Why Latest Amex Platinum Changes Make The Card A Lot Less Attractive

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American Express has announced a series of changes to the Amex Platinum Charge Card which, while masquerading as improvements, are almost certainly going to be a net loss for most cardholders. After showing quite a bit of promise in late 2016 the Amex Platinum Card just took a big step back.

A Bit Of History

Over recent years the American Express Platinum Card has spent most of its time in decline. While cards like the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve appeared on the market with good bonus categories and some great perks Amex sat on the sidelines looking inwards, doing nothing to improve its offering and watching as its most expensive open-to-most card was overshadowed.

citi prestige credit card

Things improved for the Platinum Card last year when Citi handed Amex an unexpected bonus by removing American Airlines Admirals Club access from the list of benefits its Prestige card offers. Suddenly the Amex Platinum card, which offers free entry to Amex Centurion Lounges for the cardholder and two guests, had a lot more relevance for those of us who travel through cities where Centurion Lounges exist (e.g. Dallas & Miami).

This wasn’t a huge boost but for a lot of us it was enough of a reason to keep hold of the Platinum Card for a little longer.

Things got a lot better for the Platinum Card when, in November last year, Amex announced that the Platinum Card would now offer 5 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on airfares (and, as it turns out, most other purchases made directly from an airline).

5 Membership Reward points per dollar is better than the 3 points per dollar offered by the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards and is a great bonus for those of us who travel a lot. In my case this change saw me spend more on my Amex Platinum card in the 60 days following the announcement than I had spent on the card in the preceding 3 years put together.

The New Amex Platinum Changes

Unfortunately it would appear that American Express really cant help themselves.

After finally adding a feature to the Platinum Card that had users like me taking the card off the “to be closed” list and putting it back in our wallets, they’ve now gone and put through more changes that will once again call into question the value the card actually offers.

Per an Amex press release I was sent:

Starting March 30th, Card Members will receive access to:

  • Uber Rides with Platinum: Through an exclusive Uber in-app experience, Card Members will receive up to $200 in annual credits for rides within the U.S., as well as VIP status where available
  • 5X Membership Rewards: In addition to the recently unveiled 5X points for flights when booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel, Card Members will receive 5X Membership Rewards points for eligible hotel bookings.
  • Expansion of the Global Lounge Collection: Card Members will have access to the growing Global Lounge Collection — over 1,000 airport lounges, located in 500 cities, across 120 countries.
  • Complimentary Additional Gold Cards: Card Members will be able to add additional Gold Cards on their Platinum Card Account for no annual fee.
  • Access to a new Global Dining Collection: American Express is partnering with world-renowned chefs to provide one-of-a-kind dining experiences around the world.
  • More Global Events: American Express is expanding its By Invitation Only® program to include more experiences in top destinations around the world, such as the Grand Prix de Monaco, French wine country and fashion tours with Harper’s Bazaar to celebrate the magazine’s 150th Anniversary.
  • Continued value at Fine Hotels and Resorts: Card Members will receive benefits such as complimentary daily breakfast for two and guaranteed 4PM late checkout.
  • New Card Design: American Express is introducing a new, sleek metal Card design.

But, in return for all of that, the annual fee for the Amex Platinum Card will be increasing to $550.

That’s $100/year more than the card’s closest competitors….and for what?

Presumably Amex thinks that its new benefits will make up for the significant fee increase….but I’m not so sure. It only takes a close look at the more major benefits in the Amex press release to realise that not all is as it appears.

The New Uber Benefit

The new Uber $200 benefit isn’t straightforward. Cardholders will receive bonus codes for $15 Uber credits for January through November with a $35 Uber credit being issued in December. If a bonus isn’t used in the month of issue it will not be rolled over.

This is bad on a number of levels.

  1. Why do we have to deal with bonus codes? What’s wrong with a simple statement credit like we already get with the airline fees benefit? If these codes have to be manually entered into the Uber app I can see a lot of busy people forgetting to do this and missing out.
  2. The credit only applies to Uber bookings in the US and cannot be rolled over from month to month so those of us who spend a considerable time abroad (I’m often away from the US for over a month) will not get the most out of this benefit.
  3. There are a lot of cardholders who prefer to use services like Lyft rather than Uber so this added benefit is of no real use to them.
  4. There are a lot of cardholders who have no need of a ride sharing service so this benefit is of no use to them either.

5X Membership Rewards On Eligible Hotel Bookings

In this case “eligible hotel bookings” is limited to bookings made through Amex Travel only – bookings through Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts or any other hotel bookings do not qualify for the 5x Membership Rewards bonus.

I expect this to be a non-benefit for the majority of Platinum Card holders because if you book a hotel stay though Amex Travel you will not get any benefits associated with whatever hotel status you hold – no hotel points, no upgrades, no elite qualification nights/points and, in most cases, no recognition of elite status at all.

I suspect that most would prefer to earn 3 Citi ThankYou points or 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent on hotel stays (by using a Citi Prestige or Chase Sapphire Reserve card directly though a hotel’s on booking site) and receive all the benefits of having hotel status rather than have no status recognition but earn 5 Membership Rewards Points per dollar spent.

Access To Lounges

Two major issues with this benefit that Amex is trumpeting:

  1. In this instance Amex is primarily referring to access to Priority Pass Lounges but the fact is that the Priority Pass membership you get through the Amex Platinum Card is inferior to the one that comes with the Citi Prestige card and vastly inferior to the one that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card (because of the number of people each membership allows a card holder to guest in to the lounges for free).
  2. Amex Centurion lounges may well be great for those who travel though airports which have these lounges…but they’re still few and far between. Even in airports that offer a Centurion Lounge the location of the lounge could be such that it’s not even accessible to passengers who aren’t using a specific terminal (or part of a terminal)…like in San Francisco.

Complimentary Additional Gold Cards

Platinum Card holders will be able to add up to 99 additional Gold Cards on to their Platinum Card account for no annual fee but those Gold cards do not come with any additional benefits to the user. What’s the point?

I’m sure there will be a limited number of people for whom this may be useful but is this really a benefit that the vast majority of Platinum Card holders will consider important…certainly not important enough to warrant an extra $100 on the annual fee each year.

New Card Design

The Platinum Card will now copy a number of other credit cards which come made out of metal rather than plastic…..but if your decision on what credit/charge card to get is based on the material used to manufacture it you need to take a long hard look at your priorities.

Bottom Line

At $550 per year I’m once again struggling to see the value in the Amex Platinum Card. There is no kudos to be had in having a Platinum card, it now costs 22% more than its two closest competitors and the benefits are still inferior.

Yes, 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights is still a great benefit to have but most cardholders probably don’t spend enough with airlines to make it worth paying more for this card than for the Citi and Chase alternatives.

Amex has shot itself in the foot with these changes as they have, once again, given a lot of cardholders reason to reexamine the value the card offers them….and I suspect that the results of those reexaminations will not be favorable for Amex.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This article seems to refer to the US. Are there changes planned in the U.K. , do you know?

    • Yes, this just applies to the US for now. I don’t have any news from Amex regarding any changes to the UK offering so what I type from now on is purely speculation on my part (end of disclaimer!).

      I’d be surprised if Amex was to change too much in the UK. In the US the Platinum card has taken a hammering from competitors while in the UK the competition is pretty much nonexistent as far as I can see….so there isn’t too much incentive for Amex to mess with the current offering. The lack of competition is also unlikely to change in the short/medium term thanks to the constraints that Visa/Mastercard issuers now have (and Amex so far don’t have) in the EU. That’s my best-guess on things, hope it helps.

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