How I Justify The Amex Platinum Card $550 Annual Fee

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Within the past year some significant changes have been made to The Platinum Card® from American Express, including the addition of 5x points on airfare, a $200 annual Uber credit, a $100 annual fee increase, and more. It has been a while since I’ve looked at the overall value proposition of the card, and specifically how I get value out of it.

New-Amex-Platinum-Card

In this post I wanted to look at the Amex Platinum Card in a few different ways — specifically, the benefits of the card that I value most, the benefits I don’t personally get much value out of, and a look at the overall value of signing up for the card.

Amex Platinum Card benefits that get me the most value

As I said above, the card has a $550 annual fee, though I feel like I get outsized value from it.

First I like to look at the benefits that help (pretty directly) offset the annual fee on the card.

The card offers a $200 annual Uber credit, which comes in the form of a $15 monthly Uber credit, and a $35 Uber credit in December. I use Uber almost every day, so I get full value out of that benefit. Nonetheless I like to give some sort of a discount to that valuation, since I’m forgoing $200 in credit card spend by using this benefit, on which I could otherwise earn points. So let’s say that’s worth $180.

Similarly, the card offers a $200 annual airline fee credit on a designated airline. While this isn’t as unrestricted as similar benefits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige Card, I’ve still always maximized this benefit. Once again I’ll apply some discount to he benefit, so to me it’s worth $180.

The card also offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines. This is a huge bonus category for me, given that I spend a lot on airfare. The alternative would be earning 3x points on another card. I value the incremental return on that at 3.4% on airfare spend, since I value Membership Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each. That means I’m earning the equivalent of an ~8.5% return on my airfare spend. I realize I spend more on airfare than most, but personally I’d pay $200 exclusively for a card that offered 5x points on airfare.

The card also offers access to Amex Centurion Lounges. These are fantastic lounges that I use at least two dozen times per year, as they’re better than just about any domestic lounges operated by US airlines. Conservatively I’d value access to these lounges at ~$200 per year.


Get free spa treatments in the DFW Centurion Lounge

The card also offers Delta SkyClub access when flying Delta same day. In the past year I’ve visited five SkyClubs using this perk, so let’s value that at ~$100. Some people will get a lot more value out of it, but I’m not a huge Delta flyer… as of now.


Delta SkyClub Seattle Airport

Lastly, while I don’t want to put an extra dollar amount to it, I appreciate that you can add three authorized users to your card for a total of $175. That’s like paying less than $60 per additional person per year for giving them access to Amex Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClubs, a Priority Pass membership, etc.

Amex Platinum Card benefits that I don’t use much

The Amex Platinum Card also offers a Priority Pass membership, and you can bring in two guests. This is objectively a hugely valuable benefit, though the reason I don’t value it much is because I also have Priority Pass memberships through two other cards, so there’s not much incremental value for me.

The card also offers complimentary SPG Gold status and Hilton Honors Gold status. These are two great mid tier hotel statuses, though personally I’m not going to add them to my valuation, since I’m already SPG Platinum, and have Hilton Gold through the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express.


Receive complimentary breakfast as a Hilton Honors Gold member at many brands

In terms of status, you also get car rental status with National, Avis, and Hertz. I don’t rent cars often enough to really care about that.

You also receive a $100 TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry fee credit every four years. Since I’ve had the card for years, I don’t include that in my year-to-year valuation (though I guess I could pro-rate it and do so).

The card also offers access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, which gets you additional perks at luxury hotels. I use this benefit occasionally, but won’t include it in my valuation since I find that Virtuoso largely has similar perks, and that doesn’t require a credit card.

Why you can get even more value when you first sign-up for the card

I get a lot of value from the Amex Platinum Card, even though I’ve had it for years. If you’re just applying for the card, it offers a generous sign-up bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months. I value Membership Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each, so to me those points are worth over $1,000.

On top of that, while the card’s annual fee is based on your cardmember anniversary (meaning if you applied now, you’d pay your next fee in 12 months), the airline fee credit is on a calendar year basis, meaning you’d get a $200 annual airline fee credit between now and December 31, and another as of January 1. That means before you pay your second year’s annual fee, you’ll have potentially received $400 in airline fee credits. So this card is disproportionately rewarding the first year.

Anecdotally I also find that this card is pretty easy to be approved for if you have excellent credit.

Bottom line

I’ve had the Amex Platinum Card for years, and find it to be well worth it. While the card has the highest annual fee of any non-invitation only card that I know of, it also comes with tons of perks. If you’re just applying, the huge sign-up bonus is certainly a nice welcome, but long term I find the card to be worthwhile for the $200 airline fee credit, $200 Uber credit, along with all the other perks, including access to great lounges, hotel and airline status, etc.

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Comments

  1. Hi Lucky, do you have any insider info re. how long the 60K sign up bonus may last? or if they will come out with a even higher sign up bonus? Thank you.

  2. @ Ryan Yuk — No clue how long the current offer will last, I haven’t heard any rumblings. Personally I doubt we’ll see a higher publicly available sign-up bonus anytime soon, though I could be wrong.

  3. Uber is a bad company, and when I cancelled my Plat earlier this week I specifically stated that the addition of Uber credits as on offset to the annual fee increase was a greater negative for me than a simple fee increase.

  4. You could downgrade your Hilton Surpass to a Hilton Honors and save the $95 annual fee. With the Platinum card giving you Hilton Gold status and better Priority pass access, there is not much benefit in the Surpass

  5. I want to apply for this card so badly but I now they also send regularly 100k offers by mail… I’m wondering if I should wait for it or just pull the trigger on the current offer (or rather the 75k one since it’s pretty easy to generate via incognito browser). I wonder if I can just call them up and ask if they have a 100k offer for me, even with a higher spending requirement, knowing that I don’t seem to have any targeted offer at the moment.

  6. Hi Lucky – what would your strategy be on switching from Delta Amex Reserve to Amex Platinum?

    Or more important question – can I still receive the 60,000 points if I already hold another Amex card

  7. @ MoGreen — Yep, you’re absolutely still eligible for the bonus. If you wanted to make the switch, I’d just apply for the Amex Platinum Card soon (ideally before the end of the year, so you can maximize the annual airline fee credits), and then cancel the Delta Reserve when the annual fee is up.

  8. @ Doug — I only recently signed up for the card, and get a free weekend night on the card’s first anniversary, so I think it’s worth holding onto for now. 🙂

  9. I value having a fixed home. You clearly don’t value that. Anybody can value anything based on their personal situation.

    What works for you may not work for most people.

  10. @ Clem — It’s tough to say. No one in my family has ever gotten a 100K invitation, while I know others have. I’m not sure if we’re just doing something wrong, but personally it’s not something I’d wait on based on what I’ve seen. I don’t think calling up will do the trick either. However, it’s totally up to you, and it depends how long you’re willing to potentially wait for signing up.

  11. One factor you didn’t discuss — the fee for this card is presumably a business expense for you (even the personal version) since you write about it as part of your livelihood. That lowers the cost to you when you deduct the $550 on your taxes (by something in the neighborhood of $150 or so) and also means you need to consider on the plus side of the ledger the (admittedly hard to quantify) business income from activities that require your having the card.

  12. Hey Lucky,

    You are Discounting your Uber Credit by 20 bucks on a 200 spend. Let me know which card gives you 10% in cash return, I am in for it.

  13. A lot of the benefits are specific to certain uses. Personally, I value the uber credits at precisely $0. The lounge access is handy, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to actually USE the shower at the DFW centurion lounge. Getting breakfast at Hiltons and Marriotts is a very nice perk for those who don’t actually travel enough to earn mid-tier status, and useless to those who do. One thing I think should get better press is the generous medical evac insurance that comes with the platinum card. This is hundreds of dollars to buy separately. I keep the card for this.

  14. Lucky, you say “Membership Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each”, do you have a past article on it how you come to that number? Thanks for your time.

  15. Does airfare purchased via Amex get treated like normal fares that continue to earn EQMs/EQDs, etc? Any restrictions/downside booking via Amex?

  16. @Willi

    You can usually purchase Uber credit in the form of gift cards (albeit in small amounts) for about 10% off (think walmart.com, rite aid plenti point offer etc), very occasionally more. Plus whatever credit card rewards you get for these purchases. So I think Lucky is spot on or even a little liberal with his valuation on the Uber credit.

  17. @ Nikhil — Nope, no desire whatsoever. The perks just aren’t worth the annual fee to me, and I’m not paying that much for the “prestige” of a card.

  18. Hi Lucky,

    I never comment on anything but I thoroughly enjoy all your posts so thank you for all you do. I’ve followed a VLOG on YouTube for over a year now and today they did an interesting video on their first time flying First Class. I didn’t know how else to send it to you so I thought this might be the best way you see it. I think it’s an interesting and different look inside First Class (BA A380) and they even try to review and compare things to Emirates in a funny way.

  19. Lucky, Thank you for listing the AMEX Platinum benefits. Can I ALSO get the bonus for other AMEX Platinum cards (e.g. Mercedes Benz), if I got the 60,000 bonus for the unbranded AMEX Platinum? I think the fine print suggests that I can’t, but do you know if this is enforced? Thank you, as I have been trying to get clarification on this for some time.

  20. Well, if you cannot publicly justify paying the fee for this card, how can you induce others to apply for it using your links so as to get referral commissions?

    That’s your business model, and there is nothing sinister about it, but let’s be a little transparent please.

  21. I have an Amex Platinum business card. it includes all the benefits you mention EXCEPT the Uber credits. they only give this to individuals.

  22. My own valuable perks of this card:

    1.) The online portal is the best. It offers detailed reports and analysis by many categories and all charges can be tagged to anything the cardmember wants. These can then be reported on in any type of time frame they choose. The annual statement is also extensive in detail. I can easily see how much I spend by month, quarter, and by year by each category or even each merchant (such as recurring charges).

    2.) Additional card members have full benefits, their own portal, and their own number. I can look at just my own charges, my additional cardmember’s charges, or a combination of both. Don’t forget the custom tags as well which can also be used.

    3.) The “real” people to chat with online. When I chat with them online, it’s real people and they offer the same exact service as I’d get by calling in. They can resolve practically issue (I’m yet to run across any they couldn’t). With Chase and Citi, it’s almost always always a call in.

    4.) Speaking of calling in – if I push the “call” button from my smartphone app, all authentication is done and specific codes are entered and they know it’s me. They answer with my name. No entering 15 digits, confirmation codes, passwords, then starting all over again when reaching a person answering name, address, card number, security questions, etc. With AmEx, they answer “Hi Chad, what can I help you with?” THAT is service second to none!

    5.) Related to numer 5 above, but the service is just outstanding. They have been the best to work with for anything. My additional cardmember rented a car in another country and it was vandalized. He simply called AmEx and told them and that was it. Nothing else. They contacted the rental company and took care of it all and it was a done deal. I’ve had a charge go through then have to dispute an item months (like 5 months) later and they credited it back to me. I’ve even had them just give me thousands of points when asking about points.

    6.) One more thing – the fact that it’s a charge card and not a credit card. I can charge a hotel stay to it and not see any reduction in credit limit as there is none. I can just easily and comfortably charge rental cars, hotels, and anything els that might want high authorizations and not have to worry about it. I have high limits on my Chase cards, but this is an added bonus with AmEx due to the structure of how the card works. For some reason, charges tend to post much quicker than with visa and mastercards. No clue why but generally something stays in pending for only a day. I’ve had charges on my Citi cards stay in pending for a week.

    I’ve been with AmEx since 1996. I don’t like that the points are not worth as much cash value as Citi or Chase, but there are many offers that give double points or bonus points so that makes up for some of that. I was on the fence for a while with upgrading to Platinum, but I am glad that I did. The card itself is gorgeous and always gets the comment “wow that’s a nice card!” prestigious? Yes, but it’s a trust thing I have with AmEx that I don’t necessarily have with the others out there.

  23. Amex would do themselves a huge favor if they disassociated themselves from an imploding company like Uber. Many persons I know refuse to use Uber. No value there.

  24. I think you left out one of the great values of the card: the international airfare program with discounted premium tickets. One flight alone could justify the $550

  25. Anyone know if Priority Pass can be transferred to a family member? Already have 2 via CSR and Cities Prestige and really do not want a third one. I have already transferred Global Entry credit to one of my kids and hoping same can be done for PP.

  26. For me, I use Uber a lot so I get full benefit from that. The one benefit I didn’t really realize until I got the card is status on Hilton, Marriott, and SPG programs. I stay at a mix of AirBnb and hotels depending on the country, and also often the hotel is dictated to me (by the conference organizer) so I never stay at one chain enough to earn status. The hotel status has helped me a huge amount so far — room upgrades, perks, and free breakfast many times also.

    The airline fee bit is hard to use. You have to specify the airline in advance and can’t change it, and it’s only for _fees_. I fly a few different airlines depending on the destination (because I prefer a direct flight) and usually in business or domestic first where bags are free anyway. So the only fees I’ll face is if I need to change a ticket, which is rare.

    I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve also ($450 annual fee) and that one’s easy to justify. You get $300 in credit for _any_ travel spending so I hit that limit in the first month of each year.

  27. Why no value assigned to the Amex offers? I realize they are incredibly varied, but it’s pretty easy to get at least $50 of value out of them a year.

  28. Hi Lucky, I always travel first class so I do not run into incidental fees in relation to meals, baggage, etc. Any recommendation of how I can still get the most of my $200 airline fee credit? I have not used any of the $200 for 2017!

  29. and, what about their concierge services and access to theatre tix, etc.? I got 4 fabulous seats to Hamilton in NYC for $199/each. Bargain!!!

  30. You failed to mention the offers and benefits that are available from many merchants. If you buy something that you would otherwise have purchased, you get $ credits. My statement shows $175 in benefit rebates this year.

    Also – the SPG Gold status allows you to match and get Marriott Gold – which is a lounge access level – breakfast, etc. This is a big deal for many.

    Somehow these missing items in your analysis really have more value than the $20 lost by getting $200 back for airline charges and not getting credit for the $200 spend.

  31. Can anyone advise how this value of “Membership Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each” can be achieved?
    Thanks for your time.

  32. I’m seriously considering getting this card but also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, AMEX SPG, and Hyatt Credit cards. Trying to determine whether I should drop one to pick this up. The Hyatt’s $75 annual fee is outweighed by the free night so that’s easy to keep. The Sapphire reserve’s travel credit and 2x on restaurants might be worth keeping as my “everything else” card. I think that leaves the SPG Amex up on the chopping block.

    Any recommendations would be appreciated.

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