- The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a much higher annual fee ($550) than most credit or charge cards, which can scare off some people.
- After some back-and-forth, I finally decided this summer that the perks, benefits, and rewards far outweighed the cost of the fee for me.
- Airport-lounge access, up to $200 in Uber credits annually, a $200 annual airline-fee credit, and elite status at three massive hotel brands are just a few of the many benefits the card offers.
I’ve been debating applying for a Platinum Card from American Express since I started learning about points, miles, and credit-card benefits, or “travel hacking,” as some call it.
I kept holding off, though — the $450 annual fee just seemed like too big of an upfront, even if I made that value back. Then, early last year, the fee was raised to $550, and I figured I really couldn’t justify it.
Later this past summer, though, I decided to finally go for it. What pushed me over the edge was knowing how much return I’d get for that $550.
Here are the perks I had in mind when I decided to open this premium charge card and how I value them. Keep in mind that my valuations are not scientific and are approximations based on my habits and preferences.
Membership Rewards points and a hefty welcome bonus
The Platinum Card from American Express earns Membership Rewards points, the currency in AmEx’s loyalty program. They can be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book travel through AmEx’s travel website, or transferred to any of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners (transferable points are among the most valuable).
The card earns a whopping 5x points on airfare purchased directly through the airline, as well as flights and hotels reserved through AmEx Travel. It earns one point for every dollar spent elsewhere.
Membership Rewards points don’t have a fixed value, so it’s a bit tricky to figure out how much they’re worth.
To get an idea, we can look at valuations published by the travel website The Points Guy, an Insider Picks. The website’s team approximates the value of each point at $0.019, though it’s possible to get a lesser or much greater value depending on how you use them.
The Platinum Card comes with a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening your account. Based on The Points Guy’s valuations, those are worth about $1,140, which alone makes up for two years of the annual fee.
If you transfer them to airline frequent-flyer programs and use them to fly round-trip to Europe — or even one-way in first class — you could end up getting a much higher value.
First-year value: $1,140
I enjoy flying, but, like many people, I find airports to be generally unpleasant. I think most would agree that the time spent in the terminal waiting for your flight can be the most stressful part of a trip.
Fortunately, there’s a perfect solution: airport lounges, exclusive areas where you can enjoy seats, an internet connection, food, drinks, and sometimes other amenities.
Though lounges used to be reserved for first-class and business-class passengers, many are now accessible to any traveler who holds either a lounge membership or a certain credit card — and the Platinum Card from American Express offers access to three kinds of lounges.
The first is AmEx’s proprietary lounges, located at eight airports in the US and in Hong Kong. These chic venues are an oasis in the middle of the main terminal’s chaos, featuring amenities like comfortable seating and complimentary cocktails and food created by award-winning mixologists and chefs. Access to these lounges is limited to holders of AmEx Platinum or AmEx Centurion cards.
If you’re flying with Delta and carry a Platinum Card, you can also access any Delta Sky Club lounge. With more than 30 locations, Sky Clubs offer snacks, complimentary soft and alcoholic drinks (with more “premium” drinks available for purchase), fast WiFi, and a place to unwind. Some also feature showers.
With that membership, you and two guests can access any location (as long as there’s room) to enjoy free snacks, drinks, newspapers and magazines, showers, and more — all separate from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal.
If you have an international version of the card, rather than the US version, be sure to double check the guest policy for your card’s Priority Pass benefit.
Thinking about how I’ve used the lounge access since having the card, as well as how I anticipate using it over the rest of my cardmember year, I’d estimate the value at about $150. That’s factoring in the snacks, breakfasts, coffee, and drinks I haven’t had to pay for, but not including things like WiFi, comfort, or the fact that it’s made it easier to finish up work from the airport when I’m catching early-evening flights on Fridays.
First-year value: $150
$200 airline-fee credit
Every calendar year, the Platinum Card from American Express offers a $200 credit toward incidental fees on one airline of your choice.
It doesn’t cover tickets but applies to a wide variety of things such as checked bags, flight-change fees, in-flight food and drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, airport-lounge day passes (if you don’t already have complimentary access), and sometimes even things like seat assignments and extra-legroom upgrade fees.
While it’s not specified, you may even be able to purchase airline gift cards with the credit, which you can use for ticket purchases. Be sure to search online to see whether this works for your chosen airline — the frequent-flyer message board FlyerTalk even has dedicated threads for each airline.
The best part of the airline credit is that because you get it each calendar year, not cardmember year, you could get it twice in your first year of having the card.
Say you opened the card in February — you can earn the full $200 credit before the calendar year ends, then once the credit resets on January 1, get it again before your next annual fee posts, meaning you can get up to $400 in value from this credit each year.
Because I’ve maxed out my credit, I’ll knock 25% off the valuation here — since it can be annoying to max out and presumably not everyone does.
First-year value: $300
Up to $200 in Uber credits
When American Express raised the annual fee on the Platinum Card by $100 last year, the company made it up to users by adding an extra $200 in value to the card’s benefits in the form of a statement credit toward Uber rides.
The credit is up to $200 a year, broken into chunks — each month, you’ll get a $15 credit added to your linked Uber account, with an extra $20 for a total of $35 each December.
If you travel regularly or live close to a city, this is an easy perk to get value from. You can also put the credits toward UberEats orders.
In addition, your account will be upgraded to Uber VIP status. There aren’t a ton of perks with this, and it’s available only in some cities, but you’ll only be connected to drivers with at least a 4.8-star rating. Uber also says Uber VIP drivers have “high-quality cars.”
I live in New York and take the subway, walk, or ride a bike most places, but I use Uber a few times a month, if not once or twice a week. Therefore, I have no trouble using the full credit.
First-year value: $200
Elite status at Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton hotels
Elite status at hotels often includes perks like daily breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in or late checkout, premium internet, lounge access, free nights, points-earning bonuses, and more.
Usually, only the top frequent travelers earn status — but with the Platinum Card, you can earn it before you’ve stayed a single night.
The card comes with gold-level elite status at both Hilton and Starwood hotels. Because Starwood is owned by Marriott, the latter matches your status at Starwood.
If you stay at hotels even a few nights a year, these benefits can be extremely valuable — especially considering Marriott gold status comes with free breakfast for two in the hotel’s executive lounge or, if there isn’t a lounge, its restaurant.
To come up with a valuation here, I’ll look at my most recent trip: a weeklong vacation in London and Paris, during which I stayed in two Marriott hotels using points.
Hotel breakfast can be expensive, but I’ll be conservative and estimate about $20 per person. On this trip, seven days of breakfast for two would have cost us $280 total. We did skip the hotel breakfast buffet in Paris to explore some local boulangeries (and eat an unhealthy number of croissants and other pastries), though it was still available.
First-year value: at least $280
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a few other benefits that help offset the annual fee, as well as world-class purchase protections.
Cardholders can enjoy a free membership in Boingo’s preferred plan, which gets you access to more than 1 million WiFi hotspots around the world. On its own, that membership would cost $9.95 a month.
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are absolute musts for just about any traveler. Once you enroll, you can use special lanes to breeze through airport security — you won’t have to remove shoes and light coats, and you can leave your laptop in your bag. With Global Entry, you can use a fast lane when you return to the US from abroad, which makes clearing immigration and customs easy and quick.
The programs cost $85 to $100, and American Express will provide a credit for that fee every four years (memberships are valid for five years).
AmEx also offers Platinum Card members access to the AmEx Fine Hotels and Resorts program. When you book participating hotels through AmEx Travel — there are nearly 1,000 worldwide — you’ll enjoy perks including room upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, free WiFi, and a unique amenity at each hotel, like a credit to use at on-property spas or restaurants.
An exclusive concierge service is also available to Platinum Card members. While the services are complimentary, you’re responsible for paying for any services booked or purchases made on your behalf (but don’t worry, the concierge will always ask for approval first). The service can be helpful for things like getting tickets to shows or making reservations at exclusive restaurants. I’ve used it only once, but the service helped me get restaurant reservations in Tokyo that I was having trouble getting on my own.
I haven’t used the Fine Hotels and Resorts program yet, already had Global Entry when I signed up for the card, and probably wouldn’t pay for the concierge services if I didn’t have complimentary access. I’ve also used the card to make a few large purchases so I could get the purchase protection, though (fortunately) I haven’t had to make a claim.
For this valuation, I’ll split the difference between what I’ve actually used and what I could have used.
First-year value: about $120
First-year value: at least $2,190
Over my first year with the Platinum Card from American Express, I’ve gotten more than $2,190 worth of value from the various perks, rewards, and benefits. When I subtract what I paid on my first month’s statement for the annual fee, that’s a whopping $1,640.
Even next year, when I won’t get the welcome bonus, I’ll still be ahead by at least $500 — assuming I keep the card — plus whatever I earn in rewards from spending.
While the annual fee is definitely high, the value I’ve gotten from the card’s annual benefits has more than outweighed it.