The Platinum Card® from American Express isn't for everybody, but if you spend a lot of time away from home, there's no card that's more rewarding for frequent travelers.
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The Amex Platinum carries an eye-popping $550 annual fee, though it's offset to a large degree by various perks and statement credits that we'll detail later. But new cardholders can get a 60,000 point welcome bonus after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months. Those 60,000 points alone are worth approximately $1,200 in travel (according to The Points Guy's $.02 valuation of American Express Membership Rewards Points), so as long as you hit your minimum spend threshold and use the points wisely, you’ll come out well ahead of the annual fee in your first year.
It's also hands-down the most rewarding card out there for booking certain types of travel. You'll earn 5 Membership Rewards per dollar points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, and another 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotel bookings booked on amextravel.com. If you go by that $.02 valuation per point, that's like getting 10% back on your largest travel purchases. It simply doesn't get better than that, even if the bonus categories are a bit more strictly defined than Chase's blanket "Travel" bonus category.
The points you earn by spending with the Amex Platinum are called Membership Rewards Points, and like Chase's Ultimate Rewards points, you can use them to book travel directly, or transfer them to various travel partner programs.
Unfortunately, using points to book flights or hotel rooms through American Express Travel won't get you much value. Your points will only be worth $.01 each for flights, and even less for most hotels and other travel purchases. American Express offers an online calculator to see how much points are worth for various types of redemptions.
American Express allows you to move your points in 1,000 point increments to any of the following airline or hotel chains’ reward programs. Just note that some programs don't transfer at a 1:1 ratio. For example, 5 Membership Rewards Points will net you 6 Marriott Bonvoy points. You can find the latest ratios here.
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Aer Lingus
- Air Canada
- Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
- British Airways
- El Al
- Air France/KLM
- Singapore Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
If you want to get the most value from your points, your best option is to transfer to one of these programs. Finding the best redemptions for your particular trip can require a bit of research (and we'll be covering some of the best redemption options in the future here on Seeqr), but if you're willing to put in the work, you can get some tremendous value from your points, particularly on high-end purchases like first class airline tickets.
Plenty of high-end travel cards offer solid earning rates and a suite of transfer partners. But it's the perks where the Amex Platinum sets itself apart from its competitors, and they all serve to make just about every trip you take more enjoyable, while also offsetting that $550 annual fee.
$200 Airline Fee Credit
Every year, you can select one major U.S.-based airline as your designated carrier for this credit, which applies not to tickets, but to incidental charges like checked baggage fees, seat selections, and in-flight purchases. Just be sure to make your eligible purchases with the Amex Platinum, and up to $200 per year will be erased from your statements.
Global Entry or TSA Precheck Credit
If you apply for one of these programs to speed up your time in security and customs, your application fee will be erased from your Amex Platinum statement once every four years (Global Entry) or 4.5 years (TSA Precheck).
If you don't already have at least TSA Precheck, it's truly a game changer. You'll save time in security, yes, but more importantly, you'll save your dignity. Just being allowed to keep your shoes and belt on during the screening really sets a positive tone for a day of travel.
And if you're already enrolled, you can use the credit to pay for a friend or family member's application instead. You'll just need to be at the application site to pay with your card.
The Global Lounge Collection
This is probably the Amex Platinum's flashiest perk, and grants you and up to two guests free access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world. You'll be able to pop into any lounge available through Priority Pass Select, any Delta Sky Club with a same-day Delta boarding pass, and even American Express's growing network of owned-and-operated Centurion Lounges.
Not only do these lounges serve as an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the airport terminal, but they can also save you money with access to free food, open bars, and in some cases, even showers.
$200 in Uber Cash Each Year
Just add your Platinum card as a payment method in the Uber app, and you'll get $15 in Uber cash to spend each month (expiring at the end of each month), plus an additional $20 bonus in December.
Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status
You'll enjoy Gold-level benefits at thousands of hotels worldwide just for having the Amex Platinum.
You'll automatically receive $50 in statement credits for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue or saks.com for January through June, and then another $50 credit to use from July through December.
Why to Apply
$550 is a daunting annual fee, and if you won't take full advantage of the Amex Platinum's perks, it might not be worth it for you. Though it may be worth looking into the $250/year American Express® Gold Card or the $150/year American Express Green Card, which both earn membership rewards, and have unique perks of their own.
But the card's Uber, Saks, and airline fee credits combined are worth $500 cash every year, and if you maximize them (a big "if"), you'll nearly cancel out the $550 annual fee. Add in the premium airport lounge access, the 60,000 point welcome offer, the Global Entry credit, and the 5x points earning opportunities on travel, and it's easy to see why the Amex Platinum is appealing for frequent travelers.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Photo: The Points Guy