Why The Amex Platinum Card Is The Only ‘Must-Have’ Premium Card For Most Frequent Travelers


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The Platinum Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, and the Citi Prestige Card have all, at one time or another, taken a turn at being the leading light in the premium card sector but, as things stand, only the Platinum Card can really claim to be a ‘must-have’ card for most frequent travelers.

Yes, if you’re a big Hilton, Marriott, American Airlines, Delta or United Airlines loyalist there are other premium cards out there that will almost certainly classify as ‘must-have’ cards for you, but in this post, I’m taking a look at the three premium cards that have the broadest appeal and which aren’t intrinsically linked to one particular brand – In my opinion that leaves the Platinum Card from American Express as the only ‘must-have’ option.

Why The Platinum Card Rules

In recent years there have been numerous occasions when I’ve been very tempted to drop the Platinum Card from my portfolio because the annual fee (now $550) has been hard to justify, and I’ve been one of the card’s harsher critics in more than a few blog posts…but not any more.

Here’s the key reason the Amex Platinum Card is back in my good books:

  • It earns 5 points/dollar on airfare spending made directly with airlines (in a valuable currency)
  • It offers trip delay protection
  • It offers trip interruption and cancellation insurance

There is no other personal card that offers that trio of benefits.

If you travel a lot, being covered for the things that can go wrong when you’re on a trip is as important as earning a lot of points…and with the Platinum Card there’s no need to choose one or the other. You get both.

And you get a lot more travel benefits too.

  • Access to Centurion Lounges + 2 guests
  • Priority Pass Membership (no access to Priority Pass restaurants)
  • Access to the American Express Global Lounge collection (for when Priority Pass can’t help)
  • Access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program (and all the great discounts and benefits it offers)
  • Access to the International Airline program (for discounts on premium cabins on select airlines – more info)
  • Hilton Honors Gold status (for free breakfast and upgrades at Hilton properties worldwide)
  • A credit towards the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck
  • No foreign transaction fees

The Platinum card also offers cardholders Marriott Bonvoy Gold status but it would be more than a little deceptive to suggest that that’s worth very much!

Amex Centurion Lounge Miami

And when it comes to the annual fee, the Platinum Card has a few benefits that may help a cardholder claw back some of that cost:

  • $15/month Uber credit ($35 in December)
  • $200 Airline Fee credit (to cover baggage fees, seat fees, in-flight dining & drinks, etc..)
  • $100/year Saks 5th Avenue credit ($50 in the first 6 months of the year and $50 in the second).

How you travel and what your outgoings look like will depend on how easily you’ll be able to use those credits to help offset the annual fee – some find it a lot easier than others.

When you combine all of those travel benefits with the great earnings on airfare and the fact that American Express Membership Rewards points transfer over to more airline and hotel loyalty programs than any other currency, it’s starts to get easier to see why the Platinum Card is so strong.

Why Aren’t The Other Two Cards “Must Have” Cards?

It’s simple.

  • Most of the benefits the other two premium credit cards offer (and that the Platinum Card doesn’t) can be enjoyed by holding one or more non-premium cards.
  • There’s no non-premium card that you can hold alongside the Citi Prestige or the Chase Sapphire Reserve that will match the Platinum Cards powerful package of airline earnings and travel protections.

The Citi Prestige Card is not a “must-have premium card for frequent travelers” because…

  • It offers no travel protections whatsoever
  • One of its major selling points (the 4th-night free benefit) cannot be used alongside hotel status and stays made using this benefit do not accrue hotel points or hotel elite status credits.

Frequent travelers need to know that they’re protected when they’re traveling and they almost always like to make the most of whatever hotel statuses they have to make their trips as comfortable as possible. The Citi Prestige doesn’t help with any of that.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve isn’t a “must-have premium card for frequent travelers” because…

  • Its earning rate on airfare spending is lower than the earnings offered by two other premium cards
  • Its earning rate on worldwide dining can be matched by the considerably cheaper Amex Green Card
  • Its primary rental cover can be matched by the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Yes, it’s still a very good card (I really like it and I still hold it despite its recent issues) but there aren’t enough unique benefits that this card offers. A lot of what the Reserve offers (and that the Platinum Card does not) can be enjoyed by holding one or more non-premium credit cards.

Bottom Line

All three of the big premium credit cards have their selling points and all three offer benefits that can be very useful…but only the American Express Platinum Card offers benefits that cannot be replaced by another personal card…and that makes it the only “must-have” premium card for frequent travelers.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Why you should drop amex plat.

    5x point only happen with direct airline booking. Skysanner and Momondo most likely offer cheaper airfare but thru travel agency. In two recent occasions I booked $1300 and $1190 on OTA vs $1500 and $1400 directly with airline same class fare. For 2% difference of MR? LMAO.

    International airline program is a great program if you book premium eco or biz. I really love this program and it’s the sole reason I’m eyeing on plat couple times a year. For those 2 tickets I booked recently, I did compare the price between OTA and IAP. Turns out it’s less than $20 difference but you can earn 5x MR with IAP. But for most ppl fly eco 90% of the time, I highly doubt if amex plat is right card for them. I’m lucky since my current boss offers a similar program covering ALL fare classes and it’s OK for personal travel.

    Uber is significantly more experience in my local market though I do notice it’s cheaper than lyft in Chicago. Avg $4 more a trip to/from airport so it’s pretty much offset the $10 credit.

    Airport lounge: amex lounges are always too crowded along with other PP lounges which you may never entitled to enter due to capacity control. I only got 2 pp lounge visits last year but 50+ pp restaurants visits. I stick with CSR for this single reason.

    World dining? This is AMEX BS. All the breakfast, fast food, izakaya, bar, and sit down restaurant in mall are pretty much excluded from “restaurant” by amex term. Single building restaurant with a bar is also at risk. U never know. It’s always 50/50. If you dine every single time in Michelin restaurant, yes plat is your go to card. For regular traveler had a drink in hotel lobby, airport food, quick coffee bite, etc, CSR never disappointed. BTW, how many place accept amex outside NA ūüôĀ

    Airline fee: I’m using wifi a lot. But I do not have baggege fee ever due to my airline status always guarantees me free baggage. It’s a very personal option.

    Travel is a complicated lifestyle and you need some simplicity. I recommend most ppl csr not amex plat.

  2. Amex Platinum has one thing going for it, and that’s air travel.

    In case that’s not your primary category, CSR beats it. Sure, it’s benefits might be matched by other cards, but the point is that it rolls them all into one card. If you are forced into carrying only one travel card, and air travel is not the biggest category, CSR wins hands down.

    It’s advantage is in enabling a much easier way to get the perks (flat annual cashback on ANY travel merchant, at any time, rather than being forced into a limited Uber spend per month or into Saks or into a single airline you have to choose for the full year to get airline incidental credit on). CSR has a super competitive earn rate on dining, especially with the 50% bonus burn on the Chase travel portal.

  3. […] The¬†Platinum Card from American Express¬†and the¬†Business Platinum Card from American Express¬†both earn¬†5 points/dollar¬†for spending made directly with airlines while the¬†Chase Sapphire Reserve¬†card earns¬†3 points/dollar¬†for just about all travel spending and, very importantly, all three of these cards offer good trip delay, interruption, and cancellation protections. […]

  4. […] The¬†Platinum Card from American Express¬†and the¬†Business Platinum Card from American Express¬†both earn¬†5 points/dollar¬†for spending made directly with airlines while the¬†Chase Sapphire Reserve¬†card earns¬†3 points/dollar¬†for just about all travel spending and, very importantly, all three of these cards offer¬†good trip delay, interruption, and cancellation protections. […]

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