Full Details & Analysis On The Amex Platinum Card Changes

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For a while there have been rumors of changes coming to The Platinum Card® from American Express, probably in response to the Citi Prestige® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. Yesterday we learned that the Platinum Card will offer 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines as of October 6, 2016.

Well, American Express has now put out a press release about the changes, so I figured I’d cover them in greater detail in this post.

Amex Platinum Personal Card changes

The Platinum Card® from American Express will offer 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel as of tomorrow, October 6, 2016. There’s no cap to how many bonus points you can earn through this offering, and this only applies to the personal card, and not the business card.

united-lounge-london-heathrow-62
Earn 5x points on airfare purchases with the personal Amex Platinum card

Amex Platinum Business Card changes

Interestingly American Express is introducing different benefits for The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. Specifically, Business Platinum cardmembers get the following benefits:

  • Earn 1.5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on any purchase of $5,000 or more
  • Earn 50% points back when using Membership Rewards Pay with Points through American Express Travel to book a flight with your selected airline

The 1.5x points will be useful for businesses that make big purchases. On the personal side we already have something like this with the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, which offers a 50% points bonus when you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle.

Furthermore, there’s potentially a lot of value with getting 50% points back when using Pay with Points. Through Pay with Points, you can typically get one cent of value per point. So a $1,000 ticket would cost you 100,000 points.

amex-travel
Typically you get roughly one cent per point of value per Membership Rewards point

With this new benefit you’ll get 50% of points back, meaning you’d get a refund of 50,000 points. That means you can potentially get two cents per point towards the cost of an airline ticket, which is huge.

Do keep in mind, however, that this is only valid for your selected airline (you need to choose one each year, and it’s the same as the airline for which you choose your $200 airline fee credit).

Still, if you fly one airline often, this has the potential to be very valuable. Assuming you can pool all your Amex points towards these redemptions, you could maximize your points on cards like the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card and Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and then could redeem each point for two cents towards the cost of an airline ticket in conjunction with the Platinum Business Card.

Existing American Express Platinum benefits

The above new perks complement the existing perks on these $450 annual fee cards, which include the following:

Amex-Centurion-Lounge-Houston - 13
Access the Amex Centurion Lounge Houston with your Amex Platinum Card

What do I make of these changes?

Obviously this represents a very nice improvement on the part of American Express.

On one hand I was expecting more, as this still isn’t fully competitive in some ways with the products from Chase and Citi. The airline credit is both the smallest and most restrictive of any of those cards. Also, 5x points on airfare is great for people who spend a lot on airfare, but not as widely useful as the bonus categories on the Prestige and Reserve.

At the same time, I already thought the Amex Platinum Card was worth keeping. The way I see it, the card costs me ~$250-350 per year “out of pocket,” given that I value the airline fee credit at close to face value.

For the $250-350 I’m getting access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, Boingo hotspots, Delta SkyClubs, and Centurion Lounges. To me that’s worth it. So anything else is just icing on the cake, and makes the card more worthwhile. Still, in terms of the relative value proposition, the card has certainly been slipping.

Delta-SkyClub-San-Francisco - 8
Use your Amex Platinum Card to access the Delta SkyClub San Francisco

Crunching the numbers on 5x points for airfare

Previously I could earn at most 3x points on airfare with the Citi Prestige® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. Now I can earn 5x points on airfare. I value all of the above points roughly equally, at ~1.7 cents each. In other words, this is an additional ~3.4% return on airfare.

It is worth noting that both Chase and Citi still offer better travel protection. However, keep in mind that also applies if you’re only charging part of the ticket cost to a credit card. For example, American Airlines gift card purchases typically qualify as “airfare,” so you could use your American Express Platinum Card to buy American Airlines gift cards and earn 5x points, and then could pay a very small portion of the ticket cost with a card that offers better protection, if you’re so inclined.

So it’s pretty easy to calculate the breakeven point on this benefit. At a marginal return of ~3.4%, you’re getting an additional $34 for every $1,000 spent on airfare:

  • If you spent ~$13,000 on airfare you’d totally recover the $450 annual fee
  • If you spent ~$7,500 on airfare you’d recover the $350 “out of pocket” cost that I consider this card to have, after accounting for the $200 airline credit at face value

But like I said above, I consider this card to be worthwhile just for the benefits, so any additional “return” through spend only helps offset that fee.

Emirates-A380
Earn 5x points on airfare purchases with the personal Amex Platinum card

Bottom line

Long term I hope we see more changes to the American Express Platinum products. In the meantime, 5x points on airfare on the personal card is pretty awesome. Furthermore, a 50% rebate on “Pay with Points” airfare redemptions with the business card is great as well, as it means you can get two cents per point of value.

I suspect this might just be Amex’s immediate response to the recent publicity the Sapphire Reserve has been generating, with a bigger response coming eventually.

What do you make of these changes, and how do they impact whether you’ll apply for/keep/cancel an Amex Platinum Card?


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Comments

  1. This card still is a have card and not a use card for me. At the very least, trip cancellation/delay insurance needs to be added as benefits. I won’t book a non-refundable ticket period if these are not a feature of the card I’m using.

  2. Why wouldn’t they have given the same benefits to both card and they need to get rid if the “selected” airline thing to make the 50% refund of points on Pay with points worthwhile.

  3. Still doesn’t seem worth it to me to keep the card. I personally can’t get $250 dollars of value out of it to make it worthwhile (on top of jumping through the hoops for your own 200 dollars back that both Citi and Chase don’t make you do). Additionally, I am somewhat insulted that this was Amex’s “huge game changing” announcement. They are obviously pretty complacent with where their premium credit card is and don’t seem to be in a rush to change or enhance anything significantly.

  4. As a business card user, I think not matching the personal card benefit sucks. It’s a have not use card for me, and I think it’s headed towards a ‘don’t have’ card for me in 2017.

  5. Hey Jay, I crunched some numbers on your situation, and my recommendation to you would be to not keep the card. Additionally you should probably file a CFPB complaint about the disrespectful way they have treated you.

  6. Lucky, thanks for writing this. this sort of analysis puts you in a league of your own (insightful as to both quantitative and qualitative issues). very very helpful.

  7. @lucky According to the press release, the 50% points back on the Business Platinum is applicable to ALL airlines when traveling in Business or First class.

  8. Joachim,
    I express my opinion on a blog that has nothing to do with you and you choose to insult it. What a life you must lead.

  9. Amex needs to hire some new blood into marketing. This is totally noncompetitive. As a frequent leisure traveler who purchases premium seats either with cash or miles the $200 travel credit is just not useful unless the loophole of 4x$50 gift card purchases holds. For all travel spending the CSR is superior in my opinion. The extra 2 points per dollar does not make up for the trip delay benefit which kicks in at just 6 hours coupled with the CDW being primary in the US and around the world. Very disappointing.

  10. For the very very few who pay for lots of personal flights, Plat might make sense. But it’s not very useful to the vast majority who don’t. Business cards only get 1.5x on flights. The rest of the benefits are marginal – Centurion lounges are few and far between. Boingo is less and less useful.

    Ill cancel both my Plat.cards next year. Citi and Chase now replace them.

    Amex.is quickly becoming a second rate card issuer and will surely lose customers at an increasing rate going forward.

  11. Wonk, wonk, wonk. The AmEx geniuses went into their creative caves and that’s the best they could come up with? This will generate minimal interest.

    > For the $250 I’m getting access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, Boingo hotspots, Delta SkyClubs, and Centurion Lounges

    I found most Fine Hotels & Resorts options to be priced way above average. Wifi hospots don’t mean as muh with the TMobile plan (thanks for the recommendation, Ben!) and the priority pass provides a nice substitution for some of the lounge benefits. Not to mention that most business class and above travel has the lounges included anyway. In other words, I’m not so convinced that the $250 annual fee (plus you have to play games to get the $200 travel credit if you want the gift cards) is inherently worth it. If someone asked me to shell out $250 for lounge access I’d probably pass.

  12. I’m really excited about the benefits as I spend a huuge amount on airline tickets each year. 5 x points got me goose bumps. I was getting the 3x on Prestige and Sapphire, but this beats them both.

    Now I wish they’d expand the use of Membership rewards

  13. @ Lucky – I hope you’re right that this is just a short-term response and that there’s more coming in the future. If Amex wants the Plat card to be competitive (it’s obviously not in the running with the CSR or Citi Prestige), only incentivizing airline spend is not going to cut it. One could even argue that they’re conceding retail/dining/etc spend to Chase/Citi, which, to me, seems short-sighted.

    Frankly, there are only two reasons I’m keeping mine: 1) it’s one of the older cards I have; and 2) the $200 airline credit basically gives me a free change each year, which I’m almost guaranteed to use. FHR would be #3, but I don’t use it frequently enough to be a major consideration.

  14. The 50% points back on the business card would be huge for me, though unfortunately i have the personal. I think that is more game changing than the 5x on airfare. Just don’t spend enough on airfare.

  15. Does this mean 5x Membership points per dollar spent on the Mileage plus X app since all merchant purchases via the app will code as United Airlines purchase on Amex cards

  16. This changes nothing for me.

    The Platinum AMEX (I have the business version) is a “prestige” card for me. I have had it for a long time (13 years) and have set it up to automatically pay for my journal/online media (New York times, WaPo) subscriptions and other such things, which earn me minor MR points but steadily. Importantly, the card has no set spending limit so that it could (has) come in handy for large purchases that exceed the CL on my visa cards…so, it is a keeper.

  17. Ho hum, another snoozer from Amex. Sure, a couple of minor improvements but still not up to snuff with the competitors.

  18. I think one thing that tends to get overlooked that might help with bringing down the $250 annual fee (after $200 travel credit) is the AMEX offers. Of course, it all depends on whether or not you would utilize and specific AMEX offers but I found that I’ve been able to cancel out the annual fee with AMEX offers alone most of the time. Plus, I also do value the additional benefits that the AMEX platinum offers; FHR, Centurion Lounges, status with Hilton and SPG etc.

    Another thing, that probably isn’t as big a deal to others, but I also much prefer the online banking service of AMEX over Chase and Citi. I think they definitely have one of the best online banking platforms I’ve ever utilized and their customer service has almost always been top notch as well.

    It would be a roundabout way of doing things but if I can get the trip delay/cancellation through another credit card by charging a small amount on the Chase sapphire and buying the rest with the airline gift card on the AMEX Plat like Lucky suggested that would be fine for me. Of course, I would prefer that the AMEX plat add trip delay/cancellation protection to their benefits but you can’t have everything.

  19. Earlier this year I dropped down from having the Amex. platinum card (which I’d had for almost 20 years) to simply carrying a green one, as the benefits just aren’t there anymore. Anything I can get through fine hotels and resorts I can come close to getting through Virtuoso. I have a huge loyalty to “the brand” (Goodness how I hate saying such a thing, but it’s true) but they just aren’t competitive with Chase’s and Citi’s top offering, and I don’t need three premium cards, all with substantial crossover benefits.

  20. @Mileage Man, nice thought! Certainly seems like it should code that way given historical practice.

  21. Last night, I was offered 25K MR to extend my personal AMEX Platinum. I told them I need to think about it. So 25K = $250.00 and $200.00 annual airline credit which cancels out the annual fee. What do you guys think?
    Note:
    I spent roughly $23K on the card last and this year.

  22. I believe AMEX is a sinking ship. 5x on airfare, not on travel, but airfare booked directly with the airlines. This is a limited scope and negates many of the airline co-brand cards that may offer elite qualifying miles for spend, etc. Nothing to see here

  23. @tiara – why spend so much using an unrewarding card. I would definitely take the offer to keep it another year but this card is a have card not a use card.

    BTW what is up with FHR? I just don’t get the point of spending 600 bucks a night on a hotel. I realize you CAN get cheaper rates but I never seem to find them. Do people really use it that often outside of Ben (LOL) that would justify not using visa signature? Granted I know FHR is better but is it that much better and used that often?

  24. 5X cannibalizes its own Gold Delta card and undercuts Barclay’s JetBlue card. Even with 250:200 transfer ratio, you’re better off using the Platinum for your JetBlue purchases. And 1:1 MR to Krisflyer (a very popular Chase transfer partner) makes Platinum a no brainer for airfare vs the CSR.

  25. This would be good depending on how “directly with airline” booking. I travel a lot for work and buy biz class tickets, however my firm uses a travel agency. Would this mean I’m not getting the 5x?

  26. Talk about pathetic by Amex. That’s a terrible upgrade. I won’t even apply for this card despite the fact I’m eligible for it. Not even worth churning

  27. And, while the Centurion Lounges are nice, they are routinely overcrowded, noisy and not very relaxing. They are far better than the UA and AA lounges as they have food, but I wonder how long AMEX can support the investment given how over populated they are.

  28. Am I the only one to get excited about this??? 5X on airline spend is huge!!! also being able to get 50% miles back by booking through amex travel is also huge for me ever since all the US legacy carriers (especially AA) made it near impossible to book premium cabin on their own metal and with the combination of decent biz class fares lately you could essentially book a round trip biz class fare to Europe for about 200k points and get back 100k points and still earn EQM’s and Redeemable miles. That’s essentially 50k miles each way. Assuming that you can find a $2,000 round trip Biz to Europe which i have on several occasions this year for IAD-CDG, JFK-MAD, IAD-LHR… oh and YOU STILL EARN MILES!!!!! I guess ill be going back to AA Plat but still keeping my Executive Citi

  29. 5X definitely help if you have one of the AMEX targeted offer – Get a 1X award of 20,000 additional Membership Rewards® points by using your enrolled Card to spend a total of $1,000+ with ANA, All Nippon Airways by 11/26/2016
    That would be a total of 25,000 MR with just $1000.00 spending which is a excellent deal, IMO

    @Shawn, it was used for min requirement spending and a deal we had with our car leasing company within a year. After that, it was just sitting in the drawer….

  30. @Charles I feel sorry for you for this being one of your oldest cards..paying $450 for all these years for a mediocre “premium”card..

  31. @ Ric – don’t sweat it. My buddies and I have covered more than our fair share of drinks in DL lounges over the years 😀

    Things aren’t quite what they used to be. C’est la vie.

  32. I consider this a lame offer from a card provider that has faded from its former glory. I have been an Amex card member for 30 years and a platinum member for the past several years. I didn’t sign up for the offers or points, but rather for the benefits of working with a company that valued its customers and offered great service. Sadly, that service has vanished from American Express. They’re pleasant for simple things or when trying to sell me something. But the moment there’s a problem they blame the card member and we get passed around from person to person. Dental surgery is more pleasant. Personally, I can’t wait to use up my existing MR points, cancel all Amex cards, and use another card that values my loyalty and business.

  33. Definitely underwhelming. I am on the verge of applying for my next card, likely a business card since I am well over the 5/24 Chase limit and can’t even think about the Sapphire Reserve card until next fall. I was hoping this would be a splash from Amex on par with Chase’s announcement a few weeks back. While I understand that the Amex Gold Business Rewards card can be had with 75k bonus, I may jump on the 50k. Anyone know if the Delta Business Amex cards also don’t count on re: Chase 5/24? Several sites that I found talk about how Amex business cards don’t count, but none mention the Delta cards specifically.

  34. My biggest hesitation is for one of the reasons mentioned earlier in the comments – there isn’t any trip delay reimbursement like there is with the Prestige or CSR. :/ Even though ThankYou points are worth substantially less (compared to MR points) and I get fewer, the fact that I am covered as soon as I hit the 3 hour delay mark makes all the difference in the world. Combined with the fact that I have to do some travel over this weekend with Hurricane Matthew in the mix makes it a no-brainer in that regard. I love that AmEx is doing -something- to try and close the gap, but they still have work to do.

  35. About to renew my JETSMARTER membership. Any idea if this qualifies for the 5X for the Amex personal platinum or the Saphirre Reserve 3X or Any other card as purchasing airfare?

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