Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission that helps contribute to the running of the site. Traveling For Miles has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Traveling For Miles and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. For more details please see the disclosures found at the bottom of every page.
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 looks to have been kept unchanged.
New $200 Annual Prepaid Hotel Credit
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
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
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
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: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, 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.
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, and, personally, 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 at least included one of the more popular streaming services as an option? What about Netflix, Apple Music, or Spotify?
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 higher 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.
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 and that makes me wonder if I can be bothered to keep desperately trying to extract value just so I can justify the annual fee.