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I’m on the record as saying that I think that the Platinum Card® from American Express is the only ‘must-have’ premium card for most frequent travelers so as that comment was made over a year ago, I thought that I’d take a closer look at what the card offers travelers and Membership Rewards fans in 2021.
The Platinum Card From American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express is Amex’s highest-level consumer card that’s open for applications and it’s aimed squarely at people who enjoy traveling, and who enjoy traveling in comfort and style. The card offers the most rewarding return on flight bookings, access to airport lounge networks, access to Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program, elite status in two hotel loyalty programs, as well as a number of statement credits that can help offset some or all of the card’s annual fee.
Here’s what you need to know about the Platinum Card® from American Express:
- $695 (rates & fees)
Cost of Authorised User Cards
- $175 for three authorized user cards and then $175/card from the 4th authorized user onwards (rates & fees).
Current Welcome Bonus
- 125,000 Membership Rewards points to successful new applicants who spend $6,000 on their new card in the first 6 months of card membership (more details).
Also, in the first 6 months of card membership, new cardholders can earn:
- 10 points/dollar on up to $25,000 of combined spending at restaurants worldwide and when they Shop Small in the U.S. in their first 6 months of Card Membership.
Note: The welcome is offer not available to applicants who currently hold this card or who have held the Amex Platinum Card in the past.
- 5 points/dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and on flights booked through Amex Travel (on the first $500,000 of eligible air purchases per calendar year).
- 1 point/dollar on all other purchases
- Access to Amex Centurion Lounges
- Priority Pass Membership
- Access to the American Express Global Lounge collection
- Access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program
- Access to the International Airline program (for discounts on premium cabins on select airlines – more info)
- Hilton Honors Gold status
- Credit towards the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck
- Uber/Uber Eats credits
- Saks 5th Avenue credits
- Annual airline fee credit
- Annual prepaid hotel credit
- Monthly Equinox credit
- Monthly digital entertainment credit
- Annual CLEAR® membership credit
- Trip delay protection
- Trip interruption and cancellation insurance
- Transfer points to a wide variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs
- No foreign transaction fees
Why I Love The Platinum Card
The Platinum Card Earns Valuable Membership Rewards Points
Membership Rewards Points are Amex’s flexible rewards currency and they can be transferred across to a wide variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs at a ratio of 1:1. With the option to transfer the points that the Amex Platinum Card earns to programs like Delta Sky Miles, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, the British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue, and Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles, cardholders can use their earnings to save a significant amount of money on the trips they book and fly in some of the more aspirational First and Business Class cabins around.
I’m a big fan of Membership rewards because cards like this Platinum Card make points relatively easy to earn for anyone who books flights with any frequency and because the points are relatively easy to use. Add to that the fact that Amex frequently offers bonuses for transfers to its loyalty program partners, and it’s easy to see why the Membership Rewards program is so popular.
The Welcome Bonus Is Attractive
The current welcome bonus of 125,000 points is a nice improvement on some of the bonuses we’ve seen in the past, and the fact that new cardholders are being given 6 months to earn the bonus (rather than the standard 3 months) is a very nice added extra. As I value Membership Rewards points at 1.5 cents each (based on the value that I know I can get out of them with ease), the current welcome bonus is worth an impressive $1,875.
In addition to the 125,000 points bonanza, new cardholders can also earn 10 points/dollar at restaurants worldwide and when they “Shop Small” in the US. Based on my valuation, that equates to a fantastic rebate of 15% on the first $25,000 of spending made in those categories.
If you prefer to look at things in terms of Membership Rewards Points, that’s a further bonus of up to 225,000 points worth $3,375.
A new cardholder who locks in the 125,000 point bonus and who spends $25,000 at restaurants and on Shop Small purchases in their first 6 months of card membership would, effectively, earn themselves a total bonus worth $5,025.(based on my valuation of Membership Rewards Points)
No Card Offers A Better Return On Airfare Spending
The 5 points/dollar that the Amex Platinum Card earns on airfare spending made directly with an airline or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 of spending in a calendar year) equates to a rebate of 7.5% (based on my valuation of Membership Rewards Points), and that’s a rebate that no other card can match.
The Platinum Card Offers Statement Credits To Help Offset The Annual Fee
$200 Annual Airline Fee Credit
The Amex Platinum Card offers cardholders an airline fee credit that’s worth $200 per calendar year which can be used on a cardholder’s nominated airline (US airlines only). The airline fee credit does not cover airfare spending, but it can be used to have costs such as baggage fees, seat selection fees, change fees, and pet fees rebated and in-flight purchases of drinks, food, and amenities, in-flight entertainment fees (excluding wifi) and airline lounge day passes and annual memberships will also trigger the credit.
Up to $200 In Uber & Uber Eats Credits
Holders of the Amex Platinum Card receive up to $200 in Uber Cash credits/year which appears as $15 monthly credits in the Uber app ($35 in December).
Just like the credit that’s offered with the American Express® Gold Card (review), these monthly credits can be used on Uber rides and Uber Eats orders within the United States so they’re relatively straightforward to use. Unfortunately, just like the credits on the Gold Card, these are credits that do not roll over from month to month so if you fail to use your credit in any given month, it’s gone forever.
For anyone who uses Uber or Uber Eats at least once or twice per month, this is a very useful benefit and a genuine cash saver. On its own, it can drop the Platinum Card’s annual fee to $350.
Note: Although you have to have your Platinum Card linked to your Uber wallet to ensure that you get the monthly credits, you don’t have to pay with the Platinum Card to ensure that the credits are triggered. I get monthly credits courtesy of my Platinum Card but I pay for all my Uber trips using my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (which offers 3 points/dollar for all travel spending).
$100 Annual Hotel Collection Credit
The Hotel Collection is a hotel booking portal run by Amex Travel and holders of the Amex Platinum Card who book a stay of 2 nights or longer through the portal, are given a $100 onsite credit. This credit can be spent on dining, spa, and activities charged to the room during their stay.
If you’re likely to need to book a stay of 2 nights or longer during your cardmember year this could be a nice benefit to have – $100 will go a long way towards buying 2 people a nice meal at a good hotel – but some caution is required.
Firstly, if you wouldn’t have made the hotel booking if the Amex Platinum Card wasn’t offering you an onsite credit this isn’t a genuine saving. Secondly, be aware that bookings made through the hotel collection are considered 3rd party bookings by most hotel chains so any elite benefits you may have with that hotel’s loyalty program are unlikely to be honored.
Essentially, the $100 credit is best used at properties where the cardholder doesn’t have elite status and where the $100 would have been spent whether or not the credit was being offered (this works particularly well at boutique hotels which, mostly, don’t have loyalty programs).
$200 Annual Prepaid Hotel Credit [New From 1 July 2021]
Holders of the Amex Platinum Card who book a prepaid stay of 2 nights or longer through the Hotel Collection or a prepaid stay of any length through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program (FHR) will receive a statement credit towards the cost of that booking of up to $200 every calendar year.
On the face of things, this looks like a great benefit to have (and it can be), but as I mentioned a little earlier, prepaid bookings are usually treated as 3rd party bookings by the bigger hotel chains and that makes them ineligible for elite status benefits, elite status credits, or hotel points accrual. If you’re not booking a chain hotel or don’t have elite status with a chain that you’re booking, this won’t matter. If you care about elite status benefits, however, this could be a turn-off.
Up To $100/Year In Saks 5th Avenue Credits
Holders of the Amex Platinum Card receive up to $100 in Saks 5th Avenue credits every year – a $50 credit in the first half of the year and a further $50 credit in the second half of the year – and for anyone who shops at Saks, this is a genuine $100/year saving.
For anyone who doesn’t shop at Saks with any great frequency, this may be a slightly harder benefit to use (you don’t get much for $50 at Saks), but with Saks bricks and mortar stores happy to sell customers $50 gift cards, it’s possible to use these credits to save up for a future purchase.
Up To $100 To Cover Global Entry/TSA Precheck Membership
The Amex Platinum Card gives cardholders a statement credit available every 4 years after they apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit available every 4.5 years after they apply for a five-year membership of the TSA Precheck program (up to $85).
As someone who travels internationally, I love having Global Entry membership (it makes returning to the US easy and mostly line-free) and as Global Entry membership also includes membership of the TSA Precheck program, the Amex credit is a benefit that I value highly and that I never fail to use.
Up To $179 To Cover CLEAR Membership [New From 1 July 2021]
CLEAR is a program that uses a person’s biometrics (their fingerprints, eyes, and face) to confirm their identity and gives members access to fast-track lanes at select airports and sporting stadia around the United States (click here to see the locations that CLEAR currently serves).
The Amex Platinum Card now gives cardholders up to $179/year in statement credits when they use their card to pay for their annual CLEAR membership and if you have a CLEAR fast-track option at one or more locations near you (most major airports now have CLEAR lanes), this can be a great benefit to have.
It should be noted, however, that this benefit isn’t actually worth the full $179 as it’s very easy to get discounted CLEAR membership that costs considerably less. Some people can even get CLEAR membership for free without the need for a Platinum Card.
Entry-level Delta SkyMiles & United MileagePlus members, for example, get CLEAR membership for just $119/year, Delta and United Platinum/Gold/Silver elites get it for just $109/year (as do holders of Delta SkyMiles American Express Cards and holders of United’s co-branded credit cards) while Delta’s Diamond elites and United’s Global Services & 1K elites get it for free.
If you have top-tier Delta or United status this Platinum card benefit is worth nothing to you. For everyone else, it’s worth, at most, $119.
Up To $300/Year In Equinox Credits [New From 1 July 2021]
The Platinum Card now offers cardholders up to a total of $25 in statement credits each month when membership fees for select Equinox memberships (which include complimentary access to the Equinox+ app as part of membership) or fees for a stand-alone membership to the Equinox+ app are charged to the card.
To receive this benefit, Card Members must access the Equinox website through the link provided in the benefits section of their American Express online account or mobile app to enroll in an eligible Equinox or Equinox+ membership or to validate their eligibility to apply the benefit to an existing eligible membership.
For anyone with an existing Equinox membership or subscription (or anyone considering taking out an Equinox subscription), this can be a very nice money saver and will help justify the Platinum Card’s annual fee. For those of us who have other gym subscriptions, who have no need for the Equniox+ app, or who live nowhere near an Equinox location, this benefit is considerably less useful.
Up To $240/Year In Digital Entertainment Credits [New From 1 July 2021]
Holders of the Platinum Card from American Express can enroll their card to earn up to $20/month in statement credits for spending made with very specific “entertainment” providers. Namely: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times.
If you already subscribe to one or more of those four entertainment providers there’s no doubt that the monthly Platinum Card credit will be very welcome. For everyone else, this probably isn’t one of the card’s bigger selling points for the card.
The Card Offers Access To Airport Lounges
The Platinum Card® from American Express gives cardholders complimentary access to Amex’s famous Centurion Lounges at airports like JFK, LAX, Dallas Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, and more, and it also allows cardholders to bring two guests into the lounges with them at no charge.
For travelers flying with Delta, the Amex Platinum Card gives cardholders access to Delta SkyClubs as long as their Delta flight is departing on the day of entry to the lounge. Sadly, guests are not permitted.
If an airport doesn’t have a Centurion Lounge or if you’re not flying with Delta, the Platinum Card doesn’t leave cardholders waiting at their gate as it also offers Priority Pass Select Membership (does not include access to Priority Pass restaurants) as well as access to Amex’s Global Lounge Collection.
If your elite status doesn’t grant you access to airport lounges, if you travel through airports where your preferred airline doesn’t offer a lounge or if your elite status doesn’t allow you to bring guests into your preferred airline’s lounge, the lounge access benefits of the Amex Platinum Card can be invaluable.
Enjoy Complimentary Hotel Elite Status
Holders of the Platinum Card are given Hilton Honors Gold status as well as Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for as long as their card is active.
Hilton Honors Gold status is widely considered to be the most valuable mid-tier hotel staus available (it offers guests complimentary breakfast, 80% bonus points on all Hilton stays, late checkouts subject to availability, and access to Hilton’s excellent 5th night free on award stays benefit) so this is a great benefit for the Platinum Card to offer.
Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status is less impressive (its key benefits are limited to late check-outs where available, 25% bonus points on all Marriott stays, and occasional room upgrades), but as it’s always better to have some kind of elite status when visiting a hotel than no status at all, this benefit can still be useful for cardholders who don’t earn Marriott status organically.
Access To Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
The Amex Platinum Card gives cardholders access to Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program which is a program that can significantly improve a hotel stay.
Hotel rates available through FHR often give guests access to benefits that they wouldn’t have access to when booking through other channels and, importantly, these additional benefits are usually offered at a price comparable to the one offered directly by the hotel.
These benefits can include:
- Daily breakfast for up to two guests
- Room upgrade (where available)
- A property amenity (often a $100 property credit, a free spa treatment, etc…)
- A guaranteed 4 pm check-out
- Noon check-in (where available)
- Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi (exclusions apply)
On top of this, bookings made through FHR are treated as direct bookings by the various hotel loyalty programs, so guests booking through FHR don’t have to give up any elite benefits they may be entitled to (as they would when booking through most other 3rd party sites) and, where applicable, their bookings will earn points in the hotel’s loyalty program too.
The Platinum Card Offers Trip Delay Coverage
At the beginning of 2020, American Express improved the travel benefits on a number of its cards and one of those improvements was the addition of Trip Delay coverage to the Amex Platinum Card.
If a roundtrip is paid for entirely with the Amex Platinum Card and a covered reason delays a cardholder’s trip more than 6 hours, Trip Delay Insurance can help reimburse certain additional expenses purchased with the same Platinum Card. Coverage is for up to $500 per trip with a maximum of 2 claims per Platinum Card per 12 consecutive month period.
With bad weather often causing significant disruption to travel all around the world, the fact that the Platinum Card offers the best Trip Delay Coverage of any US-issued credit card makes this a big reason why so many travelers choose to book their airfare with the Platinum Card.
The Amex Platinum Card is a card you hold for the great travel benefits that it offers (access to airport lounges, access to Amex FHR properties, trip delay, cancellation & interruption protection, etc…), the fantastic earning rate on airfares (5 points/dollar), and the statement credits that help drive down the card’s annual fee. If you’re a keen traveler this is a great card to hold and one that can significantly improve the quality of your trips.
The key to making sure that you’re someone who will benefit from adding the Platinum Card to their wallet is to consider just how many of the statement credits you’ll be able to use and to then see exactly how much the Platinum Card will cost you every year. Once you know what your net out-of-pocket expense of holding this card will be, you can compare it to the benefits that the card offers and make an informed decision on just how much value the Platinum Card can offer you.
Personally, I can’t imagine not holding the Platinum Card because I get an incredible amount of value out of the benefits that it offers, but that may not be the case for someone who travels infrequently. Think carefully about how much use you’ll get out of the Platinum Card’s benefits and only apply if you can justify the cost.