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.
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.
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