Is the American Express Platinum Card Worth It?

There are a lot of things I thought I’d never do.  On top of that list was paying $450/year to use a credit card.  It sounds pretty ridiculous even as I type it, but last month, I took the plunge and signed up for the Amex Platinum Card.

Why’d I Do It?

The access to the airport lounges was what first got me interested in the card.  The problem was that I didn’t really travel that much, maybe 2-4 trips a year, so paying $450/year to sit in a lounge twice a year for maybe a total of two hours didn’t seem to make sense.  But then I did a little more digging and found that there were many other card benefits that could justify the cost of the card. 

Three Key Benefits

1.  25,000 Point Introductory Offer = $250

The standard Amex Platinum Card offer is to give 25,000 points upon new cardmembers spending $1,000 in the first three months.  That’s not really a tough hurdle rate and 25,000 points is equal to approximately $250.  It’s a one time benefit, but not bad in defraying the cost of the card by $250 for the first year.

2.  $200 Airline Fee Credit

Each calendar year (Jan. to Dec.), Amex will reimburse you up to $200 for airline fees charged to your Amex Platinum Card.  The catch is you have to choose one airline each year and you only get reimbursed for eligible charges incurred on that airline.  I think the original intent was for this credit to cover travel incidentals like baggage fees, change fees, and in-flight food and drink purchases.  But in doing a little more research, I found that people were getting reimbursed for many more useful things such as airline gift cards and lounge memberships.  Given that I travel 2-4 times a year, I know I’m going to be spending at least $200 on flights.  So if I’m able to get $200 in gift cards (I did) and use them towards flights I would buy anyway, then I think of this benefit as decreasing the fee of the card by $200 a year.

Note, for the gift card strategy, I chose American Airlines because Delta didn’t sell gift cards online.  Also, I bought four $50 gift cards instead of one $200 gift card to make it look like the charges were incidental fees, but not sure if this last step is necessary.  For more information on the $200 airline fee credit, see here for more detailed information.

3.  Reimbursement of $100 Global Entry Application Fee 

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs program that allows you to get expedited processing when returning from a foreign country.  Instead of getting off a 10 hour flight and having to wait in an hour long line, you could wait just 20 minutes.  To sign up, you just need to pay a $100 fee, fill out an application, and get interviewed at a nearby airport (or for Amex Platinum Cardmembers, occasionally select locations in large U.S. cities).  If you’re approved, you get expedited processing for five years (works out to $20/year) and if you pay the $100 fee with your Amex Platinum Card, you get that fee reimbursed by Amex!  For me, this sounded like a good deal since I was going to sign up for the Global Entry program anyway, so I count this as another $100 worth of benefits from the card.

With just the three benefits outlined above, the below is an outline of the economics I saw for the first three years of having the card:

So over three years, I end up really just having to pay $200, which translates to roughly $67/year or $6/month.  That’s the fee I essentially pay for the following benefits:

Airport Lounge Access:  Through this program, you get access to American Airlines, Delta, and US Airways lounges.  For American and Delta, you need to be flying on their airline on the particular day you want to access their lounge.  For US Airways, you can be flying any airline to access their lounges.  Generally, you can bring in two guests or your Spouse and any children under 21.  In addition to American, Delta, and US Airways, you also get a membership to Priority Pass Select, which gets you access to hundreds of additional lounges domestically and internationally.  To bring guests into Priority Pass Select lounges, it generally costs $27/guest.

Concierge Services:  Amex provides Platinum Cardholders with access to concierges who can book restaurants or hotels or do research for you.  I’ve read a lot of people say that these services are overrated because you can basically do what would take the concierges half a day to do in five minutes via Google.  I think that’s true for some research requests, but what I found useful is the following:

1.  Travel Guides:  I often request travel guides for cities I’m planning to visit.  These travel guides typically are 60-120 pages in length and include everything from an overview of a city to restaurant and hotel recommendations and key tourist attractions.

2.  International Restaurant Reservations:  When traveling internationally, making restaurant reservations can be a pain.  First, calls abroad can be expensive via your cell phone and may be inappropriate to make via your work phone.  In addition, given time differences, the best times to reach restaurants may be at incredibly inconvenient times for you.  As a result, I often times outsource booking international restaurant reservations to the concierge and it’s been a huge help.

Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status:  The card gives you Gold Status for the Starwood Preferred Guest Program.  When staying at a Starwood hotel, Gold Status gives you an automatic upgrade (if available) as well as the opportunity to have a 4pm late checkout (if available).  You can find more information on the Starwood Preferred Guest Program here.

No Foreign Transaction Fees:  Other credit cards charge a 2-3% transaction fee for purchases made in other currencies.  The Platinum Card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.

Fine Hotels & Resorts Program:  I’m not as familiar with this benefit, but it claims to give you $450 in benefits each time you book hotels through this program.  Benefits include room upgrade (if available), daily continental breakfast for two, 4pm late checkout, and an additional hotel benefit that may be, but not limited to, a hotel credit (for spa services or sports) or a complimentary dinner.

Premium Car Rental Program:  This gives you elite status at Hertz, Avis, and National, which allows you to do quick checkouts (instead of waiting in line), get free upgrades (if available), and get a four hour grace period for returns with Hertz.

Current Promotion:  25,000 Point Bonus

American Express Platinum Card 25,000 Point Offer

Amex is currently offering a 25,000 point bonus if you spend $2,000 in three months. If you’re interested, you can cash in on the deal here.

Past Promotion:  50,000 Point Bonus!

Amex was offering a 50,000 point bonus if you spent $3,000 in three months, which is a great deal. Unfortunately, this deal ended a little while ago, but I’ll be sure to repost it if it returns. In the meantime, if you like the economics of the card, you can cash in on the 25,000 point bonus here.

Other Resources
The Top 23 Posts That You Missed
American Express Starwood Card Review
How to Bid for a Hotel on Priceline
Track Frequent Flyer Miles with Award Wallet
Starwood Preferred Guest Program
$200 Airline Fee Credit From American Express Platinum Card
What’s Your Burn Rate?
Global Entry Review

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Roger

I’m a 30-something professional with a career in digital media, a background in finance, and a passion for value. lifelaidout is my attempt at sharing some of the thought processes that I use in my everyday life to identify value and save time, money, and energy.

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14 Responses to “Is the American Express Platinum Card Worth It?”

  • Aman Randhawa says:

    Excellent post. The economics of this card work for me. I signed up and got approved last night. Thanks for the post.

  • roger says:

    Great, congrats Aman! Once you activate the card, let me know if you have any questions. You’ll definitely want to sign up for the airline perk right away, select an airline, and then buy the $200 of gift cards to take advantage of this year’s $200 airline credit.

  • Ramu says:

    Nice post and nice site Roger! I noticed that you did not discount the cash flows to calculate PV despite the excellent training you received. Just kidding!! Happy Holidays! Let’s catch up.

  • roger says:

    Damn, I knew I forgot something. Must have been that day I downed that 2 liter bottle of Dr. Pepper. Anyway, happy holidays to you as well and I’ll definitely shoot you an email in the next couple of weeks to catch up.

  • Hiram says:

    good stuff dude! I recently upgraded to Amex Platinum as well. How do you sign up for the airline perk? Can you select any airline or is the a subset of eligible ones you can pick from?

  • roger says:

    Hiram, good to hear from you man! I still have that picture of you with the Corona trying to defy my authority….ahhh, those were the days.

    Anyway, try this link and let me know if it works: https://rewards.americanexpress.com/olet/splash?campaignId=airline1&offerType=airlinechoice

    After you sign-up via that link, if you want to monetize your $200 allocation this year (which you definitely should), you should buy some electronic gift cards today or tomorrow (electronic because you don’t have to pay for shipping). I chose to buy from American Airlines because Delta doesn’t sell gift cards online.

    I can’t definitely say whether you can use the gift card strategy on other airlines, but I can say from firsthand experience that American Airlines works. Buy 4 $50 gift cards though so they appear like travel incidentals.

  • Newman says:

    Hey this is an awesome analysis of the American Express Platinum Card. American Express has a lot of good options, but I think that for the most bang for your buck you should get the Starwood Preferred American Express.

    First year annual fee is waived, 30,000 points after meeting sign up requirements (I have gotten over 7 cents per point w SPG) and there are more transfer partners.

    You can check out my analysis at http://www.youngtravelguru.com/2011/11/16/best-day-to-day-spend-card-part-2/ and http://www.youngtravelguru.com/2011/12/14/why-starwood-points-are-so-valuable/ .

  • roger says:

    Newman, thanks for your comments and thanks for passing along your analysis of the Amex Starwood Card. I definitely think the Amex Starwood Card is good to have and great for everyday use. I actually have that card as well and use it as my primary credit card, but I like having the Amex Platinum Card for the access to the airport lounges, concierge, and for use overseas (no foreign transaction fees). I didn’t realize you could get such a good deal on Starwood points using the Cash & Points option so I will definitely look into that the next time I’m booking a trip.

  • David rice says:

    This is something that I had been considering for a while, the only damper I have is that I like the benefits of the delta amex platinum(~$170/year) more.
    if you plan well, you can get a return on 2-3cents per mile. This is heavily based on time of purchase, but for booking a vacation with ~6 months notice you can get almost any flight for 25k miles (including flights to Seattle and Banff). I also run most of my expenses through it and get the 20k MQM miles (25k needed for silver status) as a result I never pay for baggage. I also get one free companion ticket per year (generally worth ~$400).

    For airport lounges there is a program called executive skyguide that is ~$70/year and gives you access to 12 lounge visits/year (limited to you only)

    In short, I can’t cost justify the Amex platinum over the Amex delta platinum, however there is something to be said about hassle free access(for you and whoever you are with) to the lounges, which is the only reasoning still consider getting one.

  • roger says:

    David, if you sign up for the Amex Platinum Card now with the 50,000 point bonus and implement the gift card strategy, I think over 3 years, you’d probably only have to pay an average of $50/year assuming you value having Global Entry. I think that beats the Executive Skyguide price ($50/year vs. $70/year). Also, with the 50,000 bonus membership points, I believe you could convert those to 50,000 Delta miles.

    In terms of the return on points, that’s good that you can get 2-3 cents per mile on the Delta Amex Platinum Card. I think with the Amex Platinum Card, your return is typically 1 cent per point (not that great). What I like to use for my daily spending and what Newman had mentioned above was the Amex Starwood Card. Newman said you could get a return of as much as 7 cents per point. Also, you can convert Starwood points to airline miles and generally, when converting 20,000 Starwood points to airline miles, Starwood will automatically kick in an extra 5,000 points. So when converting 20,000 Starwood points to Delta, you would actually get 25,000 Delta miles. See the following link for information on converting Starwood points to airline miles: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/preferredguest/account/starpoints/transfer/airline_partner_list.html

  • Mason says:

    Wow is this the Roger I know! Stumbled upon this website after getting a linkedin message about your blog. We should catch up some day, I like what you’re up to!

    • Roger says:

      Haha, you have those strats done yet Mason???

      Great to hear from you and thanks for stopping by. I’ll shoot you an email to set up a time to catch up!

  • Alberto says:

    Do you think the Delta eGift certificates quality for the $200 rebate?


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