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American Express breathed new life into its Platinum Card when it added airfare purchases as a bonus category earning 5 points/dollar back in November 2016. The 5 points/dollar on airfare was a groundbreaker in the credit card world and suddenly cardmembers like me had a new reason to hold on to the card.
Since then Amex has introduced other new benefits to the Platinum Card (like Uber and Saks credits) but it has also increased the annual fee to $550 and brought in new entry restrictions for its Centurion Lounges.
Before the introduction of the airfare bonus category I was seriously reconsidering the value that the Platinum Card offered me but the ability to earn a lot of miles though airfare spending persuaded me to keep it in my wallet…but now the card needs to prove its worth once more.
The Platinum Card From American Express
Before I go any further it makes sense to recap the major benefits that the Platinum Card offers for its $550 annual fee.
- Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
- Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
- $200 annual credit for airline fees
- $15 in Uber credits for U.S. rides each month and $20 in December
- $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue
- One Global Entry ($100) statement credit or one TSA Precheck ($85) statement credit every 4 years for an application fee charged to the Platinum Card.
- Hilton Honors Gold status
- Access to Centurion Lounges
- Priority Pass membership
- Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
- Elite status with Hertz, Avis & National
- Complimentary Boingo wi-fi access
There are other benefits that come with the Platinum Card (see here) but the 12 I’ve outlined above are the ones I think are the more important.
Is It Worth The Annual Fee?
This is the big question I’ve been asking myself lately as my annual fee has just posted to my account and the $550 charge looks scary on my statement.
Everyone will have their on view on what the various benefits are worth to them and which ones they value and which they don’t…..but here’s my take:
5 points/dollar on airfare
This was a great benefit up to the point where the Citi Prestige started to offer 5 points/dollar on airfare too.
Citi’s Prestige card allows the bonus to be earned when purchases are made through travel agencies and it offers much better travel insurance than the Platinum Card so that seriously overshadows what AMEX offers.
Amex Membership rewards offers considerably more airline transfer partners than the Citi ThankYou program but Citi has me covered with most of the partners I value and Chase backs me up where Citi lets me down (British Airways).
Had I been in need of Delta SkyMiles or even ANA Miles I may see things differently but right now the 5 points/dollar on airfare that the Platinum Card offers is no longer a major selling point for me.
5 points/dollar on hotel spending
The major point to focus on here is that you can only earn the 5 points/dollar through Fine Hotel & Resort (FHR) bookings and hotel bookings made through Amex Travel.
You cannot earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar when you book directly with a hotel, a chain or through another online travel agency.
Bookings made through Amex Travel are counted as 3rd party bookings by most major hotel chains so guests will not have their elite status recognised, earn points for their stay or earn credits towards elite status when Amex Travel is used.
That’s a big issue for me as status benefits like complimentary breakfast and late checkout are important to me when I travel and I don’t want to have to give them up just so I can earn bonus Membership Rewards points.
On top of all that I rarely have the need to book an FHR property so that path to bonus points isn’t really worth all that much to me.
$200 annual credit for airline fees
This benefit was fine while I was an American Airlines loyalist as I could buy gift cards and have the cost deducted from my statement….but now that I’m flying AA a lot less the benefit is a lot less useful.
Nowadays either my airline status or the cabins I book ensure that I don’t really incur any airline fees and, even when I do, the way the credit works means I’m usually not eligible for it.
The Platinum Card’s airline credit requires users to nominate one airline for which the credits will work at the beginning of each year so, unless you’re good at predicting the future, there’s no way of guaranteeing that you’ll be able to use the credit when an airline fee comes your way.
$15 in Uber credits for U.S. rides each month and $20 in December
I’ve had some bad experiences with Uber over the past year so I’m doing my very best to use other ride sharing services when I’m home in the US.
These credits don’t work abroad so I can’t use them even when I’m forced into using Uber through a lack of other options.
$100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue
I don’t generally shop at Saks so, essentially, this “benefit” is encouraging me to shop/spend when I otherwise probably wouldn’t.
Add to that the fact that the credit is broken down to $50 in the first half of the year and $50 in the second half and this benefit becomes a lot less useful.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credits
I get a Global Entry credit from my Citi Prestige card and my Chase Sapphire Reserve card so a 3rd credit is surplus to my requirements (and TSA Precheck comes with Global Entry).
Hilton Honors Gold status
This is a genuinely useful benefit as Hilton Gold offers complimentary breakfast and I get treated very well with my Gold status when I travel in Asia….but this is also a benefit I could have if I had the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express and that only costs $95/year.
Access to Centurion Lounges
Centurion Lounges can be very nice but they can also be incredibly crowded. Amex has recently taken steps (once again) to try to reduce the overcrowding issue but I’m not sure the steps are going to have much impact.
With an Amex Centurion Lounge due at my home airport of LAX in 2019 this benefit may be a little more useful than it has been of late….but I already have a great choice of lounges when I travel out of LA (courtesy of Priority Pass and my airline status) so I’m not sure this benefit can really be used as a reason to keep the Platinum Card.
Priority Pass membership
Both my Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards give me Priority Pass memberships so I really don’t need a third courtesy of the Platinum Card.
Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
As I mentioned a little earlier, I’ve hardly every used the option to book an Amex FHR property as I can often find an equally good (for my needs) but more economical option elsewhere.
This is one of those benefits that can end up costing you money if you weren’t already someone who books properties of the type found in Amex’s FHR list.
Elite status with Hertz, Avis & National
These elite statuses can be very useful as they can really speed up a rental car pickup and the upgrades can be a good way to save money to.
This is a Platinum Card benefit that I’ve found surprisingly useful.
Complimentary Boingo wi-fi access
Maybe I’m lucky but I’ve never been anywhere where I didn’t have an alternate and free option to Boingo wi-fi.
Free wi-fi is so easy to find nowadays I’m not sure that this is really much of a benefit any more (outside of niche circumstances).
With the Citi Prestige now offering 5 points/dollar on airfare spending and with a lot of other benefits offered by the Platinum Card also offered by cards I have (or that I could very easily apply for and pay a lot less for) it doesn’t look as if I’ll really get value out of the Platinum Card going forward….at least not $550 of value.
The rental car elite status would be missed if I gave the Platinum Card up but I suspect I’d find other routes via which to get some sort of worthwhile status without committing myself to a high annual fee.
The Hilton Gold status would be another benefit that I would occasionally miss but, if could see that I have a number of Hilton reservations on the horizon, there’s nothing stopping me from picking up the Hilton Honors Ascend credit card, pocketing a nice chunk of Hilton points and getting Gold status thrown in.
I’m not sure if I’d miss the Centurion Lounges or not. At one time I was a big fan of these lounges as they were SO much better than anything else we had at our disposal but, since those halcyon days, other longes have become considerably better and the Centurion Lounges have become overcrowded and, occasionally, resemble a day creche more than a civilised upscale airport lounge.
Are they really a major benefit any more? I’m not sure.
After careful consideration I was pretty sure I was going to cancel my Platinum Card but, when I called up Amex to investigate my options, an offer was put to me that made me stop and think.
My Retention Offer
Amex has offered me a retention bonus of:
- 20,000 Membership Rewards points after $3,000 spend in 3 months or
- $200 credit after $3,000 spend in 3 months
I value 20,000 points at around $300 so that would be the option I’d take if I decided to accept the retention offer…but I’m not sure what to do.
Had it not been for the retention offer I would have cancelled my Platinum Card by now but the retention offer has given me pause for thought.
Effectively the retention bonus would reduce my annual fee to a much more acceptable $250 but it would also see me direct $3,000 spend to my Platinum Card which would almost certainly earn me more points if it were directed to one of my other credit cards.
By keeping the card for another year I’d get to access the LAX Centurion Lounge (so that I can review it for the blog) and I could try to buy some Saks Gift cards to further reduce my net outgoings…but I think this needs a little more thought.
As I already hold the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards I’m really not sure I have any great use for the Platinum Card any more….but for a net annual fee of $250 I’m tempted to keep it for one more year.
What would you do if you were in my position?