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Big changes made to the Platinum Card® from American Express – My Take

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The Platinum Card® from American Express got refreshed today and although it’s a refresh that has been rumored for some time, the changes that have been made are significant and not entirely what a lot of us have been expecting.

Opinions on how good or bad these changes are almost certainly going to vary quite a bit, so rather than try to predict how the wider world will view what Amex has announced today (a futile task), I’m just going to focus on how I view the changes to the Platinum Card.

Key changes to the Platinum Card

From today, 1 July 2021, the Platinum Card® from American Express comes with a new welcome offer (see here) a significantly higher annual fee, and a number of new benefits that Amex clearly hopes will persuade people that the increased annual fee is worth paying.

New annual fee

The Platinum Card’s annual fee has now been increased by 26% to $695 per year (rates & fees) and will take effect immediately for all new applicants. The annual fee will increase for existing cardholders for card renewals from 1 January 2022 (i.e. if your annual fee is normally billed on 28 November, for example, you will not see an increase in what you’re asked to pay until 28 November 2022).

The cost of supplementary cards has been kept unchanged.

New $200 annual prepaid hotel credit (terms apply)

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 now receive a statement credit of up to $200 towards the cost of that booking every calendar year.

This benefit is not duplicated for authorized users, but the primary cardholder and any authorized users can share the $200 credit.

New $179 annual CLEAR membership credit (terms apply & enrollment needed)

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 venues around the United States (click here to see the locations that CLEAR currently serves).

The Platinum Card now gives cardholders up to $179/year in statement credits when they use their card to pay for their annual CLEAR membership.

This benefit is not duplicated for authorized users, but an authorized user who pays for a CLEAR membership with their secondary card will trigger the credit.

New $25/month Equinox credit (terms apply & enrollment needed)

The Platinum Card now offers cardholders up to a total of $25 in statement credits each month (up to $300/year) when 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.

This benefit is not duplicated for authorized users, but an authorized user who purchases a qualifying Equinox membership with their secondary card will trigger the monthly credit.

*Applies to monthly Equinox All Access, Destination, and E by Equinox memberships.

New $20/month digital entertainment credit (terms apply & enrollment needed)

Holders of the Platinum Card® from American Express can now enroll their card to earn up to $20/month in statement credits for spending made with very specific “entertainment” providers. Namely: Audible, Disney+, ESPN, Hulu, Peacock, Sirius XM, and the New York Times.

Only the primary cardholder (or an Authorized Account Manager) on a U.S. Consumer Platinum Card Account can enroll in this new benefit but purchases by both the primary cardholder and any additional cardholders are eligible for the statement credits up to a combined total of $20/month.

Note: none of the other key benefits that the Platinum Card offers have been tampered with so the airline fee credit, the Uber/Uber Eats credits, the Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit, and the Saks credits all stay in place.

My take

This isn’t good. Suddenly, the Platinum Card feels a lot less like a premium travel card and more like a card that’s struggling for an identity. I hate the changes.

The digital entertainment credit is far too restrictive, if I want to use the Equinox credit I have to pay for a more expensive membership than I need, I almost never make prepaid bookings through Amex FHR or the Hotel collection (for good reason) and while a CLEAR membership may be nice to have, I don’t feel like I’ve been missing out by not having one up until now so the addition of a CLEAR benefit is hardly a reason for celebration in my household.

I first started to get annoyed at the changes to the Platinum Card when I realized that while I could access my closest Equinox gym for $240/month (a fee that’s already way too high for my liking)…

…if I wanted to make the most of my new “benefit”, I’d have to pay $275/month ($35/month more!) for a premium membership instead:

I guess if you’re comfortable paying an astronomical sum like that to get on a treadmill or to move around some weights and if you need access to all the Equinox clubs in the US this may be a benefit that’s worth having. For me, it’s utterly pointless.

I continued to get annoyed at the changes that Amex has announced when I saw just how narrowly focused the $20/month entertainment credit is. Couldn’t Amex have done a deal with more than 7 “entertainment” providers?

I’m probably going to take out a subscription to the New York Times (one that costs no more than $20/month) just to get something (anything!) in return for the increased annual fee, but as I wouldn’t have done this had Amex not pushed through these changes I can’t value this new benefit at anything more than zero.

As far as the CLEAR membership goes (and as I’ve already mentioned), I’ve survived perfectly well without a CLEAR membership so far so I’m not going to get excited about the chance to have one for free now. Sure, I’ll probably apply for membership just to make sure that I’m using up the benefit, but not only is this a benefit that I don’t really value, it’s also a benefit that everyone can get for a lot less than the advertised cost (members of Delta’s SkyMiles and United’s MileagePlus programs can get CLEAR membership from between $0 and $119).

The new $200 statement credit for bookings through FHR or the Hotel Collection is the one new benefit that, on the face of things, looks like it may have some promise. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s just another benefit that’s fundamentally flawed.

Firstly, this benefit only works for prepaid bookings, and as prepaid bookings are usually treated as 3rd party bookings by the bigger hotel chains, that makes them ineligible for elite status benefits, elite status credits, and hotel points accrual – all things that are usually important to those of us in the miles and point game.

Secondly, the fact that you have to book a minimum of 2 nights if you want to use the credit through the Hotel Collection is miserly. I’m already in a position where I’ll probably have to make a booking that I wouldn’t have otherwise made just to extract more value out of my Platinum Card’s annual fee, and now it looks like that booking will probably actually cost me more than the credit itself – the “benefit” will actually cost me money…which is probably why Amex has designed it this way.

In summary

Overall, Amex is going to be charging me an extra $145/year in return for four benefits that I can happily live without and that will not enhance my enjoyment of the Platinum Card in any way whatsoever. It may be time to seriously consider if this is a card I should be keeping.

My instinct is to say that I think I’ll keep my Platinum Card for at least one year of the increased fee just to see how much benefit I continue to get out of the card and how much value I get out of it too, but I’m far from happy with what Amex has announced today and there’s no guarantee that I won’t cancel or downgrade when my renewal comes around in January.

The refresh of the Platinum Card was a great opportunity for Amex to solidify the card’s position as a truly premium travel card but as far as I’m concerned, all that Amex has managed to do is to create a card that’s struggling for an identity. That makes me wonder if I can be bothered to keep desperately trying to extract value just so I can justify the annual fee.

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  1. I have had a Platinum card for 41 years. These new “refresh” SUCKS…..if they don’t make changes based upon cardholder bitching, this card will be history for me when my renewal comes along.

  2. I will keep my card until renewal then cancel it. I am being asked ot pay more and receive nothing in return. I have free gym memberships via my work, and I do not subscribe to any of the electronic media noted. I have never booked a hotel via FHR. I can always book the same properties much cheaper either directly or via another site. And booking prepaid is a huge mistake for anyone who is seasoned traveler and knows those pitfalls.

    Only CLEAR has basically remained unchanged. If I drop the AMEX Platinum the CLEAR Membership out of pocket plus a newer cheaper card comes out to my advantage.

    What the heck is AMEX thinking except to screw its members.

    I most likely will move to a Chase Sapphire or other premium Visa card.

  3. This is not good in any way. I’m frankly quite surprised that American Express didn’t do some research to discover that offering new items of dubious value while removing benefits of actual value while increasing the annual fee substantially was a good idea. This whole thing just reeks of stupidity.

  4. Quit whining people. Do you REALLY have an Amex Platinum card just so you get exactly more back than the AF? This isn’t a card for cheap people like that. If you can get value great but I love how no one values the airport lounge network, international airline program (I saved $2200 once buying 3 business class tickets to Italy through it), the fine hotels extra benefits or the Amex offers (so much better than Chase). I thought the card was a bargain given all the benefits for $550 and have no problem paying $695. I’ll use the hotel credit (can pick independent hotel and largely cover it) and the entertainment credit works great for me so I get full value of $240. Does ANYONE with a car not have a SiriusXM subscription? I haven’t listened to “regular” radio in 15 years. Right now I have 3 cars w SiriusXM all w monthly subscriptions so this is a no brainer.

    All I can say is PLEASE cancel the card. The Amex Platinum card isn’t for you type of people if you are whining over something so minor as a $145 AF increase. If you don’t value it just go away and leave the rest of us that value our relationship w Amex and what it has provided (and will in the future) alone. These blogs are often cheap penny pinchers that look to game the systems with manufacturered spend and gift cards. Those of us that legitimately run $150,000-$200,000 through a year just to support our lifestyle (retired 1%er BTW so can easily afford anything I want to do) hate all the whining by the lower class that shouldn’t have a card like this in the first place.

    Member since 86

    • The only thing “lower class” around here is the person branding other people (whom he has never met) “lower class”.

    • [Redacted by TFM – as much as I agree with the redacted sentiment, I’d prefer to keep name-calling out of this as much as possible]. The card gets less and less valuable every day. When I started getting turned away at all of the lounges as soon as they saw my priority pass and platinum card I knew the days were numbered. I went to a lounge in Cancun and then 3 weeks later went again. No more Amex PP. So go ahead and keep paying your annual fee. I’m 37 and retired at 35. Did it by not wasting my money on things like this that no longer make sense. ✌️

  5. It almost seems like they are trying to get people to drop the card. Maybe the best benefit for those who actually keep it – should thin the herd at Centurion Lounges? I know I won’t be renewing, that’s for sure.

  6. While there are many benefits to the AMEX Platinum, the primary benefit has been premium/luxury travel. One trip booked through FHR should mathematically break even with the annual fee ($200 credit, $100 daily breakfast, $100 resort credit, upgrade delta), which is a minimum $600 value on a two night stay. If you never intend to book from FHR or the hotel collection, this card may not have ever been worth it.
    For those who do, the addition of VLEAR with global entry, and lounge access makes this card even better for premium travel. All of the other benefits are just extra toppings

  7. If you cancel a Platinum card within 30 days of annual fee posting, you’re refunded your fee, correct? What if you’ve used some benefits in that time, are they clawed back or just allowed?

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