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American Express is making changes to both their personal Platinum and Business Platinum cards. Overall, things are mostly positive. The one big negative is the $100 hike to the annual fee on the person Platinum Card. It will be a whopping $550. Fortunately, the fee for the Business Platinum card remains unchanged. The question is: are the Amex Platinum benefits worth this increased fee?
Because the personal Platinum annual fee increase is set to take place in less than a week, I’d like to review the Amex Platinum benefits for the personal version of the card. I know the “value” of benefits of any travel credit card can be highly subjective and dependent on your individual travel patterns. It’s also hard to place true value on benefits you gain from a card if you otherwise wouldn’t pay for them. I have my own take on what I think the Amex Platinum benefits are worth. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
The 10 best Amex Platinum benefits
- 5X Membership Rewards points on hotels booked through American Express Travel – This benefit is a way to earn a significant return on hotel bookings. The flip side is, you will not be earning nights or stays toward hotel loyalty status, so it may not be worth it. Hotels have lately been good about offering the lowest publicly available rate, so booking direct will often be the way to go. I don’t value this benefit very highly because it clashes with earning and enjoying benefits of hotel elite status.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel – This benefit took off in Fall 2016, and will remain. It is a very welcome addition, made in the wake of the Chase Sapphire Reserve launch. The earning benefit beats what will be offered on the business Platinum, since it includes airfare booked directly with an airline. The 5x benefit is unlimited, and can be extremely lucrative if you fly a lot.
- Global Entry (or TSA PreCheck) statement credit – This is a great perk if you travel internationally even a couple times per year. GlobalEntry allows you to speed through customs upon returning to the United States from abroad, and TSA PreCheck allows you to pass through expedited security screening at many U.S. airports. GlobalEntry is the better option of the two, since you will also be granted PreCheck, if approved. The Amex Platinum card gives you one credit every five years. Do note that authorized users of the card get their own fee credit, so that could definitely be a plus for a family. You must charge your application fee to your Platinum card to receive the credit.
- $200 annual airline fee credit – Every calendar year you get up to $200 credited back to your account for airline incidentals and other fees. You have to select the benefit beforehand; it isn’t a generic travel credit like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Once you select an airline (from the limited options), you will automatically receive statement credits for qualifying charges. There are many data points of people being able to cash out the credit on airline gift cards as well. This is one of the better benefits of the Platinum card, in my opinion, and definitely helps offset the large fee.
- “Uber rides with Platinum” benefit – This is a brand new benefit that will take effect on March 30, 2017. The new Uber perk gives you Uber VIP status (better cars, more experience drivers) and up to $200 in annual Uber credit. Cardholders who link their Platinum card to their Uber account will receive $15 in Uber credits per month, and $35 in December. This perk is good primarily for people who ride Uber regularly, since the credit is a small monthly allotment. The credit is applied over multiple rides. However, you forfeit any unused amount at the end of the month. Personally, I am not crazy about this credit.
- Centurion lounge access – Cardholders enjoy complimentary access to American Express Centurion lounge locations. While not in every major airport, Amex is expanding the network. Lounges will open in Philadelphia and Hong Kong later this year. Unfortunately, Amex recently changed the guest policy for lounge access, limiting it to 2 guests per cardholder. Complimentary access used to be granted to immediate family of the cardholder.
- Priority Pass Select lounge access – Priority Pass Lounge access is seeing an upgrade starting March 30. Platinum cardholders will now be allowed up to 2 guests when visiting a Priority Pass lounge. Previously, Priority Pass membership from the Platinum card did not allow guesting privileges. (SEE: Here’s the new AMEX Platinum Priority Pass Guest policy). You can still purchase additional passes for $27 per person.
- Delta Sky Club access – Platinum cardholders can enjoy complimentary access to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta. You’ll have to fork over $29 per travel companion however. This is less than a day pass, but it still means you can’t bring your whole family in without breaking the bank. You could get up to 3 authorized user cards for $175. Each comes with its own lounge access.
- Elite status with Hilton and Starwood – This benefit could be hit or miss depending on your travel patterns. Unless you stay with Starwood and/or Hilton a lot, it won’t be worth much. Additionally, Starwood Gold status is fairly easy to earn and maintain if they are your chain of choice, especially if you have the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. If you don’t already have an Amex card that gives you automatic Hilton gold, but stay with Hilton at least a few times per year, this perk is worth something. Hilton gold gives you free breakfast at most properties. I don’t value the Hotel status perks highly, but they could be useful, depending on your individual situation.
- Car rental privileges – With your Amex Platinum, you’ll enjoy perks and/or a higher tier or membership with Avis, Hertz, and National. There are also exclusive Platinum discount codes for Avis and Hertz. If you rent vehicles frequently, this could definitely provide some value. You can also use the Standard Rental Loss and Damage Coverage available on many Amex cards to protect your rental.
Less useful Amex Platinum benefits
These benefits could certainly be useful depending on your situation, but I still put far less value (if any) on them:
- Boingo Preferred Plan Internet Access – Honestly, I’ve never encountered a situation where Boingo provided me with internet to which I normally would not have had access. But that may change someday. Still, I don’t value this benefit highly.
- Amex Platinum companion fare – From most accounts, this perk really isn’t worth much. It is only applicable to international first of business class fares. Of those, it is only usable on full-fare tickets! Thus, your ticket to use your companion fare will likely cost you more than buying two “discounted” business tickets.
- Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits – I consider this a fringe benefit. The American Express Platinum card offers several perks when booking hotels in the Fine Hotels and Resorts Collection, such as early check in, room upgrade, daily breakfast, and an amenity unique to each property. Because it is unlikely that I will ever use the Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits, I personally don’t value this perk at all. Additionally, FH&R bookings are not eligible for 5x MR points.
- The Hotel Collection – The Hotel Collection are a collection of upscale properties at which you’ll be given a room upgrade (based on availability) and $75 in dining or spa credits for stays of 2 nights or more. Potential value? Certainly. But again, you will be foregoing earning points and elite status since you must book through Amex Travel.
- American Express Concierge – The American Express Platinum Card concierge is available 24/7 for your travel and entertaining needs. The service is complimentary with the Platinum card, but you’re obviously responsible for any charges the concierge makes on your behalf. I’ve never used this benefit and don’t really plan to, but I am sure there are people who would find it useful. (SEE ALSO: Citi vs. Amex Platinum concierge showdown)
- Airspace Lounge access – This is another fringe benefit. Airspace lounges are only located at JFK, Cleveland, and San Diego airports.
- No fee on additional standard gold cards – This is definitely in the fringe benefit category. Having additional authorized users on your account for free may be useful for someone with family members who aren’t interested in travel hacking, yet want a credit card to use (plus, you’ll get all the points!). For most people, however, I don’t see it as all that great of a perk.
So there you have it. These are the bulk of the Amex Platinum benefits in a nutshell. There are others, such as travel insurance and premium roadside assistance, but these are benefits that are more common to other cards.
Whether the Amex Platinum card provides good value is up to you. In general, if you travel internationally at least a few times per year (or domestically more often) and use Uber regularly, the card may be worth having in your wallet for these Amex Platinum benefits. The two $200 credits (airline incidental and Uber), plus the Global Entry credit, bring you to $500 in benefits. The rest of the perks, such as lounge access, can easily be justified for the remaining $50.
Remember that you can add up to three authorized users to your Platinum card for $175. Each cardholder will get their own lounge access and GlobalEntry/TSA PreCheck fee credit. They will not receive the $200 annual airline fee credit, however.
If you don’t travel much, it is doubtful that you’ll see much value from the $550 fee. Note that for existing card members, the annual fee increase only applies after September 1, 2017. For new cardholders, however, it will take effect starting March 30.
Personally, I am more than happy with my Amex Business Platinum card. It has the bulk of the benefits offered by the personal Platinum, as well as a few unique ones of its own (such as 50% points rebate on “pay with points” and Gogo passes).
What do you think of the Amex Platinum benefits and the changes to the personal Platinum card starting March 30, 2017?