thinking again.

For instance, business-class award tickets on airlines like Lufthansa and SAS from North America to Europe are just 88,000 miles — round-trip. That is just over half of what United MileagePlus would typically deduct from your MileagePlus account if using their miles instead. Asian routes cost 85,000 to 95,000 miles round-trip in business class, and 150,000 to 180,000 in first class. Earn your bonus and a few extra miles, and you can be enjoying some of the most luxurious seats in the skies for nearly free.

Take advantage of Air France-KLM Flying Blue Promo Rewards

If travel to, from, or through Europe is one of your main interests, you might find a lot of interesting opportunities through Flying Blue, the mileage program of Air France and KLM as well as Kenya Airways, as well as a handful of other airlines.

Flying Blue runs monthly rotating “Promo Rewards,” with discounts of 20% to 50% between certain cities and regions. Though they are limited mostly to short-haul intra-European routes right now, but typically include a number of North American gateways, and we have seen tickets as low as 22,000 miles round-trip in economy and 57,500 in business class between US airports and those in Europe. Compare that to airfares that regularly top $5,000, and you’re looking at huge potential savings.

Now for some of the non-travel options.

Redeem Amex points for up to $1,400 in gift cards

If travel is out of the picture, you might want to redeem your Amex points for gift cards directly through American Express itself. The retailers include Apple, Best Buy, The Gap, The Home Depot, Macy’s, Olive Garden, REI, Sam’s Club, Starbucks, Staples, Target, Subway, Uber, Walmart, and more.

Points cashed in this way are worth anywhere from 0.5 to 1 cent apiece, meaning your bonus will rack up as much as $1,400 in value.

$980 paying with Amex points at Amazon and other retailers

It’s not the greatest option, but you can link your Amex Membership Rewards account to your Amazon account and then use your points to pay for purchases at checkout. That nets you a mere 0.7 cents per point, which would turn the 140,000 bonus points you earn from signing up and hitting your spending targets into $980 worth of Amazon swag.

Other retailers that allow payment with Amex points at checkout include Best Buy, Walmart, PayPal, and Dell — also at the same rate of 0.7 cents per point.

Get $980 worth of restaurant food delivery

Another points redemption method at 0.7 cents apiece, Amex allows you to cash in Membership Rewards for food delivery orders with Seamless and Grubhub. So on nights that you’re ordering in instead of using some of those groceries you purchased with your new card, this option can come in handy to offset a few meals.

$840 toward statement credits

This should probably be a last resort, as you’ll only get 0.6 cents per point in value. But if you find yourself strapped for cash at the end of a particular month you could consider simply putting your points toward a statement credit to pay off your monthly bill.

Spent this way, those 140,000 Amex points you earned with the bonus would be worth $840. That’s not much, but it more than makes up for the card’s $550 annual fee in the end.

Bottom line

The Platinum Card® from American Express is currently offering a phenomenal introductory bonus that could be worth hundreds of thousands of points with some strategic spending. Those points are worth thousands of dollars toward travel.

However, even if you’re not planning to take a trip anytime soon, there are still some other excellent ways to reap a lot of value from your points — all of which make it well worth considering applying for the card.  

Eric Rosen is a travel and credit card expert who has been helping readers reap the rewards of loyalty programs for over a decade. Eric is based in Los Angeles, though you’ll often find him globetrotting to destinations like Australia, Kenya, and Laos on assignment.